Albert Camus - How To Find Meaning In Life (Philosophy of Absurdism)
This video is sponsored by Fabulous. Fabulous is the number 1 self-care app to help you build better habits and achieve your goals. We will talk about Fabulous at the end of the video but for now let's get to how to find meaning in life from the philosophy of Albert Camus. Albert Camus was a French writer and thinker, who lived in the 20th century. He wrote mainly novels, most notably The Stranger, The Plague, The Myth of Sisyphus, The Fall, and The Rebel.
Due to the high quality of his work, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Camus is one of the most representative figures of the philosophy of the “absurd” or “absurdism,” which is a philosophical movement whose central hypothesis is that human beings exist in a purposeless, chaotic universe. Camus describes our condition as human beings through the analogy of Sisyphus from Greek mythology. Sisyphus was damned to push a heavy rock uphill, but before he could ever reach the top, the rock would fall down and he would have to start over and over again, for eternity. Just like Sisyphus, our condition is tragic and our actions might be meaningless.
Camus somehow saw this absurdism of life as a silver lining, that since life offers no meaning, we human beings have the power to create our own meaning, whatever that may be. Camus proposes three ways to deal with this meaninglessness of life: suicide, faith and acceptence. He rejected the first one - suicide, saying that there can’t be any meaning in death more than in life, he rejected the second one - faith because he considered it a suicide of our abilities of reasoning, concluding that it is only through accepting the absurdity of life, that our life would be worth living. The sooner you accept that life has no absolute meaning and that it is only you who has the power to create its meaning, the sooner you can become free and only from that point can you really start to live your life. The philosophy of Albert Camus is more relevant than ever in our modern life.
We often feel uprooted, having to choose between more options than ever before, being bombarded by technological devices, innovations, and information, each demanding our attention. So, to help you find your direction, in this video we bring you 5 ways to find meaning in life from the philosophy of Albert Camus. Seek something worth dying for Camus said: “What is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying.” Albert Camus believed that finding a meaning for living is one of the most urgent questions one should answer.
Across the world, every day, people commit suicide concluding that their life has no meaning, or life is not worth living. However there are also many people, across the world, every day who get killed for their ideas or beliefs that give them a reason for living, like soldiers defending their country, what often gives their lives meaning may also lead them to getting killed. Camus witnessed this dichotamy firsthand when he was part of the French resistance in WWII and saw many people dying for a noble cause; in this case saving their country from the Nazi invasion. Finding meaning in your life does not necessarily equate to preserving or extending your life, but simply to give it a direction you can follow, something that makes you not only fulfilled, but also offers something useful to your fellow human beings. Thus, a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying.
In our modern times, to find meaning, something worth dying for, is particularly difficult. There are too many options to choose from, we have a culture that glorifies consumerism and comfort, protecting us from most attempts to sacrifice our life for something noble and meaningful. Thus, life becomes absurd, we feel rootless, we have nothing to indicate how to live our lives, precisely because we have the freedom to choose between so many options.
However, in spite of this, we can still create that meaning by ourselves. What we have to do is to cultivate strong passions based on our wishes and desires and to organize our life around those strong passions, meaning that we should educate and develop ourselves in the areas we are most passionate about. Then we need to connect those passions with a set of goals that, once achieved, can impact our communities in a positive way. Make a list of all the moments in which you were working at something and you didn’t realize how quickly the hours passed or think of some ideals in life which make you happy only by thinking about them.
For example, you might remember how passionate you were to learn about different countries in school, about their culture, geography, economy, and so on, and how the time flew by when you were learning about it. However, later in life, you chose a career that had nothing to do with this passion, say you became an Accountant. Your life becomes full of routine and stability, but is also lacking passion, and is devoid of meaning.
But it is still not too late, you can still reignite that passion for exploring the world, you can choose to spend your holidays in a different country every time. You can choose to start writing a travel blog, share your experiences, share the information with your readers and, thus, your life will gradually become more meaningful and you will be happier because you get to do what you are actually passionate about! It might not mean that such passion is a reason for dying, but, without it, your life could lose all meaning to you, full of monotony, and with nothing to hope for. 2. Decide your future every day According to Camus: “Life is a sum of all your choices. So, what are you doing today?” As a philosopher of the Absurd, Camus concentrated his thoughts on the absurdity of life, believing that mortality is the only sure thing.
