Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020): 20-33.
ISSN: 1583-0039 © SACRI
MEANING FROM SHEER
Abstract: Albert Camus’ existential trajectory is influenced by tragic events in the world particularly in Europe. His milieu seems to dialogue with our present context. Scholarly consensus has it that an emerging optimism slowly unfolded through his writings prior to his death. To present Camus’ philosophy in terms of the meaning of life is therefore an interesting inquiry considering this surprising shift. His thoughts remain until now relevant considering the horrendous impact of negative realities that beset humanity today similar to his time. The disturbing consequences of life throbs in the spirit of every well-meaning individual. The question of meaninglessness remains a relevant question especially among the young as well as the older generation struggling to integrate life’s experiences. Hence this paper is an attempt to re-articulate his thoughts to underscore the meaning of life from his classic works. In doing so, we propose to re-read Camus for religion and existential psychotherapeutic practice in general. The whole analysis will revolve around his classic works with additional references from other commentators. This re-reading of Camus’ works brings to dialogue the traditional tension between religious hope and Camus’ radical creative views.
Key words: Albert Camus, absurdity, meaning in life, meaninglessness, philosophy, suffering, Christian humanism, existential psychotherapy.
Rito V. Baring
De la Salle University, Theology and Religious Education Department, Manila, Philippines
E-mail: [email protected] Francis Xavier R. Salcedo
De la Salle University, Theology and Religious Education Department, Manila, Philippines
Email: [email protected]
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 21
Albert Camus won the Nobel prize for literature in 1957. He was a novelist, dramatist and meditative essayist (Quillot 1970, 263). “Arguing that authentic human existence could not be taken for granted, Camus set aside the technicalities of epistemology and metaphysics to assay life’s meaning” (Quillot 263). In his many writings he expounded on the present condition of modern man: stripped of God, alienated from nature, tyrannized by frightening political ideologies, isolated from his fellows, and divided even against himself. By way of reacting against modern philosophy’s penchant for scientific precision and mathematical clarity, he correspondingly used mythical forms of expression in articulating the absurd existence of man.
Primary consideration to the selection of Albert Camus as the main material for study is the extensive influence that his award-winning writings wields in his time. The controversies involving his writings and negative experiences that affected him are corollary experiences that prompts us to retrace his philosophical position. The prevalent panorama of human predicament was that of despair, anxiety, disillusionment and bankruptcy of religion. On top of that, untimely deaths, senseless accidents, natural and man-made catastrophes reduce humanities’ fondest accomplishments to rubble. Seemingly without rhyme or reason, best-laid plans come to naught, leaving one to feel that life lacks the overall sense it ought to possess. Humanities’ place in the scheme of things seems immensely fragile. Life may be swallowed up eventually by a void that reduces everything to empty silence.
In this crucial stage of history when the defense of human life has become a major topic of concern due to prevalent man-made and natural calamities, humanity experiences once again a situation in life not different from the post-world war II context of Camus. The human drama from Asia to Europe and Africa only exposes the painful realities that seem to provide the backdraft that gathers countless unheard voices. Through these incongruities, questions about life’s meanings or its absence come once again to the fore. Camus’ way of addressing this problem befits our time today just as it was in his time. Camus represented the crises of his age through the conflict between belief and skepticism which underlie his writings (Cruikshank 1960, 224). He has become both a spokesperson and a symptom of his times when he assessed recurring problems in his works (Cruikshank). And in typifying his age Camus reflected its intellectual habits, dramatized its political experiences and laid bare some of the main sources of its moral unrest. The plethora of critical literature written about him and his work is a clear indication of the degree to which he has succeeded in capturing the interest and imagination of the worldwide
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 22 audience. He has influenced not only his contemporaries or those who have grown to maturity during the years of World War II but even the present generation (1960, 10). Abundant literature on Camus’ thought would focus on his nihilism or pessimist thinking. A re-reading of his works therefore would be a good response to the challenge of authentic existence posed by Camus as well as recovering the unspoken wisdom from his philosophy for religion and therapeutic counselling.
