Have you ever wondered why bad people oftenseem to get away with their actions, and, likewise, good people are often faced withterrible hardships? Have you ever suspected that the meaning weattribute to life, or certain aspects of it, may just be an illusion – in other words:a man-made creation only to make the mystery of existence more bearable? Is there a Godly plan behind all of this? Is there an afterlife, and is our time herein this world just a preparation for it? Or could it be that life is utterly meaningless, that the universe is irrational and indifferent to us, and that humanity is nothing more thana cosmic joke? French-Algerian philosopher Albert Camus believedthat life has no inherent meaning and is, therefore, absurd.
In a way, this might be a reason for despair, that can lead us to end our own lives.
But Camus stated that a meaningless universeis actually an opportunity to free ourselves from the shackles of hope and experience existencemore fully.
The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard longedfor a purpose that he could live and die for.
Also, he struggled with the fact that a greatdeal of existence cannot be rationally explained, and therefore, we have to find something outsideourselves to hold on to; something that gives us clarity and guidance in the face of theunknown.
He found that religion is the answer and thatwe should take a leap faith, by embracing this higher purpose as the ultimate meaningof life, even though there’s no solid proof of its validity.
Such an embrace may solve the problem andend our existential angst, but it comes with a price.
“Philosophical suicide, ” is what AlbertCamus called the solution of faith.
Camus had quite a different approach to theuncertainty of existence.
He acknowledged that reason has its limitsand that what goes beyond our understanding is indeed inscrutable.
Moreover, he believed that life is meaninglessand that all forms of meaning that we give to it are nothing more than constructs ofthe human mind.
There’s no proof that the universe has ameaning that transcends it.
And if it has, we simply don’t know it aswe speak.
As he states in his philosophical essay TheMyth of Sisyphus: I don’t know whether this world has a meaningthat transcends it.
But I know that I do not know that meaningand that it is impossible for me just now to know it.
What can a meaning outside my condition meanto me? I can understand only in human terms.
Thus he concluded that the only honest observationthat we can make about the world is that it’s meaningless.
There are no universal values, there’s nodivine plan, and everything happens randomly.
Hence, life is absurd.
But what did Camus mean with the absurd? Did he mean that we, humans, are absurd beings? Or that the world that surrounds us is absurdin itself? Well, he meant neither.
The predicament we face as humans is thatwe are rational beings with a strong desire to create order and clarity, and give meaningto life, while we are part of an irrational and indifferent universe.
The response of such a universe to the humancry for meaning is nothing more than silence.
This confrontation is what Camus called theAbsurd.
It’s the fact that we keep trying to makesomething out of this universe, to understand the riddle, to give meaning to its ways, butas soon as we think we grasped it, it slides through our fingers like water.
The realization that we are a bunch of primatesliving on a rock in an endless universe that is indifferent to us, and that after a hundredyears our lives will be forgotten, and that our planet won’t survive anyway becausesooner or later it will be swallowed by the Sun, could lead someone to despair.
But there’s no proof that our existenceis otherwise.
Also, when we look at the repetitiveness ofour lives, and this culturally accepted path that we’re all expected to take from birthto the grave, we might start to wonder and think: what’s the point of all this? This is when one becomes aware of the absurdityof it all, as Camus stated and I quote: Rising, streetcar, four hours in the officeor the factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday Tuesday WednesdayThursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm – this path is easily followedmost of the time.
But one day the “why” arises and everythingbegins in that weariness tinged with amazement.
” End quote.
So, why are we here? What’s the point? Trying to find rational explanations for thesequestions in an irrational and indifferent world is absurd.
And according to Camus, the Absurd cannotbe negated.
This means that we can react to it in twoways: we can live it or we escape from it.
Many clever people have exploited this humantendency to long for meaning, by creating ready-made answers to satisfy any philosophicaland existential question and use them as tools for control.
These may come in the form of religion, butthere are also secular, substitutes that attribute meaning to existence.
For example, the Nazi-belief in a master-racethat is destined to rule over all other races, or the sacralization of national identity, which makes the act of serving one’s country an ultimate concern.
Or the belief in Karma, which, isn’t alwaysvalid, when we see that many bad people get away with their deeds and live happily, andmany good people are faced with misfortune.
The problem with all these approaches is thatwe set our rationality aside, and choose to believe in things that lack proof and rationalexplanations or even go against our own experiences.
Hence, Camus called this philosophical suicide, which is just a way to elude the Absurd by replacing the uncertainty of existence witha set of manmade beliefs.
A more direct approach to escape the Absurdis the act of physical suicide, which, according to Camus, is the only one really serious philosophicalproblem.
But the issue with this approach is that webasically succumb to the Absurd, admitting that the confrontation with meaninglessnessand experiences of hopelessness is too much for us.
Now, in order to not fall into one of thesetraps, and live life despite its absurdity, we ought to ask ourselves the following question:is a hopeless life in a universe without a meaning that transcends it necessarily wrong? According to Camus, it isn’t.
In fact, a world without meaning is an opportunityto let go of all illusions of meaning, so the harsh reality comes to the surface.
And instead of despairing because of that, we can choose to see the silver lining.
When there’s no last judgment nor an afterlife, it means that we can focus completely on this life.
When there are no transcendent morals andvalues, it means that we can create our own.
When our time on earth is limited, along withour perception and knowledge of it, we might as well make the best of it, and have a nice, hot, cup of coffee.
Camus believed that we shouldn’t just acceptthe Absurd: we should revolt against it.
Because even though we’re powerless andignorant towards the greater picture, we do have control over our faculties.
And the only way to be free in unfreedom isthrough rebellion, by fully using the power that we have: that of thought and action.
According to Camus, the Absurd Hero liveslife to the fullest in the face of the Absurd.
Despite the invitation from death, he willnot end his own life, no matter if it’s philosophical or physical.
And even if this means a life of despair, he chooses despair.
Living an Absurd life means indifference tothe future, the rejection of hope, and a lucid experience of what’s happening in the moment.
I quote: Hence what he demands of himself is to livesolely with what he knows, to accommodate himself to what is and to bring in nothingthat is not certain.
He is told that nothing is.
But this at least is a certainty.
And it is with this that he is concerned:he wants to find out if it’s possible to live without appeal.
Living without appeal means living in thepresent moment with the full awareness of the Absurd and not wanting anything more froma conceptual future.
To imagine what it’s like to live withoutappeal, Camus pointed to the Greek mythological figure Sisyphus, who was the founder and kingof Ephyra, and also quite a deceitful person.
He made the mistake to challenge the Godsand was punished for that and condemned to push a rock uphill, that rolled down everytime it neared the top, and to repeat this process for eternity.
Sisyphus existence is so meaningless and hopeless, that trying to give his repetitive action any meaning is totally absurd.
And there’s key.
Living without appeal means that it isn’tnecessary that our actions lead to something better in the future.
The meaning lies in the act itself, whichis sufficient to be content in a hopeless life.
The Gods based the punishment of Sisyphuson the idea that there’s nothing more dreadful than endless and futile labor.
But this simply depends on the position wetake towards that.
So, what if we imagine Sisyphus happy? What if one finds joy in despair, and refusesto bow for the misery that life throws at us.
Because is there anything more rebelliousthan to actually find joy in what’s supposed to be our punishment? Thank you for watching.