“II. Zealots Of Stockholm” – The Existentialist Theme Song

Heathen, it's a struggle just to keep breathing
“II. Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information)” by Childish Gambino

By definition, existentialism is defined a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will. While we’ve explored the lot of existentialist ideals worked into our readings of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, I believe one of the most profound pieces of existentialist media is Donald Glovers “Because The Internet”, specifically his song titled “II. Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information). The overall story of the song follows Glovers relationships with his parents which evolves into the overall questioning of life and death. Throughout the song many lines allude to the overall existential meaning of the song, such as the final line of the first verse reading “F*ck him, I just really wanna feel something,” making reference to a girl pursuing her own individuality through cheating on her significant other for satisfaction. While I won’t cite the lines in full due to their explicit nature, it’s worth highlighting Glover’s notes of existentialist ideals throughout the rest of the track. During the second verse, Glover makes reference to the un-importance of sexual relationships being heavily romantic, the human race being in a constant race to achieve artificial power, as well as the fragility and insignificance of the human life. While Glover is known for plenty works displaying commentary on the worlds issues through music and film, some of his work being categorized as that of the theater of the absurd/existentialist type deserves more exploration and further attention in the media.

Radical Subjectivity is Unachievable

Existentialism encourages people to aim toward radical subjectivity or, in other words, the development of identity separate from social conditions and influence. Radical subjectivity, however, in its purest form, is simply not achievable. The issue is that people can not avoid being influenced by their environment. Our environment is, after all, a leading factor in what differentiates one person from another. Therefore, to a large degree, people act how their environment has shaped them to act. One cannot act separately or distinctly from their environment because their desire for these actions was, in fact, formed by the environment. It seems to me that the pursuit of Radical subjectivity is nothing more than a lost cause.

Now, if you believe that many of the things that most people value, such as family, morality, and relationships, are merely social constructs but also think radical subjectivity is not wise to pursue, you are in a tough spot. What I would recommend is just embracing the social constructs despite your lack of belief in them. This is no small task, but I believe the conditions of life will be better for everyone if you embrace the systems. I am not saying you have to always agree with the majority of people, but maybe attempt to buy into a few values that many people would claim to have meaning and you personally feel drawn to. This is at least a more desirable path to take than radical subjectivity. I will not go in depth but radical subjectivity would lead to some morally dark areas, especially if everyone attempted to pursue it. So as counter-intuitive as it may seem, participating in the systems of society is your best bet.

Existential Women

In the 1990s film Trust, Maria is unable to truly reach radical subjectivity until she is no longer pregnant. It is almost impossible for her to detach herself from the world around her when she has something inside her depending on her to live. Her high school boyfriend is easily able to make her pregnancy a non-problem for himself because he is not physically attached to the pregnancy. While Maria has to put the baby into consideration until she decides to abort it.  She could not just decide to ignore the pregnancy or decide that it didn’t matter because sooner or later she would need to give birth or have an abortion. Pregnant women like Maria have to go further than their male counterparts to be radical subjects.

Theme in “The Stranger” Goes Beyond Existentialism

In Albert Camus’s The Stranger, Mersault experiences what many can’t wrap their heads around, the idea that nothing matters and all concepts in society are really social constructs worth nothing. The theme of Camus’s The Stranger is that life is what you make of it and experiences throughout life only have meaning if meaning is given to them. Meursault’s character represents this idea as he navigates through different, dramatic life experiences in an unconventional way. The reader learns about Mersault through his relationships, like his mother and Marie, as well as his experience in prison. By putting little value into these experiences, it could actually be a good thing, because he lacks pain. Although some might criticize him and say a life lived like this is sad and that the highs and lows are what bring meaning to life, one could also argue that simplicity and stability are the keys to happiness. Emotional highs and lows often bring overwhelming thoughts and feelings, causing distress, but Meursault’s life reflects a life of peace, and therefore, happiness. This mindset is also reflected in “Myth of Sisyphus” because Sisyphus lives a life of happiness even though he is forced to live a life many would deem boring and painful. By accepting his life for what it was and getting used to it, he finds peace in the cards that were dealt to him.

