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Posts Tagged ‘Albert Camus’

I had the pleasure of seeing Michel Onfray speak last night in Montreal, a philosopher that I admire greatly. He is the first voice that I have heard in a long time, besides Chris Hedges, that speaks to me directly and holds an understanding of the world very similar to mine. It is always great to hear oneself in the words of someone much more eloquent, but it is also such a special moment when we read someone who understands our idols like us. One thing that I admire most of Onfray is his mission to make philosophy accessible to everyone, much like Camus who believed that we should ensure that philosophy does not only stay in the hands of the professionals, when this is the norm we are faced with philosophers who write for philosophers only and what is the point of that? Michel Onfray, to continue with this personal mission, founded the tuition-free Université Populaire at Caen where he and several colleagues teach philosophy and other subjects. The Université Populaire, which is open to all who cannot access the state university system, and on principle does not accept any money from the State – Onfray uses the profits from his books to help finance it – has had enormous success. This concept and specific inception is based on Onfray’s book La Communauté Philosophique: Manifeste pour l’Université Populaire (2004).

I find this concept to be exciting and necessary, especially in these – Occupy Wall Street, Maple Springs – reactionary times, the popular university in an incredible tool to be able to offer an education by the people for the people. I used to feel uncomfortable with the elitism that permeated my Master’s philosophy classes, the notion that specialized language – which alienates anyone that has no working knowledge of the material – somehow gave it validity and helped to reinforce the academic ivory towers. Camus was of the same opinion if you ask me, that is why he said repeatedly that he was not a philosopher, if we use a Hegel or Sartre as an example, writing texts that are extremely complexes and lost in specialized vocabularies, then yes I agree that he was most definitely not a philosopher. Also, this type of philosopher would say that it is a completely cerebral activity; one of writing books that no one really understands except for the small circle of contemporaries. Camus, on the other hand, lived his philosophy. He believed like Nietzsche that he had to say Yes to life and wrestle with these ideas every day in all situations and expressing in diverse mediums – novels, essay, plays, articles – and with a language that tried to include everyone in the debate. Always focusing on the human – whether it be the human sentiments felt during the Algerian war for independence or any other situation where one had to look at the world with honest eyes – was always a priority for Camus.

If we are to continue these micro revolutions (Maple Spring, the Occupy movement), we must assure that philosophy and other revolutionary ideas be brought to the general public and out of the hands of the professionals. Caen was the first popular university, there are already other copies that have sprung up in France in Lyon, Narbonne, Arras, and other cities, and I was pleased to find out that there is also one in Montreal. This movement must not lose momentum, and it can bring a milieu where people can gather and contribute in the development of radical ideas and theories. With these “institutions” we can work to rehabilitate materialist and sensualist thinking and use it to re-examine our relationship to the world. Approaching philosophy as a reflection of each individual’s personal experience, inquiring into the capabilities of the body and its senses and encourage society to celebrate them through music, painting, and cuisine.

I am calling for a postanarchism, I advocate an anarchism in line with Orwell, Simone Weil, Jean Grenier, Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari; a Nietzschean revolt in order to put an end to the “One” truth, revealed, and to put in evidence the diversity of truths, to help make disappear ascetic Christian ideas and to help arise new possibilities of existence. This is a call to everyone, people sick of living in this unjust world. Michel Onfray is accused of not being 100% objective in his works, when he despise someone he really tears them a new one (i.e. – Freud, Sartre), and when he admires someone he will paint a generous picture of them as people and their philosophies (i.e. – Camus, Nietzsche). I am of the same school, it is hard for me to believe and fight for the vision of someone that did not live by their philosophy. The more that I look into the life of Camus, the more I see a generous, humble, and moral man; and that is how we can start this Nietzschean revolution!

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We all have a Bucket List, it can sometimes seems like a never-ending list as we grow older and gain more knowledge of the world around us, but there are always certain items that seem to carry more importance. I was lucky enough to be able to check off an important item on my ever-growing list. I got to see the last resting spot of the person that has probably had the greatest impact on my personhood, and the village that he decided to exile himself from the city. I know that some of you that know me are probably curious about this, so I have decided to bring you on a Camus inspired tour of Lourmarin, one of the most beautiful villages that I have ever set foot in the middle of Provence, where France meets scenery reminiscent of Algeria Camus use to say while resting on his terrace.

