Finding Reason in Absurdity

albert camus_wl

Ce qu’on appelle une raison de vivre est en même temps une excellente raison de mourir

What is called a reason to live at the same time is an excellent reason to die.

The Myth of Sisyphus explores man’s futile search for meaning in an unintelligible world bereft of God, eternal truths or values. It seeks to explain the relationship between existentialism and absurdism in the form of a philosophical essay and was originally written in French by Albert Camus.

Structurally, the essay is divided into four parts. Camus starts by explaining the absurd condition: that people bestow hope in their tomorrow, even though they are aware of the certainty of death. He describes the world to be an inhuman and strange place, which cannot be explained through rational or scientific techniques, and his insatiable quest for knowing the absolute. “From the moment absurdity is recognized, it becomes a passion, the most harrowing of all.” According to him, the realization of the absurdity of life requires not suicide, but revolt.

In part two, the author tries to contemplate on how the absurd man should live by using the examples of a seducer, an actor and a conqueror.

Camus then moves on to analyzing absurd art, which he calls a description of the myriad experiences in the world. “If the world were clear, art would not exist.”

In the last chapter, Camus outlines the fable of Sisyphus, who was condemned to spend his entire life pushing a rock up a mountain, watching it roll down and repeating this process indefinitely. Sisyphus’ futile labor is used as an allegory for modern lives that are wasted away by working in factories, repeating the same menial tasks. “A man wants to earn money in order to be happy, and his whole effort and the best of a life are devoted to the earning of that money. Happiness is forgotten; the means are taken for the end.”

The lesson to be learnt from the essay is that the absurd is in itself a contradiction that cannot be settled. To live with the absurd, one must face this contradiction, which will then allow us to enjoy life to the fullest.

Our absurd hero, Sisyphus, keeps pushing relentlessly. It is only when he realizes the futility and absurdity of his situation that he can reach a state of content acceptance. “The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

By Sanjana Ahuja

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