Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Reason, chance and resignation: an existentialist tour guide's opinion

"Your life is an incessant compromise, between an ultimately slight inclination towards revolt and anarchy, and your deeper impulses that direct you towards order, moral health, and I might also say, routine ... My dear old chap, look yourself in the face ... You have attained the age of reason, Mathieu.

"Pah!" said Mathieu, "Your age of reason is the age of resignation, and I've no use for it."

- excerpt from 'The Age of Reason' by Jean-Paul Sartre. Emphasis added by author.

I have often been accused of succumbing to routine in my life. Sticking to a schedule, visiting the same places, shying away from the new and unknown.

Routine makes our lives orderly and predictable. We all do it. Humans instinctively reduce stress caused by avoiding unknown situations.

But a life of routine is boring. Welcoming, even pursuing, new experiences potentially makes an otherwise drab existence exciting. Continually leading a life of novelty and there is always something to look forward towards. We never really know what might happen.  

Nonetheless, even in the most routine of lives, the element of randomness lurks menacingly, threatening to cause a disturbance to an otherwise usual existence. A chance encounter, an accident or winning the lottery all combine to make lives less routine. But such events may not happen frequently enough to add spice and create a more extraordinary life. Instead, we must chase these atypical experiences proactively to insert them into our lives.

All of us have some rebel inside our souls. Yes, we are not all destined to be Che Guevaras' but we can certainly allow some unorthodoxy to sprinkle our daily lives with adventure. For any individual, finding the correct balance between 'Order' and 'Anarchy' must be like reaching Buddhist Nirvana: the ultimate goal for any 'pseudo-rebellious yet pseudo-conservative' social animal!

Nurturing the rebel inside us may provide one path towards reaching this particular version of Nirvana. Even if we have reached the Age of Reason, there is never any reason for resignation. Life remains full of wonderful possibilities for the adventurous rebel.


Imran is a banker turned consultant turned tour guide. He presently resides in Singapore. Imran rambles incessantly about history while showing visitors around Singapore. Through his consulting, Imran improves the profitability of small and medium sized businesses. He can be reached at