Saturday, December 19, 2009

Don't sweat those holiday plans

We – Inigo and Rick – were enjoying hearty stouts and wood-grilled bratwursts the other day at a comfortable alehouse nearby we dub Absurd HQ. (We call it that simply because we meet there so often and talk about the absurd. Now, just walking in the door makes us feel very absurd.)

Part of the conversation this time centered on anti-absurd behavior around the holiday season, mostly from our wives.

It is ironic that Christmas is a holiday that evokes cheerful goodwill and merriment, because it sure seems to cause a lot of stress among so many. Gifts have to be bought. Decorations have to be laid out. Intricate plans emerge. There are parties to go and cards to mail and preparations of all sorts.

Well… this weekend we got a history-making snowstorm on the Atlantic seaboard. We peer out of our window and see the glowing Christmas lights on our neighbors’ houses. White snow blankets all. Even the street has yet to see a plow. It is extremely beautiful. We gaze out of our window in wonder at nature’s fine handiwork.

But our wife was not so pleased when word broke that this storm was on its way. “Our plans are ruined!” she declared. The party we were to host we cancelled. The Nutcracker play we were supposed to go to on Saturday was also canceled. The city shut down.

“So what?” we said. “It doesn’t matter. We’ll play in the snow. The kids will be delighted.” She came around to our way of thinking. Really, there was nothing to do but accept it. It’s not as if we could change the weather. And it quickly becomes obvious it’s not worth stewing over.

So, we played for hours with the kids in the snow. We had a great dinner with goodies we had bought for the party. It all worked out just fine.

We think this illustrates some points of the absurd in microcosm. In life, too, things happen that “ruin” our plans. Things happen that we must accept because we cannot change them. And none of it is not worth getting upset over. You just have to keep pushing that rock and learn to accept.

The absurd man accepts. That is an important part of his worldview. As Camus put it, “what [the absurd man] demands of himself is to live solely with what he knows, to accommodate himself to what it is.”

That seems like such simple wisdom to us. And yet so many people seem so willing to carry so many self-imposed burdens. The absurd has helped us in this regard. For the absurd man doesn’t worry because he knows nothing matters in the end. He will die at some point in time unknown to him; but he will certainly die. He does not take the leap of faith that there is some world that awaits him beyond death’s door. The absurd man embraces the seeming pointless and random character of existence and aims to live his life with passion in the here and now.

The absurd doesn’t have all of the answers, but it does seem to make the questions superfluous. It certainly puts those plans in perspective...

Enjoy the snow!

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