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.

Rebellious Curiosity in Shady Meursault

Throughout part 1 of The Stranger by Albert Camus, the main character Meursault seems evasive in confronting what he feels or even dealing with the people around him. The repetitive phrasing of Meursault internally thinking or verbally expressing, “it didn’t really matter” makes readers think that he is a person without a personality (41). Despite the book being told from the character Meursault’s point of view, Camus places a cloak of perception on who the narrator really is and how he may be deeply feeling at times. The lack of clarity in his emotions gives readers confusion and the feeling of following someone down a rabbit hole of complicated expectations barring the truth.

Despite the tone sometimes being flat in the text there are sneak peeks throughout the passages that clue readers into details about the main character. When Meursault was talking about moving to Paris for his job with Raymond, he explains that he used to have ambitions in life but realized they did not matter after he had to quit his studies (41). The first time his studies came up was in this context but granted to readers with the mystery of why he had to quit his studies unexplained. The elusive nature of the writing entails readers to strive to want to learn more about the curious nature of the main character. And in peculiar moments we see the shift from the monotone character that seems to lack security and present himself as indifferent to a subtle personality resurfacing after his mothers death. 

In some events of part 1 Meursault initiates actions that deter readers from believing that he is truly indifferent or conveniently “didn’t have anything to do” (43). The indifference of Meursault falls short on a couple occasions. When the main character follows the apple faced woman from the dinner and leaves after a while there is a humorous tone to the action (43). The humor stems from readers being surprised by the unpredictability of Meursault shifting from one minute being the type of person to keenly observe and follow a stranger, to also being the type of person who flatly expresses repetitive daily life actions. The rebellion of details in this story paints a different picture of the character than what readers initially expect. When there was the physical conflict with Raymond, Masson, Meursault and the Arabs at one point, Meursault smokes to avoid explaining and then at another he blatantly disregards the aggressive nature of Raymond wanting to sulk alone by following him anyways (54-55). And at other times he even describes Raymond as, “repulsive” (47-48).  While also adding earlier in a passage that he does not like the cops without reasons as to why (36-37). There is a rebellious hint to the actions and thoughts Meursault sometimes has that as readers we need to snatch onto. Camus writes the book with unexpected rifts in indifference and sets up Meursault as a challenge for readers to learn, try and discover who he may be or stand for. 

Meursault’s Actions, Nature of The Sun, and Free Will

I do not believe that Meursault’s character simply exists to be observed as a sociopathic, apathetic, and reprehensible individual, but rather an indivual afflicted with a condition that anyone is subject to when put in a certain situation: the realization of a lack of control. Meursault understands his lack of control, this universal lack of control, and so he lives his life as he does, as an indifferent, but rather content individual. He is content in this fact, in this knowledge that he is powerless. It is comforting to believe oneself to be free from concious impulse, accountability, or reasonable judgement. For if one lacks control, no rational individual can cast judgement on one who does not have any ability to control themselves. This person sans control is consigned to a societal outcast, just as Meursault is. I believe that Meursault believes and finds comfort in his understanding of his lack of control and his rational conclusion that he is impervious to any blame and how this allows for him to live a fulfilling and content life.

Meursault is subject only to nuture and nature, just as we all are. He has no control over his indifference, that is how he is. He has no control over his experience or reaction to the sun. He has no control over the thoughts that pop into his head, just as we do not, as what manifests itself in one’s mind, even though one may claim thoughts to be one’s own, are not created by a concious choice. His nurture, the death of his mother, his childhood, are all out of his control. His reaction to these events, or any event, is not by choice. His character is formed by phenomena outside of his control and his response to phenomena are governed by his thoughts, and as thoughts arise in ones mind, not through will, but by the whim of a mind conditioned by phenomenal experience, Meursault has no free will, just as we all do not. Meursault is no difference than us, he just accepts this lack of control. He does not attempt to pretend that he has control, as many of us claim to. The only difference between us and Meursault, is that we have not accepted that life is not in our control. Meursault has. If Meursault had a choice, would he have shot the Arab, as this, of course, will probably cause him great trouble in the future? Does the word choice of “[t]he trigger gave” (59) imply any sense of agency in Meursault? No, it does not. The sun is a natural occurrence, and how we can hope to have any control over the sun? We cannot control the sun, we cannot control that we are prone to follow its cycle to rest and rise. We are condemned to follow nature, which we cannot control. The sun in the story is a representation of untamable nature and its effects on us, and is therefore the antithesis of free will.

