Soren Kierkegaard, Frederick Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and other towering figures of existentialism grasped that human beings are, at heart, moody creatures, susceptible to an array of psychological setbacks, crises of faith, flights of fancy, and other emotional ups and downs. Rather than understanding moods—good and bad alike—as afflictions to be treated with pharmaceuticals, this swashbuckling group of thinkers generally known as existentialists believed that such feelings not only offer enduring lessons about living a life of integrity, but also help us discern an inner spark that can inspire spiritual development and personal transformation. To listen to Kierkegaard and company, how we grapple with these feelings shapes who we are, how we act, and, ultimately, the kind of lives we lead.
In The Existentialist's Survival Guide, Gordon Marino, director of the Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College and boxing correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, recasts the practical takeaways existentialism offers for the twenty-first century. From negotiating angst, depression, despair, and death to practicing faith, morality, and love, Marino dispenses wisdom on how to face existence head-on while keeping our hearts intact, especially when the universe feels like it’s working against us and nothing seems to matter.
What emerges are life-altering and, in some cases, lifesaving epiphanies—existential prescriptions for living with integrity, courage, and authenticity in an increasingly chaotic, uncertain, and inauthentic age.