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Zakat's avatar

How do you deal with the absurdity of life?

Asked by Zakat (415points) January 12th, 2013 from iPhone

By “absurd” I mean what Camus meant by it—when you realize that life is a quest for purpose and meaning in a world which is inherently purposeless and meaningless, devoid of those concepts which bring meaning (eternal truths and values, God), what is your existential response?

Of course you might argue that those things do in fact exist, but I’d hazard to guess that all of us have at the very least been in a place where we feel the weight of such meaninglessness. All personal beliefs aside.

As reference, I’d recommend reading ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ by Albert Camus, or at least a good summary of it. But I’d also really like to ask the question in a vacuum as well. We’ll see how the discussion goes.

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20 Answers

Coloma's avatar

With absurd humor, I especially love irony.
I am very comfortable with and my ego is tame enough to simply observe the unfoldings with humor. I am not hung up on “purpose”, purpose is ever changing and I adhere to the mantra that my only true “purpose” is to be here now, fully engaged in the moment.
I long ago accepted that my life form is no more more or less special than any other life form, whether a redwood tree or a goose.
I embrace the gifts of my being and don’t sweat the small stuff, because it’s ALL small stuff.

How can one possibly take their life “seriously” when a 60–100 year lifespan is a mere micro-drop in the great cosmic bucket of the universe?
Just enjoy the spin you’ve been given on this mysterious planet in this mysterious universe.

bookish1's avatar

Yep, il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux. (We must imagine that Sisyphus is happy.)
I have been grappling with this question since high school.
I am religious, but I don’t need the certainty of universal meaning or absolute truth for my life to have purpose. I am responsible for investing my life with purpose. For me, that is researching and teaching, connecting with humans in the past and present. It is also loving others, being a sincere friend and lover and being present with people, and working to improve myself to be a better person.
I am grateful for this life; I would have died before the age of 5 if not for Western medicine. I am grateful to be able to freely be the person I am. I could not have lived in any other age. Anything that happens in my life now is a bonus.
When the absurdity of life gets to me, I either laugh or try to comfort myself thinking how far I’ve already come in the void.
Sometimes, life can be very beautiful, and I live for those moments.

“The point is we’re waiting, not how comfortable
we are while waiting. Paleolithic man waited by
caves for the realization of why he was there,
and hunted; modern men wait in beautified
homes and try to forget death and birth. We’re
waiting for the realization that this is the
golden eternity.”
—Jack Kerouac, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, part 16.

Great question, and welcome to Fluther.

blueiiznh's avatar

I awake, put my pants on two legs at a time and live each day with zest. I soldier on through the tough spots.

“we’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here…”

Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life. ~Seneca

SABOTEUR's avatar

Understand that a lot of daily events are simply nonsense, and not waste brain cells trying to find meaning or purpose where none exists.

(“You can’t make sense out of non-sense.”)

Sunny2's avatar

I’m with @marinelife. It makes me laugh. There is little that is so serious that I can’t eventually find some humor in it. I feel sorry for those who have no sense of the absurd.

tups's avatar

I’m not even sure how to answer this question, because I am not sure about what I do about it. Nothing, I guess. I do think about it a lot, though. I read philosophy, question everything, doubt any given truth. Is that dealing with the absurdity of life? No, I wouldn’t say it is. I don’t know what is and what is not, but I’ve accepted the lack of true knowledge in this world. I believe everything is about belief and I know nothing for real. It’s all about choosing what you want to believe in – some choose science, some religion, some nothing at all or everything in between. I’m not sure what I have chosen yet, but that’s the exciting, fun and tough journey of life.

flutherother's avatar

By dancing naked in the rain.

rooeytoo's avatar

Embrace the absurdity, you can’t fight city hall and we’re all in it together!

Shippy's avatar

My son is not meaningless, the people I love are not either. They are here now, they need me.

burntbonez's avatar

Existential absurdity is meaningless, itself. The joke is that anyone pays attention to Camus. He’d be a stand-up comic these days.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

Purpose to exist is to exist. That is it.
As far as dealing with life in general – I settle for the occasional evening with my friend Jack and some coca-cola. He and I have some laughs.

wundayatta's avatar

I think Camus’ point is that since there is no outside meaning, say given by God, we are free to create our own meaning. In other words, we can find meaning in anything we want. It’s up to us.

Most people find meaning in doing things for others. This provides an evolutionary advantage because people who can cooperate and help others will be able to go further and do more.

The absurdity is that people think there is a purpose that comes from anywhere but oneself.

ninjacolin's avatar

I think camus (as paraphrased) answers his own question and is essentially confused:

assumption: “life is a quest for purpose and meaning”
assumption: ”[the] world is inherently purposeless and meaningless, devoid of those concepts which bring meaning ”

The world is the truth and the laws of physics, our purpose.

Not just criticizing though. I mean to say that I deal with the absurd by realizing (not necessarily available to everyone) the above is true. I’m saved from the problem this way.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@burntbonez There’s a lot of wisdom to be found in comedy.

And of course existential absurdity is itself meaningless, but no one says otherwise. The question is just how we might deal with it, as many have a problem doing so when it first hits them.

Zakat's avatar

Love all of the responses. I guess in all honesty I do a little bit of everything you guys are saying. Including…the alcohol…haha.

However, I often feel like one must imagine Sisyphus…miserable. He has to spend an eternity struggling with the same burden. I do not think the life-affirming struggle itself brings any sort of meaning for Sisyphus, because so often that is not the case for myself.

I often ask myself, “Do I really want to put up with another 40 or so years of THIS?” In essence, I answer the question of “Why don’t we commit suicide?” with “Yeah, why the hell don’t we?”

…and then I offer myself a dark laugh. I’m not at all suicidal. Because there are other times that I do not feel that way, that is, I really do feel like there is worth to be found in the struggle.

I suppose I’d just like to admit that sometimes I don’t really see the point in creating my own meaning. I don’t feel like revolting, and I just want to give up and say “Hell, I’m ready to die now. This is pointless.”

Pachy's avatar

If Camus was right, I think the quest for purpose and meaning in a world which is inherently purposeless and meaningless is life.

burntbonez's avatar

And yet you don’t kill yourself. You still take some pleasure from life. Enough that making the effort to end it all probably doesn’t seem worth it.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@burntbonez Which was exactly Camus’ point, of course, along with the rest of the existentialists and absurdists. If nothing matters, then it doesn’t matter that nothing matters. You can make your own life worth living.

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