Wisdom and the Meaning of life according to Albert Camus (1913-1960).
Albert Camus was an Algerian Nobel prize winning author who took a unique perspective explaining the meaning of life. While persistently denying the title of philosopher, several of his most notable works address core issues in mainstream philosophy like the meaning of life in the face of death, the limits of rationality and the ultimate human fate.
Camus’ own distinctive contributions to the quest for meaning centre around the notions of absurdity and rebellion.
Life is absurd because our nature and existence compels us to seek meaning and purpose to life but existence itself has no meaning and one must learn to bear an irresolvable emptiness. Any interpretation of meaning to life is condemned to remain inadequate. This is best highlighted in his book, the Myth of Sisyphus which describes how Sisyphus is sentenced to a life of endless strain, burden and exertion, pushing a heavy rock to the top of a mountain, only to watch it roll back down and restart the pushing ordeal all over again.
In the absence of any definitive meaning, how should one live? Why should one not commit suicide or even kill others?
Rebellion and Revolt
Camus argues that in the face of meaninglessness and nothingness, one must rebel against one’s own mortality and the illogicality of existence. A hatred of death and a passion for life, the which life ultimately accomplishes nothing anyway, should spark a conscious awareness that enables one to revel in the world and delight in nature without resigning to one’s ultimate fate.
And eventually, this subtle rebellion that begins in the individual blossoms into revolt in society that eventually objects and discards oppression, slavery and injustice in the world.
The role of reason
Two main assertions or assumptions penetrate Camus’ works. The first being, the world is unreasonable. All effort to demonstrate it as otherwise is driven by nostalgia for unity and order. There is always an inevitable gap between what we think we know and what we really know. It is impossible to know.
Secondly, life is without meaning. Reason has its limits and by questing for meaning and purpose we reach beyond the limits of reason and seek the impossible. No one will ever fully understand and we will all die despite our best efforts. Reason however should serve to enable us to live consciously in the present, without despairing into suicide or escaping into hope of a more glorious life after death. Life should be a conscious rebellion, revolt and defiance of mortality and the limits of existence.
How to be happy according to Camus :
Admit defeat in finding any substantive meaning to life. Live in the here and now, fully engaged in the business and tensions of this life, revelling in nature with a passion for life while sticking a finger to death and life beyond.
Five Quotes by Albert Camus:
You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.
Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.
Live to the point of tears
If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.
Make up your own mind about Camus by reading some of his work:
Nuptials (Noces) (1938)
The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe) (1942)
The Rebel (L’Homme révolté) (1951)