To Preserve Innocence

Is it ever justified to end an innocent person’s life? This question proved controversial in the classroom, as students seemed to be split on it. How could one ever rationalize killing an innocent person in any circumstance? Originally, this was my belief. That there was no way something like that could have been justified no matter what way one puts it. But after some thinking, I believe that perhaps in the case of Sethe murdering her own child, the situation may be a little more complex than our surface level assumptions lead us to think.

When a child is born into the world, the mother looks after them; their lives, unburdened and their futures, not yet written. They are free and in the hands of their loving mothers and fathers. But this was not the case for Sethe. As soon as Sethe’s child entered the world, she was a slave, just as her mother was. Sethe knew that if she were to ever be captured, her baby would be forced into slavery. She had experienced just how terrible slavery was; the scarring that came with it, and she could not bear to let her innocent child be treated as an animal like she was. In a sense, Sethe did not want her child to become like her. She wanted Beloved to stay innocent and in her power, the only way she could guarantee that Beloved would, was to take her out of the world.

There’s no equality for life.

The story that Mohsin Hamid tells is a very relevant one in today’s politically broken, war-plagued world. Since we live such privileged lives, satisfied with all of our needs, we often forget about the Saeed and Nadia’s’ of the world. When we are preoccupied with the comforts of first-world life, a world other than our own seems too far away. We cannot fathom what refugees from war-torn countries must deal with. Their lives are based around survival. Their everyday worries are ones we have seldom had to deal with.

One of the most impactful lines in the story happens to be at the very beginning—”for one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings an middles until the instant when it does” (Hamid, 4). As someone born and raised in the United States, I have never thought of life in this way. Instead, I saw life and the act of living as a stable state of being. But to someone like Saeed or Nadia, life is much more insecure. For even though we both exist at the same time and the same plane, one explosion could mean the end for a life just as valuable and just as real as my own. 

Homs, Syria

Albert Camus’s existentialism is not as depressing as you think.

Existentialism is a complex philosophy. Due to the very nature of existentialism, to question one’s purpose and reject the conventional meanings people give to life, most would be led to believe that existentialism is simply a synonym for pessimism. Other existentialist philosophers such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, strengthen this stereotype that existentialism parallels nihilism. However, a common misunderstanding is that all existentialists believe in a life without meaning. While Albert Camus accepts that life is absurd, unlike other existentialists, he rejects complete hopelessness. Camus argues that one must accept that their life will not mean anything in the long run, that one’s actions will be ultimately futile and human life will always be absurd, but one must live on nonetheless. Even with this knowledge that the universe was not made for us, Camus still believed that life is worth enduring. The fact that you as an individual exists at all is meaningful on its own. We must acknowledge the absurdities of human existence, but to strive to be as happy and content as we possibly can anyway. As Camus writes in The Myth of Sisyphus, “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”. After Sisyphus accepts the hopelessness of his situation, he embraces his burden and thus, it is no longer a punishment for him. Once you realize that there is no inherent meaning to life and that we do not truly have any particular purpose, only then can you become truly free to create your own meaning. When you really look deeper into the message behind Camus’s ideology, you’ll realize that it’s actually about being happy.