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.

One Single Truth?

I have always been a realist, I was baptized catholic but have been lapsed since birth. Without religion, my life has been fairly open ended. I do not have a straight answer for the question of “what happens when we die?”, although I used to think I had it all figured out. I used to firmly believe it was lights out, nothing. I lived my life this way up until a month ago. A month ago was when my dog died. People who have never had a pet don’t understand the pain of losing one, but it is a greater pain than anything I have ever felt in my entire life. I have dealt with a great deal of death in my life, friends, uncles, grandparents, but this pain did not compare. It got me to thinking, I really do hope there is something that comes after life. I do not like to think of my fuzzy little man sitting in darkness for the rest of his life because I know that he is up chasing squirrels in doggy heaven.

As Evil Mr. Heidkamp argued in class, 2020 is most definitely proof that God does not exist, and I agree. 2020 was confirmation of this theory but I have always felt this way about religion. In The Stranger by Albert Camus, Mersault expresses his views on God, “I had only a little time left and I didn’t want to waste it on God”(Camus, 120). I completely agree with his statement. I once had a friend who told me, “My life is just a staircase to heaven and with each new day, I need to do everything I can to move up a step”. The irony was that she was not a very good friend or person. However, that statement makes me weep internally. Living your life with the fear of going to hell or elsewhere is not a healthy way to live. You should live your life as a good person because that is the good thing to do, not because of an external motive.

There are times where I wish I was raised believing in God. Sometimes that is the easiest answer when life gets hard. Nevertheless, I personally see God as a lie and I do not want to live life in a lie. I find peace in knowing that I came to this conclusion on my own. I was not specifically raised as an atheist, a catholic, or agnostic. If I wanted to go to church, I could have gone with my grandmother. I have read portions of The Bible and decided on my own that this violent, sexist, and extremely self-contradicting book is not something that I would be proud of supporting. I was given opportunities to research and observe other religions, and I was allowed to not believe in any of it as I did for so long. Now, I am allowed to accept that I do not know and I may never know, and that is okay.

After Awhile You Can Get Used to Anything!

In Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, Meursault’s mother passes away before the book begins. A series of events occur, including Mersault shooting a man, which result in a prison sentence. To most, prison is probably not the most ideal place to live. With no freedom, Meursault has to give up his job, women and cigarettes. To Meursault, prison is not so horrible after awhile. Camus writes, “So, with all the sleep, my memories, reading my crime story, and the alteration of light and darkness, time passed” (80). Meursault realizes life is meaningless, and everything is up to the choices he makes. When he explains his time in prison, he does not complain about losing the freedom to visit his job, girlfriend, or friends. He decides to live life in prison by using what he has, and not missing what he used to have. Meursualt creates games, digs out old memories, and reads the same crime story over and over. He doesn’t believe being in prison is a bad thing, because he has no other hopes or dreams. He is where he is, because he has done what he’s done, and now he must pay the consequence for it.

Living life this way can seem depressing, but ultimately, it means Meursault is not unhappy. He does not wish for anything and in fact, even when Marie comes to visit him, he doesn’t display affection or happiness to finally see her. While many people pray they will never have to spend a day in jail, Meursault has a different approach. As Maman used to believe, “after awhile you could get used to anything” (77).

Lost In Translation And Existentialism

The Discrepancies Between The Stranger And L’étranger And An Existentialist Conversation

I sat down to read L’étranger for the first time a few springs ago, and every so often I reread the first few pages or chapters aloud.

The flow of …

Aujourd’hui maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.

Camus, Albert. L’étranger. Éditions Gallimard, 1942, p.1.

… is something that has burned into my memory.

Reading both the English and French version of the novel evokes vivid images and a world I constructed and fabricated so clearly sophomore year. Rereading the first few pages of this book had become an almost obsessive behavior, but it was comforting because it transported me to a world that paralleled a time in my life that felt hopeful and purposeful (which was somewhat ironic). I associated the way Meursault would hold a cigarette, the vast expanses of Algerian beaches, the bright lights of the funeral home, and the red sores of Salamano’s dog with the end of my sophomore year in an inextricable way.

When I picked up this book in English for the first time, I was off put. The same images that came with the rhythm of the French version that I had read aloud repeatedly ceased to appear. It was strange, so I would blink, and attempt to read again and conjure up the world of Meursault. I think that as I continued to read, but there was always a certain uneasiness that followed. Which maybe was an appropriate accompaniment for the book.

This anxiety that I am missing something surfaces everytime I read a book that I know was originally in a different language. Anna Karenina should be in Russian, Norwegian Wood should be in Japanese – what is slipping through the cracks of the language barrier that I will never be able to grasp? I trust modern translators, and I know that popular translations are meticulously constructed to preserve the original meaning. But I also know that there will always be something missing – which makes me want to learn more languages. But then I wonder if learning these languages outside of a native context will skew my understanding.

