Camus’ novel “The Fall” is written in a conversational style which draws you in as a reader and makes you either agree with the main character, the ‘judge-penitent’ Jean Baptiste Clamence, or silently listen in at a critical distance like the main character’s bar stoll friend otherwise known to the reader as a stranger.
One line caught my attention in the series of monologues that takes place. It was what Clamence said about why people make commitments in life. He said, “Something must happen – and that explains most human commitments. Something must happen, even loveless slavery, even war or death.” (The Fall, pg. 37) For Camus life ultimately is about the expression and encounter of ‘existence’, what it means to have ‘being’. There’s no great narrative that humanity is caught up within and that offers people purpose. There’s no Creator or Narrator, at least not one that is personal in any sense. There is simply existence. A bleak but basic assumption of Camus.
Just before this one-lilner Clamence was recalling a story of a man who lost everything for a woman and in the end came to the realization that he didn’t even love her, he was just bored and lossing everything for her gave him something to do. There is a traggic isolation to Camus’s perceptions of human existence and the experience of that existence. I think Camus captures what being self-reflective about human experience’s must look like if our lives are not caught up in a grand narrative written by an all powerful, loving Narrator.
Life is simply about something happening. Life is about anything that may chase away momentarily the awareness of a deeper more traggic truth that life has no meaning, or that meaning is found only in acknowledging the absurdity of all of life. I can’t help but think about how different life is with a personal Narrator who has placed each of us (all of us) in a narrative of redemption that is filled with meaning. I wish I could have coffee with Camus. I think he’d be a great story telle, and I’d like to share with him that something indeed has happened, and who it has happened to, and how His experience becomes formative for all of ours…
(Photographic art by andrew Lee, piece entitled “Bleak View“)