And so, I believe the sun made Meursault shoot the Arab. And I believe the sun is uncontrollable nature, and so it is the antithesis of free will. I believe that the only difference between us and Meursault is how much agency we believe that we have. And while many would argue that a lack of free will strips meaning from life, Meursault’s indifference to this fact is precisely what allows him to live contently, to enjoy life, and to live fully. While Meursault may not consiously understand this fact, I believe that he unconsiouly understands that he is not in control of his life, and this is what frees him from the hardships of life. And finally, this is why I believe many people in our class believe that Meursault is a societal outcast, when he is in the very same scenario that we are all in, subject to the same whims of nature which cannot be controlled.

It Doesn’t Matter Anyway

by Jasmine W

King Lear operates on several complex levels in both its literary and thematic message. While the story and its characters’ actions all have a lot to say about the larger meanings of life, I found it very interesting to also witness a little bit of an ode to life’s simplicity as I followed along. As Gloucester famously states, “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods; They kill us for their sport” (IV.i.41-42). When drawn in by the tragic plot full of betrayal, death, and irony, it is easy to forget about the story’s relation to the rest of the world. In retrospect, however, each and every one of the characters and our lives does not matter. Regardless of what happens to us, life and time move on.

It is here where a connection can be drawn between Shakespeare’s King Lear and Albert Camus’ The Stranger, which we read earlier in the year. In fact, I think almost any work of fiction can be viewed in part through and existentialist lens; nuanced reminders of just how insignificant human life is are present everywhere. That being said, I am a firm believer that the meaning of our life can only be determined by us, and dwelling on its insignificance in the face of eternity does not help anything. (But if that’s what you want to do, by all means, go for it.) If you make a mistake, it should be deemed that by yourself, and not by society’s standards.

Upon reflection, I find it thoroughly amusing that a play as tacky (in my opinion) as King Lear can raise such philosophical questions such as the meaning of life.

Existentialism, the root in all our readings

Existentialism, the idea that every person has the power to determine what has importance in their life, because you are the person in power of your own choices and actions. Both King Lear and The Stranger dance around the subject of existentialism, but they both do it in different ways. Meursault’s approach to life is very different from Lear’s but they both went through a major change in terms of what concepts impact their lives. Lear’s identity crisis results in a total change of how he approaches life. The old Lear, naively believed in typical family hierarchy, placing himself at the top, and putting his daughters below. These ideals lead him to expect his daughters to listen and obey to all his commands. Once Lear discovers that his life will not play out how it does in his head, his existential crisis begins. 

Lear put so much blind faith into things like family, power, and wealth, that he structured his whole identity around it. This is similar to how characters in The Stranger were comforted by similar concepts. Marie’s fixation with finding love, the prisoner’s hold in religion, and Salamano’s use of friendship. When Lear lost everything that identified him, he was lost. He realized that ”Man’s life is cheap as beast’s” (2.4.307), marking the start of his character change. Out in the storm he felt that he lost everything that was important to him, so he felt he had lost who he was as a person. As his journey went on, he learned to prioritize other things.

While Lear did not come to the same conclusion as Meursault, he does grow as a person, his priorities shift, he starts to care about others, he cries “O, I have ta’en/Too little care of this” (3.4.37-38) when talking about the poor, homeless people he encounters once banished from his home. Where Meursault came to believe that everyone is born to die, so nothing in life really matters. Lear grows to think that these man made ideas are not always the things that should take priority in our lives. Lear acknowledges that, “The art of our necessities is strange/And can make vile things precious” (3.2.76-77). Emphasizing that everyone’s life is different, and everyone is in control of what gives their life meaning.

Lear goes through a transformation from King Lear, the narcissistic, power hungry man to Lear, a man who puts others before himself, and cares for those who he deems deserve it. After his existential crisis, he no longer identifies himself based off of what he has, but who he surrounds himself with. Lear gave his life a new meaning, and it turned him into a better person.

