Are You Prepared for the Coming Existential Crisis

Many people have, throughout their lives, experienced varying degrees of existential angst: the feeling of being some combination of unmoored, bored, anxious, restless, depressed, lost, isolated, and/or alienated, and simply wondering what it’s all about.

For many too, these feelings of existential angst have been exacerbated over the past pandemic-burdened year. Yet, heightened though these feelings may have been, they may have also, in a strange way, been easier to deal with during this period than they were prior to its start — and still easier than they’ll be after it’s through.

One of the most difficult things about existential angst, is that it can be isolatingly individual, of indeterminate length, with a cause, and solution, that is vexingly difficult to pin down. During the pandemic, however, the cause of one’s angst became external, clear, tangible, and universal, with an end date that was at least (semi) defined. People could point to the pandemic and say, “That’s why I’m feeling off,” and reason to themselves: “Once x, y, and z return to normal, then I’ll feel fine.” This buttressing, in the form of having a definable explanation for one’s malaise, thus allowed for that malaise to be both more acute and easier to bear.

In the post-COVID landscape, feelings of existential angst may return to their pre-pandemic levels, and yet are likely to stand out in starker, more disorienting relief than ever. When a weight once wholly carried, is for a time buttressed by supports, but then loses those supports, the original weight feels heavier than before.

This hypothesis may seem off the mark at the moment. Hope and optimism are in the air; a light at the end of the tunnel is warming the blood. We feel certain that a resumption in indoor dining, and parties, and travel will entirely eliminate our feelings of existential angst. And indeed they will, for a time. When the dopamine that accompanies novelty (or the re-novelization of old habits) surges, we’ll be all aglow with anticipation and excitement and momentum.

But when that parabolic arc of dopamine hits its peak and begins its descent — which it always, always does — we’ll recognize the old feelings of angst again, once more shorn of any ready-made concrete cause. And the re-realization that visits to the local ramen bar and trips to Hawaii don’t resolve the desire for greater meaning, the resettling of the full weight of yearning on the soul, may usher in a widespread existential crisis.

When it comes to “emergency prep,” we prepare for natural disasters by building bug out bags, prepare for a breakdown of the utility grid by storing up a long-term water supply, and will one day ready ourselves for the possibility of a future pandemic by . . . buying toilet paper? But are we preparing for a potential existential emergency? Is there any way to prepare for such a crisis?

Perhaps the best form of preparation is simply to accept that while existential angst may lessen and deepen according to one’s external circumstances, it will never entirely go away. To accept that restlessness is intrinsic to the human experience. That we are, as Kierkeegaard argued, made up of both the infinite and the finite, and that these two parts of our nature will always be in conflict and never entirely fit together in a neat, tensionless way.

While existential restlessness can never be extinguished, it can be tamed. The other part of existential emergency prep, then, is to start asking bigger questions, studying profounder writings and ideas that may furnish tools on how to get a handle on things. Ironically, while your angst may have gotten deeper during the pandemic, your media consumption may have gotten shallower; more Netflix, more Twitter scrolling, more headline scanning. Less pearl diving.

To avoid emerging from a health crisis, only to step into an existential one, reverse that trend and start getting into heartier fare. Start stocking your existential cupboard with sustaining insights and perspectives that transcend this moment of time. And start equipping your philosophical first aid kit with supplies that will help you survive whatever moments come next — daily habits in thinking and doing that point not only beyond restaurant-dining and world-traveling, but beyond the narrow, and ultimately unsatisfying, confines of the self.