Nevertheless, last school year I hadn’t thought of Meursault for a while until 2020 had upturned all of our worlds in March.

Similarly, I recall turning to Huis Clos (No Exit) by Jean Paul Sartre in order to explain the absurdity and relentlessness that this year. I prominently recall a list of existentialist vocabulary that prefaced the play in our thin paperback copies.

L’absurde – Reality is absurd because we recognize our inability to explain its existence. The outside world exists without apparent justification, foundation or purpose.

La nausée – Nausea is the feeling of repulsion that takes us when we become aware of the absurdity of reality.

L’angoisse – Anguish is the normal condition of those who have become aware of their total liberty, and the fact that there are no universal values that can justify the choices they have made.

L’authenticité – A man who has grasped and accepted the fact that he is free, who has realized what his situation is, and who has, within that situation, chosen to engage himself in the world around him so as to affirm his liberty, is an authentic person.

Le choix – Man is condemned, because he is free, to choose what he is going to be, by his daily actions. This choice also implies the attitude of the Others and hence is another source of anguish.

La liberté – To be free is to recognize one’s complete independence; to make one’s own life through one’s own initiative; to reject any idea of absolute Good or absolute Evil and to accept no judge or mentor to save one’s own conscience.

I remember writing that I was overcome with la nausée while driving in my car, listening to Dreams by Fleetwood Mac last spring. I had taken to driving long distances with my Dad as a form of escapism. I would drive along rural highways and never get out of the car, and that gave me a lot of time to be pensive. I felt as if I was hit by something so large and overwhelming that is was indescribable. It sunk in my stomach like lead. And everything around me seemed to take on a new lens as irrelevant and frivolous. As a went through the sequence of trying to justify the turbulence that had uprooted my junior year (before March, I had also had a difficult and unusual year), I realized that searching only made it worse.

It was cringely nerdy, but I had to take out my copy of Huis Clos in order to explain and document this feeling that had overwhelmed me on the drive. I realized that this was la nausée, but this brutal experience had taken me one step closer towards la liberté. It was something I had to grapple with in order to move away from the brink of hopelessness. Which I sometimes fear removes its authenticity. I can’t use it was a means to escape something, because that is just as harmful. I think I am grappling with my relationship with l’absurde everyday, but not in too conscious a way. It is a balance that I will be trying to find for the rest of my life.

Who Is the Real Robot?

While at Celeste’s, Meursault eats dinner with a small woman. She is very direct, precise, and quick. This intrigues Meursault enough to follow her after dinner to see what she does next. This woman is described as a “robotlike” (43) by Meursault. This woman seems like a foil to Meursault because she does everything with direction: “Ordered her whole meal all at once… While she was waiting for her first course, she opened her bag, took out a slip of paper and a pencil, added up the bill in advance, then took the exact amount, plus tip, out of a vest pocket and set it down on the table in front of her” (43). From the moment she sits down she does everything with purpose. This is clearly the opposite of Meursault, who through the story aimlessly lets life happen to him as he does things like turn down promotions and marry a woman he is not in love with.  

Calling her the robot woman seems odd as Meursault could be described as a robot himself. He seems to feel no emotion and just does exactly what he is told to do. I think this woman could be an example of why some critiques of existentialism and Meursault are hypocritical. As some say that it is dark and assumes life has no meaning. The character of the robot woman shows how a person that is the exact opposite of an existentialist, one that has great belief in the systems that humans have created, could be just as bad. As while Meursault seems not to decide anything for himself she does not either, as she is trapped in a routine determined by systems outside of her control. Meursault and the robot woman show how opposite extremes in world view could result in similar people.

The Passing of Time (and Character)

The Stranger written by Albert Camus is largely a stream of consciousness into a character Meursault. Things happen in the plot, events that would change someone’s life permanently, but the narration is so distant that it brings the focus away from the plot and to the mind of the character.

With Meursault as well as Camus’ portrayal of Sisyphus in “The Myth of Sisyphus”, the characters that are attached to existentialism aren’t philosophers; they are unaware of the exact nature of what distinguishes them from others. Sisyphus goes from sad to happy in his respective story, which is a little simpler of an interpretation of the philosophy despite its being much more difficult to read. Meursault is more complicated in that he isn’t necessarily happy or sad, or important even in his own head. He finds some enjoyment in daily activities like eating and napping, and finds conversations interesting, but he feels neither doomed nor enlightened.

For a lot of the story, Camus seems to throw problems and events at Meursault to see how he reacts.

A lot of time passes in the first and second chapter of part II. And for the most part, Meursault’s lifestyle is stagnant. The eleven months that pass of his questioning have virtually no effect on his mental state, and his five months in prison only act as a rehab from things like going to the beach and smoking, and then he becomes adjusted and lives what to him is a complete life, with brand new daily activities:

“So with all the sleep, my memories, reading my crime story, and the alternation of light and darkness, time passed” (80).

