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Blade Runner 2049: Special K

On existentialism and our search for meaning

· Life Lessons,Anxiety

The dark, gloomy aesthetics and the unsettling soundtrack had me leaving Blade Runner 2049 feeling disturbed, pessimistic, and full of questions about the future of our society.

It also got the nerd in me thinking a lot about existentialism and our eternal battle for meaning.

Officer KD6.3–7

K was a new model replica. He knew his role in society, he knew he had a job to do. That was his existence — he was a serial number, he was Officer KD6.3–7.

But K’s existence was challenged when he got a glimpse of the possibility that he was maybe more than just a serial number.

“The sole purpose of human existence, is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” — Carl Jung

A real boy now

When K discovers that he may have been born instead of being manufactured, K’s existence of being was uprooted. Everything he knew about his purpose and his being was changed.

And at that moment, K became human. K became Joe.

Joe believed he was special. Joe believed his existence was bigger than anything K could have ever imagined possible.

Joe believed he was special.

But as is with life, Joe discovers he was not so special after all.

He was just a regular joe.

He was just KD6.3–7.

The unanswerable questions that make us human

As humans, we all want to believe we are special. We need to believe we are special, because it protects us from the void of our own existence. We put ourselves inside a bubble so we do not have to face the reality that one day we will die, that all our accomplishments and hardwork will be gone. So we do not have to ask ourselves, “Why do I live?”.

But life likes to play cruel jokes on us that threaten the safety of our bubbles — and we are met with deep discomfort and anxiety that we are not safe from death and bad things. That we enter and inevitably leave this world alone. That we don’t actually know what to do with freedom. That life is ultimately meaningless.

Some of us will be confronted with our existence, and come to terms with it. But it’s hard. When Joe is confronted by the reality that he is just K — you feel for him. Because we relate to that. We all want to believe we are a Joe, that we have a grander purpose in life, that there is meaning to our existence.

And we have a hard time grappling with the pain of knowing that we are actually just a K. That we aren’t all that special in the end.

Knowing is better than not knowing

Existentialism is always a topic that leaves me rather depressed. But I didn’t want to just end this post in such a sad state. Existential anxiety is something I’ve struggled with since I was young, and I do have a pessimistic outlook on existence, but I believe that knowing is better than not knowing — even though knowing is always more painful.

But cultivating a tolerance for pain and anxiety and discomfort is necessary to examine our own existence. It’s nice to live inside our bubble most of the time, but sometimes, it’s also liberating to explore the pain and discomfort of the unanswerable questions of life.

I believe it doesn’t have to be all such a downer. On one hand, you could argue, “Why bother?” But on the other hand, you could also use your existential angst as a motivation and driver for you to find personal meaning and make the most out of your limited time. And we’ve spent our entire history of humanity trying to find personal meaning — so why stop now?