Albert Camus was searching for a house, back in september 1958 he is about to buy a house with his Nobel Prize winnings  the old house of Doctor Olivier Monod, this is where his wife Francine and his two children will begin a new chapter in their lives. It is from this terrace that Camus is able to gaze upon the Luberon mountains which remind him of the plains and mountains of Algeria. His house is now located on Albert Camus street, the house as we can see is very unassuming and helped him live a life that is more private, getting away from the St-Germain des Pres world in Paris. “30 septembre [1958]. Un mois passé a revoir le Vaucluse. Acquis celle de Lourmarin.” (Albert Camus, Carnets III ed. Gallimard, 1989, p.258)

Camus discovered Provence through the eyes of his mentor and friend, Jean Grenier, he had known Lourmarin during the 1920’s, he was also a friend of Bosco, which made that he had some serious roots in Lourmarin. Camus was seduced by the way that Grenier described this village in Cum Apparuerit (“Je ne puis lire aujourd’hui ces vers anciens, sur la gorge du Luberon, que commande le château de Lourmarin sans penser aux poemes de Bosco” [Jean Grenier, Cum Apparuerit, Les Terrasses de Lourmarin, 1930, pp. 25-30), so when he arrived in 1958 he wrote to him to say “Je mets mes pas dans les votres.”

Soccer played a crucial role in the life of Albert Camus, since the age of fourteen he was extremely involved. Starting at the Association sportive de Montpensier, and then became the goaltender for the junior team Racing Universitaire d’Alger. When he lived in Lourmarin he assisted at almost every game of the Lourmarin team, which was composed of the youth of the village. It was also common for him to take a coffee with them after the games at the Ollier hotel terrace to discuss strategy and the game that had occurred. At Albert Camus’s funeral in 1960, it is the local soccer team that carried his casket out of the church to the graveyard, a reflection of his love of the game and the impact that it had on the community. “J’appris tout de suite qu’une balle ne vous arrivait jamais du coté ou l’on croyait. Ca m’a servi dans l’existence…” (Roger Grenier, Albert Camus Soleil et Ombre, Paris, ed. Gallimard, 1987, p.14)

Suzanne Ginoux had worked for the Monod family, the old owners of the new Camus residence. A women of forty years, Suzanne and her husband Leonce, live on the same street near the village’s church. Near Francine Camus, her new boss, madame Ginoux was considered to be by Francine as her true confidant. “Ce n’est pas une femme de ménage que j’ai, c’est une soeur.” (Olivier Todd, Albert Camus une vie, ed Gallimard, 1996, pp 737-739)

The Ollier hotel is a landmark in the village that was important for me to see, and I had a hard time finding it seeing as how it no longer exists as a hotel. This hotel had a special meaning to Camus since his first meal with long time friend Jules Roy in 1946, a tradition that brought great pleasure throughout his life. I arrived in the village and looked around, but hunger set in and decided to stop at this really nice and quaint restaurant to rest and refuel, to my surprise as I exited refreshed, the restaurant that I had chosen (L’Insolite) was actually located in the old Ollier hotel. I was able to see what attracted Camus to wanting to eat there with friends in the sun. This hotel which was bought in 1892 by Ludovic Ollier became a staple for this village, and even Bosco spent a great deal of time there. “Il fréquantait la table de l’hôtel Ollier […] mais pour garder l’incognito, il utilisait un pseudonyme.” (Robert Ytier, Henri Bosco une vie, ed Aubanel, 1996)

I know that this will probably sound morbid, but the highlight was seeing his grave. This was the closest that I would be able to him psychically, it was an experience that I will have a hard time explaining. I am sure that we have all had these moments when we realize what it is all about, really what it’s about… I had gotten up at 4am, taken two trains, one bus, about 6h of travelling time, and it all melted away the moment that I opened the cemetery gates and walked towards the grave. I also got to share this moment with my father, who has been sick a couple of times with cancer in the last couple of years and the treatments have had an impact on his health. He is the person who introduced me to Camus, about twenty years ago I had to read a novel with an adult and discuss the content and then write a project on the major themes of the text that I had chosen. I still remember the time that I went to Tim Horton’s (I know I know, but when you live in New Brunswick and its 1994, there are not many choices) to discuss the book with him, it was the first time that I felt like an adult and that he was listening to me and valuing my opinion. It was the first time that the father/son power dynamic was left at the door and we had an honest discussion. It is a moment that I still treasure to this day, it is a formative event and I will always fall back on it during my life. Alright, I got a little side-tracked, back to the graveyard!

I will always remember the moment that I saw it and took a moment to view his final resting spot, next to his wife, surrounded by rosemary bushes. A humble, un-descriptive plot, we wouldn’t have thought it to be any other way. His final resting spot reflects the man behind the ideas that he left behind. All I could think was just how humble and grateful I was to be next to one of the great minds, and most importantly, the great hearts of the human race. I finally understand what he meant when he wrote in Return to Tipasa: “Au milieu de l’hiver, j’ai découvert en moi un invincible été.”

