If Life Doesn’t Matter, Then Why Try

In Camus’ The Stranger, the protagonist Meursault is portrayed as a carefree, apathetic person who seems to float through life without giving attention to anything, including himself. Meursault is a prime example of an existentialist who finds no meaning in anything.

The first incident of this is in the beginning of the novel when Meursault’s mother passes away, and Meursault shows a severe lack of emotion about his mother, and treats his life as if nothing happened. He continues by getting with one of his former co-workers, Marie, with whom he hooks up with multiple times and shows no care for. She even asks him if he loves her, and he straight up says no. Another example is when he notices Salamano abusing his dog, and he continues to stay friends with him, despite the socially unacceptable actions. Additionally, Meursault is friends with Raymond, who is believed to be a pimp and has beaten his mistress. Meursault even tries to bail Raymond out and eventually kills for him. Finally, when Meursault is in prison, he comes to the realization that it doesn’t really matter if he is executed, because his life will be no different than if he dies of old age. Meursault understands that his life is pointless no matter the outcome or his actions, so he might as well just try to be happy.

Life Is a Highway

With all these posts about what life is/is not (life is a prize, life is not a gift, life is different) I just wanted to remind everyone that life is a highway.

France, Algeria, and Salamano’s Dog

Throughout The Stranger, there is an obvious divide between the Europeans and the Arabs, and it is often hostile, as would be expected considering the context of the story, where Algeria is a colony of France. While reading the story, I felt like Salamano and his dog could be an allegory for this relationship between an imperious France and a subjugated Algeria. I gathered this idea through the various interactions between Salamano and his dog, one of which was where Salamano noted that before the dog got sick, “‘His coat was the best thing about him.’” Meursault goes on to narrate that “Every night and every morning after the dog had gotten that skin disease, Salamano rubbed him with ointment. But according to him, the dog’s real sickness was old age” (45). The fact that the dog was initially healthy with a nice coat, but through living with Salamano had its “hair fall out” and became “covered with brown sores and scabs” (26), which Salamano falsely attributes to old age, indicates that Salamano’s abuse is the true cause of the dog’s condition. It is mentioned that the dog has the skin disease mange, but the unhealthy, abusive environment it is subject to is what gave rise to its poor condition, which Salamano unsuccessfully attempts to alleviate with ointment. A comparison can be drawn between this situation and that of France and Algeria, where France brought Algeria under its control, causing great damage to the colony due to excessive violence and exploitation of its land. France then did not take responsibility for the scabs and sores it caused Algeria just as Salamano blamed his dog’s scabs and sores on old age, and France pretended to have a positive impact on its colony through introducing its culture, as did Salamano when administering his dog ointment. Another section where the dog and Salamano seemed to be symbols for Algeria and France was when Meursault was describing Salamano’s walks with his dog: “the dog pulling the man along until old Salamano stumbles. Then he beats the dog and swears at it. The dog cowers and trails behind. Then it’s the old man who pulls the dog. Once the dog has forgotten, it starts dragging its master along again” (27). Here, the dog has the natural inclination to break free from Salamano, however, whenever it attempts to do so, Salamano pulls it back under his domination, punishing it for trying to achieve liberty just as France did to Algeria when it showed resistance to being a colony. In these and other examples, the dynamic between Salamano and his dog seems as though it could be a symbol for that of France and Algeria in the time period of The Stranger.

Life is a Prize

Existentialism is the belief in laymen terms that the world is yours. You have complete control over how you let experiences make or break you. In The Stranger, Meursault remembers how to be content in prison because he has no other choice. Some people would choose to be miserable at the fact they will not have freedom for the time being. Meursault learned to imagine and remember the joys of his life and desires he longed to have but could go without. This is the same as Sisyphus and his rock. He is in eternal punishment and instead of trying to find ways to “beat the system”, he is content with the fact that he will return to his rock everyday and they will complete the same uphill battle; for him mentally and physically. The world is what you make of it. Make do with what you have and find happiness and content within yourself so you won’t look for materialistic things etc. to bring you joy.

