The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning.
There have always been a lot of things about the world, in my mind anyways, that didn’t make complete sense. Maybe it’s because I hated math at school and never really applied myself to learning until later at university, or that as a kid whenever my parents asked me what I wanted to I would say “Nothing.”.
I struggled to relate to my peers at university because so many of them had definitive meaning in their lives; they were going to be the scientists, dentists, doctors and lawyers of our generation. I felt inferior because I was essentially still trying to find something definitive to pin that meaning to.
It wasn’t until 2015 that I read Albert Camus’ work. An Existentialist Philosopher, Camus is credited with the development of the view of Absurdism. Essentially, Existentialists are concerned with the question “What is the meaning of existence?”. Camus’ point of view was that life had no meaning, that nothing exists that could ever be a source of meaning and hence there is something deeply “absurd” about the human quest to find meaning. I guess this is an extension of what Friederich Nietzche’s meditations on Nihilism & what I had come to learn at university, but something about Camus’ perspective resounded with me. By that point in 2015 I had already re-committed myself to Jiu-jitsu after a 2 year hiatus trying (unsuccessfully) to drink and eat myself into an early grave. On reflection, I think I had held a lot of resentment over the fact that I had no real goal or meaning; excusing myself from proactive pursuits to irrationally flail about and dabble in a bunch of destructive habits that dragged me deeper into depression and resentment.
Camus’ ideas were a breath of fresh air for me. Where a lot of people see Nietzche or Camus’ ideas as ‘depressing’ or ‘bleak’, I saw them as empowering. To me, it allows us to understand that it is okay not to have definitive meaning in our lives because it is simply not possible to prescribe any definitive meaning to existence. From there, we can start to establish our own meaning and purpose for being.
What I really like about the idea of Absurdity is that it allows us to designate value and meaning to whatever it is that we feel holds value to us. What I believe to hold meaning may be different for someone else, what someone else believes to hold value may not hold anything for another.
At the heart of the issue, Camus says that it’s an absurd pursuit to even try and find meaning in anything. But what, when we really think about it, isn’t absurd about the reality we find ourselves occupying? We are meat wrapped skeletons that developed the ability of abstract thought, as we float through space on a big ass rock, in a space that is larger than anything we could possibly imagine… I think after that, everything seems absurd… Even the pursuit of how to best strangle another human into unconsciousness whilst wearing cotton pajamas is not exactly ‘sound’ to most people…
So when it comes down to the choices we decide to make & the ideas we decide to entertain, I guess I’d rather engage in an exercise in absurdity than flail about endlessly in the dark.
Thanks for reading.