So, here goes nothing. I haven’t been sleeping, which means early mornings reading the same pages slowly and repetitively. In the spirit of slow evolution, I’m compressing my reading into my own understanding of a miniscule portion of existentialist thought. I’m writing it because maybe it’ll give me a little perspective as sleeplessness leaves my inhibition inoperable during the day. Without further ado, Abrsurdism from a crippled mind.
Our senses and our reason are the only way we experience this world. However, the universe is something that neither our senses nor our reason can ever fully explain. The distance between our questions and our definitive understanding of the universe is Camus’s notion of the Absurd. In the Absurd are the explanations and experiments we pose to bridge this gap—however all of them fall short of an answer.
Given our limited ability to interact with the world around us, the questions of purpose, meaning, and the finalities of life will go unanswered. Realizing this, we experience our existential crisis—questioning our existence and its place in this world. This leaves us with the choices to lose ourselves in the Absurd, finitely or infinitely, and embracing our life of absurdity.
Puzzled by our existence, we can choose to become lost in the finite. We can enter our existential crisis, armed only with our mind, and dissect all the information we have on our life. In that dissection, we can find and assign value to the joys and heartbreaks from these desiccated experiences. They will be devoid of the complexities of context and subjectivity, but we can create a system that fools us into believing we have found meaning and purpose.
This most commonly looks like the person who toils through the experiences of their life and finds patterns at the moments they deem important—and they develop superstitions. They examine practices before good and bad events and from them design a code of conduct that create a system they can allow to supersede true decision and a confrontation with the world. The person then shrinks from the world, comforted by this finite vision of the universe. Camus would call this, a philosophical suicide–finding an ideology that allowed you to escape acknowledging the nonsensical world.
In the absurdity of our existence, we can choose to become lost in the infinite. We can succumb to the myriad of choices in a universe where anything is allowed. Faced with absolute freedom, we can freeze that moment of crisis, stretching it across our entire existence—never picking a direction.
This is the quintessential college graduate who rots in their parent’s basement, jobless and without aspiration, as they wax poetic about all the things they will accomplish—someday.
An existential crisis is a moment, not a state of being. It is meant to be something we come to and make our decision—knowing certainty is never going to be absolute. This is where Kierkegaard’s leap of faith comes in. In our crisis, where “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom” we weigh all the options and we make a choice, regaining our control over our existence, but freely and of our own volition.
However, our certainty is in our senses and our reason. Our own sense and reason. We can argue over the validity of senses, where they derive from, and what they detect. We can argue over our mind, abnormal psychology, and the way they may deceive. But, we can think and we can sense in one way or another—these are our certainties. With these we can accept the inability of the world to explain itself and accept what we enjoy. The sensory pleasure, the things that bring our mind peace, those unexplained joys become our solace in the face of Absurdity.
This all boils down to a thought for me: the purpose of life is to place yourself in the world where the product of your work feels like a reflection of how you see yourself.