Monday, April 5, 2010

Operation absurd

Take it easy, take it easy
Don't let the sound of your own wheels
Drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can
Don't even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand
and take it easy
--The Eagles, Take it Easy

We embarked on an undercover operation last night in the spirit of our last post. Attending an Easter party with some decidedly anti-absurd people, we played the role of...well, just a "regular" anti-absurd person. Mainly this consisted of not pointing out the inherent absurdity of others' positions, and joining in (often heated) conversations about a variety of topics. We also spent a lot of time listening.

The experience was very illuminating.

Put simply, while we accept that absurdity is a "minority opinion," something we have not focused on all that much is the depth of most people's illusion about reality. It is, in a word, staggering. The concept that there is no meaning to our actions is so foreign, such a fantastic concept to many people, that it might as well be tossed in a bin with time travel and warp speed. Pointing this out, therefore, is on par with explaining financial markets to a five-year-old--you get a lot of blank stares and changing of the subject.

Importantly, this does not necessarily mean some of these people don't understand, or even sympathize with, the absurd on some level. But for many it is simply so overwhelming they choose (consciously or not) to block it out rather than consider its implications.

This is a shame. As we have chronicled, we have found the absurd to be a wonderfully liberating philosophy. We actually saw a great example of this recently on the television show House. Greg House (an absurd character) mentioned that he found the concept of nothing mattering to be liberating, which caused one of his colleagues to exclaim "You think it's comforting to believe this is all there is?" To which House replied "I think it's comforting to believe this is not all a test."

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...


  1. "You think it's comforting to believe this is all there is?" To which House replied "I think it's comforting to believe this is not all a test."

    Nice quote to polish off the entry!

    I enjoy this blog, for I find that we folks who try daily to be "awake" and recognize the absurdity all around us enjoy surrounding ourselves around kindred spirit (yet another reason I choose to start off my day by reading a few pages from uber-absurd Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius' Meditations . . .).

    Aurelius encourages us all to recognize that--despite others' arrogance that they know Truth and Reality and dismiss any absurdist notions we may set forth--we are, indeed, social creatures and duty-bound to one another. So instead of climbing into our caves and resisting the world, we do our best to challenge and engage others, "setting the note high" and hoping to challenge others for the better.

    The anonymous authority--essentially the invisible tyrant that governs our collective culture (read: the tyranny of the masses)--needs our absurdist perspective. We do a public good when we help others challenge assumptions underpinning their lives.

    Of course, we also have to be careful and recognize that the masses also had no choice to kill Socrates, someone who challenged all to directly face their cultural assumptions.


  2. Rick and Inigo--

    I'm also curious if you're willing to share with us what generation you belong to (Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millenials, etc.)? I ask only because I've been studying generational patterns in-depth of late, and I generally believe that it's MUCH harder for both Boomers and Millenials to embrace the abusrd.

    I'm a Gen Xer, born to parents of the SIlent Generation. I find that Boomers and their Millenial offspring tend to react most sharply when cultural assumptions are challenged. My theory is that there's a significant thread of delusion and uber-denial that unites these generations (that the Boomers inculcated in their own lives and have--by default--passed along to their children).

    Meanwhile, I'm a Gen Xer, and I find it's *much* easier for me to engage in others about absurdist thought with fellow Xers. We Xers tend to embrace radical honesty and feel overwhelmed by the delusion and denial that the generations before and after us proffer (hence, the "tyranny of the majority" that we Xers find ourselves contesting daily . . .).

    I know I'm generalizing here, and I apologize for the sweeping moves, but I know that many of your readers can surely relate to the delusion of which I speak (Boomers' insistence that they'll live forever [!} . . . no ned to plan on retirement . . .and the Milennials and their "trophies," for all Milennial children are above average . . . and don't anyone question that view or else!).

    At any rate, I'm an Xer, and I think my lot gets the absurdist stance far more clearly.

    Thanks for letting me share--


  3. I don't think the possibility of 'absurdity' even presents itself to most people...the 'fact' that everything has a purpose and there is so much 'more' than here seems to be very ingrained in most...too's nice to think that nothing matters...

    Was listening to a conversation on quantum conscientiousness this is that one above me...and the main thing that entered my mind was 'why???'

  4. I'm almost done with (a first read of) Total Freedom.


  5. Weighing in as a devoted follower of this blog, maybe Brian would like to know I'm at the very tail end of the boomer gen, born in 1962. However 'Generation X' by Douglas Coupland was a book I could relate to when I read it in my 30's. So naturally, I defy definition, ahem!
    BTW, FWIW, 'Take It Easy' is a Jackson Brown song; not that it matters. -gatorcog

  6. We are both "Gen-X"ers (about 10 years younger than gatorcog). Good question as to whether the absurd is more "palatable" to certain generations - we don't pretend to have the answer...

  7. Judging from my introduction to the absurb-- a very painful depression which took a year and a half to transform into an appreciation for my absolute freedom, I am not at all surprised that the majority of people can't or choose not to recognize the absurd. It seems like human evolution shows a strong leaning toward an anti-absurdist mind set. Odd, I would have thought our relatively more stable emotions and less reactive approach to life would prove more beneficial than an unquestioning adherence to the dominant memes of the times.

  8. We did not evolve during times when survival was at all easy - even relatively short survival.

    We still have many of the animal traits as the evolutionary path to hominids was long itself.

    You can see for instance that humans in many ways are more fit for survival in certain situations than dogs.

    Evolution is not perfect. We are not perfect for any environment, but we are pretty well adapted to quite a variety (as evidenced by our total domination of the planet and all other species). And even though the anti-absurd standpoint is not as good for me as it would lead to a lot of stress and probably an earlier death, it may have been fine for getting to puberty, having some kids, and dying at 30, which was a great accomplishment 100,000 years ago.

    (Going against the dominant memes of your tribe may not have been too safe in many circumstances.)