As Camus made Sisyphus’s condition from his punishment contradict and compare to the condition of a human, I agree over the implied conclusions Camus made over the human condition within his argument. Humans go throughout their lives working vigorously while struggling pointlessly to achieve something as they visualize a version of success that a specific individual aspires to obtain. Many humans set goals that all in all have value in order to seek benefits in life, bringing individual success. Sisyphus being forced to attempt to push a stone to the top of a mountain has no value if he were or weren’t to complete the task as the stone would stay on the mountain for eternity. This compares a human condition we tend to call failure, as there are times humans work vigorously towards success but aren’t completely accomplished. Sometimes the struggle in order to get to success doesn’t pertain towards anything significant within life making the struggle humans go through pointless. This human condition is what makes a human or Sisyphus’s life absurd as the confrontation we have between ourselves as individuals who strive for success is absurd compared to the struggle and hardship we withstand to grow closer to success even when the success is completely meaningless. All in all, I agree with the reading of the myth and the conclusions implied about the human condition as Sisyphus is struggling to a point where it’s pointless just as humans do when they set goals, making Sisyphus an exemplar to the human condition.
Day: October 23, 2020
Is Meursault an existentialist?
Existentialism is the concept of individual freedom, choice, and control over one’s destiny. In The Stranger, Meursault remains an amoral character. He doesn’t display strong feelings toward anything. This behavior separates Meursault from the existentialist because they have an interest in ethics and morality. Existentialists do not believe that morality and belief systems are required. However, many existentialist still choose to develop their moral compass and exercise it through freedom and choice. Meursault doesn’t seem to be interested in “correctness” at all. Whether it is society’s rule or his own opinions, Meursault doesn’t care. He is like an inanimate leaf floating through life on a gust of wind. His lack of choice represents the opposite approach that many early existentialists advocated. In part 1 of the novel, Meursault is the result of simply living to stay alive and responding to any immediate discomfort. To the reader, he appears lost, causing us to consider what gives us purpose? An existentialist would say that Meursault’s life matters because he has it, but would Meursault agree?
Camus Argues That Happiness is Perspective
In “The Myth of Sisyphus” Camus writes of the tragic story of a man stuck in the underworld pushing a boulder up a hill for it only to roll down again. However, despite the clear suffering that Sisyphus experiences, Camus somehow turns the reader into thinking that Sisyphus is content with his situation. Camus writes, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy” (3).
Camus argues that even though his situation isn’t ideal for him, Sisyphus can still value his life by having the mindset of enjoying his presence. This can relate to existentialism because it creates a meaning of life. People have to create a meaning of life in order to live their lives with purpose and happiness. Although the true meaning of life has yet to be found, and most likely will never be found, people can create a fake meaning of life in order to cope with the inevitability of death and curiosity. I also think that happiness is a mindset, and it can be found in any situation despite suffering. This was the argument that Camus writes, and I think that existence as well as the meaning of life is all about perspective.
I watched this Key and Peele skit the other day where they were being tortured and instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they chose to laugh about it and find the good sides of it. As their legs were being chopped off, they talked about how they needed a good break away from their phones. I thought this related to the topic because it is all about how someone perceives something. The skit is called “Key and Peele – Psycho Clown” if you want to watch it. I would very much recommend you watch it and it’s only 3 minutes.
What Is An Existential Crisis And How Do They Impact Us?
I don’t think there is any better time than 2020 to be talking about existentialism and existential crises. An existential crisis occurs when a major life event, not necessarily a positive or negative, occurs and causes a person to start asking questions about their identity.
Imagine you are a musician who has been playing an instrument since a very young age. An opportunity arises to perform a solo at a concert and you practice and practice and practice to absolutely nail your performance. But when the time comes, you play notes offkey or out of time and totally bomb and begin to question whether the time you put into music was really worth it.
The choice to pursue music was one you made off your own free will (exercising existentialism) and ultimately grew to become a large part of your identity. Existential crises are necessary for our growth as human beings since they can provide new outlooks on life and existence and also force people to face the choices they’ve made in the past to create their identity.
Life Has No Meaning… Kinda
When I hear the phrase “there is no meaning to life”, I’d almost agree except for one exception- I believe there is no universal meaning to life.
