“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”
- Albert Camus
We were driving to make a 10 am meeting today… We were an hour away, but it was raining and the traffic was bad. We knew we wouldn’t make it the moment we rolled out of the driveway. We would be late… not only late, but royally late… late by maybe as much as an hour…
As we rolled along the beltway at 15 miles per hour, we reflected on this predicament. We could feel a part of us did not want to be late and worried what others might think. But our inner absurd man told us not to worry. We knew being late would change nothing really. It meant nothing. It didn’t matter. It was not worth getting upset over.
And yet still there was this part of us that was annoyed at being late. We had to fight it down, like trying to wrestle down a petulant younger brother.
But in thinking about it on the way, we realized again how much of the absurd goes against the hard wiring in our brain. There is something there that pushes us in anti-absurd directions. The absurd does not come naturally, we admit. It takes a conscious effort to retrain the mind to think differently.
By the time we arrived at our meeting, we were feeling very absurd… Nothing mattered. We were relaxed and cool. Life was good. The absurd, if nothing else, is a great mechanism to cope with life’s petty frustrations…
One other anecdote from the weekend… We were meeting with our family for dinner. Mom and dad, brother, wife and kids… And the conversation at dinner, as it often does, turns to matters of utter inconsequence… Whether or not my brother’s bathtub was as white as it ought to be… Whether or not we should get new cabinet hinges to fix the squeaks in the old hinges… Whether so and so go the job he was looking for… It was the usual riff raff of family get togethers.
We pined for some more interesting conversation… This trivia and effluvia had us wanting to walk off a pier… but again, the absurd kicked in. If nothing matters, then nothing matters – not even the things we think are important or more interesting.
We’ve talked about this before… about how, viewed through an absurd prism, a presidential election, for instance, is of no greater importance than a Sunday NFL game. And though we’d much rather pay attention to the latter than the former, we have to admit the game means nothing – win or lose. But neither does anything else…
In fact, this whole post is inconsequential, as is this whole blog… But we digress… We pounded out this post only to illustrate the absurd in action in every day situations. And, in fact, this is what interests us most about the absurd – not the abstract, but the concrete. Not the pie-in-the-sky ideals, but the usefulness in daily living.
We are particularly interested in examples of the absurd life - flesh and blood examples, living and dead, but also absurd depictions in books and film and art and more. (We encourage you to send us your favorites.)
In the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the old saying goes. We find the absurd helps us push our rock – even if, as with the absurd hero Sisyphus, the rock only rolls back down the hill again – and be happy in the ceaseless and meaningless pushing.
It as the great Albert Camus put it: “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”