10:24:16 Finding Solace in Camus

Times are contentious in the USA. Sure, it's been building, but anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction have added a barb to how many see the looming presidential election: In the two-hundred fortieth year of this democratic republic, we can do no better than this?


It was with, perhaps, some hope for solace I again picked up Albert Camus's Notebooks 1938-1942 and saw how he, too, had lived through strife, including war, and still forged a sane perspective on the human condition.

Much of Notebooks are everyday observations, notes for literary works [including The Stranger], memorable quotes from others; but also, sprinkled throughout, timeless aphorisms.

Do we need know more about political demagogery than: “The need to be right--the sure sign of a vulgar mind."? Twelve words to encapsulate refusal of respectful, constructive dialogue. Earlier, I reviewed The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt's study of this issue that explains the “human nature” behind Camus's pithy, despairing insight.

The antidote to the self-righteousness of demonizing an opponent is not hard, but often hard to take. Camus instructs: "Rule: Start by looking for what is valid in every man." This can happen. Think of the alliance of Jesse Helms and Bono several years ago, lobbying for funds to stop the spread of AIDS in beleaguered African countries. A noble cause not taken up to “play politics,” as Bono put it.

Camus's life experience in Algiers during his writing of the Notebooks pressed upon him that escape was no choice ["The dilettante's dream of being free to hover above his time is the most ridiculous form of liberty. This is why I must serve."]. Camus refers to military service, but, alas, he was rejected for health reasons [tuberculosis being one].

And while we might view the upcoming election as not offering the right proxies for our engagement with the world, that doesn't mean our priorities need be forgotten in the hubbub.

While the large world stage seems to an uncontrolled play of the baser elements of human nature [think of Mideast violence, environmental profligacy and waste, and greed-driven financial catastrophe], Camus would say, of course, it makes no sense. "The misery and greatness of the world: It offers no truths, but only objects to love. Absurdity is king, but love saves us from it." As much as politicians would want us to believe they have an answer, the truth is they don't. Still, even the late Jesse Helms became Bono's fanboy, not out of truth, but from a greater love.

Image credit: nobelprize.org

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection [and feel free to share with a friend] The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.

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