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Anti-Emo

You must have stood at the edge of suicide
in order to know what it means to live.
2007


I have asked quite a number of friends about what emo means. I am afraid I still haven't been able to understand what it essentially is aside from its caricatures (dark eyeliners, Gothic fashion, hair hiding one eye, and the "Nobody understands me" or "The world owes me" vibe. --(Did I get that right?)).


I find the emo concept interesting not only because I want to learn what goes on in an emo's mind (always gathering material) but also because I worry if people perceive me as one.


The fear that I could be one simply arises out of my commonsensical perception of the name itself, that to be emo means to be (too?) emotional. (When you do not know something, you just hold on to names. For example, I can tell rather consistently what a person looks like if I catch a name.) I know, perhaps very well, that I am "emotional" in the sense that I feel more than I think when it comes to what really matters, and that I am more sensitive (not the onion-skinned variety) than reasonable, more intuitive than knowledgeable.


With some uneasiness, I asked a good friend I respected if he thought I was one. He said he did not think so because my anxieties were, according to him, "intellectual." Though what he said eased my worry and even felt like a compliment--as if I received a badge of honor--I did not know if what he thought I was was better than the usual kind of emo.


But what I know I can relate to, something I imagine emo is a poor imitation of, is existential philosophy and literature. Hence I sometimes write in that way and that is most probably the basis of the opinions of those who do not know me. And I relate existentialism and emo, for sure very wrongly, because someone who does not really understand existentialism can easily suspect existentialism for being emo. Its topics and key words, Angst, fear and trembling, despair, death, atheism, boredom, the absurd, weariness, etc., to name only a few, can easily be misinterpreted and reduced to something that it is not or, what is worse, something that it goes against.


(I've been told by a co-worker before that existentialism can truly be a very good introduction to philosophy, even something you can teach students because they can relate to it; but he also said immediately that one should go beyond it, that it can only be a "stage." I understand how he can think that but I disagree: If you just take existentialism at face value, to be sure, you do not go very far. But I have always thought, and more so now, that existentialism--as its name reminds us--is metaphysics: what Being is and, what is more particular to existentialism, what it may mean.)


Existentialism is different from classical metaphysics in that it begins with one's own being. When one is placed in what Jaspers called "limit situations," (e.g., despair, guilt, suicide), metaphysical questions suddenly acquire weight for each person. And no one has phrased the existential question--a question I have asked and still ask--in a simpler way than Hamlet. I can only believe he was far from being emo.









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