The present study includes a synthesis of Camus’ key insights on the absurd primarily from “L ‘Etranger” (1946) and “Le Mythe de Sisyphe” and a review of the emergence of his ‘affirmation of life’ using selected works till his death. The works to be included in the second part includes: L
‘Envers et I’endroit (1936), L’Exil et le Royaume (1957) and his final work before he died “Le Premier Homme” (1996). The analysis revisits the Camusian concept of the absurd and retrace how this development gave rise to a peculiar sense of the ‘meaning of life’ behind the text. The need to re-articulate Camus’ insights is proposed here as an alternative explanation to re-read the existential contradictions typically perceived by the youth in light of religion and existential therapy. Contrary to the speculated loss of meaning said to arise from youthful negotiations with modern -day contradictions, youthful views still demonstrate peculiar meanings which can be discerned from their religious views (Baring et. al.
2017; Baring et. al., 2018). The human meaning making orientation is constantly challenged by “pervasive reductionism” (Frankl 2010, 177) generated by western lifestyle which consequently threaten fragile youthful dispositions (Baring 2010). Frankl’s work (2010) proposes a novel approach to meaninglessness through logotherapy, developed in response to this contemporary neurosis. Frunză’s (2018) relevant review of Philosophy, spirituality and therapy offers the present study some practical moorings regarding interpretive lenses that one might need when re-reading troubling existential issues. Frunză brought to the fore the main work of Emmy van Deurzen (2010) whose practice of existential psychotherapy as a form of counselling accompaniment affirm the need to engage with human predicaments in a meaningful way.
An appreciation of the presence of life’s meaning is known to be
“positively correlated with life satisfaction, positive emotions, intrinsic religiosity, extraversion, and agreeableness and negatively correlated with depression, negative emotions, and neuroticism” (Steger et. al. 2006, 84).
Meaning in life is also inversely associated with one’s life direction (Schafer 1997, 642). The analysis will primarily depend on the English translations of Camus’ classic works. Due to limitations of space, the
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 23 analysis will not be a re-telling of all his novels but only an appraisal of selected insights from the merits of his works.
3. Camus and the Absurd
Essays directed towards rethinking Camus’ thoughts about the absurd were already made previously such as David Carroll’s (2007) work.
In saying this we admit that the pessimist stance towards life is already prevalent in religious and philosophical literature since Socrates as a life theme. Other thinkers such as Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Chestov, Husserl, and Kafka had extensive writings about the absurd even before World War II broke out. Hence the view about the absurd can be said to have a widespread base covering a diverse cultural milieu. In theater arts and among the playwrights, themes around the absurd were also developed to flaunt the absurd in the sense of the ridiculous (Cohen 1988, 290). Hence it can be said that the notion of the absurd is not exclusive to Camus.
However, one can find distinct traits of the Camusian approach to absurdity when one realizes that the absurd for him is directed towards the consequences of absurdity.
Camus never considered himself a proponent of an absurdist philosophy, much less an existentialist (Thody 1969, 345). Camus would insist that he was not looking for doctrine when thinking about absurdity but only about “methodical doubt” (1969, 356). However, several writers perceive him to have popularized the absurd in his writings that he is branded as the “Philosopher of the absurd” (Coplestone 1956, 196). His articulation of the absurd is not so much about defining it but more of describing the feeling of it (Camus 1955, 14). “L’ Etranger” plunges the readers without comment into the experience of the absurd while “Le Mythe de Sisyphe” makes the experience of the absurd more intelligible.
Both works can be credited as fundamental to his ideas in relation to his pursuit of authentic human existence.
In L’ Etranger Camus concretizes the futility of attempting to arrive at a coherent way of explaining a life that is lived without playing by the rules of society. He showed this in the case of the public prosecutor who tried to put order in the events that had taken place in Meursault’s life (the protagonist) and ironically gave Meursault the impression that he was talking about someone else despite all his efforts. Here Camus points out that the source of the feeling of the absurd is none other than the inability of the human reason to completely make sense of reality. The futility of fully understanding reality brought Camus into muted silence.
In his novel he gave his readers the impression that a man’s virility lies more in what he keeps to himself than in what he says. Hence this novel demonstrated Camus’ attempt to make the readers feel the absurd without
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 24 indulging in words. Apparently, Camus invites the readers to see and learn to accept life as something ambiguous and incomprehensible.
The fictional message of L’ Etranger carried profound meanings that apparently compelled Camus to provide some philosophical configuration.
