When your name is Jean-Luc Sartre and your first-cousin-twice-removed is French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, you’re supposed to have reverence. You’re expected to nod when your headmaster says your writing belies the heart-aching brilliance of your forebears, or your OKCupid date talks nonstop about her existential torment. But, hey, I’m a Virgo, Aries rising with moon in Pisces, so I’ve got to speak my mind: I think my cousin had a stale baguette up his derriere.
That’s why I wrote “Existenchillism: The Anti-Angst Solution.” In the 21st century, we really need to quash this whole Sartrian “man is forlorn” idea. I mean, before we had hot yoga, karaoke and gluten-free cookies, there may have been “nothing to cling to.” But today? If you can’t find a way to snap out of your existential funk nowadays, you really are responsible for your own anguish. Go on a mandala coloring retreat. Zipline the Alps. Get Netflix.
My story is the same as many celebrity relatives. I attended boarding school in Paris, where I was teased mercilessly. We’d play boules and kids would shout, “If you lose, you can blame no one but yourself!” and “When Jean-Paul Sartre said ‘there are no accidents in life,’ it was way before you were born!” Not original material to a Sartre, believe me. And, by the way: duh.
Lycée was no easier, where I was expected to chain-smoke, wear black and get As in classes like “Philosophical Turmoil and the Pain of Daily Living” and “The Great French Writers Our Students are Related To.” No one wants a Sartre to be cheery or, quite paradoxically, his own man.
Yet everything changed when I wrote my book. Finally I have my own “authentic project,” as Sartre called it — in my case, a takedown of Sartre. It’s gratifying to steer readers away from downer Sartre-isms like “I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without anything or any person being able to lighten it” and toward life’s simple pleasures, such as brewing your own orange soda or decorating Crocs with shoe charms. Just read the headlines! It’s no time for doom and gloom. We’re all in this merde together and deserve to be distracted.
Hitting the best-seller list created some super-hot opportunities for me. Celebrity Angst Management is a network reality show, where I’ll help stars like Alec Baldwin and Shia LaBeouf find their happy place. There’s my hammock-themed health club chain PowerNap. And, of course, my Existenchillax line of beverages made with kava kava, L-tryptophan-enriched rainwater, and Chillaxia(TM), a proprietary ingredient made from Colorado-grown cannabis.
I’m so grateful to my publisher Grove/Atlantic Enlightenment for recognizing the need to diversify their catalog beyond literature into literature-triggered self-help. Sure, some say Jean-Paul must be rolling in his grave over my “Sartre Say Relax” T-shirts sold everywhere, including at his grave. But, in the words of Pharrell (who will perform at the opening of Existenchilland theme park in Boulder next summer, pending our Open Toking License), “Can’t nothing bring me down, my level’s too high.” Clap along, Existenchillists!