Matthew McConaughey- The Embodiment Of Existentialism

Many know actor Matthew McConaughey for his roles in Dazed and Confused, How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days, True Detective, and Wolf On Wall Street, among many other films. Most recently, McConaughey has been starring in a series of commercials for the luxury car brand, Lincoln. His contribution to these ads has been so powerful that Lincoln sales have increased during the period that he’s been starring in the ads.

These ads consistently feature McConaughey cruising down dimly lit, often misty, streets, while asking the big questions in life. While all of his ads are masterpieces in their own right, one is particularly moving in its encapsulation of the existentialist philosophy. The five-minute ad, titled Existential Crisis, is more or less a short film, featuring McConaughey in a dark diner, looking out the window as rain falls outside. As he stares out the window at his Lincoln MKZ, McConaughey ponders upon the essence of life. He asks questions such as, “how did I get here?” and makes statements such as, “just riding along this merry-go-round, too scared to jump off or stop,” and, “just ride this crazy wave, on and on and on, until my fire burns out.” McConaughey continues to dive into more bizarre existential thoughts when he ponders, “why did I order this water? There’s perfectly good water falling from the sky. All I need to do is look up into the sky and drink.” The ad ends with McConaughey silently leaving the diner and getting into his car, eventually riding off into the darkness of the distance.

McConaughey’s withdrawn persona and pondering of life leaves the audience with a sense of admiration. But what exactly is it about McConaughey’s performance that is so resonant with his audience that he has been able to bring such success to the brand? In particular, McConaughey appeals to a certain group of people who aspire to be greater than the constraints of society. Rather than selling the audience on the car, he sells his persona- the independent man who makes meaning out of his own life. McConaughey sells freedom and solitude, the car merely being an extra bonus. In essence, the success of McConaughey’s Lincoln advertisements comes through their appeal to existentialism.

The Murderer and the Priest: Meursault and Chesterton

"But I was sure about me, about everything, surer than he could ever be, sure of my life and sure of the death I had waiting for me. Yes, that was all I had. But at least I had as much of a hold on it as it had on me. I had been right, I was still right, I was always right. I had lived my life one way and I could just as well have lived it another ... Couldn't he, couldn't this condemned man see...And that from somewhere deep in my future...All the shouting had me gasping for air. But they were already tearing the chaplain from my grip and the guards were threatening me. He calmed them, though, and looked at me for a moment without saying anything. His eyes were full of tears. Then he turned and disappeared." (122, Camus, The Stranger)
"Then when this kindly world all round the man has been blackened out like a lie; when friends fade into ghosts, and the foundations of the world fail; then when the man, believing in nothing and in no man, is alone in his own nightmare, then the great individualistic motto shall be written over him in avenging irony. The stars will be only dots in the blackness of his own brain; his mother's face will be only a sketch from his own insane pencil on the walls of his cell. But over his cell shall be written, with dreadful truth, 'He believes in himself.'" (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

G.K. Chesterton was a British Catholic author and social commentator in the early 20th century. I finished reading Orthodoxy by Chesterton a while ago, and found what he said, even though it was written long before the rise of existentialism to the mainstream, to be applicable to a lot of the themes in The Stranger. The egoist philosophers who Chesterton criticizes, who believe in nothing but themselves, are strikingly similar to the existential philosophers who reject all systems of life but their own, especially including Meursault, of The Stranger, and may even be defined in the same statement.

"For the sake of simplicity, it is easier to state the notion by saying that a man can believe that he is always in a dream. Now, obviously there can be no positive proof given to him that he is not in a dream, for the simple reason that no proof can be offered that might not be offered in a dream. But if the man began to burn down London and say that his housekeeper would soon call him to breakfast, we should take him and put him with other logicians in a place which has often been alluded to in the course of this chapter [the insane asylum]. The man who cannot believe his senses [the egoist], and the man who cannot believe anything else [the materialist], are both insane, but their insanity is proved not by any error in their argument, but by the manifest mistake of their whole lives. They have both locked themselves up in two boxes, painted inside with the sun and stars; they are both unable to get out, the one into the health and happiness of heaven, the other even into the health and happiness of the earth. Their position is quite reasonable; nay, in a sense it is infinitely reasonable, just as a threepenny bit is infinitely circular. ...When [these philosophers] wish to represent eternity, they represent it by a serpent with his tail in his mouth. There is a startling sarcasm in the image of that very unsatisfactory meal. The eternity of the material fatalists, the eternity of the eastern pessimists, the eternity of the supercilious theosophists and higher scientists of to-day is, indeed, very well presented by a serpent eating his tail, a degraded animal who destroys even himself." (Orthodoxy)

The main argument against this view is of course that there is a vast difference between the egoist and the existentialist, which is true, at least from a sympathetic perspective, but it could certainly be argued that both philosophies view the world in a similar, or at least comparable way. Chesterton’s criticism applies to both, since both philosophies essentially reject all counter-arguments by saying they don’t matter or don’t actually exist. They cannot be reasonably disproven, but this does not mean that they are correct.

