The Journey is what Matters

I disagree with Camus’ argument about the constant pain in the human condition, mostly because of the extreme view he takes. To a certain extent, I do believe that life is full of suffering and the facade of hope and love is what keeps people going. However, Camus takes the stance that life is somewhat worthless, and when you die doesn’t matter.

This is seen in Camus’ novel, The Stranger, as he opens with the infamous line “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday”(1). One interpretation of the quote is that it doesn’t matter what day Maman died, but on a more personal level it could mean it doesn’t matter that Maman died at all. This meaning would show that Camus doesn’t value life much, if at all, and he doesn’t value the experience of living simply because all life ends with death.

Not only is his point of view downright depressing, it also makes many aspects of life meaningless if it doesn’t matter when you die. Camus was an absurdist, and he believed that love is just a facade of life that keeps people living, but is truly worthless. But without love, there is no emotion in life, and with no emotion life would be meaningless.

This I strongly disagree with, because I think what you do with your life is what matters, not the end result. The feelings in life and what you do with the short time you have is what is most important. Therefore when you die would matter because being blessed with a long happy life is quite the opposite of dying early without enjoying life itself. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. Overall, it doesn’t matter that life will end with the pain of death, it matters that you live your life with emotion and love.

Cries of Hate

In the second half of The Stranger we discover an understanding of Mersault in a different way. He has come to terms with his present reality. Prison isn’t all that bad in his perspective after all. He has done what most people could never, and found the appreciation in endless suffering. Because in endless suffering their are silver linings that Mersault has began to become fond of. Soon he will discover that he in fact does not have to live his life out in prison but instead he will be freed from his life by death.

“The day of my execution…they greet me with cries of hate” why would a man want words of hate on his last day of life. He has grown in terms of self understanding and can now enjoy experiences unlike before. Ever since he entered prison, having everything taken away he can now see life in a whole new perspective. in some strange sence, he wants to feel the hatred of others because hes never experienced it before because he was unable to comprehend these feelings.

Look Mama I Made it

Just about everyone has had an existential crisis by the end of their high school career. The feeling one gets at 1 am after having been out when you realize that one day you will die and you are FOREVER gone. The weight begins to settle that out of the thousands of years of human history we learn about and the millions of years of earth history that we learn about each and every human lives through less than 1% of that existence and when it comes down to it in 100 years no one will know who we are and what our names were. Each person will at some point stop existing our brains will turn off and we will be no more for the rest of all time. That’s it you will one day just be gone and everything else will be lost to us. This idea can sometimes be hard to grasp and so often we think this is silly and we have life and we can enjoy it till we are gone, but not in existentialism. Once you have made it out of the social construct of life you can never go back, those who have made it beyond have reached a level from which you can never come back, and that is the realization that nothing matters. While this is considered an enlightened way to live it is often hard as someone who has not made it out of the social construct to grasp how something could be better than the joys of life that they have. How can life be better than an Alpine ski trip for two weeks over Christmas? How can life be better than the moments when I sit with my girlfriend and watch a movie? The answer to these questions can only be found once one has crossed that existential boarder, but getting there is hard, getting past is harder, and the realization that you are there may be the hardest part because your life will change forever because you realize that you life doesn’t matter, that you will die one day and no one will remember who you are. “Look Mama I made it, I have found life’s meaning… “

Art and Existentialism

When reading into existentialism, I found an article titled, “Why Creativity is the Cure for Nihilistic Despair,” though the title is somewhat misleading. The article delved into how and why many existentialist turn to art. The general argument made by the author is that, for existentialist, we are not born with any inherent meaning nor is there a overarching meaning in life. In order to exist alongside a lack of meaning (absurdity), we must develop our own sense of meaning. This is where the author argues that for many art creates this personal meaning.

In the modern world, there is a sense of heroism that is synonymous with having an eternal spirit. We all fear death and in order to maintain sanity we concoct narratives that help deconstruct the terror of death. For some, this manifests as religion or spirituality. The idea of heroism is that we go out of our way to take on an active role in society, through carriers, relationships, etc., because we feel that these roles will prevent us from being forgotten after death; they are your mark on the world that makes you somewhat eternal despite inevitable death.

The existentialist thought suggests that heroism is not genuine and by participating in it you are feeding into the “myth of significance of human life” (Ernest Becker). Instead, the way to live is by first accepting absurdity, meaning you accept that there is no ultimate purpose. Once you acknowledge absurdity, it is up to you to live your most genuine truth which does not originate from the social construction around you, rather it is a product of you mind alone. This is the concept of rebellion.

The author of the article I read argues that the artist is the ultimate rebel. The artist remains conscious about the absurdity of life and uses that lucidity to formulate art. That art is there genuine truth and meaning and prevents them from sliding off the edge of existentialism into nihilism. Ernest Becker articulates tis concept well, “the most anyone of us can seem to do is to fashion something — an object or ourselves — and drop it into the confusion, make an offering of it, so to speak, to the life force.”

To Cry or Not to Cry

To me, crying is one of the most natural, genuine ways humans display their emotions. Tears do not seem to be a controllable response to something, or a type of reaction that can be repressed. In my personal experience though, tears can feel random. For instance, I have not cried at some of the most sad moments in my life, but I cry every single year at Superbowl commercials. While I believe tears are a good indicator someone is feeling emotions, I think crying says little about what a person is truly experiencing.

The people of the court in The Stranger do not agree. Throughout the court case of Meursault, his lack of tears over his mother’s death is brought up numerous times. So much so that it becomes one of the strongest pieces of evidence supporting that Muersault is a man with “crime in his heart.” (pg.96). The prosecutor is so intrigued by this idea that a man could not cry over his dead mother, that he questions both Perez and the caretaker from the old home on Meursault’s emotional reaction at the funeral. The prosecutor asks Perez if, “he had at least seen me [Muersault] cry.” (pg.91). In the trial of Meursault, his emotionless or at least tear less reaction to his mother’s death becomes a tick against him in the “morality” box. To this courtroom, tears are the primary way humans show sadness or grief. To them, anyone who does not experience grief they way they are expecting must be inherently evil. I believe this is a close minded view of people and their individual experiences, but I also cry at commercials, so who am I to say.

An Uninteresting Life

In the first part of the novel “The Stranger”, Meursault confronts one of the Arabs that had been following Raymond with a pistol. Despite having more than enough opportunities to just tell them to back off or put the pistol away, Meursault opens fire, killing the Arab. After this scene in the book, part one ended, and I was left with a realization. Meursault had been doing things for no particular reason, other than to see what would happen. He didn’t care about the possible consequences, most likely because he wanted to spice up the unseasoned chicken that his life was.