Tag Archives: The Myth of Sisyphus

What is Life?

Today, I was talking with an old neighbor of mine, and we kind of got to talking about life.  Just life.  Ya know, the thing that many claim to have an answer to.  Usually that answer is “It’s crazy,” or some variation of uncertainty.  Well, she just said that people grow up, go to school, get jobs, work until they cannot work anymore, and basically wait to die.  Is this really life, though?  I’m only 17, so I don’t claim to have some kind of answer for what exactly life is, but I’m pretty sure that there is more to it than that.  When Thoreau went to the woods to suck the marrow out of life and forget everything that was not life, he was running away from these institutions.  He deemed that going to college and working at a job until retirement is NOT life.  Has our media, society, or education led us to believe that life is all about the things that she mentioned?  Probably, but still some fault has to be given to we who live in this society.  Since people report the news and their interpretations of it, since people form and mold society, since people teach us how to think and sometimes WHAT to think, we are responsible for this emotionally and aesthetically vacuous perception of what life is.  In fact, it is usually this kind of thinking that leads people to thoughts of suicide or even the enactment of these thoughts. 

In his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus says that we are drawn to this brink because what we want to find in the universe is irreconcilable with what actually IS in the universe.  This is known as the absurd.  Camus thinks that the way to living a novel and fulfilling life is to 1). accept that these things are irreconcilable and 2). remain perpetually aware of how irreconcilable all of this is.  We must rebel against any attempt to answer or reconcile these two things, accept that we’re free to do whatever we want, and live life with a diverse array of meaningful experiences.

That’s not much better.  In fact, thinking about that kind of depresses me.  I can accept the second and third propositions, but for some reason I cannot accept that what we want and what actually is are irreconcilable.  If you were to make it your life statement to do what you want, when you want, and however you want it, wouldn’t your life become a pursuit of passion?  And if you pursue passion, wouldn’t this allow you to find it in the universe?  And if you’ve been wanting it (you must, since you are pursuing it), then by logical conjunction, you have just reconciled something that is irreconcilable.  Perhaps this is how we should live.  Live passionately.  Never put yourself out of any moment, since they can offer you some kind of intrinsic reward, no matter how dull or trite it is.  Try many many many things.  Try it all, if you want.  Teach your mind how to misbehave and find the fun in any situation.  But most of all, make it MEAN something!  Anything!  Even if you present a life that means there is no meaning, you still have made it mean something to you that you can accept and, hopefully, be proud of!

I know this is really broad, but it surely is a start.  This same formula can work for anyone leading any kind of life, from atheists to the most pious men, from journalists to scientists, from children to the oldest maids.  The point is LIVE!  Don’t just live in a way that now dead men have lived.  Make your own way. 

As Emerson said, “envy is ignorance and imitation is suicide.”  It seems that most of our mentors, most adults want you to commit suicide through imitation.  If you are refusing to be who you really are, you are killing who you really are.  If you envy anyone, it is because you do not know what exactly they have to live with every day, what they must do, the path they must walk.

In the same essay, Emerson went on to say “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members… The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.” Especially today, schools are pushing to teach students how to be scientists and engineers and other such jobs, which they are noble pursuits (if this really is your calling, go for it), but what about the students who hate math, detest science, despise the postulates and theorems that we are forced to regurgitate for the teacher’s paycheck?  Are we really any smarter or wiser because of this?  We must be taught how to think, examine ourselves, know how to do with others, basic functions (like cooking, maintaining cars, etc.), and that is about it.  The rest is either speculation or garbage that someone else wants us to know.  We need to strike out, learn what really matters to us, and run with that.  Stick to your guns, kids.

Again, I do not claim to have any kind of answer.  This is merely just a proposition similar to Camus’s.  Perhaps he is right.  Maybe there is no answer nor meaning to it after all.  But we cannot be afraid to search for the answers and meaning.  We can make of life what we wish.  Our minds are that powerful.  Use yours how your calling needs you to use it, and before long, you will find your nirvana.