For whatever reason Albert Camus has been on my mind a bit lately. His is a name regularly trotted out by pro-lifers who claim it is a necessity to affirm life and that we must welcome our fate as human beings. Now don’t get me wrong, The Myth of Sisyphus is a noteworthy book if only for the very fact that it assumes that contemplating the ordinary absurdity of the world could drive one to the brink of suicide, a position so different from the staid dullness of Anglo-American philosophy that we owe Camus a debt for that if nothing else. And yet, the awful last sentence: ‘we must imagine Sisyphus happy’. Really? Why must we? Surely a happy Sisyphus would be regarded as insane or at the least highly delusional. Would it not be more noble if Sisyphus were angry, pissed off, suicidal?
Furthermore, Camus was far from neutral about human life. He had no doubts as to its ultimate value. Proof? He procreated. In fact his daughter is still alive. So in spite of it all, Camus was yet another one who gave the thumbs-up to this world despite its madness and carnage. This is why he’s currently enjoying a renaissance in France as a proponent of that awful, shallow, vapid, quasi-Nietzschean 'embrace life and be happy' twaddle that passes for philosophy amongst the shallow-minded.
Last time round I mentioned James Wood’s decision to procreate in spite of his awareness of the reality of the world. Since then I picked up a novel he wrote before the book from which I quoted his philosophical position. Here’s the narrator reflecting on the possibility of procreation:
But I was, and am, sure that I did not and do not want a child....My real objections were metaphysical. What right do I have to bring life into the world? To create a person who might, at some point in his life, wish that he were dead? Who might complain – to me, his father – that he had never asked to be born? True, we cannot ask to be created; that would be like Baron Muchausen tugging himself out of a bog by his own pig-tail. So we cannot complain that we were never consulted in the matter. But knowing this does not alter the truth that life, however enjoyable or pleasant, being imposed rather than requested is a sentence on us. That which seems uniquely ours – our life – is not ours at all, since we were voteless at conception.
Atheists and anti-religious philosophers have often argued that though life is meaningless, we should not commit suicide, since to do so is to surrender the necessary struggle with the sentence of life. But I think this presumes too much of life; suicide is no surrender of possession if we do not possess our life anyway. If life is meaningless, then suicide is meaningless too, and the reason not to do it is that to add one meaninglessness to another meaninglessness is not a solution but merely akin to a double negative in speech, a blocked statement. Since we did ont ask to be created, we can never have been free enough for suicide to grow any prestige of freedom. We cannot commit suicide – because we are not alive; we cannot freely end –because we did not freely begin.
Do I have the right to impose this sentence on someone else? Clearly not. Do I have the right to pass on my unhappiness? No.
Personally, I disagree about suicide: it does end the problem. I agree, of course, with everything else.
James is married to a novelist and has one son and one daughter.
I mentioned in the comments last time that Cormac Mac Carthy’s The Sunset Limited is available to watch online. For anyone who missed it, here’s a link:
And here’s the truest words ever spoken in cinema. Fast forward to 00:30 if you can’t bear the anticipation:
Don’t know if anyone’s heard of the Jimmy Saville scandal in the UK. Saville was a TV celebrity who raised over 40 million pounds for charity throughout his life and was knighted for his efforts. It’s now emerged he was a serial sex offender who abused his status to gain access to victims. Doesn’t he somehow symbolise the fucked up nature of humanity itself? A guy who committed more evil than most will do, hopefully, and a guy who did more good than most will do, unfortunately. Get me the fuck off this planet of schizo fuckheads.
Was ruminating on religion’s deepest desire: to save humanity. Yet look at the species closely and you’ll see there’s nothing worth saving. What is a human being? An embodied consciousness constantly tormented, striving and groping for an unattainable happiness and willing to wade through blood (other people’s) to chase it. And this is something worth saving? Give me a break.
Jim/Metamorphh has a new blog where people can debate points raised on his YouTube channel. It's designed to facilitate a more sophisticated, in depth and civilised exchange than YouTube allows. It's the DebateYouTube blog listed on the sidebar. Well worth a look.
Hope everyone’s as well as can be expected. A particular shoutout to Bazompora and Garrett. Guys, I hope the silence lately is due to the cruddy nature of the blog rather than any personal misfortune. Keep safe, everyone.