Suppose you’ve ever read works by absurdist philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre or Albert Camus. In that case, you know that they posit that life is fundamentally meaningless and that we must create meaning in the face of this absurdity.
While this may sound depressing initially, a certain freedom comes from embracing an absurdist viewpoint. This post will explore what it means to live with an absurdist perspective and how it can be a liberating and fulfilling way to approach life.
What is Absurdism?
Absurdism is a philosophy that asserts that the universe is fundamentally meaningless and that human endeavors, especially attempts to find meaning or purpose in life, are inherently futile. Absurdist philosophers argue that our search for meaning is ultimately a Sisyphean task, as any meaning we may assign to our lives is ultimately subjective and fleeting.
The concept of the absurd can be traced back to ancient Greek mythology. In which the gods punished hero Sisyphus for his hubris and treachery by being condemned to roll a boulder up the hill for all eternity. Only for it to roll back down again as soon as he reaches the top.
This image of Sisyphus has become a symbol of the absurdity of human existence, as we constantly strive for something (success, happiness, etc.) that is ultimately unattainable.
Why Embrace an Absurdist Perspective?
At first glance, the idea that life is meaningless may seem depressing and uninviting. But a certain freedom comes with accepting the absurdity of existence. When we stop searching for grand purpose or meaning, we can focus on living in the present and finding joy in the small, everyday things.
Embracing an absurdist perspective can also help us to let go of the constant pressure to achieve and be successful. Society often places a lot of value on accomplishment and material possessions. Still, an absurdist point of view reminds us that these things are ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme. This can be a liberating realization, as it frees us from the constant need to achieve and allows us to find fulfillment in other, more meaningful ways.
Here’s a famous quote from Camus’s book “The Stranger”:
“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn’t. I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. I had only a little time left and I didn’t want to waste it on God.”
It is quoted by the narrator, Meursault, as he reflects on his life and his choices. In the quote, Meursault acknowledges that he is uncertain about what truly interests him but is certain about what does not.
He then talks about opening himself up to the “gentle indifference of the world,” which suggests that he has accepted existence’s meaningless and absurd nature. He also mentions that he has only a little time left, which could be interpreted as a reference to his own mortality and the fleeting nature of life.
Finally, he states that he does not want to waste his remaining time on God, possibly indicating that he has rejected traditional religious beliefs and the idea of a higher purpose or meaning to life.
This quote captures the themes of meaninglessness, uncertainty, and acceptance central to absurdist philosophy.
How to Live with an Absurdist Perspective
So, how does one go about living with an absurdist point of view? Here are a few tips:
Focus on the present moment: One of the benefits of an absurdist perspective is that it helps us to let go of the past and the future and focus on the present moment. Rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, try to embrace the present and fully find joy in small things.
Find meaning in your own way: While searching for meaning may be futile, that doesn’t mean we can’t find our sense of purpose or fulfillment. Experiment with different activities, hobbies, and pursuits until you find something that brings you joy and a sense of purpose.
Embrace the unknown: The inherent meaninglessness of life can be unsettling, but it can also be exhilarating. Embracing the unknown and the unpredictability of life can be a liberating experience, as it allows us to let go of the need for control and enjoy the ride.
Seek out beauty and wonder: Even amid absurdity, there is still beauty and wonder in the world. Make an effort to seek out these things and find joy in life’s simple pleasures, such as nature, art, or spending time with loved ones.
Take responsibility for your own happiness: Since we must create our own meaning in an absurd world, it is up to us to find happiness and fulfillment. This can be a daunting task, but it is also empowering. Take control of your own happiness, and don’t rely on external factors or other people to provide it for you.
Practice gratitude: Gratitude is a powerful tool for finding meaning and joy in life. Make a daily practice of noticing and expressing gratitude for the things you have, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.
Find comfort in connection with others: While the search for meaning is ultimately a solitary journey, connecting with others who share a similar perspective can be comforting. Seek out like-minded individuals or join a group or community that resonates with your absurdist point of view.
Living with an absurdist point of view can be challenging, but it can also be a liberating and fulfilling way to approach life. By focusing on the present moment, finding meaning in your own way, and embracing the unknown, you can learn to find joy and purpose amid life’s inherent meaninglessness. So don’t be afraid to embrace the absurd and see where it takes you.