Baby Don’t Hurt Me

“What is Love?” Last week in class we touched on the extremely messy topic of “The Meaning of Life.” The first thought for many to an answer for this complex question was love. However the point was made that love, is simply an illusion. This poses the question, “What is Love?” Most people have one of two stances, either it is indeed an illusion that means nothing, or it’s one of the most powerful emotions we have. I argue that there is a gray area in between these two opposite ends of the spectrum. First, to understand “love,” we must acknowledge its counter, “hate.” I think most everyone can think of one person they hate. Whether it be a political figure or someone they have interacted with in the past. There are a lot of reasons people hate, the most common would be the constant disagreement with the actions one makes. Therefore, if you can grow to “hate” someone based on their actions, you certainly can grow to “love” someone based on their actions. The feeling of love is extremely powerful just like that of hate. Neither of these connections is fake, however, certain actions are required to build them into something meaningful. Whether or not you want to label this particular connection with the title of love is up to you.

Meursault and Sisyphus: Making Do in a State of Suffering

Meursault has been sent to prison. He has committed the ultimate crime, murder, by shooting an Arab man five times.

This mirrors Sisyphus’s position of eternal punishment, being bound to roll a rock up a mountain, only for it to fall back down, in a continuous loop forever.

But writer Albert Camus insists that Sisyphus is actually happier than most humans ever will be. That, because his life is confined to suffering, by changing his mindset and accepting his reality, living as a prisoner instead of a free man, Sisyphus can live in eternal bliss.

“All Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is a thing. (Camus)”

Meursault, rather than wallowing in his own pity and desiring the outside world, he adapts to the state of his life and accepts his punishment, achieving a morbid sense of comfort in his suffering. Meursault is the model prisoner, his life is carved out for him and he accepts it, rather than dreading it. He has his small fixes, but ultimately understands that his life is only punishment, and in his trademark boring and detached way, he’s accepted it. Only time will tell what awaits him next. How will what comes next tie into The Myth of Sisyphus, if at all?

Life is not a gift

This is just my current perspective, it’s completely subjective, and it definitely stems from self hatred and projection, so there is no real philosophical validity in my thoughts. Regardless, here they are: There is this thing called optimistic bias that overrides any potential validity to an existential argument. Claiming life in general is a gift is a very selfish mindset. claiming that the overwhelmingly incomprehensible amount of suffering on this planet is a gift just because you are alive is straight sociopathic. We all claim to look for the best in life while still wearing our “good person” hats just so we don’t have to accept the actual unbearable pain that others go through. The human ego is unbelievably disturbing and the internal reactions you have in reading this is proof. The feeling of, “oh but I’m not like that, I truly care” No you don’t. You feel empathy, yes, we all do, but you don’t truly care and I don’t truly care. My proof is that I’m here typing this and you’re here reading it when we both know this accomplishes nothing and helps absolutely no one but yourself (also myself) and your ego for thinking your perspective on the world holds some magical levity that makes you a good person. This isn’t calling out anyone in particular because it’s all of us. We simply cannot care about anything more than our own lives for survival. I am a hypocrite, we all are. The counter argument to this is that “you can’t just decide that for everyone.” And you’re right, I didn’t decide it, your biology and internal subconscious defense mechanisms did. Why did my parents have me? To give their lives meaning? Why do we all want to have kids? To give all our lives meaning? It’s selfish to ignore what’s going on and pretend you’re above your biology. It’s literally engrained into us to reproduce like every single animal on the planet, we just attach some “deeper meaning” to it because we don’t want to accept the fact that this decision was made for us when we were born. There is no reason to have kids that doesn’t involve the parents desires. But what if you want your kid to have a good life? What if you’re going to raise him well and give him a happy environment? This is where our ignorance comes full circle; there is still all the unbearable meaningless suffering in the world. It didn’t go away just because you were able to ignore it and focus on your kid. Again, I am not better than anyone. I suck as much as everyone else, but trying to force “self love” into my head as an excuse to not think about the truth in front of me is so conflicting. Yes! Amazing! Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t have to think about it all the time! I don’t have to constantly have the weight of suffering I could never understand on my shoulders because it’s not happening to me! I can stare at my phone and feel like a good person because I’m “against bad”. This article is meaningless, it accomplishes nothing. Our thoughts on how the world works and should be perceived are meaningless because of the infinite amount of experiences we’ve never had. I don’t know why I’m sharing this, It goes against the basis of what I’m saying, but it also goes with it as I also suck. I also think that my privileged view of how the world is meant to be perceived is correct. It’s something I can’t control and you can’t either. The ego hates to be wrong. It denies it but it absolutely hates it. At least our generation is wasting time online rather than having eight kids because they were bored. Moral of the story is I literally don’t know anything and your interpretations on the morality of the subject are completely valid as to pretend I understand anything is narcissistic; also, please adopt.

