The Doctor Is In

in Poetry

Dr. Wes

Lessons in Existential Angst, Coming Up


Let's talk about existential angst!

Existential angst is my favorite kind of angst. It is much preferable to being-bombed angst or starvation angst or any of the other kind of normal everyday angsts that leap to mind.

Wes, what is this thing called existential angst? Where does it come from? How will I know it when I have it? Will it help me to write easier poems? What else is existential angst good for? What should I wear when I'm having existential angst? How old should my children be before I teach them the facts about existential angst? These are just a few of the existential angst related questions that can be asked.

Existential angst is that feeling you get when you discover that you aren't a drill bit or a box of white-board markers or an anti-fungal cream or any such similar thing. You weren't made for any evident purpose. This makes you feel left out. All the other things have meaning to their existence. You don't. Why oh why couldn't I have been born as a socket tool kit?

You have to wonder how this ever got to be important to anyone. The answer to that is easy. Two words: chronic underemployment. Existential angst is the whine that societies generate whenever a critical mass of its people are over-qualified for everything they can do. Look out, Seattle!

Let's say you have a degree in philology and the guy interviewing you for McDonalds doesn't know philology from stamp collecting. You may have existential angst. Are you 52% brain in a 20% brain world, assigned to pushing a broom for a 9% brain employer? If you don't have existential angst yet, just you wait, Bunky.

Existential angst is great for writing poems. If you get stuck you have lots of cool words to fall back on, like "abyss" and "nausea". Always wear lots of black. The following illustration has been graciously supplied by one of our avid readers who wouldn't be caught dead wearing white.

Life Stinks Somewhat
by Poetry Legend and Excellent Rodeo Clown
Melissa "Missy" Schmertzgarten

No one can relieve this churning dread
that's fastened itself inside my head.
Not that I would ever sincerely complain --
since without my dread I would go insane.
A little dread is such a happy thing!
I feel just like a harried king.

Questions & Aids for Further Discussion

Do you think socket tool kits have their own kind of angst? What would that be called?

Which of the following famous people do you think have experienced significant amounts of existential angst: George W. Bush, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh? Which of them do you think could use some? What does "use" mean in this context? If existential angst can have a purpose, can Carrot Top be far behind?

Everyone set down your pencils and take five minutes to fret over the meaning of life. Then, compare your reflections with those of your neighbors. Did you all see the same gaping abyss? Did any of you see down a garbage disposal? Because that would be weird. Give yourself 5 extra points if you felt fear, and another 5 if you experienced loathing.


© Dr. Wes Browning:
2129 Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 (206) 441-3247

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