I ended up putting the two pieces (The Stranger and Orthodoxy) together after reading the man referring to Meursault as the antichrist, and especially during the climactic final pages with his interaction with the priest, because it contrasts the vastly different realities these two men lived in, and how they were almost like oil and water to each other. For me, the priest seemed to be the human living his life with care and compassion, and Meursault living like a dead man, as if nothing mattered, so it struck me when Meursault himself saw the exact opposite. I don’t mean to push a religious message here, only that it seems like most human beings can probably see Meursault as the antithesis to humanity, if they look hard enough. Since he lives without emotion, morality, or any other basic human connection to reality.

Existentialism is Scary

In Albert Camus’ novel “The Stranger”, The main story we follow is of Meursault’s life. A man who sees the world differently through a perspective that is tragic yet enlightening. Through this enlightenment however, comes dreadful existence. Is life truly meaningless if you find happiness? I believe life is what you make it.

Someone with disdain for existence is going to have a hard time facing the reality of their own philosophy. In the case of Meursault, he is never truly fulfilled in his life and has no problem with throwing it away for the expense of his sanity. Would you rather know so much that it is unbearable to your mind or live a life of blissful ignorance making you at peace with the world. The universe that we live in is shown to give only partial answers.

Meursault may find pleasure to be the end all be all but life is more than that. That doesn’t have to mean the infinite pursuit of knowledge, but some things are worth studying and practicing because as far as we know we don’t know what happens beyond the grave. I may not be religious but I understand the use of religion, the existence of faith has created order in the human population. That order may be good or bad but if society was told all the answers, and we never could theorize, the walls of civilization would come tumbling down depending on what we hear.

Some Things Shouldn’t be Fixed

In “Trust” when Matthew’s boss asks him to fix a broken piece of machinery Matthew replies, “no.”

“Why not?” His boss asks.

“Some things shouldn’t be fixed,” Matthew answers.

The reason why Matthew is frustrated with his work is because they are fixing computers and TVs that were built to fall apart. They were made cheaply and with faulty components and so they inevitably break allowing his company to profit. Is it worth it to attempt to fix a faulty product that is going to simply break again? For the company, the answer is yes. They benefit greatly from fixing their defective products because they are getting paid to do it. It is a genius cycle, they sell flawed products that are built to break and then get paid to fix them and then they inevitably break again. From this, we as viewers begin to question whether sometimes things are better off staying broken than they are being fixed.

As Matthew an Maria’s relationship develops, they both start to change as well seemingly both “fixing each other.” Matthew inspires Maria to become more passionate and learned. She begins to worry far less about her appearance: ditching her extremely heavy makeup and bright clothes for her “librarian” glasses and a simple, muted dress. These were all aspects about Maria that seemingly needed fixing at the beginning of the movie. She blew off school, she was far too worried about her physical appearance and on top of that, she was pregnant as well. Once Matthew comes into her life, her perspective changes. She writes in her journal about her wishes to become more intelligent and less “young” and “stupid.”

Matthew begins to change as well due to Maria’s influences. He was once a man who could not have cared less about anything he was doing in his life. He was getting fired from jobs he hated. He had so much knowledge and potential but was not channeling it anywhere. He stood up for what he believed in and allowed his morals (and self-righteousness at times) to guide every decision he made. Hence why he refused to repair the TVs. Once he was set on marrying Maria, moving her away from her mother and raising the baby with her, he made drastic changes in his life. He went back to his job so that he could get “practical” hours and benefits for Maria and the baby even though the scam they were running went so deeply against his morals. He started watching TV and being short with her and she confesses to the nurse at the diner how much she wishes she didn’t change him. Even if it happened unknowingly.