Marie is Not Naive

To some, it seems that Meursault has completely figured out life more than anyone else and he is living completely free without any illusions. However, I think he is too far over the line between being able to enjoy life vs constantly feeling like nothing matters at all. It is one thing to be naive, but it is another to live without emotion. I think Marie understands life more than she is given credit for, and I like her grasp on everything. Some might think she is portrayed as naive, but in my opinion, she sees the truth yet can still be happy and have a good time. She still loved Meursault after she asked him if he loves her and he “told her it didn’t mean anything but (he) didn’t think so (35),” and it didn’t stop her from being loyal to him even throughout his trial process, because they still had a connection. She does not deny the peculiarity of Meursault, that is one of the things that draws her to him. She feels emotions, but she doesn’t let them dictate her whole life. In addition, it seems the physicality of their relationship and their trips to the beach are some of the only things Meursault seems to enjoy. In conclusion, I think Marie is an important character who has a more sustainable world view than Meursault, and experiencing emotions is a good thing.

Can Existentialists Help Others?

When we discussed the premise of existentialism, I struggled with the idea of individualism above all else. If the only thing that truly exists is random, absurd suffering, then the only thing we can do that matters is to attempt to alleviate some of that suffering. Trying to help others live a happier, more secure, more comfortable life must be the only worthy goal. And to do this effectively, a person can’t be strictly independent; they have to consider the needs and feelings of other people as well.

But according to Frank Kappler’s article “A Torturous Road to New Morality” (linked in the existentialism resources on Classroom), which explains Sartre’s theory of existentialism, helping others is not necessarily at odds with existentialism. Sartre claims that it is in fact a way to escape the despair that comes with the knowledge that life is absurd, describing this principle as “engagement,” or as Kappler puts it, “Committing oneself by a resolute act of free choice to a positive part in human affairs.” As long as you chose this path yourself– in spite of the absurdity– you can remain an existentialist even as you try to fulfill a purpose (although I would argue that if you have such a purpose, then that gives life some meaning). I thought this was an interesting, surprisingly optimistic aspect of Sartre’s theory that made existentialism more understandable.

Existentialist Lines in the Sand

Evil Mr. Heidkamp brought up some interesting points in his lecture on existentialism last week about the monotony of daily life. Primarily, he discussed the meaning of life is to “accept the absurd” and forge your own path, however underwhelming it may be. Essentially, it is the epitome of individuality. According to him, most people choose to believe in values such as love, religion, and anything else they use to explain away the truth. In doing so, they follow the grain of countless others around and before them – sheep following the flock.

So, in order to break free of this cycle and discover the true meaning of life, one must accept that life is not filled with purpose or values, it just is. It is merely a thing that exists, nothing else. And if accepting this means others view you as radical? So be it. But where does one draw the line? At what point does ‘just existing’ or ‘just doing’ become inexcusable? When someone commits murder for sure.

Which brings us to the novel, The Stranger, in which Meursault lives a monotonous and average life, doing the same things everyday without adventure. In this story, Meursault is the embodiment of existentialism. He goes through life with no emotional attachment, accepting everything the way it is. When he shoots the man and is jailed, he is unable to provide any explanation as to why. He was handed a gun, he shot it. He gets caught, he accepts it. He gets put on death row, he accepts that too. If this is what it means to “accept the absurd,” why would anyone want that? What’s so bad about choosing to believe in values and purpose? And, if one acknowledges the absurd but continues on in the fashion of everyone else, is that a roundabout way of accepting it?

Mythical Madness

In Albert Camus’s essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” he argues that there has been a great misconception in regards to the mental state of the former king of Corinth. Rather than believing Sisyphus to be a miserable being imprisoned by his own fate, Camus notes that this fate might just be his liberation.