All That Grows in a Garden

Garden Song” by Phoebe Bridgers on her album Punisher tells a story of reflection and growth through retellings of her experiences and her dreams. Throughout the song, she tells stories from different stages in her life, transitioning from her childhood, to her adolescence, and eventually to adulthood, in which she is finally able to forgive herself for her past. The entire song centers around the idea of growth, and in finding the beauty in destruction.

The song begins by describing her dreams as a child:

And when your skinhead neighbor goes missing

I’ll plant a garden in the yard, then

They’re gluing roses on a flatbed

This start of the first verse uses imagery to set the scene of her killing a Nazi, and planting a garden over his dead body. This creates an unnerving contrast between the beautiful and peaceful garden filled with roses, and the dead Nazi it covers up. This juxtaposition forces the listener to consider what the origins of growth mean for its outcome – is growth still beautiful if it comes from something scary and devastating?

She then continues on to discuss the loss of her childhood as she moves on into adolescence:

I grew up here, ’til it all went up in flames

Except the notches in the door frame

When Bridgers was about 19 years old, her family home caught on fire, literally going “up in flames.” However, this was at the same time that she was witnessing her parents go through divorce, symbolizing her childhood going “up in flames.” The second line then alludes to the notches families often keep on their walls to indicate how tall a child has grown to be, continuing the theme of growth. Since these notches aren’t actual objects, they can’t technically be destroyed by the fire, symbolizing the idea that this catastrophic event in her life didn’t erase her growth.

After discussing the loss of her childhood, Bridgers moves on to reflecting on her transition between adolescence to adulthood:

Then it’s a dorm room, like a hedge maze

And when I find you

You touch my leg, and I insist

But I wake up before we do it

Dorm rooms are often associated with entering young adulthood, and the changes that come with. The mentioning of a hedge maze as a simile in the same line alludes to the image of navigating a complicated maze, indicating the struggle to find your way in life, especially when entering adulthood. This image of a dorm room hedge maze appears to be a dream, but before she can find her way out of the maze and figure herself out, she wakes up abruptly.

The final chorus goes back to the ideas from the beginning of the song:

Everything’s growing in our garden

You don’t have to know that it’s haunted

Bridgers revisits the garden that was planted over the dead Nazi from the beginning of the song. This garden seems to be thriving, and so she leads to listener to wonder if the garden’s history truly matters, or if it’s ok for the death that haunts the garden to remain unknown, since it doesn’t take away from how much the garden has grown. The garden is still beautiful, despite the fact that it’s fertilized by the corpse of a Nazi.

Finally, after revisiting the garden of her childhood, Bridgers discusses recent experiences from her adult life:

The doctor put her hands over my liver

She told me my resentment’s getting smaller

In traditional Chinese medicine, liver health is closely linked to emotional health, meaning that if her liver is in good health, her emotions are too. As her emotions grow healthier, her resentment shrinks away, and she is able to forgive herself for her past, and accept her growth.

“Garden Song” leads listeners to reflect on their life and the idea of growth, and how some of the most beautiful things can bloom from trauma and pain.

Life Through A Telescope

“Telescope” by Cage The Elephant from their album Melophobia is a song of self-reflection that dives into the human experience of being alone and of feeling like you are going through the motions of life. The song talks about a man who lives as a recluse, separate from the rest of society, and the listener can subsequently connect in a variety of ways. They may themselves feels like that recluse, know someone who fits that description, or fear becoming like the person the song describes. Ultimately, “Telescope” invites the listener to reflect on their own lives, and what they choose to spend their time doing or find meaning in.

