Camus at 100: Rock On!

Interesting piece in the LA Times about the 100th birthday of Albert Camus. Here's a snippet:

Camus is famous for two works that plumb absurdity. In "The Stranger," Meursault senselessly kills a man — an act the absurdity of which is revealed only when others demand in vain a reason. "The Myth of Sisyphus," in turn, considers the punishment meted out to the mythical king of Corinth, condemned to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a mountainside, only to watch it roll back down. Both heroes overcome their absurd fate by embracing it, by making it their own. We must, Camus concluded, imagine them happy.

But by the time the books were published in occupied France, Camus was no longer happy with their conclusions. The absurd, he scrawled in his journal, "teaches nothing." Instead of looking to ourselves for answers, as do his heroes, we must look to others. We are, Camus recognized, condemned to live together in this silent world. Our deepest impulse, once we realize the silence will never end, is to refuse this state of affairs. To shout "no" to the world as it is, to shout "yes" to the world as it should be.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Veronique de Rugy.

If you ever dug Camus (or still do), I highly recommend George Cotkin's Existential America (2003). From a review:

"To be existential," writes Cotkin, "is to wrestle most fully with the jagged awareness of one's own finitude, with the thunderbolt fact that my death will be my own, experienced by no one else....To be existential is to recognize, in the face of all these somber truths clutched close to our own sense of being, that we must act."

Cotkin's most original insight is something that escaped Camus and the others: "Existentialism, American style...jibes well with American antinomianism, that willingness of the lonely individual to rebel against entrenched authority in the name of his or her most intense beliefs. Antinomianism, like existentialism, challenges easy certitude, entrenched religion, and moribund political assumptions."

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  • Caleb Turberville||

    Albert Camus, the other great mind of 1913 of course being Bear Bryant.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'd link to video of the Cure's Killing an Arab, but I'm just too filled with ennui.

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    "I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate"

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Which reminds me of a quote from Wednesday night's South Park, "Well, now he just sounds like a self-righteous asshole."

  • Paul.||

    Nope, it'll just be a cop who perceived your furtive movement as a threat to officer safety, followed by a bureaucrat cutting a check to your next of kin while admitting no wrongdoing.

  • Brett L||

    Say what you will about National Socialism, Dude...

  • Tman||

    "Existentialism, American style...jibes well with American antinomianism, that willingness of the lonely individual to rebel against entrenched authority in the name of his or her most intense beliefs. Antinomianism, like existentialism, challenges easy certitude, entrenched religion, and moribund political assumptions."

    Please, do go on...

  • ||

    "To be existential," writes Cotkin, "is to wrestle most fully with the jagged awareness of one's own finitude, with the thunderbolt fact that my death will be my own, experienced by no one else..."

    I submit that every experience that one has is that persons experience alone, experienced by no one else.

  • PH2050||

    Agreed.

    And in this case I would add that since death includes the cessation of sensory organ function it is impossible to experience death. You will simply cease to experience.

    I support the development of extreme life extension technologies for humans.

  • ||

    As do I.

  • Jquip||

    Yeh, but that means that everyone will experience your death except you. Probably on Youtube even.

  • Paul.||

    an act the absurdity of which is revealed only when others demand in vain a reason. "The Myth of Sisyphus," in turn, considers the punishment meted out to the mythical king of Corinth, condemned to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a mountainside, only to watch it roll back down. Both heroes overcome their absurd fate by embracing it, by making it their own. We must, Camus concluded, imagine them happy.

    [...]

    Our deepest impulse, once we realize the silence will never end, is to refuse this state of affairs. To shout "no" to the world as it is, to shout "yes" to the world as it should be.

    Which always gets me to thinking...

    If any of you are into some obscure Japanese Anime (no tentacles!) that doesn't include inappropriately dressed school girls with huge eyes, and you're into the stuff I cribbed from the post above, there's a film called Sky Crawlers. It has some of THE most spectacular animated aerial combat sequences you'll ever see... ever, but the flipside is that outside of those sequences, it's a bunch of young pilots in a kind of parallel WWII universe sitting around considering the crushing meaninglessness of existence.

    I'm still not sure I like the film, but it's fascinating in its characters' constant existential crisis.

  • ||

    "...a bunch of young pilots(Japanese)...sitting around considering the crushing meaninglessness of existence."

    See TMan's link above.

    Also take note of Japan's suicide rate being the highest in the world.

  • Paul.||

    See TMan's link? I'm DOING Tman's link!