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The death penalty seems to me to be a form of punishment that should not still exist in first world countries (the “civilized” world some say), or any country for that matter. Still, many countries around the world use to the death penalty as the ultimate form of punishment for its population. These countries are: Belarus, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Tonga, United States, Vietnam. I still don’t understand how these countries can’t see what capital punishment for what it is, legalized murder by the state. So many countries have realized the inhumanity in the type of punishment and banned it, countries like Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Venezuela. As we can see, Capital Punishment has been practiced by most countries, and 58 nations currently still use this barbaric form of justice, while 97 nations have abolished it.

The UN General Assembly has adopted in 2007, 2008, and 2010 a non-binding calling for a global moratorium on executions, with plans to eventually abolishing them. Even if most of the world’s nations have abolished capital punishment, over 60% of the world’s population live in countries where executions take place, seeing as how China, India, the United States of America and Indonesia, the four most populous countries in the world continue to apply the death penalty (although in India and Indonesia only rarely. Each of these four nations have voted against the General Assembly’s resolutions. It is believed that in 2010 there has been about 5000 executions in China (there are no official numbers that are released by the government, but these are the estimates of different human rights organizations),  252 in Iran, 60 in North Korea, 53 in Yemen, 46 in the United States, and many other lives have been taken in the name of justice throughout the world. Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the United States are the only developed countries that have retained the death penalty. The death penalty was overwhelmingly practiced in poor and authoritarian states, which often employed the death penalty as a tool of political oppression.

I believe that the death penalty is ineffective in its role and the impact that it is meant to have, Albert Camus has greatly influenced my view on the subject with his essay Reflections on the Guillotine. Countries where the death penalty have been abandoned, crime has not risen. The world has changed since its implementation, capital punishment no longer serves as the deterrent that it might have been. One glaring fact that I have noticed is that during its implementation in the past, executions were conducted in public places and now it has been done privately in prisons. Even though I agree with conducting executions in private, it takes away the element of deterrence and renders the death penalty as a means for the state to dispose of those that they see as irremediable.

The threat of death is also insufficient to prevent people from committing crimes seeing as how death is the only common fate that is shared by all, regardless of guilt. Seeing as how most murders are not premeditated no deterrent can be effective and in the case of premeditated murder the deterrent is still insufficient to stop those who have already decided to commit the act.

Without serving a purpose, capital punishment is reduced to an act of revenge that only breeds further violence, which is fueled by sadism and perpetuated by tradition. This is then an act of state of revenge just like the concept of an eye for an eye and justice is to be based on law and principles and not base instinct and emotions.

Also, there is no absolute authority that is capable of delivering judgement as no man posses absolute innocence himself. Because of this the maximum penalty should be set at life labour due to the possibility of judicial error, a life of labour is first of all much harsher than death and it carries the possibility of being reversed, the convicted also can have the option of choosing death via suicide.

And lastly, capital punishment is inappropriate because by conducting revenge for grievances it simultaneously hurts the family and loved ones of the convict in the same manner as those being avenged were hurt by the initial crime.

I believe that it is now time to take action, there are two petition campaigns that amnesty international are conducting against the executions of two men in the USA. The death penalty is a contentious social issue, 37 states in the USA still practice this barbaric form of so-called justice. The most recent Gallop poll shows that 61% of Americans support the death penalty in the case of aggravated murder and more rarely for felony murder, these numbers drop drastically if there was on option for life imprisonment without parole. The first execution by the United States judicial system was Manuel in Illinois County in June of 1779 for Witchcraft; most executions in the beginning were for aiding slave runaways or slave revolt, which was a capital crime, these people have all posthumously pardoned since the abolition of slavery in the USA. The legal process of the death penalty in the USA has five steps: (1) sentencing, (2) direct review, (3) state collateral review, (4) federal habeas corpus, and (5) the Section 1983 challenge, which has become increasingly important (Clemency or pardon, through which the Governor or President of the jurisdiction can unilaterally reduce or abrogate a death sentence, it’s an executive rather than judicial process.). Right now in the US there are two men on death row that Amnesty International are trying save with an aggressive petition campaign to hopefully stop the execution of Romell Broom and Reggie Clemons.

The action that I think is more pressing is the petition to stop the second attempt for the execution of Romell Broom in the state of Ohio. On September 15th 2009 the technicians attempted for over two hours to execute Romell Broom by lethal injection, even with the help of Romell, the state was not able to complete the task because they were unable to find an adequate vein. During this witnesses have stated that you could clearly see the pain that he was experiencing, clearly showing the cruel nature of executions. This is not to pardon the crime that was committed for which he was found guilty, and it is not to minimise the suffering of the family of the victim, we are demanding that Romell Broom be spared of death by lethal injection and that he serve time in a Ohio penitentiary.

