Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Laughing Buddha

“It was previously a question of finding out whether or not life had to have a meaning to be lived. It now becomes clear, on the contrary, that it will be lived all the better if it has no meaning.” – Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

We like to meet with our friend Bomstein at a local bar, which we’ve dubbed Absurd HQ. We go there and talk about the absurd, muse on the writings of Camus and how good the wood-grilled bratwursts are with the black & tan. We have met there so often here, we just feel more absurd when we walk in the door.

One of us is reading Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus again. We admit that it can be tough reading sometimes. On our first go-round, we were not sure what Camus meant about half the time. But keep going and there are wonderful turns of phrase, memorable observations and, certainly, a great argument that builds to a powerful conclusion. It is the kind of thing you can read more than once and get more out of it each time.

Camus inspires us to live life in full recognition that it has no meaning. The absurd man, Camus writes, “can only drain everything to the bitter end, and deplete himself.” Live life to the fullest, challenge the world anew every second, seize awareness at all times. “Living is keeping the absurd alive. Keeping it alive is, above all, contemplating it.”

The great thing about the absurd is just being aware. Just sitting there in the bar and knowing our small place in the world and how it has no meaning at all. It allows us to just be. Worries melt away.

We find the absurd is great in this respect. Think of its practical aspects. Beautiful women you might not otherwise approach without stumbling all over yourself suddenly become easy encounters. Bosses who used to induce terror and stress become the ridiculous defecating animals they are. That guy who cut you off on the way over here – forgotten!

The hard part in the beginning is reminding yourself of the absurd. Here we would offer some practical wisdom that has worked for us. Get yourself a laughing Buddha. In fact, get several.

We have them all over the house and they serve, for us, as reminders of the absurd. The Buddha laughs at the world’s troubles. We have one by our nightstand that laughs at us when we get up every morning. And we laugh with it. We have a bigger one right by our laptop in our office. It’s a nice carved Buddha we picked up in China. But any Buddha will do. Any reminder will do, really.

A physical reminder will help you cultivate constant awareness of the absurd. And you, too, will laugh with the Buddha.

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