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?

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