Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Camus Effect

The journey from childhood to adulthood is fraught with experiments--with substances, relationships, books, music.... We see, hear, touch and taste the world around us to discover not so much the world, but ourselves.

Among the authors recommended for "serious" reading in my growing-up years, was this group of "dark" writers, including Camus, Sartre et al. Having discovered a lot of negativity around me anyway, I decided I didn't want to mess up my life any further by injecting thoughts about the futility of the human condition. Therefore, a lot of my life's early lessons were based on Ayn Rand, Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' and and to an extent, Richard Bach (whom a friend once inexplicably called a "fraud").

Age, however, may have debilitating effects on the body, but has a wonderful way of opening up the mind. It was thus that I opened Caligula with much anticipation, and was not disappointed at all.

The tragic story of the Roman king who wants the "moon" or the "impossible" was greatly fascinating. And I realized how wrong it was to call Camus' writing "dark"--for though he speaks about the helplessness of human beings, one can also see that life is still worth living. It has to be age that makes me feel greatly comforted in the fact that none of this humdrum of life really matters, for all of us are destined to one final end. And it is because of that final destination that the journey should be made worthwhile.

"Men die and are not happy," says Caligula. The path that Caligula takes subsequently is perfectly logical, which was Camus' way of showing the logical conclusion of nihilism. But, in the process, Camus also suggests possibilities of other paths, other ways of extracting meaning out of what can be termed a "meaningless" existence.

There are times when the daily process of living does makes one wonder whether there is any meaning in all of this. Works like Caligula answer that well.