Whenever I express my concerns about the Absurd to my friends, they’re always quick to ask why. But I know this why isn’t meant as a simple query about the matter at hand. Instead, this is a why that invites me to “self asses”. The kind that, with the use of one word, is actually asking: Why are you an absurdist?
By now, I’ve gotten used to this kind of question being thrown at my face. People like to assume that absurdism is nihilism and that nihilism is about being a depressive emo. So it’s only natural for them to grow concerned about someone claiming pretty bluntly that they are, for a fact, absurdist.
And I must admit I shared a similar sentiment after my first readings of Albert Camus’s excellent prose. Yes, I could tell the French philosopher was good with his words, but I wasn’t completely sold into his idea of a meaningless life and an indifferent Universe. And in my immature mind, he, and not his work, was the genuine embodiment of being absurd.
But boy… How wrong I was.
Even after some time had passed by, I still found myself going back to Camus. Often as a means to get a quick laugh, but the seeds of intrigue had long been planted on me. And soon it would become impossible to neglect the amount of influence he had upon me.
His writings then seemed to be a reflection of my own life. One day I was Sisyphus, willing to undertake any task only to find the meaning behind it, and the next Meursault, feeling indifferent and lacking a sense of belonging to the world around me.
And that’s how I fell in love. In love with Camus and the honest realism expressed through his elegant and beautiful prose. And in love with the Absurd and the ways in which it so easily seemed to be interwoven with reality.
Yet, this correlation would promptly affect me in a profound way given that, by definition, we understand the Absurd as:
- the struggle to find a purpose in an indifferent Universe, and
- the apparent ridiculousness of seeking any sort of transcendental value to our existence.
Because of this, I found it hard to mitigate a sense of serenity. After all, is not everyday that we get to acknowledge that, for many years, we had been looking out for nothing.
And, although Camus’s view of “revealing ourselves” against the Absurd and enjoying life for what it is and for what we are was known to me, I could not ignore my feelings of desolation and annoyance at such a thought. Thus, I thought:
Is this all there is?
Is my life just a mere passage of unimportant events?
Am I really destined to eminent oblivion?
Why bother living like this?
These reflections would eventually lead to an existential crisis. And it was in this state that I realised the true impact behind the most relevant assertion ever made by Camus:
The most important act we do every day is to make the decision not to commit suicide.
Consequently, throughout the different stages of my life I have seriously given some thought to this question. Sometimes even pretending to commit to its fatalistic premise. But I have the joy of being able to say that none of my attempts have been successful for this purpose. And this allowed me to understand, later on, that I have to seek my own liberation from the Absurd, instead of losing my mortality.
Therefore, I now catalogue my life as a simple character arc deprived of coherent meaning and consistency. I simply live it as it comes, learning new things every day that help me reassess my own criteria and ideals as an individual.
Nonetheless, it would be hypocritical to pretend that I don’t struggle with constant interrogations anymore. But I don’t care about them as much, since they reflect my inherent curiosity. Which, in turn, gives me with a sense of peace, regardless of my dissatisfaction.
And that is the true essence of Camus’s conception of the Absurd, where it is best to have one happy death than a thousand miserable lives.