The Myth of Sisyphus apparently serves that purpose. Initially he proposed that a logical consequence to an absurd life is suicide. However, Camus is quick to note that suicide cannot be the rule of conduct for the majority since it seldom happens that a person dies for an idea. In the final analysis, taking one’s life is interpreted as an act of cowardice and bad faith. If at all, it only happens when the mind deceives the body to bring it to the fatal act (Camus 1955, 8). The development of the essay led to a transition from a physical rendering of suicide to a philosophical trajectory. For Camus, pursuing a path which negates the absurd either by a rational or irrational method is tantamount to an escape. Likewise, to offer a solution to the problem of the absurd and an explanation of the universe is by definition, for Camus, beyond the reach of human reason.
He strongly believes that it is unjust to dismiss the absurd by altering the nature of the problem: “Yet all the knowledge on earth will give me nothing to assure me that this world is mine…At the final stage you teach me that this wondrous and multicolored universe can be reduced to the atom… But you tell me of an invisible planetary system in which electrons gravitate around a nucleus… I realize then that you have been reduced to poetry. I shall never know” (Camus 1955, 8)
Thus, humanity is reconciled to the irrationality of the world and consents to see the demand for the reasonable refused and the intellect humiliated. In the light of the absurd, Camus looks at rationalism as an inadequate principle of explanation, “for the absurd mind, reason is useless and there is nothing beyond reason … they are legitimate only insofar as they are approximate” (Camus 1955, 19). Camus ventured to capture life’s absurd predicament by comparing humanity to Sisyphus.
From the Homeric tales, Camus picked Sisyphus as the man condemned to the most terrible of punishments: eternally futile and hopeless labor.
Sisyphus was wise and prudent, loved the earth, hated death and the gods.
For some reason Sisyphus was condemned in Hades but given one last stay on earth. His experience of the goods of the earth convinced him to dislike the infernal shade and preferred that he continues to enjoy life on earth.
Enraged by such audacity, the gods seized Sisyphus and dragged him off to Hades where his punishment awaited him. He was condemned for eternity to roll a boulder up to the mountain top from which it would of its own weight crash back to the bottom. In the person of Sisyphus, Camus sees humanity perpetually engaged in the business of rolling a rock to the top of a mountain with no aim or reward yet, committed to the moment-by- moment experience itself. In the final analysis, the absurd for Camus is an inseparable part of the human condition. The absurd manifests a cleavage between the human aspirations to unity and the insurmountable dualism
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 25 of mind and nature. Yet strangely, Camus still affirms the human condition despite the predominance of pessimism in his life as reflected in Meursault’s “Hymn to Life” before his execution (Camus 1989, 122).
4. Towards an Affirmation of Life
Sisyphus embodies the absurd man for he accepts his fate only to defy it. He did not seek refuge through suicide. He wanted to live without relinquishing the uncertainty, a bleak future, a hopeless situation without illusion and without resignation. He stared at death with a passionate attention and with a fascination that liberates him. These firm manifestations attest that, despite experiencing the wrath of the gods, Camus sees grandeur in Sisyphus. In upholding it, Camus purports to give meaning to an absurd existence, a meaning that does not negate absurdity yet refuses to succumb to its impact.
Likewise, it is worth considering that what interests Camus so much is that instant when Sisyphus, who having reached the summit, watches the boulder roll down the mountain side, and then trails downwards himself to take up again his eternal torment. With the pause that comes regularly side by side his painful labor in between going down and up, Camus understands that Sisyphus has his moment of consciousness (Camus 1955, 121). Sisyphus is conscious of his plight and misery. Yet he continues with his task for he believes that it is precisely in this situation that man can be desperately heroic by sinking his teeth into the absurd. It is this lucid recognition of his destiny that transforms his torment into victory. Camus therefore personifies Sisyphus as a creator able to make sense of circumstances that apparently rob human life of significance. He surmounts his fate by scorning it, stronger than the rock: “I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain!... But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well… The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy” (1955, 123).
Fraught with slight literary lapses, Camus’ last work Le Premier Homme (1996) revolves around his personal story in the character of Jacques Cormery. It reveals the novel’s inseparability from Camus’ own life. This unfinished work reveals an emotional vulnerability not typical of Camus. Among other common threads that would bind his creative work, it was the “great anonymity” and “affirmation of life” that makes an important mark. This mark of anonymity hides the person into that
“immense oblivion that was the ultimate homeland of his people, the final destination of a life that began without roots” (Le Premier Homme, 261).
