Monday, August 04, 2014

The Existential Trucker: I truck therefore I am

In the course of my business online travels, which involve a considerable amount of buzzing around looking at tech stuff, I came across the SARTRE Project.

My first thought was that this was something aimed at promoting the smoking of Gauloises.  Then I thought that maybe it was going to be about something cryogenic, and that perhaps Simone de Beauvoir’s head, like that of Ted Williams, had been deep frozen, in hopes of someday bringing her back so that us intellectual snobs would have to re-read her work and pretend to enjoy, or at least understand, her work, and that of her beau and fellow existentialist writer-thinker Jean-Paul Sartre.

Mais non.

This SARTRE – which is a near-acronym for Safe Road Trains for the Environment – is dedicated to improving trucking safety and fuel efficiency by finding ways for semis to travel in close formation convoys. (Sensing technology and automation improve the safety; decreasing drag by driving together improves the fuel economy. Similarly, Tour de France cycling teams travel in packs, called pelotons, or platoons.)

Anyway, WWJPSD?

That it is to say, What Would Jean-Paul Sartre Do at the idea of his name being thus appropriated.

Probably nothing, other than to roll over in his grave, which would land him in the grave of Simone de Beauvoir.

Not that there’s not a connection between existentialism and trucking.

You just have to google “existentialism” and “truck”, and you’ll find plenty of existential sort of trucking caps.truth_existentialist_kierkegaard_trucker_hat

Like this Kierkegaard Trucker cap.

If you can’t quite read the quote, it’s: the truth shall set ye free, but first it shall make ye miserable. Which, apparently, Kierkegaard, never actually said.

Whether or not Kierkegaard ever actually said it, or just thought it, it makes for an excellent “true dat-ism”, that’s for sure.

But I do want to give credit where credit is due, but it’s hard to figure out where the credit should go, which is probably to Gestalt therapist Barry Stevens.

Or maybe not.

The saying is widely attributed to James G. Garfield, but it sure doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that a president in the early 1880’s – even one who ended up being assassinated – would utter.

Now this is the kind of boostery, man of the century thing that James G. Garfield would have said:

“There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It really matters very little whether they are behind the wheel of a truck or running a business or bringing up a family. The teach the truth by living it.” (Source: Good Reads)

Well, as an existentialist utterance, it doesn’t hold a candle to Schopenhauer’s:

We can regard our life as a uselessly disturbing episode in the blissful repose of nothingness.

And as a presidential – and existential – utterance, it can’t quite compete with William Jefferson Clinton’s:

That depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

Still, what it may lack on the existential front it more than makes up for with its shout out to those behind the wheel of a truck. So it all ties together quite nicely, no?

(I do have to wonder just how a truck driver in 1880 was behind the wheel of a truck, rather than holding the reins of a pair of Clydesdales hauling a wagon. But maybe there were steering wheels on those drays. Oh, the questions that come to one’s mind when one has nothing better to do than waste isartre_is_my_homeboy_hat-rcc029e6341234c65a9783d2ace8014e6_v9wfy_8byvr_324t…)

SARTRE truckers won’t have to settle for a Kierkegaard trucking cap, however. They can just as easily sport one like this.


With or without SARTRE, I’m certain that truckers will keep on truckin’, while existentialists will keep on existing, or existentialisting, or whatever it is they do (or don’t).

Which reminds me of the words of caution that a colleague was given by his pastor when he left his home in Alligator Rassle, Florida, to study at MIT.

“Be careful up there, Ray. MIT is just crawling with existentialists.”

And some day the highways of Europe may be crawling with SARTRE-enhanced trucks. That’s assuming that the SARTRE Project gets into the being phase, rather than stalling, up to its hubcaps, in the quagmire of nothingness.

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