At any street corner


How do you deal with absurdity? The feeling that nothing makes much sense. It is a pulsating force that does not subside.

My grandma died today. My granddad died last week. My mum went missing on Friday night and I was up all night, whilst my dad was out searching for her at 4am until around 8am. We were panicking hugely.
She then came home and said she’d met someone else and left, on Sunday, and hasn’t spoken to us since. It has been an awful week. Life slowly crumbling in less than seven days is difficult to rationalise, but I am trying to remain logical. I do not get overly sensitive or upset easily. I recognise that life is absolutely insane at all times. I recognise this, because I recognise that the universe is insane. Humans tend to try to rationalise the insanity and try to pretend order exists. It doesn’t. Chaos ensues. We lie to ourselves, and that in itself is absurd.

It is virtually impossible to have a week like this, and not want to laugh at every other triviality of life. At work, we’re told to we’re not allowed ‘designer stubble’. Am I supposed to take that seriously? Laughable. Pointless. A waste of a life adhering to. We pour drinks for rich people and occasionally get shouted at by management for absolutely no discernible reason. Food has to be presented at a specific side of the table. Bullshit after bullshit after bullshit. What is the point? Perhaps the point of my life, is to always be entirely at odds with that World. I tend to see the entire World, as Theatre. When my boss has important meetings and wears expensive suits; it’s a game. One big game. Like little kids with their toys. Often I will stand there, as still as a tree, in the middle of serving a rich person a drink, and think to myself “What the fuck is the point? What am I doing?” You start to question whether you’re actually alive. Conflictingly, I do not ever want to accept the bullshit, as if it is necessary and meaningful. I like that I reject it.

But then I am suggesting life has a point.
It doesn’t.
There can be no point in a universe void of point.
There is no purpose, there is no reason, there is nothing beyond the physical World. Even that, is simply the way our eyes and our ears and our nose and our touch perceive soundwaves and rays of light. It isn’t real. We invent the idea that our lives are supposed to have meaning or purpose. We will always find that the World does not have the sort of meaning we try to attribute to it. Absolutely nothing makes sense. God is nothing but a man made personification of fear, in all its various guises.

Perhaps we make our own neat little abstract theory on purpose. Perhaps my purpose is to recognise that life is absolutely pointless, and live life accordingly. I know what it is that makes me happy; so perhaps that is the pursuit of my ‘meaning‘.

Gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe.

– Albert Camus

In talking about the death of my grandparents, I keep hearing people tell me “Well at least they’re together again” and “They’ve gone to a better place“. I find this a little bit unnerving. As if my intelligence is being insulted, with make-belief stories. It is a nice little story we all tell each other because death is something humanity hasn’t yet evolved as a species enough to reject silly little stories of comfort. Religion fills this gap nicely. A kind of weakly tied bandage over the hole of absurdity. For the most part, if you look through all the evidence, and the contradictions, you will find that religion and the idea of a God in the organised religious sense, is absolutely unnecessary and illogical and a barrier to human advancement in the psychological, social and medical sense. The idea of an afterlife, whilst it is a comfort to people, is absurd. Not in the sense that it is obviously untrue; no one can possibly know that. But purely because humans are limited by our senses, and our perception of the World. That perception does not include an afterlife. We cannot know an afterlife. It is far beyond our scope of understanding, and always will be. So it is absurd to pretend that we do. It is absurd to wear religious garments. It is absurd to pray. It is absurd to follow religious rules in the vain hope that you will be rewarded (surely a God would reward true morality, rather than coerced morality?) Belief is absurd. I would rather not be comforted by something that to me, makes no sense, and in fact, I find an abhorrent mask. I prefer to look at the life of the person, rather than the death and ridiculous notion of the after-life of a person. The life, is what I know.

I am getting my first tattoo in January.
I have chosen to have it written on the left hand side of my torso, from the bottom of my chest, to my hip. It will be an Albert Camus quote. Camus is my favourite Philosopher. I find myself relating to everything I read of his. He recognised the pointlessness of much of what life offers, but the realisation and the happiness one feels when recognising how absurd life is. The simple things that make us smile. That is what one should be living for. Everything else, is bullshit.
The tattoo will read:
At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.

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6 Responses to At any street corner

  1. Black Flag says:

    Dump the tattoo idea. You’d just be playing the same “anti-game” of the game you are watching with absurdity.

    But with all this swirl around you – it is a swirl everyone will at least once in their lives face.

    And it will all makes sense the day you hold your newborn child in your arms.

  2. co says:

    if you want to put a tattoo, put something of your own, but wait some months or longer, because the current period you are in, makes you see less clear, you cannot help it, life is indeed a theatre, but not a meaninglessone…and what you think and feel is influenced by so many events and persons, surely at this moment in time.

  3. Sam Birks says:

    Shit. There’s nothing I can say that’s going to ease your pain, the reality of life just seems to present us with situations that leave us unconsoleble. I hope you can find the best way for you to make the negative emotions easier to experience, and maybe find some answers to your questions about the universe we inhabit. Xx

  4. I will be getting the tattoo. I wanted it prior to this. I very much love the quote, and it suits me.

  5. Lis says:

    I offer my condolences. I also offer, in the hope it gives some perspective, the following post from my fellow blogger at Paradigm:

    http://onceuponaparadigm.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/confucian-me-regaining-my-center-in-a-world-gone-mad/

    Like you, I am not religious. But I do have this kind of love for our fellow beings on earth, and so while I appreciate Albert Camus’ philosophy I try to strike a balance between finding everything absurd, and wanting to love my fellow man. It’s not easy but perhaps the post in my link may help. I figure it’s never a bad thing to try to find the middle path.

    I wish you peace in the weeks ahead,

    Lis

  6. Camus has always been my favorite philosopher/artist since I was in early teens (hence my avatar). I could ramble on here for much more than I should. So I will try to keep it short.

    Camus ends the Myth of Sisyphus: “I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

    This is life without appeal, as he would say. It is not that there is no transcendent meaning in the world. It is simply that we cannot know whether it does, although we desire to know, to have that clarity. Neither us clarity-seekers nor the silent universe in and ourselves are absurd. The absurdity arises when we find the two in a relationship.

    And so we struggle on, the struggle in and of itself, our burden(s)–what we know–those outlines of our life, that is what constitutes the meaning. Can we live with that? Camus says we can.

    Secondly, I am reminded of another quote by Rainier Marie Rilke that speaks to that moment when the absurdity of that relationship between us and the world hits us in the face: “We discover that we do not know our role; we look for a mirror; we want to remove our make-up and take off what is false and real. But somewhere a piece of disguise that we forgot still sticks to us. A trace of exaggeration remains in our eyebrows; we do not notice that the corners of our mouth are bent. And so we walk around, a mockery and a mere half: neither having achieved being nor actors.”

    I could say more. But I will end with: go with the tattoo, remembering that it is one’s response to being struck that is paramount: “In that daily effort in which intelligence and passion mingle and delight each other, the absurd man discovers a discipline that will make up the greatest of his strengths. The required diligence and doggedness and lucidity thus resemble the conqueror’s attitude. To create is likewise to give a shape to one’s fate. For all these characters, their work defines them at least as much as it is defined by them. The actor taught us this: There is no frontier between being and appearing.”

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