The critic William Spanos described Jean-Paul Sartre's seminal work as relating to "the uncertainty...of human existence so strong that the imagination cannot comprehend it."
The word evokes a human condition so unpleasant that it is not considered a good topic for dinner conversation or much else for that matter.
The current state of our political affairs evokes the word too. But it is as a reaction to the level to which our so-called "leaders" have sunk over the past twenty or thirty years.
We used to have heroes in this country, men and women who would fight and/or die for an idea, for a principle. Often they were elevated to public office, sometimes against their desires and better judgment, by an adoring public.
George Washington, U.S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower.
And men like the late Daniel Inouye, Bob Dole, Bob Kerrey and Max Cleland.
And even men like John Kerry, John McCain and John Kennedy.
Heroes who risked their lives for this country.
Never mind that some of them used their backgrounds in war to become elected. Never mind that some of them have been disappointments in their elected capacities.
They stood up and were counted.
They didn't run away or hide behind the aprons of this or that favorable regulation or deferment. They didn't use their fathers to land plum assignments far from the fields of battle.
They went, they fought, they came back and they served.
They stood for something larger than themselves.
Those men are a dying breed. They have been replaced by cowards, liars, poseurs and cheats.
They have been replaced by men who use the flag and the past, great history of this nation to pervert, corrupt and manipulate "We the People" into voting them into office so they can marginalize our basic needs and steal our money and our future.
$15 an hour as the minimum wage when these people make millions in and after office. Fair and affordable health insurance while these people get their five star coverage for free...paid for by us!
Wars begun and prosecuted by men who have never seen the horrors of battle and who send our children to die so they can have more money.
Nelson Mandela fought, was imprisoned and persevered for the idea that men and women could, and should, live in equality and peace regardless of race or social standing.
He will be eternally remembered as a hero and mentioned in the same breath as Jesus, Gandhi, Lincoln and King.
Hundreds of years from now people like Cheney, Hannity, Palin, Cruz, Ryan and Limbaugh will be mere footnotes, if that. I doubt many people can name past vice presidents let alone pundits and congressmen.
But names like Lech Walesa and Desmond Tutu and Aung San Suu Kyi will live in eternity as human examples of what can be done from a place of love, optimism, grace, integrity and intention.
With that, let's return to CNN and Fox for another dose of reality.
Pass the Dramamine. It's gonna be a bumpy ride...