I think that losing track of time is less of an effect of prison and more of the natural consequence of an existentialist philosophy, personified by Meursault’s circumstances. Meursault values life for the sole purpose of being able to live, but there’s no reason for him to value time. There’s evidence that Meursault has abandoned parts of his life just to lead a simpler life, and this chapter shows that he also has the ability to abandon time. So, where Camus threw a prison sentence at Meursault, he discovered something new about how Meursault wants to live life.

The following is my favorite quote from the story (so far).

“At the time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowering overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it” (77).

Existentialism and Gender Identity

Existentialism is a theory that emphasizes the importance of free will and determining your own fate. A fate that is not determined by social constructs such as family, love, religion, and gender. Existentialists believe that society should not restrict an individual’s life or actions and that these restrictions inhibit free will and the development of that person’s potential.

When it comes gender, society usually puts emphasis on the MALE/female binary. We are socialized through our families, our education, and the media to believe that certain characteristics make up these two genders. This binary that is forced upon us in not an accurate representation of our community as gender is a spectrum and not everyone’s gender identity matches with their birth sex.

However, how a woman looks and acts is drilled into our brains since birth. Society sets standards. If you meet them or rebel against them is theoretically your own choice. Rebelling against society’s standards is easier said than done. With our constant exposure to the portrayal of gender whether through the people we interact with the movies we watch, at some point both working to fit the stereotype and working to defy it, our choice is not purely our own.

As a young woman, I have debated this choice. Do I stray from the mold? Is it even my choice?

From a young age, I identified as a “tom-boy”, which is the six-year-old versions of refusing stereotypical gender roles. I would not let an article of pink clothing touch my body, because it was too “girly”. Later, I choose to reclaim this “femininity”. I wore pink. I did my make-up. I thought it was my choice to reclaim these “feminine” habits. However, through the view point of existentialism, this choice was not free will. It was heavily influenced by society and its archaic gender roles.

What Is An Existential Crisis And How Do They Impact Us?

I don’t think there is any better time than 2020 to be talking about existentialism and existential crises. An existential crisis occurs when a major life event, not necessarily a positive or negative, occurs and causes a person to start asking questions about their identity.

Imagine you are a musician who has been playing an instrument since a very young age. An opportunity arises to perform a solo at a concert and you practice and practice and practice to absolutely nail your performance. But when the time comes, you play notes offkey or out of time and totally bomb and begin to question whether the time you put into music was really worth it.

The choice to pursue music was one you made off your own free will (exercising existentialism) and ultimately grew to become a large part of your identity. Existential crises are necessary for our growth as human beings since they can provide new outlooks on life and existence and also force people to face the choices they’ve made in the past to create their identity.

Life Has No Meaning… Kinda

When I hear the phrase “there is no meaning to life”, I’d almost agree except for one exception- I believe there is no universal meaning to life.

After our class discussion about existentialism, it became abundantly clear to me that no matter what the opinion of life was, everyone had their mind made up on a specific meaning of life. Some argued that love is the ultimate goal, while others stated that we are all just avoiding death.

Our own individual experiences with life shape what we believe the meaning is, and that’s what I think makes this conversation so interesting. Existentialists can argue that one theory makes the most sense, but in actuality we all are clueless as to what the meaning of life actually is. Religion, our upbringing and experiences, our thoughts and ideas- they shape our own explanations for why we are here.

It’s hard for me to gather the words to explain my thoughts on existentialism because it is so universally confusing. No matter what we believe the meaning of life is, there is the underlying truth that no one really knows why we are here. The only thing we can do is come up with our own explanation to help rationalize this absurdity called life.

Absurdity In The Eyes of The Reader

Mersault’s character is direct; he sees things how they are without reading into anything, finding meaning in anything, or expressing any real emotion. His view of life is, to say the least, unusual. Though he appears this way to the reader at first glance, his actions suggest a deeper humanity that other characters cannot see in him.

When he is in the midst of his examination Mersault reflects on the clerks’s menaing of life: “That was his belief, and if he were ever to doubt it, his life would become meaningless. ‘Do you want my life to be meaningless?’ he shouted…. But from across the table he had already thrust the crucifix in my face and was screaming irrationally, ‘I am a Christian. I ask Him to forgive you your sins. How can you not believe that He suffered for you?'” (Camus 69).

The clerk defines his life’s meaning based on Christianity, and is utterly confused when he realizes Mersault does not have even an inkling of belief; the thin reality the clerk holds onto threatens to crumble and he grow irrational and terrified.

Mersault is confusing and absurd to other characters, but Camus frames him in this way for that exact reason: to make not only other characters, but the reader uncomfortable. He is meant to make one rethink the constructs of life and recognize that everyone has different definitions of a life well lived, and that meaning must come from a place deep enough that it cannot be so easily unravelled.