    So yeah, there's actually like a two minute sequence in the film where one of the new pilots folds a newspaper. You think, "Two minutes, that's not THAT long".

    No, watch the film. You'll realize just how long two minutes is when you're watching a guy fold a newspaper.

  • ||

    It has some of THE most spectacular animated aerial combat sequences you'll ever see.

    Itano Circus or GTFO!!!

  • Paul.||

    Googling now.

  • ||

    Cowboy bebop deals a lot with the isolation of being and the inability to truly connect with another.

  • Paul.||

    Cowboy Bebop is effing awesome.

  • Paul.||

    Cowboy Bebop has action. It has women, it has guns. It has shootouts. It has snappy dialogue, even in the english dub.

  • Rasilio||

    Wait, you mean people actually like his crap?

    I mean I had to read a lot of shitty books in high school but by far "The Stranger" was the worst with the only other one even close being Red Badge of Courage

  • ||

    Whoa, dude. Hold on. What about A Separate Peace?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Grandma: When I was your age, kids made fun of me because I read at the ninth-grade level.
    Lisa: Me too!
    Grandma: Although I hardly consider "A Separate Peace" the ninth-grade level.
    Lisa: Shyeah, more like preschool.
    Grandma: I hate John Knowles.
    Lisa: Me too.

  • ||

    Exactly.

  • Rasilio||

    I only vaguely remember that one.

    The Stranger on the other hand almost made me want to kill myself. Not because it inspired a fit of existential angst but rather the realization that there were people in the world who considered existentialism to actually be a valid philosophy and thanks to those people I just had to waste 3 hours of my life reading one of the dumbest books ever written.

    That said during my Senior Year I did a count of the books/plays I was required to read throughout my high school career. There were 35 of them, 29 of which were at least marginally depressing. I considered this to be evidence that our teachers were trying to encourage us to commit suicide

  • Brett L||

    The Stranger was the place where I originated my theory that all French high literature is about death and/or prison.

  • Warty||

    It's not that bad. The part where he pushed his friend out of the tree provided me jackoff fodder for weeks.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    What don't you like about it. I think Sisyphus counts as among the most interesting philosophical works ever.

  • Rasilio||

    I don't know Sisyphus as I havn't read it and it has been almost 30 years since I read The Stranger so some of the details are quite foggy to me but here is why I thought it was so stupid.

    It is quite evident that the point of the book is to examine something about the human condition, that it it is actively intended to be a philosophy book. The problem is the book fails to actually look at anything real as NONE of the characters behave in anything resembling a human manner. TV Soap Opera characters are booth deeper and more believable as humans than anyone in this book. Further even though it was a philosophical book it was still a story and as such needed to have a plot that made some sense, but again the story fails and has George Lucas level plot holes (namely the murder was not senseless, it was quite clearly self defense and in the real world he almost certainly would have been acquitted).

    Yes people get depressed, yes they can occasionally feel disconnected from the world around them but nobody capable of functioning in society as long as the main character did lives in a permanent disassociated state like he was portrayed as being in. Episodic existential angst is believable, persistant existential angst is a sign of SEVERE mental illness and as such tells us almost nothing about the human condition.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I'm not really sure having characters behaving unlike they would in the real world is a valid criticism.

    Considering the only other philosophical novels that I am familiar with, namely those of Ayn Rand, and I see oddly behaving characters there as well. I mean, in what world would Howard Roark dynamite a building?

    Like Camus, Rand had her characters behave in ways that would be hard to believe, yet by doing so, she was able to portray her deeply abstract philosophical views.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Also, factor in that Camus was deeply influenced by Nazi totalitarianism. Is it really that much of a stretch to put yourself in Camus's shoes during 1942 and to understand the deep existential ennui Camus was dealing with?

  • Brett L||

    The one by Zora Neale Hurston with the ether-huffing dentist and the chick who nursed her kid 'til he was 13?

  • Caleb Turberville||

    In all seriousness, Albert Camus deserves serious props for being an early intellectual opponent of the Soviet Union. True, he was about 10 years behind George Orwell, but still, he didn't shy away from labeling the USSR as totalitarian.

  • Paul.||

    antinomianism

    *sigh*

    Dictionary.com, here I come.

  • Brett L||

    He didn't like dudes spankin' it.

  • Paul.||

    My googles-per-post have dropped significantly since Cavanaugh left. So, hat tip to Gillespie.

  • Brett L||

    Ze googles! Zey do notzing!

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Wait, Cavanaugh left? Next you're going to tell me Lucy was let go.

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