Life is Absurd, And That's Okay

Our lives are what we make of them
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Created by jgvcoloma

Published on Mar 27, 2024
man pushing a bolder up a hill
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The Myth of Sisyphus”, is a philosophical essay written by Albert Camus. First published in French in 1942, titled then as Le Mythe de Sisyphe. Taking inspiration from the Greek legend of Sisyphus, who was condemned by Zeus to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch that boulder roll down the hill, thus having to roll it back up again. He was damned to repeat this for all eternity in the depths of the realm of Hades. The essay tackled the mundane and absurdity of human life and how we should ultimately view this seemingly meaningless life.

Throughout our lives, we are taught that our lives have meaning. Our lives are touted as important since they were supposedly given purpose by some all-powerful deity. In turn, we are expected to spend our lives dedicating all that we do to those deities. However, philosophers like Camus, Friedrich Nietzche, and Martin Heidegger assert that there is no predetermined “destiny,” and that we do not have any predetermined meaning in life. 

Humans are characterized by knowing the extent of our lives; we are supposedly fully aware that death is the only thing that is certain in our lives. We may go on, fighting to survive day-to-day and overcoming challenges, but we will ultimately die at the end of the journey. Existentialism claims that “existence precedes essence”, meaning that we are here first before we live the rest of our lives figuring out what our “essence” in life is. Existentialists continue to question their very existence by looking for reasons why they are put here on this world: the nature of living, what it means to be human, the concept of choice, and what makes this life authentic or worth living for.

As human beings, we are constantly looking towards how to make our lives better—even though there is no guarantee that it will become better. The very nature of man reveals the thirst—or rather the desire—of human beings to search for the meaning of life despite how futile it may seem. The question then becomes: why does one struggle to find meaning in life? Is it for love? For honor? Or is it for that sense of fulfilment once we have achieved something? While all these questions remain unanswered, it truly depends on how we choose to see our lives. 

“One must imagine Sisyphus happy,” Camus says towards the end of his essay. He suggests that we should imagine Sisyphus—though damned to roll the boulder up the hill, watch it roll down, and roll it back up again—is happy. Why? Camus wanted people to realize that we can accept this absurd life. Sisyphus knows that suicide is not an option; he did not want to give the gods the satisfaction of him ending his life just to end his suffering. Sisyphus realized that continuing on with his new life is an act of rebellion in which he is depriving the gods of gratification by accepting the reality of his punishment and rejoicing willingly with it. The message is subtle as it is sincere: Our lives are what we make of them.

Camus allegorized human life through his myth, touching on the pursuit of meaning, how purpose never leaves our being, and perseverance despite absurd lives. We continue living our lives to see tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. When it comes to Camus’ belief in the absurdity of life, I would like to think that I am in somewhat of a middle ground of agreeing and disagreeing with him. We live life every day with the knowledge that death is a guaranteed thing at the end, which might prompt us to ask: Why do we bother to live? 

On a personal note, a couple of years ago, random melancholic feelings (paired with the pandemic) had made me lose motivation to do anything at all. I found it frustrating to live my life in routine: I woke up, I ate, went back to sleep. At times, I would ask myself, “Why continue with this process when I will just be dead in the end anyways?” 

These thoughts pervaded my quarantined days, even as my family ceremoniously prayed the rosary nightly. While I didn't really like participating, I sat there to please my parents and grandparents. I am aware that my thoughts weren’t healthy, but reflecting on the inevitable makes it easier to think about the absurdity of my own life. 

Frankly, I don’t feel like myself when these intrusive thoughts come, and I do not like having to deal with them. But that is the reality of it. I have had lots of failures in my life, and at times, it seems no matter what I do, nothing seems to go my way. There were promises of better tomorrows that never seemed to come and good days that were merely overshadowed by the fact that it was all going to come to an end eventually. Death comes for us all. What we leave behind is the mere thought of who we were in the lives of different people. The world still goes on; the earth still spins once we pass. This, I believe, is what makes life so absurd. 

Despite all these admittedly pessimistic views on existence, I still believe that life is beautiful. Life is what we make it to be. This is a path set by Camus, the path of the Absurd Hero. He tells people to revolt against life’s absurdity, which is initially quite perplexing. How can we revolt against something that is inevitable? The answer, in fact, lies in the mundane activities in our lives. 

In the 1986 hit film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the protagonist announces, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The fleetingness of everything is only emphasized in such a simple quote. Most celebrations only last for hours: a friend’s birthday, a lunch date, or even a family reunion. These lightbulb moments make life worthwhile, and we find that the mundane things that happen before or after these events make up most of our lives. Whether it’s the drive to an event, the routine one performs in the morning, or the road one must walk leading to a friend’s place, these small, seemingly worthless moments in our lives, we can eventually start to notice how beautiful life is. Although I have stated that my life is plagued with failure and that I am frustrated by constant repetition, there are times when I find myself glad to be living in the moment. 

I find that listening to light music at around midnight to four in the morning feels a bit different than listening to it at any other time in the day; it offers this strange feeling of peace and tranquility. I remember the days I used to look up at the sky when I was going home from school and how awed I would constantly get to look at how perfect the “bubblegum” colors of pink and blue mix in the sky. Occasionally, I would be able to stargaze and bask in the majesty of constellations like Orion’s Belt. These are just some moments that help me find beauty in the mundane. You should try it. Stop for a moment, and just breathe. No need to think about what you will have for dinner, or what you will do tomorrow. Just breathe and recall the moments, no matter how small, that made you realize, “Yes, I don’t mind continuing to live.” It is perfectly normal to think that life is absurd, and that is fine.

Imagining now how Camus concluded that Sisyphus was happy, one might say that the philosopher made Sisyphus an absurd hero. Sispyhus was a person who, in the face of inevitable absurdity, chose to revolt against the very concept of an absurd life. Ironically, by embracing the absurdity of life, we can make a life worth living by choosing to revolt against the reality of our existence. You’re not supposed to think about the destination; you simply just enjoy the journey. As I’ve asserted before, life is what you make it out to be. To quote Gandalf the Grey from the iconic Lord of the Rings series, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Time stops for no one, so let us follow Sisyphus to make the most of whatever time we have left to continue on rebelling against the absurdity that is life. In the end, Sisyphus is happy. 

I am happy.

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