Reggie Clemons was sentenced to death in St. Louis as an accomplice in the 1991 murder of two young white women, Julie and Robin Kerry, who plunged from the Chain of Rocks Bridge into the Mississippi River. Two other black youths were also convicted, including Marlin Gray (executed in 2005). Clemons has consistently maintained his innocence. His case illustrates many of the flaws in the U.S. death penalty system. Shortly after a 2009 execution date was stayed, the Missouri Supreme Court assigned a judge (a “Special Master”) to investigate the reliability of his conviction and proportionality of his sentence. Amnesty International urges the state of Missouri to recognize the serious problems with Reggie Clemons’ case and to commute his death sentence. It is also important to note that there has been many irregularities that have arisen in this case, professional mistakes by the prosecution, allegations of police brutality and intimidation, possible racial prejudice, and an inadequate jury representation during the trial. There is a petition that has also been created to stop the execution of Reggie Clemons, Amnesty International is leading this campaign. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used.

I urge you to please take action and print out the petition and bring them to your workplace, school, social clubs, and whatever other activities. We must speak up and act until we are able to live in a world that is free of the death penalty and that humanity is honored and recognized.

 

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I just finished reading a book by Michel Onfray entitled L’Ordre Libertaire: La vie philosophique d’Albert Camus, it is a philosophical biography about the person and the development of his thoughts throughout his life. It is a really great concept, I find that this is always a question that we ask ourselves when we read the great minds of our times or the past, did they actually live their philosophy? Camus lived his philosophy and always stayed true to who he was. The poor boy from the neighbourhood of Belcourt in Alger, was a “pieds noirs” by definition but lived the life of a Muslim Algerian much more than his European brothers and sisters, the boy of a poor illiterate cleaning lady widowed during the First World War, used literature as a way to escape the strict and stern grandmother that would beat him on a regular basis at home, and found a way out of the only world that he knew, one of poverty and suffering. He didn’t have the privilege of being raised in the same circle as Jean-Paul Sartre and the others of the St-Germain des Pres group, who were raised in a family of privilege and surrounded by books and the best of ivy schools. Camus saw philosophy and literature as a way out, his philosophy always reflected the life that he lived and he made it a point to always stay true to his beliefs no matter what the subject was. Because of his upbringing, he did not approach philosophy the same way, he was more of a non-philosophers philosopher, living the Nietzschean ‘Yes’ at all times. He lived a philosophical life until his untimely death in 1960, where we found the manuscript to The First Man and The Gay Science by Nietzsche.

What exactly is a philosophical life? How can we think of a man’s existence, his engagement in the world, his outlook on the work, as clear and singular. Michel Onfray would respond that the philosopher thinks that to live and live better, he must reflect on what drives his actions, meditate on the goal and draw an existential map, he reads, writes, in order to organize the chaos that is categorised by a certain verb. For Camus, his verb is action. During this work, Onfray takes all the writings from, whom some would call the James Dean of philosophy, and does not distinguish them, his novels, essays, theater plays, correspondences with friends, notebooks, and treats them as a continuous work. But who is Camus? Michel Onfray describes the philosopher as sensitive and affectionate, generous and loyal, sometimes fragile, hesitant, not sure of himself.  Camus wrote to be read and understood, this is what helped him to exist. Thus, who is the real Albert Camus? Philosopher, author, journalist, the creator of a new language, passionate reader, freedom-loving positive anarchist, anticolonial thinker, no ones disciple. Onfray says that Camus was a hedonist philosopher, pagan, pragmatic, Nietzschean, and he was the son of the poor and he remained loyal to them his whole life.

What this book made me realize was that Camus had a different approach to his colleagues, he commented on Being and Nothingness by stating that it was a strange mistake in our lives that we try to feel our lives from the outside. It is this fidelity to the interior life that Camus builds his philosophical and political sensibilities. It is thanks to this fidelity that he speaks in the first person, just like Montaigne, Pascal, Rousseau, Kierkegaard or Nietzsche. It is in this fidelity to the basic values (honour, dignity, simplicity, fraternity) that he is able to describe the emotions and perceptions from Algeria: the sounds of the city that enters the homes through the balconies, the smells of restaurants in the small side streets, the light from the bay in Alger, the freshness of the evenings with their gentle perfumes. Noces was written for the hedonists and The Rebel pour anarchist thought.

