Does Love Exist?

Love is a social construct. It exists to distract us from the absurdity of life, from the pain and suffering that we truly live through each day. It is a curtain over our eyes that covers up the truth, that life is miserable.

Who cares?

Why not be happy? Why not spend your life looking for your other half? If life is absurd anyway, why not act irrationally and continue to seek out love? The question of if love exists or is just a social construct is meaningless. We still feel the same longing for love either way. We still feel attraction and heartbreak. So why not look for love?

Meursault, Salamano, and the Foil

Camus uses other characters in his novel The Stranger to highlight Meursault’s lack of care. For example, Meursault notices a woman who sits with him as she eats at Celeste’s. In particular, he notices how she does everything with assurance. She eats purposefully, she marks her magazine completely, and she prepares her bill to the exact penny before she begins eating (43). Meursault follows her outside as she swiftly walks away, and notes how strange she is, but nothing else happens involving the lady. At first, it seems odd that Camus would add this strange detail that takes up a page of his story and appears to amount to nothing. However, the purpose of this encounter is to provide contrast to Meursault’s indifferent personality. Meursault responds to everything with short sentences that say he doesn’t really care. This lady, on the other hand, seems to care about everything she does. By including this woman into the story, Meursault’s indifference is only made clearer.

Another character that contrasts Meursault is Salamano. In the beginning of the novel, the old man seems like a bad person with no heart. He abuses his dog and calls him a “lousy bastard” all the time. However, on page 39, Meursault hears him crying after he lost his dog. Camus makes a clear point to take this character who seems heartless and give them emotions and vulnerable moments too. This surprising revelation causes the reader to wonder: if even Salamano cares about things, how come Meusault does not?

If the syntax of the novel and Meursault’s own thoughts aren’t enough to show his indifference to everything, the stark contrast between him and others completes the job.

Questionable Decision Making

As Part 1 nears a conclusion Meursault finds himself in a completely unnecessary altercation. Raymond, a neighbor of Meursault invited him over to his friends lake house. Raymond has tensions with a small group of Arabian men. Raymond physically assaulted his girlfriend when he found out she was using him, and one of the men is her brother. When on the beach near the man, Meursault says “It occurred to me that all I had to do was turn around and that would be the end of it. But the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on my back. I took a few steps toward the spring” (58). Meursault is choosing at this point to cause problems by approaching a man equipped with a pocket knife. Meursault, however, has a gun so is at the advantage. It is puzziling why Meursault is putting himself in this situation to begin with. All for a neighbor he is barely friends with.

Meursault continues to walk towards the Arabian man. As he nears him, he gets sweat in his eyes which prevents him from seeing. Meursault then gets slashed in the face by the man. He says “The light shot off the steal and it was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead.” What Meursault does next I found to be quite shocking. Rather than walking away from the situation, he chose to fight back but in the more extreme way. Meursault fired the gun at the man. He says “Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace” (59). I am uncertain what the result of this will be, but I can not assume it will be good. The next few chapters will definitely be some interesting ones, and I look forward to reading them and finding out.

Your Own World

There’s no denying that our world is built atop social constructs and false systems. It makes no sense for values such as justice and love to have existed before humanity created them. Love doesn’t even have a true universal definition, so how can it be a concrete thing? Almost every person will give a different definition of what they think love is, and what they think of love is entirely based upon the love around them. It’s hardly even their own opinion.

However, if we assume that because we created the ideas of love, relationships, being a “good person,” happiness, etc. that they are not real, what is left?

We can argue that all social constructs hold us back. They limit our experiences, and in many ways, I agree with that. As society has grown, we’ve created rules that if aliens were to study our planet, they would look at in utter confusion. As we discussed in class, why must certain people dress a certain way? Or, why must we go to school for 12 years and then go on to college and potentially even graduate? What is money? What is God? Why is our world the way it is? Who decided these rules? What purpose do they actually have?

You can only reach radical subjectivity by acknowledging that our world does not operate in a sensible fashion. Things happen without reason. Even if you believe in a higher power, you must wonder how that higher power came to be? Why does the higher power not end suffering? Is a higher power who sits there while the world burns below them truly the benevolent higher power the people believe in? Why do people believe in a benevolent God at all?

Even God is not sensible.

But after you acknowledge that things happen without sense, that the world around you will act without logic, and that you are merely a grain of sand in a desert, you realize that you can act however you wish.

In doing so, you can choose to forego all previously learned constructs. You can believe that nothing is real. You can live in perfect nihilism.