Crazy Story

I always look forward to sitting through English class with Mr. Heidkamp in the AM of every A day because its practically my first class considering I have gym 1st period. Even 2 days back when I woke up from a late night sleep with my eyes half open and Mr. Heidkamp started speaking what I thought was Chinese. No of course he wasn’t actually speaking Chinese but he was definitely spitting out some knowledge to us youngsters. I feel this lecture given by Mr. Heidkamp resembles an old Gandalf the grey revealing his magical secrets to his fellow hobbits. Not only do I mention this resemblance because of the funky hat but because of what was being discussed. Mr. Heidkamp reviewed the term existentialism which I had never heard before and I guarantee I wasn’t the only one. He then thoroughly discussed multiple meanings of life that tie in with existentialism. I for one completely disagree with the theory. I don’t believe life is just one big simulation created by the society we live in. The decisions you make in your life shape the type of person you are, life is what you make it. Everyone in this world is different from each other, everyone carries a different mindset, everyone makes their own decisions. If life is just one big simulation then it doesn’t bother me because in my eyes I’m living in my world, I’m living my life, controlling my own destiny,

Are We All Socially Constructed?

A few weeks ago, my family had a movie night. We decided to watch the new Netflix movie, Social Dilemma. I had already been familiar with how addicting and damaging social media is, but many parts of the movie surprised me. I was scared to learn that everything we do is recorded in order to make social media more addicting to each individual. How long you look at every post or website is recorded, and then your feed is increasingly tailored towards your interests. In this movie, they also shared how much our personalities are influenced by what we view everyday on social media. I started to ponder how much every person I know is actually genuine. Or is everyone becoming more and more like a machine?
In our Wednesday class, when we started discussing existentialism, this movie popped into my head right away. More specifically, when we talked about each of our lives and the social expectations at each stage of our lives. It seemed that our class was pretty divided when certain questions like, “Is love real?” were introduced. Like my thoughts during the movie, I wondered, is the feeling of “love” real, or is it socially constructed and we only feel “love” because we are so pressured into feeling it? And is this “love” the meaning we all search for in life?

Life is Different

Listening to Mr. Heidkamp’s talk about the meaning of life, I came to two conclusions: life is random and life is different for everyone.

Life is random. Nobody knows what’s going to happen to them in 10 years or 10 days or 10 minutes. Life throws challenges and obstacles in our way in order for us to grow. To teach us how to deal with pain and suffering and how to move on from that. It also teaches us how to appreciate the happiness and good moments in our life. No ones life is all happiness or all pain. You have to go through one in order to go through the other. Because of all of this, there is no such thing as a perfect life. Since you can’t choose what is going to happen next, you can’t create the idea of a perfect life.

Everyone’s life is different, we are all different people, so they have to be. Everyone has their own opinions, values, and beliefs. Everyone has their own personality and style. The saying that no two people are alike is very true. Two people could be the exact same in looks and beliefs, but still have that one thing that makes them different from each other. Same thing apply for the meaning of life. Each person has there own idea of what life means to them. Not one person can discover the “real” meaning of life. There is a reason beliefs and opinions are a thing, to make people their own person. Just like no two people are alike, no two lives are alike.

Basically, life is crazy and unique.

Why Does It Matter That Nothing Matters?

Mr. Heidkamp’s discussion on the meaning of life was very upsetting for me at first. Relationships, love, and helping others are all incredibly important to me, and so hearing that all of those ideas were just “illusions” was really discouraging. However, as we continued to talk about these ideas through a pessimistic perspective, I started to wonder if I agreed with everything being said. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t sure, but even if I did agree, did I even care?

Even if my values were all illusions, what did that really mean? These concepts and feelings are real to me, and in my life, that’s all that really matters. Life doesn’t have to have “meaning” for you to enjoy it, and these concepts don’t have to be “real” for them to be important for you. Since nothing matters, why does the concept that “nothing matters” even matter?

Eventually the class came to a similar conclusion, and we all discussed how life gives the meaning to life, and that that can mean something different for everyone. As long as you’re content with your life, that should be enough. We are the ones who give our lives meaning, so we are also the only ones who can take away that meaning by saying “nothing matters” (so don’t say that!).

I think that these beliefs are why I don’t really like the main character in The Stranger by Albert Camus. Many view him as smart for realizing that life has no meaning and being above it all, but I don’t know if I agree. Sure he’s figured out the “secret to life,” but what does that even do for him? He’s completely disconnected from the rest of society and apathetic towards every thing that happens in his life.

Maybe this is what makes him content, and in that case, he has found his meaning in life and I think that’s great. However, from my perspective, his life seems sad. I want everything in my life to have meaning for me personally, even if it doesn’t for the rest of the world. Since nothing matters, anything can matter.