Friday, March 19, 2010

Bolts of Absurdity

Feelings of absurdity can strike people at any time. It’s like some random bolt hurled from somewhere that cracks open the mind to ask new questions about what’s it all for?

We’re always fascinated when we see this bolt strike other people. For instance, in the last issue of Travel & Leisure, a travel writer explored the bookstores of London. Then, suddenly, in the middle of the piece, it was if Camus took a wet eel and knocked this guy right on his noggin:

“I’ve developed a strange ambivalence about bookstores. I look at the piles and crowded shelves and the specials and the staff favorites, and – some days – I wonder what it’s all for. Why write another book to add to the subdued melee of bookselling? Who buys all these books? Who has time to read them all?”

Ahh… the absurd.

Why do anything? Why care about anything at all?

We wonder these kinds of things all the time. For example, this morning over hot tea and a crunchy bagel, the absurd made its move. Why bother working today, we thought. It’s sunny outside. We read the papers. We felt angry about the pathological stupidity of our government and wished them all dead.

But then it’s like those cartoons where a little angel pops up over one shoulder and a little devil pops up over the other, each with his own counsel. Except in our case, it is a little Albert Camus who pops up on our shoulder in a trench coat, smoking a cigarette. “Qu'est-ce que cela peut faire?” he tells us. “La vie est absurd!”

Of course he is right and equilibrium is restored. We laugh at the silly Congress people and go back to enjoying our tea and the warm sun filtering into the kitchen.

Not everyone comes to such absurd conclusions. Despair seems a common emotion. Tell a man that his life means nothing and – if he believes you – odds are he feels ready to jump off the nearest bridge.

Another common emotion is the “let’s put up a screen and hide this ugly fact!” These are the folks who want to create meaning or purpose of some kind. They may ask the questions, but then they provide their own weak answers… Well, family is important, they might say. Self-fulfillment is important, you know, being the best I can be. God is important.

But, sometimes people will draw the absurd conclusion, which is simply acceptance. It is a great philosophical shrug to the question of “What’s it all for?”

And we were glad to see this travel writer came to an absurd end. Rather than try to make a case for why bookstores were important… rather than prattle on about the importance of reading… or how “we do it for the kids”… this writer answered his questions this way:

“Other days, the same store has rich wonders, and I remember why I’ve been reading all my life.”

In other words, he gives the whole thing a big shrug. He enjoys bookstores because… well, he enjoys them. And that’s that.

Often we come to the same conclusion. We do what we do because we do. That’s the way it is. Not every movement has to be explained or rationalized. It’s just the way it is. Acceptance.

Why bother writing this blog at all? Why bother posting? We wonder about this too… and then we shrug. Because we do. That is enough.


  1. Wonderful...because it is...

  2. Amen. Bother writing this blog if you enjoy the feeling that you are giving comfort to the readers beaten half to death by the daily anti-absurd people who surround us.

    Peronally I *have* stopped doing anything. I am truly living a life where I create nothing, do no "productive" work, there is no synthesis going on. Not because of Camus, or this blog, but because I "burned out" on the desperate corporate striving so programmed into us. But I love this blog. Since I have chosen not to commit suicide, I now strive only to make my body and mind feel good. I may come around to performing synthesis again, but this blog helps me get through my "anti-synthetic" time in which I am truly living the truth: a non-legacy building, here today dust tomorrow life.

  3. Congrats to you Anonymous... and thanks for the kind note, Judy.

    That's one fascinating thing about doing this blog - the "discovery" that there are other people out there who are... well.... absurd!

    We are not so alone as we once supposed...