Albert Camus: How to become happy

The question of the value of life was the subject of controversy for many thinkers of the first half of the 20th century. The world then experienced two of the bloodiest wars in history, in between which the global economic crisis erupted. Faced with the cruelty of the world, people of that time began to think about the true meaning of everything that is happening. They were concerned with the question: was there anything besides suffering that explained the significance of human existence? For the French Algerian writer Albert Camus, the answer sounded unequivocally “yes.”

Who was Albert Camus

Born into a poor family in Algeria, which at that time was a French colony, Albert from childhood realized the cruelty and injustice of the world. His father died from injuries received during the First World War, and his mother worked as a housekeeper, barely managing to provide for herself and her son. Albert himself dreamed of a football career, but the tuberculosis acquired by him at the age of 17 violated the plans of the future writer.

Camus recovered, managed to serve in the ranks of the French resistance during World War II, after which he devoted himself entirely to literary activity, until a car accident ended his life at the age of 46.

Despite all the difficulties he faced in his short life, Camus is the author of one of the most optimistic philosophies of the 20th century, and many of his ideas do not lose their significance even in the conditions of the current crisis.

What Camus was talking about

Together with his existentialist colleagues, Camus rejected the idea that the universe has a higher meaning (which people are desperate to understand).

Good is often incomprehensible, evil remains unpunished, and chance determines most of our lives. However, this also distinguishes Camus from other existentialist thinkers, the whole point is our need to understand this crazy existence that we call life or, as Camus himself defined it, absurd.

Camus Absurdity

The universe can be a chaotic and unkempt space. And if so, then the people in it are nothing but an independent awareness of this space. Our curse and blessing is to be intelligent beings in this irrational world. Camus called this condition “absurd” – a state where a person is forced to comprehend a world that cannot be understood.

Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels the thirst for happiness and knowledge. The absurdity is born from this confrontation between human need and unreasonable silence of the world.
– The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus –

Life in the absurd is not just a tough position, but a painful and strong-willed opposition to this inevitability. Camus believed that each person in this situation should choose one of three options: suicide, “leap of faith” or the recognition of facts.

Suicide, in his opinion, was a recognition of the meaninglessness of life. Even for the existentialist Camus, who calls our world absurd, this was unacceptable. As a football fan, he gave a sports analogy: if the points scored in the game do not matter, then play for the game itself.

Camus also did not suit the second option. The “leap of faith” or “philosophical suicide” was used by the writer to determine the tendency to dispel doubts and find a comforting explanation for everything that happens. This may be religion, alcohol or just a blind attempt to give answers to the most difficult questions.

In addition, under the “leap of faith” Camus meant an appeal to totalitarian ideologies, such as fascism or communism. This also includes high consumerism, senseless faith in pseudoscientific theories, or other delusional ideas with which various “theorists of life” try to describe our world. The refusal of our own mind for the sake of alleviating our anxiety was the very living death of which Camus spoke. Accordingly, for him there was only one correct option: the recognition of facts.

The only way to preserve our rationality, according to Camus, was to recognize the alienation of the universe, but still continue to love life. You need to understand the absurdity of what is happening, but not allow yourself to be destroyed by it. This idea Camus clearly illustrates in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus.

According to the plot, a certain Sisyphus, in order to deceive the gods, tried to escape from the nether world when it was time to die. In punishment for this, the gods called him eternal suffering. Sisyphus had to lift a huge stone uphill, and somehow it was only he who did this, the boulder was rolling down again. And then the hero started all over again. It went on forever.

Although the very thought of the fate of Sisyphus may make a modern person shudder, Camus indicates that we are not too different from his hero. Every day we get up early, go to work, go back from her house, eat, go to bed and the next morning everything repeats again. Like Sisyphus, our efforts and achievements are ultimately meaningless. All efforts, stresses and discoveries have no heritage, except what our closest ancestors will remember. And with their departure, the last mentions of our life will be erased.

But despite this, this is the happiness that Camus is talking about.

In the depths of winter, I finally found out that an invincible summer lives inside of me.
– “Return to Tipasu”, Albert Camus –

“The real generosity to the future is to give all of yourself to the present,” writes Camus. The real challenge in the face of the indifferent Universe (or the Greek gods, as in his essay) is to recognize its absurdity. Agreeing with the aimlessness of the general plan, your difficulties will not seem fatal to you, and you will find happiness in this endless cycle of fate.

This is the lesson that Camus learned in his football years. We should be able to play with enthusiasm, giving all our efforts and getting joy from the process throughout the journey. In the end, this is just a game, and we must recognize its transience. This awareness will make us humble, even if in the end we are defeated. Nothing will change. The players will leave. And the field will remain as empty as it was before.

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