Now how might a former king trapped by an eternal condemnation have control over his fate? Well, that’s where Camus points to the part of Sisyphus’ punishment that we might not ponder as much. He claims it is in the, “hour of consciousness” that Sisyphus is “stronger than his rock” (2). That is to say that his descent is not a symbol of his tangible failure, but rather the moment in which his fate belongs to him.

By definition, existentialism as a philosophical principle requires one to assume absolute responsibility over individual free will. And, Sisyphus has accomplished just that. Instead of succumbing to his damnation, he thwarted the gods intentions and became the ruler of his destiny. Just as Meursault rejected the priest’s desire for him to repent on death row, Sisyphus similarly challenges his immortal captors by finding true happiness within his fatalistic condition.

Meaning of Life in “The Stranger”

The story opens with Mersault, the main character, realizing his mother is dead. His tone is indifferent, as he seems he hasn’t processed his mother’s death: “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe. I don’t know. I got a telegram from home: “Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow…” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday” (chapter 1) This quote highlights the lack of emotionality of the main character by showing that he believes death and life are not big deals, which is also seen later in the book.

In chapter 3, Mersault’s idea that life is meaningless carries over to his relationships. He becomes friends with Raymond, his employer, and states that he does things for him because there’s no reason not to: “I tried… to please Raymond because I didn’t have any reason not to please him”. Because Mersault does not see life as having a meaning, he blindly pleases people because he believes there is no reason not to. This idea is expressed again in chapter 4 when he is talking to Mari when she asks him if he loves her: “I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so”. By stating that love doesn’t mean anything, he is again showing his nonchalant tone towards life that it is meaningless. If life does not have a purpose, neither does love or any other emotion in the human experience.

One Single Truth?

I have always been a realist, I was baptized catholic but have been lapsed since birth. Without religion, my life has been fairly open ended. I do not have a straight answer for the question of “what happens when we die?”, although I used to think I had it all figured out. I used to firmly believe it was lights out, nothing. I lived my life this way up until a month ago. A month ago was when my dog died. People who have never had a pet don’t understand the pain of losing one, but it is a greater pain than anything I have ever felt in my entire life. I have dealt with a great deal of death in my life, friends, uncles, grandparents, but this pain did not compare. It got me to thinking, I really do hope there is something that comes after life. I do not like to think of my fuzzy little man sitting in darkness for the rest of his life because I know that he is up chasing squirrels in doggy heaven.

As Evil Mr. Heidkamp argued in class, 2020 is most definitely proof that God does not exist, and I agree. 2020 was confirmation of this theory but I have always felt this way about religion. In The Stranger by Albert Camus, Mersault expresses his views on God, “I had only a little time left and I didn’t want to waste it on God”(Camus, 120). I completely agree with his statement. I once had a friend who told me, “My life is just a staircase to heaven and with each new day, I need to do everything I can to move up a step”. The irony was that she was not a very good friend or person. However, that statement makes me weep internally. Living your life with the fear of going to hell or elsewhere is not a healthy way to live. You should live your life as a good person because that is the good thing to do, not because of an external motive.

There are times where I wish I was raised believing in God. Sometimes that is the easiest answer when life gets hard. Nevertheless, I personally see God as a lie and I do not want to live life in a lie. I find peace in knowing that I came to this conclusion on my own. I was not specifically raised as an atheist, a catholic, or agnostic. If I wanted to go to church, I could have gone with my grandmother. I have read portions of The Bible and decided on my own that this violent, sexist, and extremely self-contradicting book is not something that I would be proud of supporting. I was given opportunities to research and observe other religions, and I was allowed to not believe in any of it as I did for so long. Now, I am allowed to accept that I do not know and I may never know, and that is okay.

The Truth Behind and Life and Love

My philosophy on life is probably pretty similar to yours. However, The Stranger by Albert Camus has different ideas. I see life as life. That means that life is what we live in and everyone’s experience with life is usually pretty different from one another. I personally do not like thinking about life other than having the best time possible throughout it and living life to the fullest. This might be because I fear death and do not want life to end, but another factor could be that I do not really know the purpose of life, other than that I am a part of life. Sometimes I feel like I am in a movie and life is the movie and I just play my role hoping to succeed.