I must admit that I really enjoyed Onfray’s study of anarchy and Camus’s lifelong relationship to it. The Rebel is a text that I have always admired, for many reasons, but one that I truly connected to is the fact that Camus knew that this book would not be well received by the public. He, however, stayed true to who he was and wrote a book that was antitotalitarian, antifascist, anti-capitalist, Camus the libertarian, defends pacificism and the right to criticize. The reception of the book, as we all know, started a war between the intellectual elite against the poor farmer’s son from the poor neighbourhood of Belcourt as being a philosopher for the bourgeois, seeing as he condemned the Soviet regime once it was discovered the existence of the Gulags (very reminiscent of the concentration camps that had happened not that long ago). I always found this argument hard to follow, that Sartre justifies the work camps in the ultimate goal of the communist regime in Russia is fine by me, but how is he the philosopher of the people (a bourgeois by every sense of the word) and that Camus was not with the people. We all remember the series of articles that he published in Alger Republicain at the age of 25 about the situation and suffering in Kablylie in 1939. He defended the arab and muslim minorities, criticized colonialism and its mechanics, avid opponent of classism, and opponent of the death penalty and bloody revolutions. He also stated that the rise in Algerian nationalism was due to the accumulation of the humiliations, frustrations, and exploitations that the people endured. I find that this book was maybe not read with the attention that it deserved, The Rebel is still relevant today and thanks to the clarity and insight that Camus brings, it will always be a reference for our world.

Camus had only one wish, ” Je demande une seule chose, et je la demande humblement, bien que je sache qu’elle est exorbitante : être lu avec attention.” Roughly translated it says that he asks for one thing, and he asks humbly, even if he knows that it is exorbitant: to be read carefully. I think that we owe that much to him.

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Here I am 15 days into my Metta year and I must say that it has been really interesting so far! I have found it extremely hard to conjure up feelings of lovingkindness towards myself, I hadn’t realized how much I have been conditioned to judge and criticize myself. It is not so easy to truly wish oneself happiness, kindness, and love; so I have taken matters into my own hands to hopefully get to the bottom of this difficulty. I must have been conditioned to a certain degree to feel this way, I mean, we are all conditioned to a large extend by our upbringing and the time in which we live. I have also been returning to my first loves that have been crucial in developing the person that is me; listening to a lot of ska music, and most importantly returning to my mentor, Albert Camus, reading his writings and reading about his philosophical life.

I have always connected to Camus at a very deep level; the first time that I read The Plague in high school for a class project, I felt that I had finally opened my eyes. I would love to have never read Camus to simply relive that moment; letting his words and ideas wash over me, not being able to put the book down, living moments of pure epiphany, Albert Camus has helped and guided me in life. I truly respect him for a simple reason, he lived his philosophy until the day that he died, he was true to his word and most importantly heart. Most people remember him because of the famous fight that he had with Sartre and the discovery of the Soviet work camps and later on about the war in his native Algeria. This debate made such a great man doubt his place in the St-Germain world, but he never doubted his heart and what he saw as being true. I could go on about this public falling apart that occurred, but I find that what is most important is to examine what made Camus such a strong voice against capital punishment, dictatorships, terrorism, and other forms of what he considered to be legal crimes.

Camus never go to know his father, Lucien Camus was killed during the First World War when Camus was only eight months old. He was left to be raised by his mother who was half deft and mainly moot (she was able to carry very basic conversations but nothing more), she also was a big influence on his life and his relationship to the working class of Algeria. The greatest legacy that his father left him was Camus’s eternal search for justice in the world around him. There are a couple of events that happened in his life that triggered this search, this was born out of stern reflection caused by intense surges of emotions based on certain links made by the young Camus in relation his past and father.

The first and maybe the most famous is the story that his mother once told him about his father Lucien witnessing the execution of a fellow countryman one morning in Alger before he was born. The first time that I heard this story was in his powerful essay Reflections on the Guillotine, Camus has always been a strong advocate against capital punishment and I think that it was born from this event. In 1914 a man was condemned for killing his landlord and his three children, the victims were mutilated, disfigured and killed with a hammer. It is said that the room in which the murder happened was covered in blood up to the ceiling. One of the children that hide under the bed wrote the murderer’s name with his blood on the wall just before dying. The murderer was then found in the next town and brought back to be judged and condemned to death, Lucien Camus found that the punishment matched the crime. Lucien thus went to witness the death by guillotine of this criminal, saw him get tied to a wooden plank and then placed under the blade to have his head cut off his body; it is said that the head hit the ground and about six liters of blood poured out of the body. This is what people called justice, blood and murder being answered by blood and murder. Lucien Camus would have come back home that day and never spoke of what he saw, he did however become physically ill because of what he saw. This story really marked Camus, his father’s reaction (who was a strong supporter of the death penalty) made him realize that what was done that day was not justice by revenge.

