How can I deal with the absurdity of life

Life is absurd - so what?

Anyone who has gone through these phases is a real philosopher. He realized that philosophy is a preoccupation with the absurd. To do this, you have to have a very special experience. It is available to everyone.

Trivial experience of absurdity

There is the trivial experience of absurdity. Expectation and reality, wish and wish fulfillment, means and ends are gape. This often has the trait of the grotesquely laughable. An artist receives a scholarship to spend six months in New York. At the end he presents a film that shows him asleep. Lazarus Schwitter in Dürrenmatt's "Meteor" sees no meaning in life and outlives all of his acquaintances. The Russian Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine Elias Metschnikoff was an abysmal pessimist, but wrote a book entitled "Contributions to an Optimistic Worldview".

The trivial experience of absurdity in particular includes the treadmills of everyday life, which, through their incessant monotony, wash away all meaning from activities. Hardly any other writer of the 20th century has described the absurd constant of modern existence more like a circus number than Samuel Beckett. In his novel "Watt", the servant Watt takes up his duties in the Knott household, and he has to put up with a suada of absurdity from the departing predecessor:

“Tuesdays you feel idle, Wednesday is wicked, Thursday everything is gray, Friday is cursed, Saturday you drink blue, Sunday is slept, Monday is bad, Monday is bad (...) and of course that Snow and of course the hail and every four years the February debacle and the endless April showers and the crocuses and then the whole lousy story that starts all over again. Shit. And if I could start all over again with the knowledge that I would then have, the result would be the same. And if I could start everything over a hundred times, each time with a little more knowledge than before, the result would always be the same, the hundredth life as the first, and the hundred lives as one. A diarrhea. "

That's it?

If the absurd experience of monotony dulls us, another erratic experience tears our life apart. We toil at work, and one clear day we are faced with the question from outside: Is that it? We live a life in solid marital solidarity and at a communal dinner the question arises at the table: What has actually become of our coexistence? The question shakes our normal course, we get caught up in the turbulence of contradictions, paradoxes, aporias. Stall in life. F. Scott Fitzgerald describes this very aptly in his autobiographical essay "The Knacks": "The touchstone for a first-rate intelligence is the ability to have two opposing ideas in your head at the same time and yet continue to function." The two ideas that he carried in his head were those of volatility and those of the necessity of all effort. How can you work on a work with the futility of this work in mind? The classically absurd situation. There is no point in going on, ergo you go on. Fitzgerald complained that he did not have the "first-class intelligence" to endure this contradiction.

Philosophical experience of absurdity

Søren Kierkegaard is said to have collapsed at a party once. When someone wanted to help him get back on his feet, he fought back: "Just let it go, the maid will wipe me up tomorrow."

What is the philosophical absurdity? To be human and party crap at the same time. That is, one makes the very specific experience of a fundamentally indissoluble tension between the view “inside” the world - from the point of view of my personal existence - and the view “outside” the world - from a totally impersonal point of view. In short, between the view from inside and the view from outside. The feeling of absurdity is to some extent based on the instability of both points of view. Just taking the first perspective would turn us into egocentrics, sociopaths, or solipsists. Our actions would only show an inside view, which would deprive them of an appreciation, which is always based on a view "from the outside". Just taking the second perspective would result in a completely alienating, reifying, nihilistic perspective in which our actions appear as mere events in a meaningless universe.

The view from nowhere

The philosopher Thomas Nagel called the view from outside the “view from nowhere”. Not just philosophers, we humans oscillate between this gaze and the personal perspective. As Nagel writes: "People have the special gift of taking a step aside and looking at themselves and their path of life from this distance with the same amazement with which they follow the obstacle-rich path of an ant through the sand." When we talk about the meaning of life, we mean the personal perspective "from within": to become the winner of the grouch tournament or the village beauty queen, to prove the Fermatsche conjecture or to crack the genetic code, to be a good teacher or father, the free market economy in Tajikistan to the breakthrough to help fight for human rights or to write articles that at least two readers will understand. From the perspective of the “outside” perspective, all of this appears to us - as if we had quasi stepped out of ourselves - as distant, strange, emotionally detached. Nothing makes sense anymore.

Both attitudes are philosophically extremely sterile. They get lost in egomaniac isolation or cosmic depression - forms of intellectual berserkism. But these are just poles of a whole spectrum on which we can move - each person in their own way. In a sense, what's special about the absurd is that I can look at myself from an external perspective without ceasing to be me. This void particle in this immeasurable space-time: that's me!

The tender indifference of the world

Camus ’Sisyphus experiences the absurdity of the world as a happy insight. At least the figure of Meursault does this in “The Stranger”. On death row, after he doused the prison chap's attempts at consolation with a rage, Meursault was seized by a deep cathartic peace: “As if this great anger had purged me of all evil and robbed me of all hope, in the face of this night I became full of signs and stars receptive to the tender indifference of the world for the first time. ”In Camus' eyes, the world fails to satisfy our need for meaning. But the problem is not the world, but the inequalable tension within us between the internal and the external perspective. We are almost thrown into the absurd. And to rebel against it means, as I said at the beginning, to philosophize.

At the highest level of the absurdity “The world doesn't care about you” there is a simple reaction: I don't care at all! - But this indifference has a philosophical, an absurdistic aroma. One begins to rediscover oneself in this defiant reputation. Yes, this principle actually lifts you up. And you return to everyday life, prepared for the absurd, literally set up and most importantly: now laughing with reason.