After our class discussion about existentialism, it became abundantly clear to me that no matter what the opinion of life was, everyone had their mind made up on a specific meaning of life. Some argued that love is the ultimate goal, while others stated that we are all just avoiding death.
Our own individual experiences with life shape what we believe the meaning is, and that’s what I think makes this conversation so interesting. Existentialists can argue that one theory makes the most sense, but in actuality we all are clueless as to what the meaning of life actually is. Religion, our upbringing and experiences, our thoughts and ideas- they shape our own explanations for why we are here.
It’s hard for me to gather the words to explain my thoughts on existentialism because it is so universally confusing. No matter what we believe the meaning of life is, there is the underlying truth that no one really knows why we are here. The only thing we can do is come up with our own explanation to help rationalize this absurdity called life.
Love Is Not a System
The theory of existentialism is probably the most negative theory I have ever heard in my life- but it is true in many ways. Systems such as school, politics, educational goals, and fashion were created and enforced by humankind. In the end, these factors are meaningless to the universe because they are all “made up.” However, you cannot put love in the category of systems.
Love is a feeling- it is not a made up system. Sure, the word love was created by a person, but the feeling was not chosen by anyone. Love is its own emotion. It is a mix of happiness, anger, sadness, excitefulness, and can even cause physical feelings such as heartache. Love is felt by babies towards their mothers even if they have never heard the word.
I understand existentialism, and I realize that many factors in life are truly absurd. But love should not be represented in this system. It is a strong sense that most people experience at some point in their lives whether they want to or not.
Meursault Is the Stranger
From what I’ve read so far, I believe that Meursault is the stranger. A stranger is someone who is an outsider or a foreigner and I noticed that Meursault is a stranger to society and somewhat himself.
He doesn’t follow social norms. He didn’t show compassion for his mother, Raymond’s girlfriends, Salamano’s dog, etc. In the eyes of society, his kind of behavior is regarded as bizarre. Meursault does not understand why events have a sentimental value for people and this is what makes him disconnected with society. In addition, I think that he is a stranger to himself in a way, but not more than he is to others. He goes through events without a plan and without commitment to either principles or people. He doesn’t know who he is and he doesn’t care. Meursault is a stranger and an absurdity to society because he does not show any emotions, he has no meaning for life, and his only certainty and guarantee is death.
What’s a God to a Non-Believer?
Meursault lacks the ability to interpret the meaning of his own existence in this world. He is unable to put his life in sequential order and because of this he cannot identify the past, present, or future. He’s is finally being held accountable for his own existence. He can’t just float through this event in his life because he actually has to be conscious for it. Meursault was only truly made conscious though the inevitability of his death. He realizes that hope only delivers torture because it creates the false illusion that he can change the fact that he is going to die when he can’t. Meursault finally begins to accepts and even embrace that his views make him a threat and stranger to society. This is why he is being sentenced to death, not because of anything that went on in the trial. Meursault discovers that him and the world are alike because neither of them pass judgments. The world does not rationally order and control the events of human existence and this is somewhat comforting. When we die, the world doesn’t care that our bodies will leave themselves in it’s dirt, but it doesn’t matter because it happens anyways. “I open myself to the gentle indifference of the world” (Camus 122) Meursault finally finds peace in the end through his death because he finds freedom in his unimportance.
The Significance of the Weather in Regards to Existentialism
Throughout Albert Camus’ story “The Stranger”, Mersault often describes in great detail the weather and Camus goes into great descriptive imagery about the weather throughout the story. As soon as the story starts off, Mersault states, “I caught the two o’clock bus. It was very hot” (1). Often times throughout this story Mersault is effected by this “heat” which leads him to do bad things as the story progresses. Moments before Mersault killed the Arab, he goes into detail about the scorching heat and how it effected him and even compares the heat to be the same as the day when his mother passed. He states, “All I could feeel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead..The scorching blade slashed at my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes…My whole being tensed and I squeezed my hand around the revolver” (59). He then shot and killed the Arab.
In regards to “The Stranger” and Extensionalism, I believe that although Mersault is constantly questioning his humanity and morals, he still has that humanity in him, he still can tell (maybe even through the weather changes and noticing the weather) what is right from wrong. Although his morals are skewed, we may be able to see his humanity in his extensive imagery.