The song begins setting the scene of the reclusive man:

In a far and distant galaxy
Inside my telescope I see 
A pair of eyes peer back at me 
He walks and talks and looks like me

In these beginning lines, Cage The Elephant presents a juxtaposition between how this person seems strange and separate but also very familiar. The “telescope” in the second line emphasizes the distant nature of this man, but the fourth line encourages the listener to note the similarities they have with him. The listener is instantly pushed to think about how they may relate to the rest of the song. As the song continues, the lyrics include a simile in the chorus:

Time is like a leaf in the wind
Either it's time well spent or time I've wasted
Don't waste it

This simile gets at the main purpose of the song. The artist wants the listener to reflect on how they spend their time and what they find worthwhile. The comparison of time with “a leaf in the wind” emphasizes the fleeting nature of our own lives, and how quickly it can blow by. The manner in which Cage The Elephant ends this chorus, with a direct message to the listener, persuades the listener to continue in their own self-reflection. The next verse brings the song back to the story of the reclusive man:

Desperately searching for signs
Too terrified to find a thing
He battens all the hatches down
And wonders why he hears no sound
Frantically searching his dreams
He wonders what it's all about

These lines detail things that many listeners could relate to. Some of the things the man is doing seem irrational and contrasting, searching for answers he does not want to find. The last line of this verse suggests that the man is searching for meaning, something many people do. They don’t know where to look and they are afraid that they won’t find meaning or that the meaning they do find isn’t enough. The word “dreams” in this verse can serve two meanings; many people attempt to find their purpose in their goals and aspirations in the future, but this man seems to be looking in his dreams as he sleeps for hints of the answers he searches for, because he has prevented himself from finding any in his daily life.

“Telescope” provides listeners the opportunity to reflect on their lives and their own ideas of meaning. If we spend too much time searching for meaning, we may miss out on important things; if we don’t find meaning in anything at all, we may feel as though we are going through the motions and not truly living.

Parallels Between Sherlock Holmes, High Functioning Sociopath, and Mersault, Potential Psychopath?

In Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, the main character Meursault appears to be very nonchalant and detached. He shows little emotion even at very major events. When his mother dies, he doesn’t cry, he doesn’t wish to see the body; the only thing occupying his mind is how he has a headache and wishes to take a nap, have a smoke, and drink some coffee. When he gets offered a job in Paris, he doesn’t show any emotion, only stating that he already has a job, why should he need a promotion?

In the TV show Sherlock, based on the famous novel series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock describes himself as a high-functioning sociopath. A sociopath is defined by Oxford as “a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience”. Sherlock is capable of communicating and making connections with people just as John Watson, hence the high functioning, however, he is nonempathetic towards societal norms.

Meursault is similar to Sherlock in the sense that he acts on his own accord, societal norms not influencing his behavior or decisions in the slightest. However, I believe Meursault exhibits behaviors more synonymous with a psychopath. Sociopaths are seen more as “hot-headed” and have a “rules be damned” mentality, while psychopaths are cold and calculating, and have violent tendencies. Meursault killing a man certainly falls under violent social behavior. Psychopaths are also more personally driven to act the way they do, while sociopaths are still impacted by society and are compelled to act not according to the unwritten rules. Meursault is detached from society in the sense he doesn’t even care about its existence. He simply exists.

Life is a Prize

Existentialism is the belief in laymen terms that the world is yours. You have complete control over how you let experiences make or break you. In The Stranger, Meursault remembers how to be content in prison because he has no other choice. Some people would choose to be miserable at the fact they will not have freedom for the time being. Meursault learned to imagine and remember the joys of his life and desires he longed to have but could go without. This is the same as Sisyphus and his rock. He is in eternal punishment and instead of trying to find ways to “beat the system”, he is content with the fact that he will return to his rock everyday and they will complete the same uphill battle; for him mentally and physically. The world is what you make of it. Make do with what you have and find happiness and content within yourself so you won’t look for materialistic things etc. to bring you joy.

Baby Don’t Hurt Me

“What is Love?” Last week in class we touched on the extremely messy topic of “The Meaning of Life.” The first thought for many to an answer for this complex question was love. However the point was made that love, is simply an illusion. This poses the question, “What is Love?” Most people have one of two stances, either it is indeed an illusion that means nothing, or it’s one of the most powerful emotions we have. I argue that there is a gray area in between these two opposite ends of the spectrum. First, to understand “love,” we must acknowledge its counter, “hate.” I think most everyone can think of one person they hate. Whether it be a political figure or someone they have interacted with in the past. There are a lot of reasons people hate, the most common would be the constant disagreement with the actions one makes. Therefore, if you can grow to “hate” someone based on their actions, you certainly can grow to “love” someone based on their actions. The feeling of love is extremely powerful just like that of hate. Neither of these connections is fake, however, certain actions are required to build them into something meaningful. Whether or not you want to label this particular connection with the title of love is up to you.

