Albert Camus, through his work The Myth Of Sisyphus, differentiated himself from leading philosophers who spoke about the absurdity of humanity. Camus defines the absurd feeling as the one when man is finally smacked with the innate truth that life is meaningless. He explains that this absurd feeling exists because people are looking or giving meaning to their life yet this meaning does not exist. Through his work, he explores the consequences of believing life has meaning but only to refute them. For example, he lists a number of truisms, not to deny them but rather show how there are consequences when you believe them are not reasonable. Camus also examines “the relationship between individual thought and suicide” (4). Every action says something and has consequences so the act of suicide says that life is not worth living. He believes that people who commit suicide are avoiding absurdity and would not have done what they did should they accepted that life has no meaning. He takes a different approach and examines the consequences of absurdities in life to the fullest extent to be able to arrive at a conclusion that allows us to live happily while accepting absurd existence.
Camus argues against philosophers who try to give meaning to life by “creating” an afterlife which rides on hope. Growing up in Algeria, a french colony, whose citizens are mostly muslims had an effect on this thought process. In 1954, Algerians fight for independence in the name of God. While the war didn’t actually start until eight years after he wrote the philosophical essay, there were a lot of tensions, especially religious ones. Therefore, Camus sought to refute philosophers like Kierkegaard who face the absurd by turning to God as their answer but it is not reasonable to. He says, “Thus, the very thing that led them to despair of the meaning and depth of this life now gives it its truth and its clarity” (37) . He argues that instead of finding a new path as the other philosophers should they are simply just making a U-turn which was not satisfactory for Camus. Camus brilliantly and thoroughly goes through all consequences that can occur should they use God as their purpose. Camus’ interesting take on the absurd feeling is simply to accept it instead of opposing it.
He says repeatedly that it is impossible to know the meaning of life and that life would be “lived all the better if it has no meaning” (53) . He proposes that you can be happy even though you’ve accepted that life has no purpose and if everyone would live that way, the world would be a better place. This philosophy is more contextualized through his literary work of The Myth of Sisyphus. In this philosophical essay, he examines the myth by Homer where Sisyphus is condemned by the Gods to a meaningless life pushing a rock to the top of a mountain that would inevitably fall all the way down. The Gods thought this was the ultimate punishment because it was a task he did over and over again that does not mean anything but Camus looks at it from a different light. He calls your attention to Sisyphus’ state of mind on his way down. At this point, Sisyphus knowingly goes down the mountain and is conscious of this situation. He says, “The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory.” (121) . Although his fate seems tragic, Sisyphus is better off than most people that virtually do the same thing because he is at least aware.
Through his analysis of Sisyphus’ character, Camus envisioned that he was aware of his fate and accepted it. Camus says, “Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which become his fate, created by him, combined under his memory's eye and soon sealed by his death.” Sisyphus comes to own his fate and, in the same way, that humans should embrace their fate of death. Of course Camus also notes, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy” (123) . He wants his fellow Algerians to understand that actions done on the merits of an afterlife cannot be the answer and will harm them emotionally in the long run.
While Camus could have been used as a warning for Algerians, it was also consoling in the aftermath. There were so many casualties and deaths during The Algerian Revolution that everyone was just searching for meaning in all this tragedy. Camus is hoping that people would read his work and confront the only truth - there is no meaning in life. He is also providing the only real comfort - that accepting our absurd existence will lead to happier experiences.
Works CitedCamus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus. London: Penguin, 2005. Print.