Both of these characters are worse off in the end after changing for each other. Matthew ends up getting tricked by Maria’s mother and Maria ends up really disliking the new Matthew. So much so that she goes through with her abortion. In fact Matthew must go back to his original, apathetic self (with the grenade) for them to be together again. They became attracted to each other not in spite of their perceived flaws but because of them. It is similar to how in the Stranger, Marie tells Meursault that the fact that he is so strange is probably the reason why she loves him. Like the TVs, both of these characters would have been better off “unfixed” and “untouched.”

Is Maria from Trust an Existentialist?

The movie Trust follows a teenage girl, Maria, after she is thrown out of her house. In the story, she meets a man named Matthew Slaughter and starts to dress and act differently. The two of them begin a relationship that would be considered pedophilia because Matthew is in his thirties while Maria is only seventeen. Putting that aside, the movie presents themes of existentialism. However, it is a little unclear whether or not Maria would be considered an existentialist.

In the book The Stranger, we get the perfect existentialist character, Meursault. He doesn’t let social constructs weigh him down and enjoys all of life by living in the moment. At the beginning of Trust, it is pretty clear that Maria would not be considered an existentialist. She is concerned with style, makeup, and love. She intends to marry her football player boyfriend, who got her pregnant. It is presented that she wants nothing more than to be married in life. However, when she meets Matthew, her appearance and priorities change. While some may consider this as her becoming an outsider to society, I don’t think her changing is specifically because she’s becoming an existentialist. Matthew is the one to provide her with new wardrobe and glasses. Even though with the new attire she would be considered an outsider, because Matthew told her to wear it would not necessarily be an existentialist move. Also, at one point in the movie, she asks Matthew if he loves her. He tells her that he admires and respects her, but does not think that mean love. Maria is still concerned with love and trying to find someone who will take a romantic interest in her. If that is something that she is actively working for in life, she would not be considered an existentialist.

All in all, I believe Mattew would be considered an existentialist, but by forcing that way on Maria, she would not be an existentialist. Exitentialism is a idea that one developes naturally. By forcing these ideas on Maria, she would not be an existentialist.

Meursault is The Villain, not The Hero.

Meursault is a murderer. A murderer!! I feel like this fact got lost throughout the story and class discussion of the theme. But Meursault is literally a horrible person. Yes, he may have discovered how to “unlock the key to happiness”, but at what cost? I agree that there is much to be impressed about Meursault and the way he lives his life, however, let’s not take it too far. The line between existentialism and sociopathy is not that thick. What I mean by this is although Meursault is able to be content by the end of the novel, the philosophy he embraced to accomplish this ultimately was harmful to those around him. Meursault is incapable of acknowledging the feelings of others. The most obvious case is the Arab whom he shot not once but four separate times. And what about the religious man whom he brought to tears at the end of the novel? It is these instances that suggest Meusault embraced his philosophy a little too much. I think it is okay to live as Meursault does but with the condition that you are careful not to inflict your practices on other people as Meursault does. Camus writes the novel encouraging sympathy for Meursault from the readers as it is beyond Meursault’s ability to act any different. Also because the story is told from Meursault’s perspective, we are given more insight into his thought process and ultimately made to feel as if we understand him more. But if we did not have all this insight, the simple circumstances surrounding the murder would lead most to conclude Meursault is just plain evil. Although I fell victim to what Camus tried to do as I did feel sympathetic towards Meursault, after much reflection I have concluded he is in fact a murderer and did deserve the death he got…unpopular opinion?

How “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads connects to “The Stranger”

The song “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads was released in 1980 and is centered around the idea that life keeps moving you along with no explanation. The verse “Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down/Letting the days go by, water flowing underground” is not only repeated throughout the song but also represents that as days go by the forces(water) will keep you moving. Also in the song, there are questions such as “Well, how did I get here?” or “Am I right, am I wrong?”. These questions represent the unknowingness of life and how random it is. In the story “The Stranger”, many bad things such as death and conviction happen to Meursault and he just accepts it as life and keeps moving on. He asks question such as “I thought how peculiar she was?”, but then follows it by saying “but forgot about her a few minuetes later”. This shows that he understands that life is random and there is no time or way to stop the flow and ask irrational questions with no answer. Another example from the stranger is when Meursault is in prison and is refelcting on the tradgic times of his life. He begins to accept his fate after he screamed at the chaplain and was going to die happy even though many people hated him. He again realized that the flow of life can’t be stopped and there is no way to prevent his death.