Mr. Heidkamp on Wednesday had different ideas for class. He decided to lecture us on the meaning and purpose of life. Although I do not necessarily agree with this lecture, the lecture matches up very similarly to The Stranger. Although I am actually really enjoying this book, sometimes it can be a little dry. These kinds of books are almost always discussed in school for different reasons than just the plot of the story.

Beside the point, I would rather live life and experience it than talk about the purpose and meaning of it. With that being said, has anyone ever found out the true meaning of life? No! So why am I going to? I am just going to spend my time living it.

Nabokov and Camus

It is no secret that Vladimir Nabokov was a controversial figure. Nabokov famously said inflammatory things about many authors who are in high regard in the literary cannon. For instance, on Gogol, Nabokov said “I was careful not to learn anything from him. As a teacher, he is dubious and dangerous. At his worst, as in his Ukrainian stuff, he is a worthless writer; at his best, he is incomparable and inimitable.” On Hemingway, Nabokov proclaimed, “[He is] a writer of books for boys. Certainly better than Conrad. Has at least a voice of his own. Nothing I would care to have written myself. In mentality and emotion, hopelessly juvenile.”

One possible explanation for this is that unlike many authors, Nabokov writes for the art of writing. Nabokov’s vision of a good writer as presented in his essay on good readers and good writers is a person who does not take the world that exists and morph it to convey their own message but instead embraces a new world for it’s own inherent artistic value. Nabokov is dissatisfied with authors, including many literary giants, who he perceives as trying to push some sort of agenda or philosophy through their works. This is something of which Camus is undeniably guilty, as Camus’s work serves largely as a vehicle to demonstrate Absurdist and Existentialist principals in practice. It’s no surprise then that when asked his thoughts on Camus, Nabokov responded “Dislike him. Second-rate, ephemeral, puffed-up. A nonentity, means absolutely nothing to me. Awful.”

Perhaps all is not lost, however, for the Nabokovian reading Camus. Some have pointed out the similarities the writers have in their contemplation of the absurd, despite their vast differences in style. Further, it is definitely possible to employ the technique of “reading with the spine” when reading Camus’s masterpiece The Stranger as the novel is neither cerebral nor submerged in emotion but rather a curious in-between (something that can also be said of Absurdity as a philosophy). In the end, it’s important to remember that while comparing these author’s philosophies may be a fun exercise, they are still just that — philosophies. And philosophies are only useful in as far as they can help us make sense of the world, as opposed to make it more convoluted.

Nothing, Everything, and Nowhere In Between

At face value, existentialist philosophy is the philosophy of aloof scorn towards societal values and human problems. That middle-age “existential crisis”, questioning, “What could it all MEAN?” For most characterizations of such philosophy, the answer is nothing. All of society, human institutions, experiences, and emotions are for naught, at least as far as the universe and life itself is concerned- we are all just a part of a big floating rock in space where stuff happens, with no rhyme or reason as to when it happens or who it happens to. It is all absurd.

Yet, a deeper look into existentialism produces a different outlook, for which we may consider Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus”. In his essay, Camus argues that the old Greek mythological figure condemned to rolling a boulder up a mountain for eternity has been severely misrepresented in his emotional state. Rather than becoming discouraged at the futility of his fate, Sisyphus finds meaning and fulfillment in the brief moments walking down the mountain to retrieve his rock; for then, he can appreciate his momentary triumph and very existence. The act of living becomes his meaning of life, and he is fully present. Therefore, rather than being sad and longing of his old life, Sisyphus is actually happy.

This idea about finding meaning in existence results in an important modification to the common portrayal of existentialism. Nothing matters except for existence, and therefore, everything matters. The meaning of life is not found in emotions, or institutions, or goals; it is found in the very existence of the mundane. Everything simply is, and nothing lies beyond- there is nowhere in between.

