Are We Denying Ourselves of the Absurd?

Absurdism, a philosophical belief, brought about by Albert Camus as a branch off from existentialism in his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” (1955). Absurdism is belief rooted in the Universe being a place of absolute and purposeless chaos in which we cannot even pretend to control. Whereas the philosophy that it stemmed from was existentialism, simplified, is the belief that there is no God, and the only control we can have is control over ourselves. Absurdism takes a step further than existentialism in terms of loss of hope, think of it as a bridge to the other, as absurdism created its roots within existentialism and grew from there. For instance, rather than being able to control right and wrong in our own actions and hoping that it is reflected back into oneself, absurdism states that anything can happen to anyone, and everything is out of one’s control.

It is important to note the difference between absurdism and nihilism. Nihilism is the complete and utter rejection of anything and everything, one’s life is pointless, humans have no import and play no part in the working of the Universe. The different between the two lies in the fact that absurdism is not giving up hope, morals or even believing that life is meaningless. Absurdism is about accepting the chaos of the world for it is, it is not the world that is absurd nor the humans within it, it is however the combination of the two and watching as they fall apart together, thus creating the absurd.

Ever since World War II there has been increased popularity in both existentialism and absurdism. While existentialism has once again begun to sprout up amongst society, especially amongst people in the younger generations. It is important to ask: Where is absurdism?

Where existentialism leads absurdism will no doubt follow, as it is the next logical step in development from existentialism. Both philosophical beliefs tend to uptick when societies or cultures are in times of physical, emotion strife, or even both. As it explains one’s suffering, because at a certain point when reflected upon, people begin to notice that they may not be deserving of the struggles that they may be going through. Should they happen to believe in a higher power, doubt begins to creep in, until they come to the decision that their own actions dictate their suffering (beginnings of existentialism). Yet in a world where it feels as if global affairs, be them big or small, are manipulated against the people who need the help the most, regardless of the efforts put in to stop the inevitable, people feel powerless. Once again this begins to create doubt, in such a way where people begin to notice that it truly does not matter how they act or treat people, at the end of the day they will be suffering regardless.

This is where absurdism comes into play. When one has realized ones complete and utter powerlessness in regard to anything and everything, and is aware of it yet cannot change anything, they begin to see absurdism for what it is. It is not mockery. It is not the act of being absurd but recognizing one’s circumstances. It is fruitless to fight them, much like Sisyphus, he cannot stop his eternal damnation of cyclical punishment of rolling the boulder up the mountain, and watching it come back down, his work undone and waiting to be done once again. His situation is miserable, and he cannot escape, yet he can still be aware of the misery of his situation. Absurdism is asking the person who has made these observations not to fight them and change their situation, as it is impossible, but rather to embrace their struggles for what they are.

In this point in time, where suffering is widespread and the best efforts to change the way of the world appear to be fruitless and meaningless, there has once again been a rise in existentialism. It is present everywhere. People are frustrated with the way of things want freedom from any kind of control they view to be making their lives more difficult and/or oppressing them. However, take for example the political climate: those who wish to change the way of things, to make their situation better for themselves are often seeing their efforts thwarted, repeatedly. Thus, the next logical, popular belief and way of thinking is absurdism.

Although, it has yet to become widespread. A comment on the tirelessness and relentlessness of society. Would being able to laugh and accept one’s misery be the worst possible outcome? When looking at it from this perspective one can either fight a never-ending battle against their struggles, or sit back and accept the struggles and changes of the Universe for what they are, inconsequential. In the words of Martin Esslin, the coiner of the term Theatre of the Absurd, “The dignity of man lies in his ability to face reality in all its meaninglessness”. We are denying ourselves of the absurd. We are not yet ready to live in a world where we have accepted the meaninglessness and chaos of what the world actually is, to watch the nightmarish in consequentialism of our actions unfold and discover how meaningless we are in the Universe. It is up to chaos to decide what happens, not us, we must simply be aware of our situation and to live defiantly within the cards we are dealt.

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Chloe Verbestel

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