Defiance and Acceptance: A Spectrum

Coincidentally, I just finished reading two works that oddly relate. Written by Erika L. Sanchez, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter directly references The Stranger. In a moment of betrayal, Julia (the protagonist) sits by the lake to read The Stranger in order to calm herself. Since she’s on a school field trip, her English teacher finds her to check if she’s ok.

It’s Mr. Ingman. ‘Hey!’ he says, and sits down next to me. ‘What are you reading now?’

I hold it up for him to see.

‘So, a light beach read?’ Mr. Ingman chuckles.

I nod. ‘I guess so.’

‘What do you think of it?’

‘It’s like nothing means anything. Nothing has a real purpose. I guess that’s how I feel a lot of the time. Sometimes I really don’t see the point of anything.’

‘Existential despair, huh?’

‘Yes, exactly.’ I smile.

(Sanchez, 2017, p. 132)

Throughout the book, Julia’s biggest hurdle is her strained relationship with her mom. Her mom is an undocumented immigrant while Julia is a second generation American. Julia’s story spectacularly paints the struggle of a cultural divide between Mexicans and Mexican Americans. What does this have to do with The Stranger and Meursault? Meursault is a perplexing character for most readers. Readers are challenged to understand his way of thinking because his thinking is unlike the common person. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter parallels with The Stranger because both of the central characters challenge the idea of “normal.” Throughout The Stranger, Meursault constantly proves to be different from every other character because his thinking and expression of emotions is different. He belittles every event to simplicity. Similarly, Julia is distinct from the other characters of the book because she is not the ideal Mexican, the ideal Mexican daughter. Be that as it may, Julia differs from Meursault because she challenges everything and she steps outside of conformity, while Meursault submits to conformity in almost every situation by being indifferent. I think this can still be leveraged to prove that both characters test the extreme ends of a spectrum on their societal norms.

What is Happiness?

What does it mean to be happy? What makes people happy? Most people will say that their family or their religion makes them happy but where did we get this attachment to these things? Does our family really make us happy or are we obligated to see them? Does our religion make us happy or are we obligated to worship something? Our society attaches value to our objects and relationships that really mean nothing because they simply make our limited lifespan more manageable for our brains, in terms of avoiding the inevitable. But by having all of these relationships, we do complicate our lives by having to navigate all these other people when in reality, these inevitable squabbles are pointless just like our relationships.

Meursault exemplifies this perfectly though his absolute lack of friendships or relationships. When Raymond asks Meursault if he would like to be “pals” with him, Meursault responds with “‘Yes’. I didn’t mind being his pal, and he seemed set on it,” (pg. 33). Meursault responds the same way when Marie asks him if he would like to marry her, always responding “We could if she wanted to,” (pg. 41). Meursault understands that he is here on this earth for a good time, not a long time so he doesn’t distract himself with useless relationships, unless they give him pleasure.

Can One Truly Live an Existentialist Life?

The quote “existence precedes essence” is often referred to as the foundation of existentialism. In just three words it summarizes that our surroundings cannot be changed by the individual, but our existence allows us to create our own values and meaning of life. The basis of existentialism is that human life doesn’t possess any real meaning or value until it is created by an individual. 

Existentialist philosophy appeals to many as it is characterized by individualism and freedom, however, the problem that arises from the lack of foundation is that it overemphasizes a separate sense of self. We live in a society where humans interact with other people and objects, therefore there are certain truths we must abide by. This evokes the question of whether one can truly live an existentialist life in today’s society. The answer to this question is that we can partially abide by the principles of existentialism. Through different experiences and adapting to our circumstances we are able to find everlasting personal meaning in life, nevertheless there will always be constraints that prevent us from living a completely existentialist lifestyle. 

How to Live a Happy Life as an Existentialist

If you are an existentialist, the central idea of your existence is that life is absurd. The structures of life that we blindly follow, such as family, wealth, power, or love, are nothing but illusions. At its core, life is a meaningless drift towards death. An existentialist will believe that holding this depressing view will free them to be true to themselves, allowing them to live as a complete individual and achieve authentic happiness. 