Camus’ words are indicative of his desire to expose the harm done by estrangement to people. Camus’ interpretation of this anonymity ends with a life-affirming tone: “Then shall the great anonymity become
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 26 fruitful and envelop me also” (p. 193). Hence anonymity for Camus expounds a constant threat in the life of man to be absorbed by the unknown or to be reduced into a “stranger”. And overcoming the unknown consists in being born to one’s self by becoming the “first man”.
It means putting order into one’s life, claiming responsibility, and becoming assertive of one’s freedom. Here Camus asserted that despite Jacque having grown up without a father, he was able to create a “climate of values”, a refuge from meaninglessness or a kind of salvation in his life:
“Wandering through the night of the year in the land of oblivion where each one is the first man, where he had to bring himself up, without a father, having never known those moments when a father would call his son, after waiting for him to reach the age of listening, to tell him the family’s secret, or of a sorrow of long ago, or the experience of his life. And he had to learn by himself, to grow alone, in fortitude, in strength, find his own morality and truth”. (The First Man, 195).
Another attribute of Camus’ affirmation of life describes an irrepressible sensual passion for life. Passion gives meaning to life. This final novel proposes an “affirmation of life” as his response to the ongoing threat of the “great anonymity”. Towards the later part of Le Premier Homme Camus confessed that the darkness which engulfed him while employed in an office gave way to an unspeakable ardor, a passion for living that remained unchanged: “This night inside him, these tangled hidden roots that bound him to this magnificent and frightening land, as much to its scorching days as to its heartbreakingly rapid twilights, and that was like a second life, truer perhaps than the everyday surface of his outward life; its history would be told as a series of obscure yearnings and powerful indestructible sensations, the odor of the schools, the smell of the big cold classrooms, the warmth of his favorite classmates, the wool and feces, the cologne, the scent of lipstick, his love of bodies, of their beauty, of their warmth … (The First Man 282).
Camus tempers passion by insisting that it should not enslave the human person knowing that it is an integral part of being human: “It was not to possess them but to enter into their radiance- the longing yes, to live, to live still more, to immerse himself in the greatest warmth this earth could give him, which was what he without knowing it hoped for”
(The First Man 282). For Camus it is possible to affirm life even without clinging to an absolute beyond the nature of man. Jacque’s experience of this passion for life brought him profound joy in the face of poverty, desire for truth in the company of illiterates and willingness to reach out to others despite estrangement. With passion, it is possible to bear the trials and difficulties of life. Thus Camus directed his readers to ‘passion for life’
as something that offers reason for living and dying without being negative towards the absurdities of life.
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 27
5. The Camusian Meaning of Life
Extensive research on the meaning of life had been conducted recently. Among the classic works include Victor Frankl’s work “Man’s search for meaning” (1963) and his expanded work on the feeling of Meaninglessness (2010). A variety of perspectives being offered in scholarship (Steger, Frazier, Oishi & Kaler 2006) after Frankl testifies to the rich insights that this construct can provide. In addition to logotherapy, several works dealing with the meaning of life are identified within counselling psychology (Flannelly 2017), existential psychotherapy (Deurzen 2010) and existential philosophy among others to investigate mental health and well-being.
In Camus’ two powerful works La Peste (1948) and L’ Homme Revolte (1951), the values of justice, loyalty and courage appear much more positively on the frontiers of the absurd, values that are indisputably authentic as they are adamantly anti-Christian. La Peste introduced a moral dimension, something new to Camus, in the person of Tarrou, one of the volunteers who fought the plague. The theme of moral evil, the evil that men inflict upon each other, reaches intensity. Camus’ two ideas of commitment, dedication to the plight of others, and courageous stand against violence and injustice are made clear.
Camus accepted the truth about the absurd and maintains that one follows the consequences of this truth. For this he offers his readers three rules of conduct: “my revolt, my freedom and my passion” (Camus 1955, 64). He declares that the alternative to suicide is an obstinate absurdity in constant revolt against the world. Revolt is an ongoing personal struggle with the absurd. Camus believes that the absurd man is supposed to: live in the absurd, to be acquiescently but defiantly indifferent to the future, refusing all forms of religious escapisms and sustained only by his cold resolve not to relax the posture of rebellion. Hence Camus asserts that revolt restores greatness to life for in it is the beauty of the human mind at grips with a reality that exceeds it. Nothing for him equals this spectacle of human pride reaffirming itself in defiance of the world (Camus 1955, 55).
