Normally you have the conception that philosophy is a discipline devoted to answering questions and questions such as “what is life”, “what is the meaning” and “why are we here”. But Albert Camus was clear about the answer: life is an absurdity, it has absolutely no meaning and the universe is totally indifferent to our existential questions.
Camus will call absurdity at the distance that mediates between the search for meaning on the part of human beings and the absolute indifference of the universe to this question. The absurd is the search for meaning to something that simply does not have it. Put another way: human life is inconsequential to the huge universe that surrounds it.
In fact, if we think, the human being has only been in the universe a tiny fraction of time: 300,000 years of the 13,700 million year that the universe has.
All great actions and all great thoughts have a ridiculous reasoning. Great works are often born around a corner or at the door of a restaurant. And the same absurdity. The absurd world draws its nobility, more than any other, from this miserable birth.
The myth of Sisyphus
The myth of Sisyphus tells that the same Sisyphus (Prometheus for Greek mythology) was punished by Zeus for stealing the fire of the gods and giving it to men. His great astuteness provided him with an eternal punishment consisting of Sisyphus carrying a huge stone up the hill to the top of a mountain. Once the stone reached the top, it fell again and Sisyphus began to raise it again, again and again and again with the same result; so all eternity.
With this myth, Camus wants to show how futile and vacuous human life is, based on repeating cycles (eating, sleeping, working)… Actually, we are all Sisyphus.
The absurd and suicide
According to Camus, there are different ways of reacting to the absurdity of life. The first is the one that is overwhelmed by this vital absurdity that feels like a prison: the path of suicide.
The loss of the supposed individual sense of life, which for some is their work, for others a loved one or health is sufficient reason to end life. If that which is our reason for living goes away, it becomes our reason for dying.
The absurdity and the existence of religions
Another way of reacting to the absurdity of existence is what Camus calls “philosophical suicide”. From philosophical suicide comes the idea that there are other metaphysical worlds, worlds like the Christians’ heaven, worlds in which we reincarnate, etc. That, in a certain way, frees us from thinking that this present life is in vain and without meaning. Kill the tension we live in the present life.
Among the metaphysical ideas he also included utopias such as communism, which he called “religion without God”. Incidentally, Camus was expelled from the communist party in which he militated after exposing this theory.
«All morals are based on the idea that an act has consequences that justify it or erase it. A spirit imbued with absurdity judges only that these consequences must be considered with serenity. He is willing to pay. In other words, although for him there may be responsible, there are no guilty parties. All the more will consent to use the past experience to base their future actions».
Camus sees in suicide a correct (consistent), though somewhat cowardly, way of dealing with the nonsense of our existence.
The way of acceptance
For Albert Camus, simply accept that life is absurd, that it has no meaning in the vast universe where we live and, even so, live with enthusiasm, with passion, generating works of art, enjoying … it is the only way to be in this world. The absurd does not have to be an ordeal, but there is also the possibility that it is redemptive. Acceptance is the true rebellion against the nonsense of our lives.
In any case, for Camus it is inconceivable that we can build a sense of life before accepting that he does not have it. An acceptance that on the other hand, should dissuade us from such an endeavor, which would be a conciliation with our own nature. In his words:
“From the absurd I have obtained three consequences: my rebellion, my freedom and my passion. With the single game of consciousness, I transformed the invitation to death into a rule of life…”