Life is not a gift

This is just my current perspective, it’s completely subjective, and it definitely stems from self hatred and projection, so there is no real philosophical validity in my thoughts. Regardless, here they are: There is this thing called optimistic bias that overrides any potential validity to an existential argument. Claiming life in general is a gift is a very selfish mindset. claiming that the overwhelmingly incomprehensible amount of suffering on this planet is a gift just because you are alive is straight sociopathic. We all claim to look for the best in life while still wearing our “good person” hats just so we don’t have to accept the actual unbearable pain that others go through. The human ego is unbelievably disturbing and the internal reactions you have in reading this is proof. The feeling of, “oh but I’m not like that, I truly care” No you don’t. You feel empathy, yes, we all do, but you don’t truly care and I don’t truly care. My proof is that I’m here typing this and you’re here reading it when we both know this accomplishes nothing and helps absolutely no one but yourself (also myself) and your ego for thinking your perspective on the world holds some magical levity that makes you a good person. This isn’t calling out anyone in particular because it’s all of us. We simply cannot care about anything more than our own lives for survival. I am a hypocrite, we all are. The counter argument to this is that “you can’t just decide that for everyone.” And you’re right, I didn’t decide it, your biology and internal subconscious defense mechanisms did. Why did my parents have me? To give their lives meaning? Why do we all want to have kids? To give all our lives meaning? It’s selfish to ignore what’s going on and pretend you’re above your biology. It’s literally engrained into us to reproduce like every single animal on the planet, we just attach some “deeper meaning” to it because we don’t want to accept the fact that this decision was made for us when we were born. There is no reason to have kids that doesn’t involve the parents desires. But what if you want your kid to have a good life? What if you’re going to raise him well and give him a happy environment? This is where our ignorance comes full circle; there is still all the unbearable meaningless suffering in the world. It didn’t go away just because you were able to ignore it and focus on your kid. Again, I am not better than anyone. I suck as much as everyone else, but trying to force “self love” into my head as an excuse to not think about the truth in front of me is so conflicting. Yes! Amazing! Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t have to think about it all the time! I don’t have to constantly have the weight of suffering I could never understand on my shoulders because it’s not happening to me! I can stare at my phone and feel like a good person because I’m “against bad”. This article is meaningless, it accomplishes nothing. Our thoughts on how the world works and should be perceived are meaningless because of the infinite amount of experiences we’ve never had. I don’t know why I’m sharing this, It goes against the basis of what I’m saying, but it also goes with it as I also suck. I also think that my privileged view of how the world is meant to be perceived is correct. It’s something I can’t control and you can’t either. The ego hates to be wrong. It denies it but it absolutely hates it. At least our generation is wasting time online rather than having eight kids because they were bored. Moral of the story is I literally don’t know anything and your interpretations on the morality of the subject are completely valid as to pretend I understand anything is narcissistic; also, please adopt.

Mythical Madness

In Albert Camus’s essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” he argues that there has been a great misconception in regards to the mental state of the former king of Corinth. Rather than believing Sisyphus to be a miserable being imprisoned by his own fate, Camus notes that this fate might just be his liberation.

Now how might a former king trapped by an eternal condemnation have control over his fate? Well, that’s where Camus points to the part of Sisyphus’ punishment that we might not ponder as much. He claims it is in the, “hour of consciousness” that Sisyphus is “stronger than his rock” (2). That is to say that his descent is not a symbol of his tangible failure, but rather the moment in which his fate belongs to him.

By definition, existentialism as a philosophical principle requires one to assume absolute responsibility over individual free will. And, Sisyphus has accomplished just that. Instead of succumbing to his damnation, he thwarted the gods intentions and became the ruler of his destiny. Just as Meursault rejected the priest’s desire for him to repent on death row, Sisyphus similarly challenges his immortal captors by finding true happiness within his fatalistic condition.