Can you be an ironic existentialist?

Over the last few hours I’ve been thinking more about this quote, which I came across yesterday.

Opposites, all the time

I couldn’t sleep last night and when I can’t sleep I am cursed with a brain that struggles to shut down. In my busy brain state, I decided that there are in fact many similar opposing, contradictory forces in our lives, in addition to the desire to communicate and the desire to hide. They act to inspire and repel us at the same time. They drive us and terrify us. They must have a purpose (or do we just notice them?). Perhaps they are spin-offs from the notion of the good and the bad, the angle and the devil, the should and the should not and the yin and the yang.

This drives us all in our actions and reactions

Related to this idea of the opposing forces in life is the prevalence of irony in life. Irony is everywhere. Irony is about opposing forces. What is irony? Irony is, to quote Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites: ‘It’s when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning.’ Clever cloggs, he is.

This man knows what irony is

However, as I see it, to quote Winona Ryder in the same film: ‘I know it when I see it.’ I love irony. I see irony all the time. It follows me around. It jumps out at me. Perhaps I have an irony-dar. I like to use irony in my art in some way (remember those abandoned balloon bits and of course repetition was all about irony). Often I think I use irony without realising it, ironically. 

I believe that there needs to be more acceptance of humour in art than there currently is. A couple of years ago I saw an exhibition at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery that explored humour in art and it was very inspiring and, not at all ironically, very funny. Artists often use humour in their art and this should be recognised more. Humour is perhaps more frequently used than realised to explore the human condition in all areas of creative pursuits. Artists are often stereotyped to be depressive existentialists, exploring the point of existence through creativity, but with a heavy heart. Can one be a funny existentialist? Absolutely, yes. Look at Monty Python, they were funny existentialists extraordinaire and they were very, very creative. They were definitely ironic, depressive artists.

He won’t haggle!

I wonder if perhaps for many creative people, being funny acts to deflate from the depressing reality that there really is no meaning to it all and all you do is die in the end, alone. You have to laugh about it or you’d just live in a well of despair and nobody wants to do that if they can help it. I certainly don’t.

I hadn’t quite thought it through before but perhaps my irony-dar is part of my desire to find meaning and my desire to feel better about the lack of meaning when perhaps there really isn’t one.

Ironic, eh?


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