11:23:11 Camus' Insight

I've always been drawn to the following words of Albert Camus: "A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened." This quotation hints at the wellspring for an individual's life yearnings.

Yes, Camus's insight suggests a tug of the past on our present yearnings. But note it is not Freudian in interpretation.  Au contraire, Camus is not saying, as we mature, we'll find ourselves doing life's work out of some Freudian compulsion to resolve childhood conflicts carried over into adulthood.

[Albert Camus]No, Camus' brand of existential free will would argue we find meaning in an indifferent universe by exercising life-work choices that resonate with our core values, what we knew to be true "when our heart first opened."

Call it, staying on the "path of the heart." The odd thing about those moments is they are really beyond words.

One minor personal example I might offer goes as follows: As a grammar school student, we all had to make “scientific instruments” for one class. These projects were all primitive and cobbled together at home. (I recall one common project was a device to show humidity using a long human hair.) What I did, I don't recall.

I do recall my “scientific instrument” was mounted on a wooden block I industriously sanded until the beauty of wood grain shone forth. I was entranced. I never knew pine had such beauty. In my own way, “my heart opened.” I had no varnish or finish to preserve the wood's beauty so I simply applied a coat of mucilage over the wood block and let it dry.

Many years later, this childhood "opening of the heart" led to an enjoyable avocation in my adult years--woodworking--all done with handtools. Hand planes, in particular, would gently peel away shavings of wood and reveal, again, the contemplative beauty of wood grain I'd so enjoyed early in life.

Any "path with a heart" that follows Camus' insight is, of course, highly individualistic. Still, I think it's well to keep in mind what the philosopher is saying: If by middle-age, we don't see our life as meaningful, we might take solace in the fact that we also probably have by those years have had the openings of the heart that give us a strong clue as to what direction our life's work should be taking.

We do not want to be like Citizen Kane in Orson Welles' eponymous film, who finally sees his first love, a child's sleigh called Rosebud disappearing into flames of fiery destruction.

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

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