Back in the 1970s John Marshall and I went to the UK on holiday. We saw some plays, ran into Shakespeare Professor Homer (Murph) Swander after a play in London, and we saw Not I by Samuel Beckett. Over the years I have read and taught Beckett to several University classes – always an enjoyable activity.
Today in my email I received a note from another former student, Colin Whyte, who sent a link to a recent CBC programme on, guess who, Samuel Beckett! Listen to it here. It is good.
Over the years I have posted about Beckett many times (do a search from the home page) if you are interested. One here!
As readers of episyllogism know, I have a deep respect for the work of Albert Camus. I have written and lectured on his books and essays and still find him relevant in my life. His notion of the “absurd” has always resonated with me.
The ideas behind the development of the absurd hero are present in the first three essays of the book. [The Myth of Sisyphus] In these essays Camus faces the problem of suicide. In his typically shocking, unnerving manner he opens with the bold assertion that:
There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. (p. 3).
He goes on to discover if suicide is a legitimate answer to the human predicament. Or to put it another way: Is life worth living now that god is dead? The discussion begins and continues not as a metaphysical cobweb but as a well reasoned statement based on a way of knowing which Camus holds is the only epistemology we have at our command. We know only two things:
This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction. (p. 14)
With these as the basic certainties of the human condition, Camus argues that there is no meaning to life. He disapproves of the many philosophers who “have played on words and pretended to believe that refusing to grant a meaning to life necessarily leads to declaring that it is not worth living.” (p.7) Life has no absolute meaning. In spite of the human’s irrational “nostalgia” for unity, for absolutes, for a definite order and meaning to the “not me” of the universe, no such meaning exists in the silent, indifferent universe. Between this yearning for meaning and eternal verities and the actual condition of the universe there is a gap that can never be filled. The confrontation of the irrational, longing human heart and the indifferent universe brings about the notion of the absurd. – Source
An interesting essay in counterpunch draws on insights from Camus to argue that the use of drones in the fight against terrorism raises serious moral questions.
Our task is to shatter this indifference, to condemn and resist the killing done in our names, to reassert the primacy of individual life over state authority. Otherwise, we become accomplices of the long-distance executioners.
Albert Camus’ tombstone in Lourmarin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)