However, during life, we all face choices and must make decisions. There are people who are fully aware of their choices. Like soldiers, they make a life plan and they follow it until they achieve what they desire.
Because they have a clear vision, they know what they want, what can fulfill them and give their life meaning. But, also, there are many people who don’t know how to live their life, and don’t have a proper vision. This is because those people have not defined their own meaning of life. In order to make good choices, people should first know what skills and talents they have or want to learn, what kind of friends would be beneficial to them, what kind of partner they can share a life with, and what can make them happy.
If, for example, you discover that you find meaning in serving the needy and the poor, you can join an NGO, volunteer for a shelter or charity, or you can choose to be a doctor, nurse or medic. A med student driven by this mission would probably not choose to spend the night before an important exam partying with their friends. Every decision one makes shapes the future of that person. If said student decides to go with his mates, he might fail the exam the next day, and if it is a particularly important one, his future career could be in jeopardy. Thus, the future is decided every day based on the decisions you take and those decisions should be based on your vision of life, on your understanding of what the meaning of life is for you.
3. Cultivate love Camus tells us: “A loveless world is a dead world.” In his novel, The Plague, Camus describes how powerless we are as individuals when facing an epidemic.
When faced with such existential tragedies, human beings can discover the importance of human solidarity - the love between people, what unites them - and they often forget about what divides them i.e. political opinions, religious views and so on. In a tragedy, the boundaries are erased and the only important thing is to survive, to assure the survival of your loved ones and of your community. Societal rules become devoid of any meaning during that time. Your career, duty, and social image become meaningless as well.
It is only love which really matters, the power which connects us all. We often forget about the importance of human solidarity, we are swept away by life’s challenges, we are consumed with daily activities, working hard to make money, to assure a good living, but we can all-to-easily forget what is really fundamental, what makes us humans, and this is love. Camus often stressed the importance of cultivating love in life in general. A loveless world kills the man from the inside, resulting in a dead body performing daily routine actions like an automaton, not experiencing real happiness in life. Life soon becomes empty when love departs it and even great achievements like earning huge amounts of money or receiving high awards can become meaningless if you do not have someone to share them with.
Love can take many shapes: we can talk about romantic love, the love of a mother for her child, the love of a soldier for his country, the love of a doctor for patients and even the transcendental love for the whole of humankind. All these types of love help us to live a happy, prosperous life. There will always be some dark moments in life but it is love that can bring a person back from the dark to a brighter place. To cultivate love in life, there are some fundamental things one can do: choose a profession you love, marry somebody you love, spend time with friends you really care about, live in a country and city you really love, spend your free time doing activities you really enjoy, show through actions that you love your parents and other family members, choose a social community which you can love being part of, with which you share the same values.
For everything you choose to do and everyone you choose to spend time with, take as the unit of measurement the amount of love you have for those activities or human beings. If you do not cultivate love, if you stay in a profession you hate, a marriage to someone you no longer love, or even if you just live in a big city while you love the countryside; no matter what other achievements in life you have, if your surroundings and people are not the ones that suit you, this will eventually become poisonous, and strip your life of meaning. We are all emotional beings and following what we love can guarantee us more happiness and more meaning. 4. Be your best at each moment To quote Camus: “Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.” Camus considered that the only way to change the world is through constructive and life-affirming acts of rebellion.
Following the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, Camus stated that freedom is not a state of comfort, but a state of rebellion, in which you give your all to the present moment. He even famously said: “I am a rebel; therefore I exist”, highlighting how important it is to have a rebellious attitude towards life. He praised Simone Weil in particular, who, as she lay dying of tuberculosis, defied her doctors’ orders by refusing to eat more than the rations her compatriots in Nazi-occupied France were given.
Camus acknowledged her heroic act as an act of rebellion against injustice, no matter the consequences it had on her later. To follow your own sense of justice is to make no calculations of what you could gain or lose later. To really honour the future and what you consider valuable, you need to honour the present, to give your all, to honour your values and follow them.