It’s the Lack of a Moral Compass for Me

While reading The Stranger I thought that Meursault was a very problematic character. I did not like how he did not care about too much of anything. I also thought it was quite distasteful how he was able to be friends with Raymond and Salamano who are abusers. Meursault was very aware of how bad of a character that Salamano was, he describes some of Salamano’s action to the reader he states, ¨When the dog wants to urinate, the old man won´t give him enough time and yanks at him…If the dog has an accident in the room, it gets beaten again¨(27). Even after Meursault knew how bad Salamano he made another friend who was is an abuser who name is Raymond. In fact he even went into Raymond’s apartment to eat food. While in the apartment Raymond also admitted to beating his girlfriend(29-32). I am overall sick of Meursault and his lack of being aware of red flags and frankly bad people. He also just kind of goes along with everything Raymond says without correcting him and telling him what he is doing is unacceptable.

Meaning in Illusions

In “The Myth of Sisyphus”, author Albert Camus argues that Sisyphus is happy. Camus explains that because Sisyphus is aware of the absudity of life, he can be happy even during his eternal punishment. He can realize that there is no point to his labor and find happiness just from doing something. Camus writes, “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart,” (3). Although this is what drives Sisyphus to be happy, ordinary people can also find happiness without looking past the absurdity of life.

Most people today find meaning in their life through family, success, faith, love, and many other things. These are all illusions to distract people from what life truly is at its essence however I do not think this causes people to be any less happy. If a person cares about financial success, then they drive themselves forward with the idea that they want more than what they currently have. This drive may not be considered a great motive but it can keep people happy to have a dream in mind. Wanting enough money to live comfotably is a common motive in society and their happiness while getting closer to the goal is defineatley not fake. Even though at it’s core it is crazy to keep value in life based on pieces of paper is absurd, the happiness it can bring is real. It keeps people away from thinking about the randomness of their actions and drives them. If Sisyphus can be truly happy just lifting a boulder up a hill, then the absurdity of our actions and motives can also keep ordinary people happy.

Irony of the Myth of Sisyphus

The myth of Sisyphus describes what is supposedly the harshest of all punishments: the Gods condemn him to a lifetime of futile servitude for the crime of disdain for the Gods and disdain the procession of death. Sisyphus’s punishment is to roll a boulder up a hill which immediately falls down once reaching the top. Sisyphus will do this for eternity; the supposed torture in this act being the meaninglessness of it all. 

Although an eternal torment, Camus’s genius is to highlight the ironic fact that Sisyphus’s tasks are no different than those carried out in modern everyday life. We (as humans, not mythical creatures) perform repetitive tasks, some undertaken with imaginary purpose, all of which in turn appear in and of themselves as devoid of meaning. Any value taken away from a human task is merely what we imagine it to be. The wafer taken during communion is meaningless to most; for those believers, it is imparted with a great deal of imagined significance. Or social popularity which truly manifests solely as idols in an individual mind. 

            Sisyphus keeps pushing the boulder; every step up the hill serving as an inspiration for the next. There is no change in this routine, the same results are produced, and the same hardships are endured. Like Sisyphus, Man creates a purpose for these repetitive tasks no matter how meaningless the task, such as pushing a boulder up a hill. 

          It is the pursuit for purpose in one’s life which in itself gives meaning to mans’ lives. “This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

After Awhile You Can Get Used to Anything!

In Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, Meursault’s mother passes away before the book begins. A series of events occur, including Mersault shooting a man, which result in a prison sentence. To most, prison is probably not the most ideal place to live. With no freedom, Meursault has to give up his job, women and cigarettes. To Meursault, prison is not so horrible after awhile. Camus writes, “So, with all the sleep, my memories, reading my crime story, and the alteration of light and darkness, time passed” (80). Meursault realizes life is meaningless, and everything is up to the choices he makes. When he explains his time in prison, he does not complain about losing the freedom to visit his job, girlfriend, or friends. He decides to live life in prison by using what he has, and not missing what he used to have. Meursualt creates games, digs out old memories, and reads the same crime story over and over. He doesn’t believe being in prison is a bad thing, because he has no other hopes or dreams. He is where he is, because he has done what he’s done, and now he must pay the consequence for it.

Living life this way can seem depressing, but ultimately, it means Meursault is not unhappy. He does not wish for anything and in fact, even when Marie comes to visit him, he doesn’t display affection or happiness to finally see her. While many people pray they will never have to spend a day in jail, Meursault has a different approach. As Maman used to believe, “after awhile you could get used to anything” (77).