By: Brett and Kate McKay

Source: Are You Prepared for the Coming Existential Crisis? | The Art of Manliness

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People often speak of going through an ‘existential crisis’; but what do they really mean by the term? And when can it be useful to have it to hand? To undertake the journey of self-exploration the Existentialists thought crucial, take a look at our “Know Yourself” cards: http://bit.ly/29NH4Px Watch more films on SELF in our playlist: http://bit.ly/TSOLself If you like our films, take a look at our shop (we ship worldwide): http://bit.ly/29kPm2S FURTHER READING
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The Billionaire Who Wanted to Die Broke Is Now Officially Broke

 Charles “Chuck” Feeney, 89, who cofounded airport retailer Duty Free Shoppers with Robert Miller in 1960 amassed billions while living a life of monk-like frugality. As a philanthropist, he pioneered the idea of Giving While Living—spending most of your fortune on big, hands-on charity bets instead of funding a foundation upon death. Since you can’t take it with you—why not give it all away, have control of where it goes, and see the results with your own eyes? 

“We learned a lot. We would do some things differently, but I am very satisfied. I feel very good about completing this on my watch,” Feeney tells Forbes. “My thanks to all who joined us on this journey. And to those wondering about Giving While Living: try it, you’ll like it.” 

Over the last four decades, Feeney has donated more than $8 billion to charities, universities, and foundations worldwide through his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies. When I first met him in 2012, he estimated he had set aside about $2 million for his and his wife’s retirement. In other words, he’s given away 375,000% more money than his current net worth. And he gave it away anonymously. While many wealthy philanthropists enlist an army of publicists to trumpet their donations, Feeney went at great lengths to keep his gifts secret. Because of his secretive, globe-trotting philanthropy campaign, Forbes called him the  James Bond of Philanthropy

Feeney and Buffett
Chuck Feeney and Warren Buffett in 2011 ©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Barbara Kinney

But Feeney has come in from the cold. The man who amassed a fortune selling luxury goods to tourist, and later launched private equity powerhouse General Atlantic, lives in an apartment in San Francisco that has the austerity of a freshman dorm room. When I visited a few years ago, inkjet-printed photos of friends and family hung from the walls over a plain, wooden table. On the table sat a small Lucite plaquethat read Congratulations to Chuck Feeney for $8 billion of philanthropic giving

That’s Feeney—understated profile, oversized impact. No longer a secret, his extreme charity and big-bet grants have won over the most influential entrepreneurs and philanthropists. His stark generosity and gutsy investments influenced Bill Gates and Warren Buffett when they launched the Giving Pledge in 2010—an aggressive campaign to convince the world’s wealthiest to give away at least half their fortunes before their deaths. “Chuck was a cornerstone in terms of inspiration for the Giving Pledge,” says Warren Buffett. “He’s a model for us all. It’s going to take me 12 years after my death to get done what he’s doing within his lifetime.”  

Feeney gave big money to big problems—whether bringing peace to Northern Ireland, modernizing Vietnam’s health care system, or spending $350 million to turn New York’s long-neglected Roosevelt Island into a technology hub. He didn’t wait to grant gifts after death or set up a legacy fund that annually tosses pennies at a $10 problem. He hunted for causes where he can have a dramatic impact and went all-in. 

In 2019, I worked with the Atlantic Philanthropies on a report titled Zero Is the Hero, which summarized Feeney’s decades of go-for-broke giving. While it contains hundreds of numbers, stats, and data points, Feeney summarized his mission a few sentences. “I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes. Besides, it’s a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you’re dead.” 

Chuck Feeney signing documents
On September 14, 2020 Chuck Feeney–with wife Helga Feeney–signed documents in San Francisco marking the close of the Atlantic Philanthropies after four decades of global giving. The Atlantic Philanthropies

On September 14, 2020, Feeney completed his four-decade mission and signed the documents to shutter the Atlantic Philanthropies. The ceremony, which happened over Zoom with the Atlantic Philanthropies’ board, included video messages from Bill Gates and former California Governor Jerry Brown. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent an official letter from the U.S. Congress thanking Feeney for his work.

At its height, the Atlantic Philanthropies had 300-plus employees and ten global offices across seven time zones. The specific closure date was set years ago as part of his long-term plan to make high-risk, high-impact donations by setting a hard deadline to give away all his money and close shop. The 2020 expiration date added urgency and discipline. It gave the Atlantic Philanthropies the time to document its history, reflect on wins and losses, and create a strategy for other institutions to follow. As Feeney told me in 2019: “Our giving is based on the opportunities, not a plan to stay in business for a long time.”  