The means do not justify the end in Camus’ view. If you are betraying your current self for a future self, you dishonour yourself. To be true to yourself and always give your best in the present moment is highly important. Imagine you are working in a company, you see yourself as a person of integrity and you work hard in order to become a manager in the future and the decision for that will be taken by your line manager.
Then, one day, you discovered that said manager falsified some data in a document to make the results of a study look good. You have two options: to shut up in order to keep this person in his job with the hope that he will nominate you as his assistant manager or to tell a higher authority in the firm about what he did. If you honour the values you have, one of them being integrity, you would report your superior to upper management. If you think of what you can gain or lose through this action, you will not.
You have to behave in such a way that you maintain your self-respect at each moment, you should not betray your values and who you are for any gain you might achieve in the future. Without values, life can become meaningless. If you are not a person of integrity, if you betray yourself often like in the given example, you may lose your self-respect, you might feel ashamed next time you look into the mirror. On the contrary, by following your values in life, by living a life of integrity, your self respect and pride will rise, giving your life meaning, to be a better person every day, with each good decision you take.
5. Find strength in the darkest moments In our final quote from Albert Camus for this video, he says “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” In absurdist philosophy, there are two aspects: the first is that humans are constantly looking for meaning and the second is that the world does not provide any such meaning.
According to Camus, when the desire to find meaning or, as he described it, “the invincible summer” and the lack of meaning “the depth of winter” collide, this is when the absurd is formed. Individuals can become entire universes in their own right. By acknowledging the absurdity of seeking any meaning in the outside world, like in society, in the relationships with other people, and continuing this search within ourselves, we can gradually develop meaning, find our freedom and our true “passions” and only in this way can we live our lives fully. The internal core of your being is the only reality you should confide in, it is like “an invincible summer”, that protects us from the external world which is devoid of meaning.
Especially when you face very difficult times in your life, such as traumatic episodes, you must stay connected to this inner core, to this “invincible summer” in order to come out safe from these difficulties. We all go through traumatic episodes from time to time, although the degree of intensity varies. We might feel like losing control of our lives after we are fired from a job for example, or we might feel lonely after a close person leaves us say through divorce or death, or we might feel incapable to imagine our future for example, if a natural disaster washed away your home and possessions and you're left with nowhere to live, a source of income and so on.
After such events, we realize how fragile our life is, how absurd it is. And once we realize this absurdity of life, we can start to build our own interpretation of events from there. For example, imagine that you have debts at the bank, you were fired from your job and your spouse left you.
This might be one of the darkest moments in your life, when all of your hopes for the future are ruined and you are desperately in search of a solution to solve these problems and, more importantly, to make sense of what happened to you and why. To find that “invincible summer” inside you, there are some techniques which you can use to build yourself up again: you can always choose to spend some time in solitude, and analyse the situation. Instead of cursing your life, complaining about everything going wrong, and drowning in self-pity, it is better to retreat for a while, spend more time in solitude, and try to find meaning in this situation.
Do not think of what you or they could have done better, but rather be gentle with yourself and make peace with the fact that the past cannot be changed. Try to think what lessons you can learn from your situation and how you can apply them in a future one. Thus, through solitude, you can create a meaning out of the suffering, whatever it may be. You can also invest some time into writing a diary, pouring your heart into your writing, trying to make sense of the situation; although very hard, you should also try to write a gratitude list in which you say thank you for the good things you still have, perhaps good health or high intelligence; then you might imagine that it could have been worse, you might have been unable to find another job, but, luckily, your country is prosperous and you know that there are many jobs out there that you can apply for.
After you made sense of where you are now in life, that there are still good things to live for like going for a job in another company where you can show your skills and talents in your work, and that you still have yourself; that no matter what happens, as long as you are friends with yourself and you are able to reason, a pen and paper is all you need to lay down the plans for your next move. That invincible summer is your own self, which, armed with reason and a good plan, can help you face any difficulty in life. As we mentioned at the beginning this video is brought to you by Fabulous.
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