The Care of Another
The main character Meursault is called an emotionally detached figure by many in Albert Camus’s The Stranger. But while reading we learn that he craves the emotion of others although he rarely feels it himself. Although he seems unmotivated through the book giving up at times, it is his unconscious brain guiding him towards making the big decisions. Which creates a relationship or sets him up with those that can award him with compassion. This common motif throughout the story silently drove and/or influenced; him to marry, become Raymonds friend, and to kill the man. In all these moments he confessed to the reader, “As always whenever I want to get rid of someone I’m not really listening to, I made it appear as if I agree. (69).” Instead of thinking of Meursault as an uncaring person, we realize he is simply unable to show compassion. But it is unspoken that he craves the very thing that he cannot possess.
Absurdity In The Eyes of The Reader
Mersault’s character is direct; he sees things how they are without reading into anything, finding meaning in anything, or expressing any real emotion. His view of life is, to say the least, unusual. Though he appears this way to the reader at first glance, his actions suggest a deeper humanity that other characters cannot see in him.
When he is in the midst of his examination Mersault reflects on the clerks’s menaing of life: “That was his belief, and if he were ever to doubt it, his life would become meaningless. ‘Do you want my life to be meaningless?’ he shouted…. But from across the table he had already thrust the crucifix in my face and was screaming irrationally, ‘I am a Christian. I ask Him to forgive you your sins. How can you not believe that He suffered for you?'” (Camus 69).
The clerk defines his life’s meaning based on Christianity, and is utterly confused when he realizes Mersault does not have even an inkling of belief; the thin reality the clerk holds onto threatens to crumble and he grow irrational and terrified.
Mersault is confusing and absurd to other characters, but Camus frames him in this way for that exact reason: to make not only other characters, but the reader uncomfortable. He is meant to make one rethink the constructs of life and recognize that everyone has different definitions of a life well lived, and that meaning must come from a place deep enough that it cannot be so easily unravelled.
I always look forward to sitting through English class with Mr. Heidkamp in the AM of every A day because its practically my first class considering I have gym 1st period. Even 2 days back when I woke up from a late night sleep with my eyes half open and Mr. Heidkamp started speaking what I thought was Chinese. No of course he wasn’t actually speaking Chinese but he was definitely spitting out some knowledge to us youngsters. I feel this lecture given by Mr. Heidkamp resembles an old Gandalf the grey revealing his magical secrets to his fellow hobbits. Not only do I mention this resemblance because of the funky hat but because of what was being discussed. Mr. Heidkamp reviewed the term existentialism which I had never heard before and I guarantee I wasn’t the only one. He then thoroughly discussed multiple meanings of life that tie in with existentialism. I for one completely disagree with the theory. I don’t believe life is just one big simulation created by the society we live in. The decisions you make in your life shape the type of person you are, life is what you make it. Everyone in this world is different from each other, everyone carries a different mindset, everyone makes their own decisions. If life is just one big simulation then it doesn’t bother me because in my eyes I’m living in my world, I’m living my life, controlling my own destiny,
Are We All Socially Constructed?
A few weeks ago, my family had a movie night. We decided to watch the new Netflix movie, Social Dilemma. I had already been familiar with how addicting and damaging social media is, but many parts of the movie surprised me. I was scared to learn that everything we do is recorded in order to make social media more addicting to each individual. How long you look at every post or website is recorded, and then your feed is increasingly tailored towards your interests. In this movie, they also shared how much our personalities are influenced by what we view everyday on social media. I started to ponder how much every person I know is actually genuine. Or is everyone becoming more and more like a machine?
In our Wednesday class, when we started discussing existentialism, this movie popped into my head right away. More specifically, when we talked about each of our lives and the social expectations at each stage of our lives. It seemed that our class was pretty divided when certain questions like, “Is love real?” were introduced. Like my thoughts during the movie, I wondered, is the feeling of “love” real, or is it socially constructed and we only feel “love” because we are so pressured into feeling it? And is this “love” the meaning we all search for in life?
Harmony and Happiness?
When reading the last few sections of part one of The Stranger, I was alarmed as to how some of the last few sentences were phrased.
After pulling the trigger of the gun on the Arab man approaching him, Mersault states “I knew I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I had been happy” (59). This immediately caught my attention. Mersault’s decision to use the word “harmony” to describe the day is not something that I had expected. Sure he had had some good experiences on the beach that day with Marie and their friends, yet, the whole last few pages of part one of the novel were dedicated to Mersault complaining and fussing about the heat and how miserable it was making him feel.