His second lesson from his father was thanks to his school teacher, Louis Germain, who would read sections of Croix de Bois in class. With this book Camus was able to discover life on the front, in the trenches, the world where his father lost his life. It might be coincidence, but the world of this book coincides with his world, this book allows Camus to discover and know the world of his father. It helps to explain to this young boy what happened to his father and why he ended up like he did. When Mr Germain read the last lines of the text he looked at the class to see the children in a stupor, they are all witnessing the world of their fathers, uncles and others; Camus discovers the world of his enigmas. Camus cries and the realizations that he experiences in relation to his father and his death; many years later Camus saw Mr Germain who gave him the book, Camus refuses the gift saying that it was not his book to which Mr Germain replied “You cried the day that I read this to you, do you remember? Since that day, this book has been yours”. With this book, Camus was able to see the injustice of war and the actual people who were involved in these events, the human face if you will. It is clear to see that for Camus, it was not an option to join the resistance during the war; it was the just thing to do.

His mother might not have haunted him like his father during his upbringing and search for his identity, but she did give him another perspective for his philosophy. She showed him the working class, who did not have a good enough vocabulary to describe their suffering and struggles, put honor and dignity over everything. Camus once said that a mother represents humanity, I think that this was always his relationship with his mother, he loved his mother most of all. She was half-deaf, unable to speak more than basic exchanges, she lived in silence, in the menacing shadows of her own mother (a violent woman who would frequently beat Camus when he was a child). His grandmother was illiterate, ignorant and pig-headed; would never admit her wrong. Camus would lie when he was younger, he would tell them that he was being tutored and instead would go to the beach and enjoy life, one day he was caught and beat fierce by his grandmother; his mother came up to him and whispered words of compassion into his ear, I find that this story represents their relationship. I also believe that it is because of moments like these that he stated that he would always choose his mother over justice.

As we can see, Camus was shaped by the life that he lived; his upbringing, his relationship to his father and mother and the country that he called home. I have realized that this Metta practice will let me go back to my sources and see what has made me who I am. This is the only way that one can truly love themself, to learn our struggles and fears and hold them in loving awareness. I continue on this path and hope that I find my inner child and am able to discuss with him! Like Camus said : “L’homme que je serais si je n’avais pas ete l’enfant que je fus!”.

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Tonight I got a call from my parents, these calls have become so mechanical and sterile that it seems to be affecting me more and more as times goes. Always conversations about what other people are doing, what new “stuff” they got, and of course talks about my finances and roles that I “should” be fulfilling in society. I have fought for many years for them to “get” me, to make them understand that I might not fall in the normal boxes that society has laid out for us. I seriously think that my parents don’t know the “real” me and that they don’t want to, there always seems to be awkwardness and closure when I try to actually talk about the things that “matter”.  I feel that I am a disappointment to them to some degree, yes, I have a job and education (not what they probably wished it was) and am still an upstanding member of society, whatever that means. I don’t however live in the nice house in the suburbs with the pool and the 2.3 kids whom I drive around to soccer practice etc. I live my life in fear of being judged by them (and if I actually made them see everything that lives in my heart I would be rejected) and set up against an ideal which I will never be. I don’t care for these material needs and find that there is much more important work to be made out there, I want a life of service filled with compassionate action. One thing that my meditation practice has done is definitely wake me up and gave me the drive and passion to try to live everyday with the most compassion and kindness that I can, that is what I find should define my upstanding member of society status.

I truly feel that they don’t know me at all, and that saddens me, and what saddens me even more is when I have tried to open up to them I just get an awkward “huh huh” and the conversation being changed or ended. One good example that I can think of is what I have asked for christmas and my birthday for the past 5 years. I have asked them to make a charitable donation in my name, an altruistic act by most people’s standards, and to no avail have never gotten it. I feel alone and misunderstood during these moments, like they are not listening to me and not making an effort to understand what is important and has meaning to me.

This makes me think of something that Vinny said in the first episode of the MTV show, If You Really Knew Me, that all he wanted his whole life was to be heard. This gets me thinking, isn’t that what we all really want in life? I think of the inmates that I saw in the penitentiaries during my volunteering, I always thought that most of these people would probably not be where they are today if they had just been heard in the past. This is a basic and natural human craving, and one that, if fulfilled, can have such a positive impact in the life of anyone. I find that it is completely absurd that we live in such a “civilized” world and that we still are not able to sit down and listen to each other, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and “drop the waterline” if you will.

