By Raghavi Viswanath
In one of my book-shopping endeavors, I struck upon Albert Camus’ work, ‘The Stranger’, and it set my thoughts amok. Human life has been dissected since time immemorial, whether it be the endless theories for why Cain killed Abel, or why Lord Krishna persuaded Arjun to take up arms against his kith and kin, or the reason why apes still exist considering Darwin’s theory that humans evolved from them or even why people die. Intellectual fora have long been inundated with several such questions that defy reason, and thus remain unanswered.
While it may be still true that science drives and propels human minds into unexplored havens, quenching their constant thirst for innovation, the world, echoing Steve Job’s iconic words, continues to be hungry to find answers and more importantly, reasons for everything.
The words reason and meaning need in-depth analysis in them, something many fail to grasp. Reason is absolute; it is a means to identify the cause. Reason embodies logic, it demarcates the answer and the question .So, and it is only natural and logical to say that science derives itself from reason. And that is how science survives, it is nothing but “a conflict between ideas and reality and our attempts to understand them”, in the words of Einstein and Infield. Science remains a collection of paradigms, which either negate each other or co-exist without rendering the previous paradigms non est factum.
But science is not synonymous with reality, since reality encompasses not only logic, but also perceptions, emotions and instincts. But these perceptions and emotions fall outside the purview of reason. It is this understanding that forms the causal passage to the philosophy of absurdity.
As rightly said by Martin Esslin in his legendary work The Theatre of the Absurd, “Absurd is that which is devoid of purpose. …Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless”. Religion for instance, can be said to have no base other than faith. Faith, which fails to see reason. Faith, which struggles to exist despite reality confounding it. Why did Wendy Doniger’s book face the vilification that it did? Only because people blindly believe what religion says. Humans persistently attempt to find evidence to justify their beliefs, not seeming ready to come to terms with the uncertainty that religion is ridden with, notwithstanding even the fact that the very existence of an all-pervasive force called God has not yet been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Camus in his work The Myth of Sisyphus tries to retell the story of the absurd hero, Sisyphus who was ceaselessly sentenced to rolling a rock to the top of a mountain and watching its descent. He is fully conscious of his misery, and strives to achieve victory in the beginning, until he realizes that acceptance of his misery and plight is the only way to success. He could break away from the clutches of plight, only by coming to terms with its senselessness and nothingness .That is the simplistic beauty of Sisyphus’ tale.
The trend of grasping absurdity began with Nietzsche’s work Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where he declared ignominiously that “God is Dead”, igniting debate and deliberation world over, and as though in consonance, history spelled it too. The World Wars destroyed all grounds of reason and material attachment, as the world became disconnected from human life itself .A bunch of fragmented peoples that is what it was reduced to.
Camus explains absurdity to be a byproduct of the conflicts arising from the mutual indifferences that exists between the human being and the world that he is an occupant of. He goes on to say that the notion of the absurd is what fills the vacuum that separates man’s irrational though constant yearnings and universe’s indifference to his emotional heart. That just like not taking a decision is also a decision; not having any reason is also a reason.
Camus considers art as the best company for man who is just faced with the absurdity of life and death. Since art, consumes its creator, a sense of existentialism emerges, and the artists becomes conscious of only his own actions, isolated from thoughts of its consequence .In the face of absurdity, art becomes the sole representation of the individual’s freedom, of the truth that is a result of the subjective intensity of passion.
Even the MH370 crisis, can be viewed in the context of absurdity. In the backdrop of varied hypothesis that are being contemplated all over, trying to find an answer for why it went missing , to be later spotted in the debris underneath the southern part of the Indian Ocean, no one even for a moment, thought that there might be no reason for its crash. It may not be hijack, it may not be pilot suicide, it may not be a conspiracy, there actually may be no reason for the event at all, but the world refuses to consider that, running amok on the presumption of a reason.
At the current juncture, when we see our news feeds replete with diplomatic crises and impending nuclear wars, acceptance of absurdity is the only way out. While the enthusiastic minds of political analysts, the Scotland Yard, FBI , Interpol , the CBI maybe more than eager to put their Poirot-ic grey cells to use, what the world needs is plain recognition of the irrationality of human action. This will itself dissolve all the pre-existing dualism between the individual and the world, and nullify all friction between them.