But how can one be truly happy from essentially accepting that life has no greater meaning other than life itself? It seems that an existentialist, if they wholeheartedly believe in these ideas, would always have a dark cloud around them from living a life only for themselves. No one, nothing in life, can give them any meaning. It is a lonely existence. They must create happiness from within themselves, letting nothing from the outside world be a source of their happiness. Then, and only then, can an existentialist be happy, by reaching a point where they are satisfied by themselves and are in full acceptance of the world.  

A great obstacle to an existentialist is reaching that point, as they need to give themselves over to those ideas with not an ounce of disbelief. All sources of happiness from any “illusions” must be completely forgotten. This can only be achieved if they have an experience that convinces them of the world’s absurdity, likely some sort of trauma, and separate themselves from all other sources of happiness, like human connections. At first, it will be hard, like Meursault’s first days in prison or Sisyphus’ initial attempts rolling the rock up the hill. Then they will adjust to their conditions, and reach a point where they can accept them. And finally, they will be able to create their own happiness from within themselves. 

This process is long and difficult and full of suffering, even though it can lead to a point of happiness. A life that is more happy might be better achieved by giving yourself over to the apparent illusions of life, becoming a part of a constructed society. If life is absurd, there is no difference between fake and authentic happiness. 

So it Goes

Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five is primarily an anti-war novel, but it was also influenced by existentialism. In the novel, American soldier Billy Pilgrim becomes “unstuck in time” while fighting in WWII. This essentially means he goes through life out of order, constantly time travelling and never knowing when or where he’s going to end up next.

Pilgrim knows everything that happens in his life (and what death is like) and understands that his life has no purpose. Like Meursault, Pilgrim experiences life with little emotion (even when he’s abducted by aliens!). Both Meursault and Pilgrim are completely in the present. They never search for a purpose or for a bigger meaning.

Before reading The Stranger, I thought Slaughterhouse-Five was incredibly depressing. I would probably still find it sad, but reading it through the existentialist lense might give the book a new feel. Maybe Billy Pilgrim is actually the most free and happy person because he doesn’t have to worry about life, death, or what it all means.

Vonnegut uses the phrase “so it goes” throughout the novel. I think it’s a very existentialist phrase, as it recognizes that the things happening in life are random and have no meaning.

the Stanger and SCP:5000, is empathy overrated?

Here is the original article if you want to read it, although it lacks greater context.

If you aren’t aware of what the SCP foundation is, it is a collaborative science fiction website which describes the secretive and fictional SCP foundation, a shadowy group dedicated to Securing, Containing, and Protecting so-called “anomalies” from the general public (Think men in black).

A short synopsis of SCP 5000 follows that somehow the SCP foundation, the ends-justifies-the-means protectors of humanity, have decided to exterminate all of humankind. The article goes into detail about one rogue agent named Pietro Wilson travel across the country and summarize in what horrible ways the foundation destroyed all resistance and what terrible monsters they have unleashed to finish the job. Eventually Wilson uses some time travel shenanigans to ‘save the day’ and prevent it all from happening in the first place.

The real story only begins after one looks at the source code for the website and cracks the secret code at the bottom of the webpage. Long story short it turned out that empathy, fear and pain core tenants of the human experience all exist unnaturally within humans, planted there by something else in an attempt to control people (although love and happiness are still natural). The foundation couldn’t “cure” everybody therefore the only logical option would be to erase every human off the planet that could feel pain, thereby preventing any human ever from experiencing pain of fear ever again. Because the foundation leaders were free from feeling bad about themselves, the decision was easy. To them, it was perfectly logical.

This logical analysis connects with The Stanger, wherein Meursault feels very little empathy and expresses almost no pain throughout the course of the novel. Even his mother’s funeral did nothing to him except make him complain about the heat. But this time he was the one to get killed.

Is it preferable to not feel pain, fear or empathy? For Meursault, he was free to enjoy swimming and sleeping and napping all without worrying about another person or even his own fate. Meursault was almost more free even in prison because he was not constrained by societal expectations for behavior or chained by remorse. This is similar to the future envisioned by the Foundation leaders when they decided to remove empathetic humans from the world. Their goal has always been the mitigation of human suffering, and with just one large burst of it they could have been rid of it forever, guaranteeing that every human being ever would be able to live without worrying about literally anything, just like Meursault.

Would you give up your empathy to never suffer again?

Are You Happy?