While his philanthropy is out of business, its influence reverberates worldwide thanks to its big bets on health, science, education, and social action. Where did $8 billion go? Feeney gave $3.7 billion to education including nearly $1 billion to his alma mater Cornell, which he attended on the G.I. Bill.More than $870 went to human rights and social change, like $62 million in grants to abolish the death penalty in the U.S. and $76 million for grassroots campaigns supporting the passage of Obamacare. He gave more than $700 million in gifts to health ranging from a $270 grant to improve public healthcare in Vietnam to a $176 million gift to the Global Brain Health Institute at University of California, San Francisco.  

One of Feeney’s final gifts, $350 million forCornell to build a technology campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island is a classic example of his giving philosophy. While notoriously frugal in his own life, Feeney was ready to spend big and go for broke when the value and potential impact outweigh the risk. 

FORBES spoke to Influential Philanthropists On How Chuck Feeney Changed Charity And Inspired Giving


warren-buffett

“Chuck’s been the model for us all. If you have the right heroes in life, you’re 90% of the way home. Chuck Feeney is a good hero to have.” WARREN BUFFETT: Chairman & CEO Berkshire Hathaway, The Gates Foundation, The Giving Pledge


laureen-powel-jobs

“Chuck Feeney is a true pioneer. Spending down his resources during his lifetime has inspired a generation of philanthropists, including me. And his dedication to anonymous giving—and focus on addressing the problems of the day—reflect the strength of his character and social conscience. We all follow in his footsteps.” LAUREEN POWEL JOBS: Founder and President, Emerson Collective


bill-gates

“Chuck created a path for other philanthropists to follow. I remember meeting him before starting the Giving Pledge. He told me we should encourage people not to give just 50%, but as much as possible during their lifetime. No one is a better example of that than Chuck. Many people talk to me about how he inspired them. It is truly amazing.” BILL GATES: Microsoft cofounder, The Gates Foundation, The Giving Pledge


sandford-weill

“Chuck took giving to a bigger extreme than anyone. There’s a lot of rich people, very few of them fly coach. He never spent the money on himself and gave everything away. A lot of people are now understanding the importance of giving it away, and the importance of being involved in the things you give your money to. But I don’t fly coach!” SANDY WEILL: Financier, Former Chairman of Weill Cornell Medicine


uncaptioned

“Chuck pioneered the model where giving finishes late in life, rather than starting. He was able to be more aggressive, he was able to take bigger risks and just get more enjoyment from his giving. There’s great power in giving while living. The longer the distance between the person who funded the philanthropy and the work, the greater the risk of it becoming bureaucratic and institutional—that’s the death knell for philanthropy.” JOHN ARNOLD: Former Hedgefund Manage, Founder of Arnold Ventures


PHOTO CREDITS: WARREN BUFFET, BILL GATES AND SANDY WEILL BY MARTIN SHOELLER FOR FORBES; LAUREEN POWEL JOBS BY BRIGITTE LACOMBE; JOHN ARNOLD: COURTESY OF ARNOLD VENTURES

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Steven Bertoni

Steven Bertoni

I lead Forbes’ CEO Network and cover the Forbes Under 30, technology, entrepreneurs, billionaires and Venture Capital. Podcast Host and Founder of the Forbes Opportunity Zones Summit.

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The Mercado de Maravillas lives up to its name. Should you ever find yourself in Madrid and desperate to buy half a kilo of pigs’ ears, a pair of fluffy slippers, a whole beef heart, a poncho, a jar of Peruvian chilli sauce and a bottle of good, strong bleach all under one roof, the stallholders of the Market of Wonders will be happy to oblige. Its most life-enhancing marvels, however, may lie in the piles of neatly stacked fruit and vegetables, the bags of nuts and in the treasuries of fish reclining, dead-eyed but odourless, on beds of ice. Markets such as the Mercado de Maravillas – which have long flourished across Spain……..

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