Albert Camus On The Absurdity of Life

Who was Albert Camus? He was one of the greatest most lucid thinkers and writers of the 20th century. The depth and simplicity of his works made his writings highly valuable in philosophy and literature. Why have I chosen him today? Because today I feel the absurdity of life which Camus often referred to. In his cold yet sentimental way, he wrote on topics like suicide, pain and suffering, and the ways we as humans seek to escape this so called reality. Out of cowardice or fear, instead of facing ourselves and perhaps the absurdity of life, we run to either opposite of the pendulum…sinner or saint; as if somehow these labels will ease the confusion we carry deep within us about life and its meaning. Like wounded children, we go round and round seeking for anything that will numb the pain or at the very least deludes us of being successful and happy, even if for a minute.

“There is but a really serious philosophical problem: suicide. The primary issue of philosophy is therefore to judge whether or not life is worth living: such is the fundamental question. “The rest, if the world has three dimensions, if the categories of spirit are nine or twelve, comes later. These are games; you have to answer first.”

Albert Camus

Camus’ point of view towards reality was cold but cordial; after all, according to him, we give meaning to the world through emotion, through the heart: the human being must reach certain sentimental evidences to feel as if he or she understands its surroundings; only after obtaining them can he deepen his perceptions “rationally” so that the spirit has them clear–we may try to deny spirit or the “absurdity” of life, with its thousands of theories and the millions who claim to hold the “one truth”, yet despite all their rationalizations, there will always be those few souls whom will still question “what is the real meaning of life?”

So many times we see people being cruel to one another because they claim to be the only ones to hold the truth, as if in their ignorance and basic knowledge they have managed to transmute our mundane existence; they do this without leaving room for anyone to question without being label heretic, weird, crazy, blasphemer or outright demonic; yet through it all they don’t ask themselves the simple question…“If I am so right, and I have the key to the meaning, purpose and rules of life, why the hell am I still here? …in this 3D existence?”–oh but to pose that question would be to either admit one is not accepted by the divinity or purpose of life they so much claim to know, or they would have to admit to themselves, that maybe, just maybe, they don’t have all the so called answers. After all, Even Galileo, who was certain that he had discovered an important scientific truth, did not hesitate to abjure it with complete peace of mind when he saw that his life was in flagrant danger. Camus points out: “In a sense, he did well. That truth was not worth the bonfire. It is profoundly indifferent to know which of the two, the earth or the sun, revolves around the other. To say it all, it’s a futility. On the other hand, I see that many people die because they consider that life is not worth living.”

“There is but one really serious philosophical problem: suicide,” Camus wrote. Judging whether or not life is worth living is the paramount matter of philosophy.

Albert Camus

Undoubtedly, Camus considers that the meaning of life is the most pressing of issues human beings have to face; alternating emotion and clarity, not in conflict but in seeking to compliment each other. It is an individual issue, not a social one that each person has to unravel and settle his own ideas, dreams, dogmas and external conditioning. As long as we keep running from ourselves, the knock of life, the constant, incessant pounding or nagging feeling of what exactly is the meaning of life (beyond what books or so called “masters” tell us) will never cease to exist.

When there is a divorce between us and our life, between “the actor and the set”, it is then when the feeling of the absurd arises. The central theme of The Myth of Sisyphus is precisely that, “that relationship between the absurd and suicide, the exact measure in which suicide is a solution to the absurd.”

It is often said that “we live naturally”; as if by inertia; but this is not the case. From time to time, from evening to evening, the awareness of the passage of time, of our finitude, arises in us and we wonder if this life we are living, as we are living it, contains any meaning or not. It is at that moment that the most genuine abyss of freedom arises.

Camus writes that when someone decides to stop living it is because it has been recognized “even if instinctively, the ridiculous character of the habit of living. The absence of any deep reason to do so, the senseless character of that daily agitation and the uselessness of suffering.” Although not only the judgment of our emotions, of our heart but also of our body is at stake (this very Nietzschean reflection): “The judgment of the body is worth as much as that of the spirit and the body retreats before annihilation..” explains what Camus was trying to describe. But this happens, says the Algerian author, because we have become accustomed to living long before thinking. Camus calls the different criterion that can exist between our existential certainties (which invite us to end existence) and the certainty of the body (which wishes to stay alive) the mortal break.

Camus finds it surprising that we can all live as if one knew anything, as if existence were given once and for all with all its meaning as a gift, as something free. Despite being exposed to the contrary, the decadence in which time immerses us, we never have a real experience of death in ourselves but in others. Therefore, we live finitude as something that has to do with the other and not with us. We are therefore, a stranger to ourselves because we carry within us the certainty of something that we do not know–the certainty (never verified) of our end.

The absurd is the experience of a limit, a struggle or a tension. While this tension lasts, life remains in suspense, perseveres, because it has much to solve. There is only absurdity in the universe of the human being. When one opts for faith, for the “springboard of eternity” – as Camus calls it – then the struggle is avoided: “that leap is an escape”. It is we who must become gods. This is how he explains it in a quote impossible to forget: “To become a god is only to be free on this earth, not to serve an immortal being. It is above all, of course, to draw all the consequences of this painful independence.”

The question Camus posed to himself and which he presented to us is: “I want to know if I can live with what I know and only with that.” being aware of the absurdity, can we maintain that tension indefinitely until our death occurs?–The author writes, “it is about living in this state of the absurd–the heroism of the human being has its center here, in living and thinking about and with those inevitable tears; knowing that at every moment, we are the ones who must accept or reject“–he adds: “Honesty is in knowing how to stay on that vertiginous edge.”

After all, our life is nourished by the wine of the absurd, by an existential drunkenness that consists in stubbornness, in persevering. To live is nothing more than to make the absurd live in us, and to make us live is above all, to contemplate it: “That is why one of the few coherent philosophical positions is rebellion. This is a perpetual confrontation of man with his own darkness.” A rebellion that, in short, becomes our inescapable destiny and gives value to our life.

“To become a god is only to be free on this earth, not to serve an immortal being”

Albert Camus
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By Sofia Falcone

I passionately believe one person can make a difference. I write from my own experiences and interests. It is my greatest hope that by writing about my own challenges, victories, hopes and learnings, others may feel inspired to believe more in their inner power and to fully embrace themselves!

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