By focusing on the absurd, Camus introduced to his readers the notion of authentic living and the relative condition of the absurdist position. Discerning from L’Etranger and Le Mythe de Sisyphe, we observe that Camus viewed life in a wholistic way. This is quite far from the bleak and negative outlook which commentators commonly attribute to his writings. By providing simple answers to life’s complex questions, Camus believed that an admission of one’s moral constitution and the limits of one’s intellect are essential to an authentic way of life.
If in Le Mythe de Sisyphe the concern of Camus was the problem of suicide, in La Peste he substitutes this problem for a strange form of martyrdom, purporting to be a religion of happiness through atheistic
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 28 sanctity. In La Peste, Camus is mainly interested in the reactions of men faced with the collapse of everything they had believed secure:
communication systems, trade and health. It is no longer a single Sisyphus but a city of Sisyphuses who found themselves crushed by disaster (Maurois 1966, 331). It is paradoxical that a work so authentically impregnated with charity should be at the same time the most atheistic of all Camus books (Murchland, 312). For it obviously is a work which aims to prove most clearly that man can construct without the help of God or of rationalistic thought, a creative humanism of high nobility. In line with this, Camus propounds that, however irremediable and definitive humanity’s imprisonment is, humanity can now rejoice in a sense of dignity and an innate feeling of sympathy that suffices to make him great.
L’ Homme Revolte, Camus’ second philosophical essay, furthers the line of thought adumbrated in La Peste. Revolt, in Camus’ mind, is a creative effort that makes absurdity meaningful, or rather enables humanity to transcend absurdity by protesting it. It postulates a human nature that must be respected, a terrestrial brotherhood that must be defended, and it creates a moral value rooted in the idea of moderation and respect for limits (Camus 1956). Revolt is key to his notion of happiness and meaning of life as well as the purpose of social action and artistic creation. In many ways, Camus reestablished the basic principles of liberal humanism. Through this controversial book, Camus highlights the notion that man is the only creature who could rebel against his condition: “In every act of rebellion, the rebel simultaneously experiences a feeling of revulsion at the infringement of his rights and a complete and spontaneous loyalty to certain aspects of himself. Thus he implicitly brings into play a standard of values so far from being gratuitous that he is prepared to support it no matter what the risks” (Camus 1956, 14).
Camus’ attempts to strike a balance between the individual and society led him to assert that a scale of values is implied in every act of rebellion. Seemingly negative, rebellion becomes positive when it discloses that there is something in man which needs to be defended. The act of revolt offers a basis for human solidarity and, in turn, finds its sole justification in that solidarity. If in L’Etranger and Le Mythe de Sisyphe, the experience of the absurd was individual, in Le Peste and L’ Homme Revolte, the experience of rebellion is communal, for everyone is a victim of the disfunction of man and the world. In a deeper sense Camus tried to explore and justify the immense potential man has for himself. The Christian might profitably take up where Camus leaves off to examine the implications of his vision in respect to his own situation in the world.
Clearly, it would be too much to say that Camus’ position can be adapted without modification as a basis for Christian humanism, but it has merits that command our interest. Here we say that it would be unfair for a Christian to immediately conclude Camus’ position as invalid simply because he does not make room for the categories of grace and
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 29 redemption. For in his own way, Camus has experienced what would be termed as the highly prized “Christian joy” of helping his brothers and defending justice. It is this basic problem which made us want to bring the dialogue with Camus’ masterpieces particularly The Rebel (1951). This book is essentially foundational to Camus’ life-affirming views which eventually found fruition in his last book The First Man (Camus 1996).
Although there is no explicit mention of Christian humanism, we surmise by analysis that The Rebel introduced Christian humanism. Essentially then, “affirmation of life” constitutes in life celebrations through acts of charity and justice provoking a deeper sense of the human longings. The logic of The Rebel is to provoke justice so as not to add to the “injustice of the human condition, to insist on plain language so as not to increase the universal falsehood, and to wager, in spite of human misery, for happiness” (1951, 248). Through deep-seated human longings the Christian proposition of the “fullness of life” articulated in the sacred texts dialogue with Camus’ resolutions about a ‘good life’. Secondly, The Rebel sounded Camus’ idea of rebellion as salvation for all while insisting for courageous acts of solidarity: “The most pure form of the movement of rebellion is thus crowned with the heart-rending cry of Karamazov: if all are not saved, what good is the salvation of one only?” (1951, 303). One is reminded of Simone Weil, whom Camus lauded as an exemplary figure of his time and who, as she lay dying of tuberculosis, defied her doctors’
orders by refusing to eat more than the rations her compatriots in Nazi- occupied France were given.
