Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Living with passion

We have made numerous references to the concept of living with passion. Indeed, we believe this is one of the most important aspects of the absurd. Yet what does such a statement mean? Further, is such a stance not inconsistent with the recognition that life is meaningless?

Living with "passion" simply means one should enjoy life for what it is (i.e., meaningless). One should not live "for" material things, or family, or friends, or indeed anything other than the present moment - that being, in point of fact, all one can directly experience and influence. Thus, living with passion simply extols the benefits of embracing the world as it is.

The man who lives for material things is easily derided, of course. It has become de rigueur to criticize those who seek fulfillment in possessions; however, such comments are often misguided in that they assume it is better to live for things such as family and friends. But the man who lives for his family (or friends) does not live with passion. Instead, he deludes himself into believing there is meaning in his relationships; that his love for his wife and children (or network of friends) in some way transcends the physical world and creates import and meaning. Thus, he is no different from the man who believes "things" will bring him happiness.

The absurd man, by contrast, eschews all such beliefs. We, for example, went to a business dinner tonight. We ate, drank, and were generally quite merry, in large part because we did not assign meaning to the proceedings! We did not worry what the other participants would think of our comments, or our behavior, or whether we drank too much (or too little). We simply enjoyed the experience. Just as important, now that it is over we have moved on.

The concept of living with passion is really quite simple. All it entails is one's commitment to embracing the current moment and living it to the fullest extent possible. Such commitment is not possible if one is worried about what happened earlier today, or what might happen tomorrow, or whether his companions are angry at him. It is only possible if one truly embraces the meaninglessness of life, and chooses to thus live each moment as it comes.

As we have previously argued, we believe life is best lived as if one is merely playing a role. Thus, our dinner tonight was simply another scene in an ongoing play; one that will, like all plays, someday come to an end. Thus, our actions simple represented a "performance," or said a different way, our interpretation of the role played by our current character.

As we have also noted, these ideas are not particularly new (although that does not lessen their power). Consider, in closing, Shakespeare's timeless words:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


  1. I stumbled upon your blog and found its message intriguing and resonant on a sort of spiritual and aesthetic level. I have been reading back posts to try and get a sense of what the "absurd life" truly is, but am continually struck by the notion that there is a strong theme in your writing. That is, continually in your writing (and, it appears, your life) you return to the theme of living with the absurd. Every event and idea is viewed through this prism.

    A central theme of the absurd life is that it should not seek meaning. Yet isn't returning continually to absurdity itself a sort of meaning-making or meaning-seeking activity? Doesn't dwelling on and propogating the absurdity meme impose a narrative on your lives?

    I'm writing because I've been thinking a lot about what makes a life meaningful recently. I'm young, have friends and a partner, go out regularly, and thoroughly enjoy many moments in my life. But I keep feeling as though something is missing in my life, and I can't help but think that something is a narrative.

    Isn't some meaning-making required to make life livable? Doesn't absurdism deal with the conditions of life through the same formal tools that consumerism or being "a good family man" do? Once we have made the decision to continue living, aren't we faced with another inevitable decision--how to interpret our life? And that decision, it seems to me, has an infinity of answers that take only one form: "my life has meaning because..." Because once the first decision has been made--"I will continue living"--then the second is merely a way of justifying what is truly an absurd decision, a mere flip of the coin. In short, isn't devaluing the decision to chase money or family in favor of absurdism like spiting grass to grow clover?

  2. To the question "On we have made the decision to continue living, aren't we faced with another inevitable decision - how to interpret our life?" we answer "Yes."

    Our contention is that the absurd nature of our existence dictates in many ways how that interpretation ought to flow. And our blog is, in part, dedicated to figuring out how one lives in an absurd universe. There is no pat answer here, no ten commandments.

    Also, we are not "devaluing the decision to chase money or family." The absurd man looks at those things equally. To have a family or not, to work for money or not; these are equal pursuits. What the absurd man objects to is doing thees things out of a belief that they "matter".

    In an absurd world, such as ours, nothing ultimately matters and that is the liberating insight we use to pursue our own lives as we wish, emphasizing the present moment, the experiences and at peace with living a meaningless existence.