philosophy bites

Illustration: Lila Huang

Camus was a philosopher who talked about this thing called the absurd. Basically, life has no meaning, and when we scream into the void nothing screams back, but that doesn’t stop us from screaming until our voices go hoarse.

When thinking about absurdity, remember:

  1. a) Everything you do amounts to nothing.
  2. b) You will never understand life.

Pretty light stuff.

So, Camus has a book called the stranger where this guy kills another guy, but he doesn’t know why he kills the other guy and he starts to learn society has values he doesn’t hold and in the end he realises the universe doesn’t care about him at all. You should definitely read it; it’s French, it’s very deep, it’s short, you look smart, you’ll have an existential crisis for a while, but don’t worry about it. And afterwards you can tell everyone you read it, which is perhaps the best part.

I did it, and I’m perfectly fine with my existence having no meaning. It’s a process, you know. You work through it, eventually.

So Camus thinks that even though the universe doesn’t care and life has no meaning, we should try to accept it, and live life to the fullest. We should tell the universe, “Yo, I don’t really care, and I’m going to go and make my own meaning for my own life, okay?”.

It’s freeing. 

It’s like when a teacher tells you, hey write about anything you want, I’m giving you total control about the topic, just impress me, and you think to yourself, oh no  I’m going to fail this project. But really, you’ve been given so much freedom, which is a good thing, obviously. No absurd, I mean weird, rules to follow, no awkward formatting that you’re teacher insists on, it sounds really nice.

Except I can’t think of anything and I want to dig myself in a hole because this project’s a summative and one third of my mark, and I’ve already been slacking off and I’ll definitely fail the exam; someone please tell me this doesn’t really matter.

And this is when Camus comes in.

To explain this concept a little better, he uses the myth of Sisyphus. Basically, this dude rolls a rock up a hill, and the rock rolls down because of gravity and an inclined plane, so he has to roll the rock up again and it goes on and on and on. This is a punishment from the Gods for Sisyphus. The worst punishment of all, they think, hopeless labour. It’s a bit like me trying to do math homework because both the question and I know that this isn’t going to work out. The question is who’s going to break it to my teacher.

Camus asks, “Is Sisyphus happy?”, when the real question, in my opinion, is “Shouldn’t Sisyphus be super jacked after all of that work? Think about it. He gets cardio from running up the hill with this boulder, then running down again before the rock accidentally crushes him. He probably has way big muscles after pushing up that heavy rock again and again, and because it’s so heavy he must have to squat to take all the weight, giving him rock hard thighs. And all in all, that’s a core workout, so you can add abs of steel to the mix. I want to meet this guy. Do you realise his reps are eternal? Do you know if he teaches a class?”

So, is Sisyphus happy? Camus says yes, Sisyphus can become happy once he accepts his future is meaningless. His happiness will come from just existing.

I made myself little examples because my little brain cannot understand such huge concepts.

It’s like when you’re doing Calculus homework without an answer key, so you’ll never know if you’re doing it right. But you accept that maybe it’s for the better, and you enjoy doing the questions without ever being fulfilled or disappointed, something I wish would happen to my tests. No marks at all. Please teacher, just accept that I tried.


It’s also like when you like a boy, but you know he doesn’t like you back, so if you think about it there isn’t really a point to it, right? It’s a hopeless case. It’s just a waste of time and energy. Nevertheless, you take the time to enjoy the feelings of a crush, and you begin to enjoy the feeling of your grades slipping and the bad poetry you write and your friends getting annoyed because you won’t shut up about it. (And it doesn’t help that the boy isn’t that cute anyways.)

So you see, we must embrace the nothingness, then laugh at its face as we live our lives totally cool anyway. Take that, existentialist absurdity.

Just remember:

Turn to existentialism when you’re worried about grades and life, just as a reassurance, but never think about it too long or you’ll have a crisis. Then you’ll act differently for a little while, and everyone will ask you if you’re okay because you’re a little bit quieter than normal and it all becomes a little tiring and all you really want to do is just take a nap. Or cry. Or both because these ideas are too big and it’s all too overwhelming.

Yeah, don’t do that.

I think of absurdity as comforting. Not that it cares, but I can scream at the void forever, and the void can never scream back.