He describes pulling the trigger and shooting the man as “Knocking on the door of unhappiness”(59), and this is the last sentence of this section. This also was interesting to me because it seems that Mersault was never happy as it is. When he does express that he is experiencing happiness, it seems forced, or fake, none of his emotions ever seem true to him. He doesn’t really seem to ever be genuinely happy. This is why it struck me when he acknowledged the killing of the Arab man as the insinuator for the unhappiness starting, when in reality it seemed to just catalyze the misery he’s already experiencing.
Throughout the whole last few pages of part one, Mersault never fails to let the reader know that the sun and the heat emanating from it were literally killing him. He then ties the experiences he is having in the beating sun on the beach to the sun on the days that he buried his mom. “The sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the skin”(58-59). This immediately had me questioning how Mersault could attach and associate the word harmonious, claim that he was happy, with something so painstaking and sad. Granted, he did mention that he never shed a tear at Maman’s funeral but the scorching heat of the day he buried her definitely could have been a motivator for his misery under the sun that he makes sure we, as readers, feel like we are experiencing with him.
Because of all of this, it just leaves me in a bit of a confused state at the end of part one on the mention of the beach where he “Had been happy” (59), when it seems to me like the whole day was really just soaking in complaints.
In the stranger we find a man named Meursault, who has very little emotions and feels very little in the way of love. In the story he is dating a women and she asked him if he loves her and if he would marry her and he just shrugs off this question and doesn’t really care. This makes us question why the character is like this. Is love a social construct created to cover up the fact that everyone hates each other and all life is is death and pain? I personally think that if people did not love as much as they would not feel as much pain. I think that a lot of the reason that people create so much pain for others is because they love so much for what/who they believe in. I do not think that love was created to mask the fact that everyone hates everyone. I think life is meant to be lived with love and happiness and passion and that jealousy, hate, and pain happen as a result of all of the love that there is.
Life is Different
Listening to Mr. Heidkamp’s talk about the meaning of life, I came to two conclusions: life is random and life is different for everyone.
Life is random. Nobody knows what’s going to happen to them in 10 years or 10 days or 10 minutes. Life throws challenges and obstacles in our way in order for us to grow. To teach us how to deal with pain and suffering and how to move on from that. It also teaches us how to appreciate the happiness and good moments in our life. No ones life is all happiness or all pain. You have to go through one in order to go through the other. Because of all of this, there is no such thing as a perfect life. Since you can’t choose what is going to happen next, you can’t create the idea of a perfect life.
Everyone’s life is different, we are all different people, so they have to be. Everyone has their own opinions, values, and beliefs. Everyone has their own personality and style. The saying that no two people are alike is very true. Two people could be the exact same in looks and beliefs, but still have that one thing that makes them different from each other. Same thing apply for the meaning of life. Each person has there own idea of what life means to them. Not one person can discover the “real” meaning of life. There is a reason beliefs and opinions are a thing, to make people their own person. Just like no two people are alike, no two lives are alike.
Basically, life is crazy and unique.
Why Does It Matter That Nothing Matters?
Mr. Heidkamp’s discussion on the meaning of life was very upsetting for me at first. Relationships, love, and helping others are all incredibly important to me, and so hearing that all of those ideas were just “illusions” was really discouraging. However, as we continued to talk about these ideas through a pessimistic perspective, I started to wonder if I agreed with everything being said. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t sure, but even if I did agree, did I even care?
Even if my values were all illusions, what did that really mean? These concepts and feelings are real to me, and in my life, that’s all that really matters. Life doesn’t have to have “meaning” for you to enjoy it, and these concepts don’t have to be “real” for them to be important for you. Since nothing matters, why does the concept that “nothing matters” even matter?
Eventually the class came to a similar conclusion, and we all discussed how life gives the meaning to life, and that that can mean something different for everyone. As long as you’re content with your life, that should be enough. We are the ones who give our lives meaning, so we are also the only ones who can take away that meaning by saying “nothing matters” (so don’t say that!).