Earlier in La Peste, Camus was interested in serving men, not saving them. But in La Chute (The fall 1957) and in his collection of stories L’ Exil et le Royaume (Exile and the kingdom 1958), he stresses the new values of penance and expiation. The themes of transcendence, the creative value of suffering and human solidarity are added to the Camusian vision. Camus did not mince words in condemning the hypocrisy of those who profess Christianity and freedom at all cost and yet act on the contrary. Notably, it was this painful decision to live in proximity to opposing belief systems while denying any validity that distinguished him and his unique position.
The symbolisms used by Camus in La Chute bear religious undertones. The title of the book is essentially religious. The narrator’s name “Jean-Baptiste” is a strong clue to the voice crying in the wilderness.
The canals of Amsterdam which Camus wanted his readers to identify with the concentric circles of hell (The Fall 14) and the concerns with man’s guilt which links Jean-Baptiste’s ‘examination of conscience’ to the Augustinian tradition and cry for salvation. There is such a distinct expression of sin and unworthiness in this novel that Murchland referred to this novel as Camus’ “dark night before the coming of grace”
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 30
5. Implications for existential psychotherapy
The feeling of meaninglessness or the Camusian idea of absurdity is a challenging point in psychotherapeutic practice (Frankl 2010). Existential psychotherapy works with valuable experiences of meaning. From his engagements, Frankl discovered how one’s “spiritual resources” can actually stabilize “psychotic patients to accept a self-chosen and responsible stance towards their own illness, which in turn affected the course of the disease itself” (Frankl 2010, 19-20). Meaning making, whether in religious or non-religious contexts, has proven to be indispensable to improving interior dispositions. Drawing from Ricoeur’s thoughts, meaning making may require sensitivity to one’s “symbolic context which is multiple, complex and enigmatic” (Deurzen 2010, 109).
Camus’ response is the ultimacy of meaning beyond the ghosts of absurdity and meaninglessness viewing suicide as an “ultimate form of self-defeat” (Deurzen 2010, 106). For Frankl the quest for human liberation from extreme neurosis typify the persistence of human freedom that upholds the spirit’s defiance of overwhelming odds. Camus offers a moving perspective to Frankl’s point: “From absolute despair will spring infinite joy, from blind servitude, unbounded freedom. To be free is, precisely, to abolish ends. The innocence of the ceaseless change of things, as soon as one consents to it, represents the maximum liberty” (Camus 1951, 72).
Similar to Frankl’s position on the relevance of meaning, Camus’
solution to life’s absurdity or lack of meaning is to challenge humanity to institute hope in recognizing that the human person is meant to live in solidarity with others. In desiring that his life be respected, man comes to the conclusion that there is value in all human life even in the face of absurdity. At the root of solidarity and value of humanity, Camus claims, is man who brings about this value by living in a state of rebellion.
Contrary to traditional notions that project the Camusian worldview as an unforgivingly pessimist evaluation of life, this paper retraced the grounds of an optimistic attitude towards life from his literary masterpieces. For Camus life is absurd defying logical explanations. But unlike the nihilists and other existentialists of his time, he viewed life as valuable and worth defending. Camus believed that life is an adventure without final meaning but worth experiencing. Since there is nothing besides life, he avers that people need to live life to the fullest and find meaning in human existence: “If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” (Camus 1960, 106). Although he was an atheist and did not believe in
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 19, issue 55 (Spring 2020) 31 sin, he stated, “If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.” (Camus 1955, 153). At first glance, Camus’s writings easily make him a hardcore unbeliever. Through this paper we uncovered the unspoken wisdom behind his unholy elucidations.
The beautiful twist brought about by our re-reading of his classic works and the absurd brought us into conversation with life’s meaning and value. Unexpectedly, we found value in Camus’ ideas behind the ‘revolt’ as a prelude for human solidarity. These insights bring forward the dialogue between the Camusian ideas, Christian propositions and psychotherape- utic practice. When we brought the whole notion of the absurd with Camus’ affirmation of life, we ended with a favorable review hinting an optimistic view towards life. It was through this optimism that we found Camus munching an enriching view of the meaning of life.
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