There is something about the crisp, cold autumnal air that awakens a deep, often-suppressed joie de vivre inside me. It is the type of feeling that brings an overwhelming sense of meaning. I think of Sartre and his essay, Existentialism is a Humanism. In it, Sartre presents the core problem of existentialism in a famous three-word phrase: ‘existence precedes essence’. We are thrust into existence without a purpose - and we are ‘condemned to be free,’ - to choose our own meaning for our life.
It’s an appealing premise, and one that I cannot deny during the lazy days of summer. But when the autumn arrives and the faint aroma of a distant campfire pierces through me, I think: is this essence? For some fleeting moment, this entangled existence of aroma and my perception of it seems to exist in-and-of-itself, and I do not feel independent of it.
Perhaps this is what Epicurus meant by the ‘pleasure’ that was the greatest good. Or, perhaps, I am describing some superficial hedonism? I say ’seek out the cold, ephemeral spice of fall as it is constantly chased away by polar winds,’ and you quip, ‘cut the romanticism - you think meaning of life is eating smores in October?’
I respond, ‘maybe - depends on how much you enjoy smores.’ I certainly don’t know what it is that puts you into that state. But what seems clear to me is that there are certain moments, certain states of being that bring upon a feeling of completeness. A sense that my current existence requires no further justification, apart from whatever qualia I am submersed in.