Albert Camus spoke of alienation, his theory of the absurd was born from the unreasonable silence from the world. We are left alone in a world that is meaningless and silent, so how are we to live life that has no meaning. The absurd is a central idea that I have personally wrestled with, and Camus’ understanding of the absurd is what has made the most sense. For Camus, happiness is fleeting and that the human condition is one of mortality. This was not to be morbid, but to help us have a greater appreciation of life and happiness. In his text, The Myth of Sisyphus, this dualism becomes a paradox: We value our lives and existence so greatly, but at the same time we know we will eventually die, and ultimately our endeavours are meaningless. While we can live with a dualism (I can accept periods of unhappiness, because I know I will also experience happiness to come), we cannot live with the paradox (I think my life is of great importance, but I also think it is meaningless). Camus suggests that ‘creation of meaning’, would entail a logical leap or a kind of philosophical suicide in order to find psychological comfort. But Camus wants to know if he can live with what logic and lucidity has uncovered – if one can build a foundation on what one knows and nothing more. Creation of meaning is not a viable alternative but a logical leap and an evasion of the problem. He gives examples of how others would seem to make this kind of leap. The alternative option, namely suicide, would entail another kind of leap, where one attempts to kill absurdity by destroying one of its terms (the human being). Camus points out, however, that there is no more meaning in death than there is in life, and that it simply evades the problem yet again. Camus concludes, that we must instead ‘entertain’ both death and the absurd, while never agreeing to their terms.

Camus made a significant contribution to a viewpoint of the absurd, and always rejected nihilism as a valid response.

“If nothing had any meaning, you would be right. But there is something that still has a meaning.” Second Letter to a German Friend, December 1943.

Camus’ understanding of the Absurd promotes public debate; his various offerings entice us to think about the absurd and offer our own contribution. Concepts such as cooperation, joint effort and solidarity are of key importance to Camus, though they are most likely sources of ‘relative’ versus ‘absolute’ meaning. Something that I think we could bridge the Absurd with Buddhism and meditation practice is this notion of relative meaning, we all know that everything is impermanent and is always changing, thus absolute meaning is impossible in our daily lives. I know that some of the teachings of the Buddha are true, but our relationship and understanding of them changes with time as our practice progresses. I have bared witness to this already in my practice and know that it is just the beginning. I guess I could use Camus in what I am living right now, the absurd (and the absurdity of my relationship with my parents) is something that I must co-exist with it and necessarily agree to its terms. One day maybe, I will be able to have an honest conversation with them, and actually be heard.

 

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Albert Camus, Nobel laureate, resistance fighter and humanitarian, was one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. He is of great importance for me and the way that my ideas and perceptions have been shaped throughout my adult life, and he has made a profound and lasting contribution to the modern understanding of the human condition in terms of basic personal ethical responsibility and broader social relations. His long novel The Plague is one of the great modern stories which explores what it means to be a thinking, feeling human being in times of suffering and oppression, and shows through character development and story arc the meaning of life from a humanitarian viewpoint. In a time when the world was polarized into different camps, Camus emphasized the inherent value of human freedom and conscious choice and shared existential issues. He also spoke and worked against totalitarian regimes and criticized or rejected their proponents in the free societies, such as the Marxist Jean-Paul Sartre. Camus represented and embodied what is called “The Engaged Man”.

Albert Camus can be put in the same category as Dr. Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, and the Dalai Lama as one of the great voices for hope and a commitment to humanity which is both broad and deep.  Like the group mentioned earlier, he represents and teaches a kind of universal responsibility. His words and actions show people a real alternative to one-party totalitarianism, blind religious belief, mere nihilism and unevolved personal self-obsession. For Camus it is not about belief or dogma, it’s not about “god” or money, it’s about freedom and responsibility, which we must engage no matter what our path in life. This is based on the fact that we are all humans and we must learn to live with ourselves and with others. The point is to live life consciously, to live as human life matters, no matter if it is our own or that of others. Camus stressed that slavery and coercion, lies and propaganda, had to be rejected on all levels for people to become authentic, conscious and ultimately free. This simple idea is the most important stepping-stone to a more human world and to more broad-based cooperation between the peoples of the world. Ultimately that is what matters.

Albert Camus is one of the main influences on my understanding of what it means to be a human being, this is still true some 15 years later. The Plague was the first book that I read of his during highschool, and it still keeps popping up in my everyday life and struggles as a guide to help me remain on the path of wisdom and compassion. The Plague is a long book about struggle and suffering, it is true, but that’s what life is, both for those who do not care for others, and for those who do. The question is how each of us faces struggle and suffering, alone or together. The answer Camus gives is that we have to give a damn. If I could sum up my meditation practice in a nutshell, I think that I would sum it up the same way, “just give a damn and you will be more present and compassionate towards yourself and others”.

