Friday, November 14, 2014

ALBERT CAMUS’ GOOD ADVICE ON LIVING FOR THIS PRESENT MOMENT

Ever since studying French in high school some 45 or more years ago I have loved the works of Albert Camus [pictured left] and, in particular, his novel L’Étranger (The Stranger/The Outsider).

There is a philosophical tension in Camus’ philosophy of life. On the one hand, life is absurd, irrational, futile, and manifestly unjust, but on the other hand we are rational beings—at least in potentiality—and therefore not absurd. Additionally, it is possible for us to be happy even in a world of tragedy, irrationality, manifest injustice, and suffering.

There is also a creative tension, both in Camus’ works and in life itself, between oppression, bondage and oblivion on the one hand and freedom and joy on the other. Each of us will die, and death is a process which begins the very moment that we are born. Still, we are ultimately free, and ever the more so if, paradoxically, we learn to live without hope. Yes, we must abandon hope but yet not despair.

The ‘hero’ of the book, Meursault, is condemned to death. He eventually comes to terms with his impending and inevitable death by realizing that life, indeed the entire universe, is benignly indifferent to our fate. Toward the end of the novel, just a short time before he is due to be executed, and after he has put that pesky priest in his place, Meursault soberly reflects ...

I’d passed my life in a certain way, and I might have passed it in a different way, if I’d felt like it. I’d acted thus, and I hadn’t acted otherwise; I hadn’t done x, whereas I had done y or z. And what did that mean? That, all the time, I’d been waiting for this present moment, for that dawn, tomorrow’s or another day’s, which was to justify me. Nothing, nothing had the least importance and I knew quite well why.

Now, do you have regrets about the past, perhaps about certain acts or omissions on your part? Well, let the past stay in the past. So, you could have lived that way, or this way, but what does it matter? You are here now … and that’s all that truly matters.

Do you have certain hopes and expectations for the future? What if those hopes and expectations are dashed and never fulfilled, which could well happen? Face it. You are here now … and that’s all that truly matters.

You are … herenow. Now is the only moment you truly have. Now is the portal through which we experience the present moment, indeed every moment … but only one moment at a time.

Do we have free will, or is everything a matter of fate and destiny? Or are both ideas true? Having studied philosophy deeply for many decades, I say this---we really don’t know. Those who think it is one or the other or both are really making what is only an assumption. The truth is, none of us knows for sure whether determinism is true or free will is true. But one thing we do know is this---life is short and death is inevitable and invincible.  In the words of Omar Khayyám:

Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain — This Life flies;
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.

In other words, every thing passes, withers, and dies. And that includes us. Despite what some would have you believe, we cannot change that destiny, but we can, I assert, still choose how we will spend the present moment, and each and every one of the present moments between now and death. Yes, it is in the present moment that you are 'justified'.

So, here you are … right here … in this present moment of the eternal now. Why not live mindfully---that is, in and with full and choiceless awareness and appreciation of the present moment … and for the present moment ... and the one after that … and the one after that … and the one after that ... until you come to that day when all moments cease and you are engulfed by the fulness of the enormity of eternity.







1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Ian. I didn't know about Camus. I'll have to read The Outsider. This is really useful.

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