The Myth of SisyphusAlbert Camus
Taking it’s title from the legend of Sisyphus, and his eternal rock-pushing, analyzes a contemporary intellectual malady, the recognition of the absurdity of human life.
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This book is for those who have sat in their existential crisis long enough to realize that there is no point to life, no ultimate Truth, and no eternal transcendence. Without the promise of a greater purpose, a loving god, or a divine path, the existential philosopher is faced with a bleak and hopeless reality: existence is absurd and hope is only another illusion. It is only natural for one to then wonder why they should continue living at all.
I was in a similar (frankly depressing) place when I found this book. Although the discussions of suicide at the beginning will make it inappropriate for some readers, I found Camus’s perspective strangely refreshing. Unlike most discussions on this topic which are often focused on finding reasons to live and to hope, Camus met me where I was at by assuming that ideas such as hope and a greater purpose do not truly exist. He postulates that “life has no meaning” is the beginning of philosophical questioning, not the end. By focusing on reality and avoiding mystical and manufactured solutions (i.e. deriving meaning from one’s occupation and/or hope from a higher power) to the existential anxiety that underlies an awareness of absurd reality, he reaches the conclusion one’s very existence constitutes a revolt. That is, choosing to remain alive when there is no reason to do so and sitting with the tension that is created through desiring meaning in a meaningless world is, in itself, an act of rebellion. Paradoxically, I found that is is through this acceptance which is, by necessity, devoid of hope, that living has purpose.
The book is beautifully written and Camus explores the Absurdist philosophy from many angles and cites a few examples of Absurd living. I struggled to understand a few of his points due to my ignorance of certain philosophers and stories that are referenced in this work; I suspect that someone more familiar with them would appreciate their inclusion. Overall, if you’re struggling with the oppression of the daily grind and a meaningless existence, I highly recommend this book.