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Friday, March 16, 2007

Albert Camus' "The Myth of the Sisyphus"

I have so much to say about Camus that perhaps this should better be done in two installments. I am frankly floored by his argument in "The Myth of the Sisyphus." I hope here to quote extensively from the book in order to create a reference bench for later discussions of "The God Delusion" by Dawkins (whenever I get to that one). Camus offers the absurd as an alternative to a life full of delusionary fantasy. While he does not come out freely as an atheist, he does expound the belief that lowering one's expectations yields a healthier life. He states that "the absurd teaches that all experiences are unimportant, and on the other it urges toward the greatest quantity of experiences." This is simply a way of life. While whatever we experience is devoid of meaning, one must strive to experience as much as possible (thus creating a purpose to live). Freedom, in all of its forms, is an illusion. Humanity will always be enslaved to something (God, ideas, science, etc.). It is through these dependencies that humans become enslaved: "To the extent to which he imagined a purpose to his life, he adapted himself to the demands of a purpose to be achieved and became the slave of his freedom." That is to say, by holding fast to a purpose in life we become essentially obligated and dedicated to that one ideal. So this is a metaphysical revolt of sorts. He who embraces the absurd doesn't simply embrace an ideology--he must contemplate it. The essence of Camus' argument: "a question of finding out whether or not life had to have a meaning to be lived. It now becomes clear, on the contrary, that it will be lived all the better if it has no meaning." I know what most of you will be thinking out there. I don't propose to break the fifth column and address my person or my issues, but the fact is yet that I am NOT becoming an atheist. I am exploring ideas that for all my life I have been told are off-limits. I am trying to make sense of all that I experience, day in and day out. Especially, I am trying to sort out the hypocrisy of the so-called Christians I work with. Certainly, I am in some way embracing the absurd, but I am doing so in order to avoid the two-faced calamity that most of my colleagues live every day. At any rate, this is not about me or my lessening faith; this is about Camus' argument.

Later in the book, on another essay entitled "Return to Tipasa," Camus makes allusion to his divided self--the self that is not at home because of its dislocation (another idea I have lived with all my life): "A day comes when, thanks to rigidity, nothing causes wonder any more, everything is known, and life is spent in beginning over again. These are the days of exile, of desiccated life, of dead souls. To come alive again, one needs a special grace, self-forgetfulness, or a homeland." This is perhaps one of the most brilliant passages in the entire collection. Camus sees his dislocation as an opportunity to begin again in other shores (albeit without purpose to do so), to embrace an empty shell of a life with every day that passes. Still embracing the absurd, one can still begin to live again. I have to go back to my reading list and decide what I am going to read next.

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At 12:29 PM, Blogger Lover of Books said...

There is nothing with exploring other belifs. I actually think it is very heathly. :) Good job and who knows maybe I'll pick up a book by Camus some day. :)

At 6:16 PM, Blogger litlove said...

Have you read Camus's The Outsider? It's the companion novel to The Myth of Sisyphus and his portrayal of an absurd universe is profoundly moving, I think. Or if you've read that, then read The Plague by him. I adore Camus's writings and find him a brilliant, provocative and challenging author.

At 1:05 AM, Blogger Susan Abraham said...

Perhaps we should stop worrying about other people and hypocrisy because that all boils down to judgement in a way doesn't it. Considering that everyone has weaknesses.

If prayers bring me the desired results in strange unexplained ways more than once and without human logic, then how can I be enslaved? I can only be enslaved to something that is dead or suffocating of my growth, evolvement & personality.

I think in my case though I stay open-mnded about books & literature and am now studying philosophy, I woud rather settle for being thought a nutter than to give up unexplained experiences that have brought me great advantages.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Susan Abraham said...

You left a comment for me just now on my blog about ranting. Sorry I didn't understand at all. That was actually a draft post I'm preparing for tomorrow to write a soap with other participating writers. So I was just testing out some links and had to take it down again. :-)
I just want you to know that I'm sorr if I upset you. My opinions are fairly strong but I do enjoy your posts very much no matter what you choose to write. And you don't have to apologise. It is your blog to do as you wish.
I do hope you read this.
Perhaps next time, if I feel too much for something, I'll just refrain from commenting but I do enjoy reading your well-thought out literary posts very much.
Take care. :-)


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