Or, you can choose to make your own world. If nothing matters, can you not be your own teacher, your own government, your own prosecutor, your own God?

Thus, can you not choose to believe in nothing and everything at the same time?

If nothing is real and nothing matters, can you not choose to believe in your own versions of love, justice, and happiness? It doesn’t matter if you do or not.

Opt Out

I think of life kind of like being in high school, but if you were signed up for every single club. You graduate 8th grade and get shoved into the door of OPRF, your name on every club, group, and sport’s sign up list. From 8 am to when you go to bed, no 3:11 break, it’s all club after club. The only chance to get any free time is if you quit the club. This requires an awkward conversation with the group leader. It’s uncomfortable. It takes a lot of guts to walk up in front of the class, in front of friends, people you respect, and tell your superior that the club they run just isn’t for you.

Here’s the catch: you get re-signed up every day. Every hour. Every second.

Some clubs are easier to quit, and some are harder. It depends on your friend group, which teachers you have and which you like, what you identify as, your skin color or gender, the way you were raised. Some clubs you don’t even know you’re in. Some of them can benefit you, and those are the hardest to leave. Some don’t benefit you or harm you, but they’re comfortable. They’re all you know. Freedom, radical subjectivity, finding the true meaning of life, comes when you quit all of the clubs. When you get to go home at 3:11, that is what Camus calls freedom and happiness. Unstructured and un-systemized life.

There’s a racism club, a sexism club, a homophobia club, a xenophobia club, a club for every system, every prejudice, every discrimination – no matter how small. It’s so, so easy to stay in the club, to continue thinking the way you have been since you were born. It’s so easy to hold your privilege in your hands and simply not acknowledge it. It benefits you, it makes your life easier, so why get rid of it? Why feel guilty for it? White privilege is like that. Every day we with white privilege have to consciously make the choice to acknowledge it. We have to see it in our hands and look it straight in its face. We have to be aware of it in every word, we have to quit the club with every sentence.

It’s also easy to stay in a club that harms you. As a woman, I have never once stopped believing that all genders are equal in value, ability, and validity. Yet, as a woman, I have fallen victim to self-image issues enforced by society. I have been influenced by gender stereotypes. Quitting these clubs, the ones that target you, might seem easy. And for many, maybe it is. But the truth is that the work is grueling. Picking apart your identity and seeing what weeds have taken root there, what elements exist that you did not approve, is hard. Quitting these clubs is saying goodbye to something toxic, breaking away from a poison, yet in order to do so, you must be confident enough in yourself to know that you are different from what all of society tells you you are. That is no small task.

Opt out every day. Take your name off the sign up list every second. Maybe one day, some clubs will dissolve. It’ll get easier to opt out until it’s a subconscious process. Not all of the clubs will disappear, we’ll never be free from systems. But some of them don’t harm anyone. And the ones that do, we can burn down.

How To Live

Camus’ theories of life in the “Myth of Sisyphus” better illuminates the way I see the world. Camus’ description and explanation of the “absurd man” and why the absurd man is able to get more out of life makes me realize how to live life to the fullest. Camus says Sisyphus is happy and gets more out of life because his detachment makes him have a heightened awareness that thus makes him more open to experiences. When I think about my life I like to believe I am an open minded person but my attachment to certain ideals or norms has definitely led me to decline and not pursue experiences that may have been good for me. Camus also says that the absurd man’s absolute content with what he’s doing allows him not to seek explanation or justification for what he’s doing. I think this is really important in my life and others’ as well because many people seek justification for almost everything they do and social media has just made that even worse. I think that once we learn to become less reliant on others’ views about ourselves and we stop worrying about getting validation and justification from others then we can fully live life how we want and not how we are persuaded or forced to. Camus also believes that the absurd man lives his life happily because he has no “what if’s” like normal humans, he is just 100% commitment to the task at hand. This is another key to life that I already knew but I’m still working on. Humans naturally have the fear of making the wrong decision, missing out, and obsessing over what could have been. This is usually compounded with the constant need for validation and justification and leads to unnecessary stress and torment in many people’s lives. Once a person is able to stay focus on the decision they do choose and they don’t overthink or consider the “what if’s” then they will have a much happier and much more successful life. I believe Camus’ theories of life in the “Myth of Sisyphus” are interesting, correct and have large impacts and implications in our everyday lives. I ask of you to also consider his points and be open minded to changing the way you behave and think!