Another point that I find is crucial in Camus’ philosophy is that we can be neither victim or executioner in life, and to be someone who stands fast in the middle, someone who strongly works for balance on our long road to freedom. Our past is not a binding condition nor is it our potential. We can re-choose to awaken to our own shared humanity, which is indeed no different from awakening to ourselves and our own hopes and our own lives. For better or worse, probably both, we are all in this together. Camus will always be a friend that I travel this path with, his words and actions will always remind me to give a damn and to share my humanity with the people that surround me. I am forever indebted for how his writings have changed me, and I will always consider Camus to be one of my closest and dearest friends, even though we have never met in the flesh.

I leave you with his essay Neither Victims Nor Executioners, it was a series of essays by Albert Camus that were serialized in Combat, the daily newspaper of the French Resistance, in November 1946. In the essays he discusses violence and murder and the impact these have on those that perpetrate, suffer and observe them.

NEITHER VICTIMS NOR EXECUTIONERS by Albert Camus

Yes, we must raise our voices. Up to this point, I have refrained from appealing to emotion. We are being torn apart by a logic of history which we have elaborated in every detail–a net which threatens to strangle us.

It is not emotion which can cut through the web of a logic which has gone to irrational lengths, but only reason which can meet logic on its own ground. But I should not want to leave the impression… that any program for the future can get along without our powers of love and indignation.

I am well aware that it takes a powerful prime mover to get men into motion and that it is hard to throw one’s self into a struggle whose objectives are so modest and where hope has only a rational basis– and hardly even that. But the problem is not how to carry men away; it is essential, on the contrary, that they not be carried away but rather that they be made to understand clearly what they are doing.

To save what can be saved so as to open up some kind of future–that is the prime mover, the passion and the sacrifice that is required. It demands only that we reflect and then decide, clearly, whether humanity’s lot must be made still more miserable in order to achieve far-off and shadowy ends, whether we should accept a world bristling with arms where brother kills brother; or whether, on the contrary, we should avoid bloodshed and misery as much as possible so that we give a chance for survival to later generations better equipped than we are.

For my part, I am fairly sure that I have made the choice. And, having chosen, I think that I must speak out, that I must state that I will never again be one of those, whoever they be, who compromise with murder, and that I must take the consequences of such a decision. The thing is done, and that is as far as I can go at present….

However, I want to make clear the spirit in which this article is written. We are asked to love or to hate such and such a country and such and such a people. But some of us feel too strongly our common humanity to make such a choice.

Those who really love the Russian people, in gratitude for what they have never ceased to be–that world leaven which Tolstoy and Gorky speak of–do not wish for them success in power politics, but rather want to spare them, after the ordeals of the past, a new and even more terrible bloodletting. So, too, with the American people, and with the peoples of unhappy Europe.

This is the kind of elementary truth we are likely to forget amidst the furious passions of our time. Yes, it is fear and silence and the spiritual isolation they cause that must be fought today. And it is sociability and the universal inter- communication of men that must be defended. Slavery, injustice, and lies destroy this intercourse and forbid this sociability; and so we must reject them.

But these evils are today the very stuff of history, so that many consider them necessary evils. It is true that we cannot “escape history,” since we are in it up to our necks. But one may propose to fight within history to preserve from history that part of man which is not its proper province. That is all I have to say here.

The “point” of this article may be summed up as follows: Modern nations are driven by powerful forces along the roads of power and domination. I will not say that these forces should be furthered or that they should be obstructed. They hardly need our help and, for the moment, they laugh at attempts to hinder them. They will, then, continue.

But I will ask only this simple question: What if these forces wind up in a dead end, what if that logic of history on which so many now rely turns out to be a will o’ the wisp? What if, despite two or three world wars, despite the sacrifice of several generations and a whole system of values, our grandchildren–supposing they survive– find themselves no closer to a world society?

It may well be that the survivors of such an experience will be too weak to understand their own sufferings. Since these forces are working themselves out and since it is inevitable that they continue to do so,there is no reason why some of us should not take on the job of keeping alive, through the apocalyptic historical vista that stretches before us, a modest thoughtfulness which, without pretending to solve everything, will constantly be prepared to give some human meaning to everyday life.

The essential thing is that people should carefully weight the price they must pay…. All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice.

After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist, it will be a gain if it be clearly marked.

Over the expanse of five continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle in which, granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of success than that of the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.

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