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For When We Struggle to Live a Life That Has No Meaning


How does one human, a finite piece of existence, face an infinite, indifferent universe?

Living despite the fact that we know we are going to die. This is essentially what Camuian Absurdism comes down to. Albert Camus, a famous existentialist thinker and writer, believes that it is absurd to keep living when we could die at any moment, but we do anyway.

“At this point of his effort man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.” -Albert Camus

Many of us seem to be caught in both an instance of nihilism and boredom with our current lives. We find it difficult to motivate ourselves when we know that we live in an absurd existence. And in these quiet moments, just before the dawn, we cannot help but feel empty, when we want to live, but are aware that we are going to die.

Alas, why it is such a conundrum. When the day in done and the stars glitter overhead, it is easy to become consumed by the fact that we are irrelevant in the board brushstroke of the universe. Camus recommends three three things to combat the absurd. So, when we confront “the unreasonable silence of the world”, we can feel less empty. What impact can we make on such a grand scale?

1. Revolt:

“Living is keeping the absurd alive. Keeping it alive is, above all, contemplating it. Unlike Eurydice, the absurd dies only when we turn away from it. One of the only coherent philosophical positions is thus revolt. It is a constant confrontation between man and his own obscurity. It is an insistence upon an impossible transparency. It challenges the world anew every second. Just as danger provided man the unique opportunity of seizing awareness, so metaphysical revolt extends awareness to the whole of experience. It is that constant presence of man in his own eyes. It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.” -Albert Camus.

Make sense? Let me rephrase it for you. As Camus puts it, revolt is the ability to challenge the absurd, to acknowledge that it exists, but not surrender to the helplessness that it so readily provides. Being aware of our own absurd existence is the first step in revolting against it. Revolt is to live, despite the absurd, to give “the unreasonable silence of the world” the middle finger and keep moving forward, despite the pains of doing so. Revolt can lead to a more thrilling existence, because you work everyday to give your own life meaning.

“Each subjective existance is absolute to itself.” - E.M. Cioran. 

Which leads me to Camus’ second point-

2. Freedom:

“Now if the absurd cancels all my chances of eternal freedom, it restores and magnifies, on the other hand, my freedom of action.” -Albert Camus. 

The freedom Camus refers to is not that of freedom America preaches or of choice to do in ones day-to-day life, but freedom of action. Like revolt, this absurd freedom frees us from the constraints of societal or religious orders. Freedom to act is freedom to accept the life we are given and allowing ourselves to understand that we will die, but that we can shape the actions in our lives without constraints. This may mean we take more risks in our lives, take action in things we believe in, or act upon the things that make us happy. It is an inner freedom of action that allows us to face the absurd easier. 

“This involves the principle of a liberation. Such new independence has a definite time limit, like any freedom of action.”
 -Albert Camus

3. Passion:

“But again it is the absurd and its contradictory life that teaches us. For the mistake is thinking that that quantity of experiences depends on the circumstances of our life when it depends solely on us. Here we have to be over-simple. To two men living the same number of years, the world always provides the same sum of experiences. It is up to us to be conscious of them. Being aware of one's life, one's revolt, one's freedom, and to the maximum, is living, and to the maximum.” -Albert Camus.

We must discover what in our lives we are passionate for that gives our lives the richer quality we seek in our lives, over quantity. It is a tiresome cliché, but in this instance, it is relevant. And this quality I’m speaking of is not simply vocational passion, but more akin to our callings. What calls to us on those clear, cool nights, when we look up at the vast expanse of stars. What sings to us through the wind and call us to act.

“I know, to be sure, the dull resonance that vibrates throughout these days. Yet I have but a word to say: that it is necessary.” -Albert Camus

It is necessary to sink into our passions, not to follow money or fame, nor the belief in power, but to follow our passions and the things that give our lives quality. To sink our teeth into them and taste the wonder they provide.

What should we do in the face the absurd and certain death? We revolt, we explore our freedom to act, and we sink into the quality of our passions. I am very interested in fighting the absurd with all of the strength I possess. However painfully, we must live. We must look into the open face of the absurd and laugh. However much we struggle, we will not give up ourselves nor this existence. We will keep attempting to live each moment as it comes and give ourselves time to be.

“But the point is to live.” -Albert Camus.

Works Noted:

Camus, Albert, Justin O'Brien, and James Woods. The Myth of Sisyphus. London: Penguin, 2013. Print.

Cioran, Emile Michel. "The Passion for the Absurd." On the Heights of Despair. London: Quartet, 1995. N. pag. Print.

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