How We Free Ourselves of Existential Panic


JASON SILVA: I think that one of the things that we enjoy

the most as human beings is to lose ourselves

in an experience, to find ourselves

in a situation in which the gravity of the moment,

the weight of the now, is so powerful that we find ourselves

outside ourselves.

You become what you behold, so to speak,

so that our neurotic, inner critic--

the voice in our head that is nagging us,

anxious about the future or saddened by the past,

paralyzed by the past-- instead goes silent,

and there is grace in this moment.

The weight of the now in all of its gravity and splendor--

particularly in a preconfigured, epic context--

can serve to purge you of your angst.

This is a transformative experience.

I think when I come to a place like this, whenever

I put myself outside myself, I am able to pierce the veil.

I am able to see beyond my concerns and my constraints,

and I connect with something larger than myself.

It's something that we can all relate to.

It's something that we seek out, right?

And these moments, these moments do something to us

that is medicinal, right?

This is existential medication.

We address the existential panic, the ontological panic,

and we push it out of our minds.

Death goes from being an imminent panic

to a deferrable abstraction.

Thoughts of mortality dissipate, and we

get to inhabit some kind of eternal now-- immortality

now as we smash our sense of separateness in temples

of fragmentation in what Alan Harrington called

a form of electronic Buddhism.

It doesn't matter if it's the rave concert or Burning

Man or an opera theater or an IMAX screen or an epic

ocean-- the point being these vistas,

these contexts, these stages become rites of passage,

transformative experiences, moments of reconciliation.

We slay the dragon, we move forth,

and then the angst is gone, at least temporarily.