I think that these beliefs are why I don’t really like the main character in The Stranger by Albert Camus. Many view him as smart for realizing that life has no meaning and being above it all, but I don’t know if I agree. Sure he’s figured out the “secret to life,” but what does that even do for him? He’s completely disconnected from the rest of society and apathetic towards every thing that happens in his life.
Maybe this is what makes him content, and in that case, he has found his meaning in life and I think that’s great. However, from my perspective, his life seems sad. I want everything in my life to have meaning for me personally, even if it doesn’t for the rest of the world. Since nothing matters, anything can matter.
What the Heck is Life?
Wednesday morning I logged into zoom to see Mr. Heidkamp in some goofy hat, class was already off to an interesting start. I tried to push my giggles aside and start listening to what he had to say, and boy he had some things to say. Personally I really enjoyed Wednesday class. Did I leave utterly confused, completely. Regardless, I find hearing people’s interpretation of life very intriguing. I did not really agree with what Camus’/Mr.Heidkamp had to say, but it did really get me thinking. Evil Mr.Heidkamp really had me feeling like a philosopher. I can completely understand the idea that happiness is just a social construct that humans feel like they need to have. We are told in life to do tasks to feel happy and as soon as we achieve those tasks the happiness is only temporary until we are told to do something else to make us happy again. I try not to think about that though because I feel like over analyzing life puts a damper on it and doesn’t allow you to live life to the fullest. My moto in life is YOLO, so I try not to think about the actual meaning of life too hard because it takes away from the YOLO aspect. I find that having in depth conversations about what life is can only take me so far because I can only fathom so much. Nonetheless, I know that I will never understand what life is and what it holds, I will just try to roll with the punches.
When we started reading The Stranger I kind of thought it as one of those useless books we have to read for English class. The book was sort of bland. Not much too it, like Meursault. After Wednesday class I totally have a new view of the book thinking about Camus theory of life. Meursault doesn’t really care about anything and acts as if nothing matters, just like Camus theory stated that nothing really matters. I’m still waiting for a big AH HA moment in the book. I’ll keep you guys updated if I find it.
If Nothing Matters, Anything Can Matter
Mr. Heidkamp’s talk about the meaning of life brought up the idea that anything we feel, or any meaning we find in life–love, relationships, the pursuit of happiness–is an illusion created by the society we live in. In a sense, he said that nothing truly matters, has intrinsic value, or is “real”. I would argue that because nothing matters, it doesn’t matter if something is “real” or not. If we believe something to be true or if we value a particular thing, that should be enough. It is unnecessary to get bogged down with the details of whether something is an inherent truth or whether we have been conditioned to think so by society.
Take love, for example. Mr. Heidkamp questioned the existence of love and whether it is something natural or something created by society. As and I and other students pointed out, it shouldn’t matter whether love is real and natural or not. We feel what we believe to be love for other people, we think that it is real, and it doesn’t matter if love is actually an illusion because believing in love doesn’t hurt anyone. Believing in all of these things that could be illusions just helps us to enjoy life and to find our own meaning in it.
If nothing matters and everything is an illusion, choosing to reject that idea, and to believe that there are some transcendent truths to life, doesn’t matter either. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, we can do whatever we want and believe whatever we want. Anything can matter.
Life Doesn’t Matter If You Don’t Live It
So I was a bit groggy after just barely waking up for advisory and then laying in bed until English started. I was hoping for a relaxing start to my day as I didn’t get much sleep, but instead here comes Mr. Heidkamp wearing a crazy hat and talking about the meaning of life. That was definitely not how I expected to start my Wednesday. Throughout my time reading the stranger so far, I’ve been frustrated by lack of plot, the attitude of Meursault, and the general social commentary style of the book. I knew this was coming though and I expected discussions going forward to be more about the meaning of the book than the book itself. When listening to the lecture, I began drifting a bit into my own thoughts about the true purpose of life. That was until I basically heard Mr. Heidkamp say life doesn’t matter after spending 20 minutes discussing the many various meanings. This is when I got upset. I simply just don’t agree with that lecture or the meaning of this book. In my perspective, life is what you make it. If you spend time thinking about life and what it means, you’re wasting time you can spend figuring out what it means to YOU. Life is not the same for everyone. Every single person will have a slightly varied meaning of life. But why spend time trying to think of that meaning when you can just live. I believe that thinking about what life means is a complete and utter waste of time. You’re never going to truly understand life. So why not just live it instead?