Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gone Bamboo, II

Inigo Montoya on assignment for the "Who Is the Absurd Man?" blog...

(Yes, it's a tough life...)

We are in Nicaragua, visiting an absurd buddy of ours from college days. He has gone bamboo, as we wrote about here.

There is the beach… the sun and the waves… He lives a very laid back lifestyle, free of many of the distractions and chaos of modern life. He lives simply. He seemed to not have many material possessions. In fact, he told us when he moved here five years ago he took only what he could carry.

He has since picked up things while here. He is not an ascetic. He has a TV and DVD player, a bookshelf of second hand books and even an internet connection. But it is all modest and yet somehow very comfortable. And always we could hear the ocean.

He doesn’t work at the moment. The cost of living is so cheap; he only has to work occasionally to live pretty well. His living expenses he told us can go as low as $500 a month.

The food is fresh and good. You could eat a big dinner with a couple of beers and it would cost you about three dollars. We walked through an open-air market in the nearby town...

And there you could find fresh seafood pulled out of the sea that morning. A rack of these beauties cost you only about $1.

We were feeling very mellow and absurd the whole time we were there. For whatever reasons, the ridiculous and futile nature of life back home seemed readily evident here. Really, it is as Thoreau once wrote, somewhere, that men need little to be happy.

These feelings made us want to chuck it all and head for life in the sun. As Rick wrote about in his post here, our pangs for going bamboo (GB) have made us think.

However, after being here a week, we have to say we’ve come to a different conclusion than the one we expected. In fact, Rick tipped our hand in his post the other day.

What we started to realize is that this thing – this pang for GB – is really all in our head. The absurd is a sensibility. It’s a way of thinking. There is no reason why we can’t be just as absurd at home as here. Somehow, that seems more clear to us now than before.

After all, we frequently are critical of those that drive themselves to be rich or famous, those that grasp for some arbitrary measure of success. And it occurs to us that the GB pang is no different. It's a grasping of a different sort, but a grasping nonetheless. It is hardly consistent with the equanimity of the true absurd man, able to find a sense of contentment in whatever circumstances he finds himself in.

The truth of the matter is that there is no absurd lifestyle. There is no "absurd way to be." It's all inside. Absurd men can go live on a beach in the GB fashion. But an absurd man may just as well live in a big city and seem, to the outside world, a hard-working fellow.

Camus dealt with these ideas in Myth of Sisyphus. "The lover, the actor, or the adventurer plays the absurd. But equally well, if he wishes, the chaste man, the civil servant, or the president of the Republic. It is enough to know and mask nothing."

He also uses this wonderful metaphor. The absurd men are, he says, like princes, but "they have this advantage over others: they know all royalties are illusory."

The key conclusion then is simply this: The absurd man can live like any other man, The difference is he knows it's all an illusion. The absurd man knows that nothing matters in the end.

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