Camus’ argument states that with the human condition, happiness is connected to the discovery that our world and our fate are our own, that there is no hope, and that our life is purely what we make of it. He states that people see life as a constant struggle, without hope. Any attempt to deny or avoid the struggle leads to unfulfillment. Camus’s single requirement for society is to live with full awareness of the absurdity of one’s position.

He applies this conclusion while transforming the reader’s thoughts of the myth. While Sisyphus is pushing his rock up the mountain, there is nothing for him but toil and struggle. But in those moments where Sisyphus descends the mountain free from his burden, he is aware. He knows that he will struggle forever and he knows that this struggle will get him nowhere. Happiness and the absurd are closely linked, suggests Camus. They are both connected to the discovery that our world and our fate are our own, that there is no hope, and that our life is purely what we make of it. During the time he walks down towards the rock, Sisyphus is totally aware of his fate. Camus concludes: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

I agree with some of his thoughts and ideas about the human condition. It reminds me of self-improvement. In order to actually improve one’s mindset and over well-being, they must recognize where they are in life and accept it. This will allow the said person to begin their journey of happiness because they are in control of their fate. However, the one part that I do not understand is what really is happiness. If it is just being aware of your fate, what comes next? From the perspective of Camus, is there more meaning to life than working to accept your fate and ultimately being happy?

The Simplicity of Life

Life, often seen as a complex web that many struggle to find the meaning to, can be explained in 3 rules.

  1. Life is random.
  2. Life is irrational.
  3. Life is senseless.

You may find that these three rules are difficult to believe, but upon further scrutiny, are accurate. If you take a moment to think all the way back to your birth, it becomes quite clear. Why were you born? Why were you born to your parents and not others? Why were you born in your country instead of a different one? Nobody can control their birth. Birth is the very first thing placed upon you and, ultimately, is random, senseless, and irrational.

Think back on your childhood for a moment. Why did you meet the people that you did? Why did you form connections with the people you did and not others? Where you grow up, your connections, your family’s wealth, everything that initially made up who you were was ultimately up to a random roll of the dice.

If we allow ourselves to accept these three rules, life becomes quite simple. If you recognize that life, society, and the circumstances we find ourselves in are all absurd, then you no longer need to feel bound to them or play by their rules. You can rid yourself of the stresses of something, that ultimately, was an accumulation of random events throughout history, each depending on other random events themselves.

If life can be narrowed down to three rules, it becomes easy to see the simplicity of it all. Upon choosing to do so, we are no longer bound by or forced to accept the rules that society has laid out for us, and can truly become our own unique individuals.

Meursault: A Severe Case of Depression

The main character in The Stranger is a peculiar character for many reasons. The story is written in the perspective of Meursault which adds various facets to it because Meursault is unlike everyone else in the story. A crucial part of the human experience is emotional feeling and expression. Meursault defies this natural principle of life by showing indifference and apathy in almost every situation he is confronted with. Throughout the story, readers face the challenge of depicting what kind of person Meursault really is because he often fails to display any interest or preference for anything. This leads me to question Meursault’s reason for emotional detachment and the most logical answer I can come up with is a case of severe depression. A symptom of depression is loss of interest in hobbies or in daily life activities. My personal theory leads me to believe that Meursault’s emotional detachment serves as a defense mechanism, or at least is a symptom of mental anguish. Something as major as as his mother’s death barely provokes emotion. His immediate concern is his boss’s annoyance with him taking time off work (3). In addition, when his boss offers him an exciting job offer, Meursault has no reaction or yearn for the opportunity. His boss even gets frustrated with him because he feels Meursault has no ambition, which is true (41). I also think his choice of allegiance with Raymond is alarming. It’s clear in the story that Raymond isn’t a great person, yet Meursault chooses to entertain him when he asks him to write the letter (32). The end of Part I was really what convinced me that Meursault’s state of mind may be unstable. In any book or movie, when a character shoots or stabs someone excessively to murder them, it mainly always signifies a deep anger within the character. In the scene where Meursault shoots the Arab that attacked Raymond, he shoots him a total of five times (59). Besides the first shot, he fired 4 extra times that were very unnecessary, but I interpreted this instance as a turning point for the character. This scene showed a snap within Meursault that the reader had not yet been exposed to and I can’t help but think that there is way more to Meursault than the reader knows at this point.