Camus: Selected Quotes on the Stupidity of this world

A few selections from Albert Camus, from his essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. He’s the person you turn to whenever you need re-assurance the world is absurd.

You continue making the gestures commanded by existence for many reasons, the first of which is habit. Dying voluntarily implies that you have recognised, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that habit, the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation and the uselessness of suffering.

~.~

It often happens that that those who commit suicide were assured of the meaning of life.

~.~

Rising, tram, four hours in the office or factory, meal, tram, four hours of work, meal, sleep and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, according to the same rhythm — this path is easily followed most of the time. But one day the ‘why’ arises and everything begins in that weariness with amazement.

~.~

A man is talking on the telephone behind a glass partition; you cannot hear him, but you see his incomprehensible dumb show: you wonder why he is alive.

Dramtic Change

I think somtimes we don’t change because we’re afraid of what other people might say. If we suddenly decide to change, people just won’t believe us.

Take for example a man who used to beat up his wife. One day, he decides then and there that he wants to start loving her instead. He buys her flowers, and takes her out for dinner. His friend, who beats up his wife, finds this behaviour of his friend odd, and asks,

“Why did you do that?”

“I’ve been changing.”

“Yeah right.”

His disbelieving friend casts some doubts on his own thoughts. He wonders if he really changed, or if it was just going to be temporary. His friends all treat him as a wife-beater still, and do not believe his actions are without motives. Soon, he goes back to beating his wife.

But if we got into something like a car accident, or we went for some camp, some adventure holiday, we can come back and change and attribute everything to it. So this man, before he decides to stop beating his wife, gets into a car accident. After the accident, he becomes a changed man. He goes out and buys his wife flowers, and takes her out for dinner. His friend asks,

“Why did you do that?”

“The car accident enlightened me. I realised what’s most important in my life, my family.”

“Ahh…”

His friend’s remark re-enforces his belief that he has changed. As more and more of his friends notice the difference in him, and yet don’t give sarcastic remarks regarding his changed ways, he fills the role of wife-lover even better, and his wife-beater days persona is gotten rid of.

A leopard never changes its spots, unless it has a good reason to. That reason must not only satisfy himself, but also those around him.

Free Will Really is Instinct

The fact that I, against my own judgement, carry on living in this world puzzles me; I believe that my existence (as well as other people like me, the “life is meaningless and ridiculous” advocates,) prove that there is no such thing as free will — we are living against our own wishes, against our will.

“Don’t like it, end it then.”

Some people argue that free will means we can end our life anytime we want, though the fact that we are still here means we don’t really want to end it — we have some hidden reason for wanting to live. But if I didn’t want to have these “hidden reasons for wanting to live” what could I do? Could I just “will” these “hidden reasons” away?

If they are “hidden”, what kind of “free will” must I possess to get rid of it? The thing is, you can’t. They will go away when they want to, and until then you can’t do anything about it.

“Free will? Bah humbug!”

“Free will” really is “animal instinct” — we do what our mind drives us to do. The consciousness that we so pride ourselves on, the very thing we use to separate ourselves from other “lowly animals”, might well be but a fascade.

My writing this blog is just an “animal instinct” to attract more readers, raise my esteem in other’s eyes, get more girls to know me, and thus increase my chances of reproduction, chances of getting more of my DNA into the human gene-pool. Consciousness is over-rated — Freud is right, we’re all in this for the sex.

Quotes from Blaise Pascal

The following are some of the quotes which I was reading of Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662):

All our life passes in this way: we seek rest by struggling against certain obstacles, and once they are overcome, rest proves intolerable because of the boredom it produces. We must get away from it and crave excitement.

We think either of present or of threatened miseries, and even if we felt quite safe on every side, boredom on its own would not fail to emerge from the depths of our hearts, where it is naturally rooted, and poison our whole mind.

Man is so unhappy that he would be bored even if he had no cause for boredom, by the very nature of his temperament, and he is so vain that, though he has a thousand and one basic reasons for being bored, the slightest thing, like pushing a ball with a billiard cue, will be enough to divert him.”

If our condition were truly happy we should not need to divert ourselves from thinking about it.

Anyone who does not see the vanity of the world is very vain himself. So who does not see it, apart from young people whose lives are all noise, diversions, and thoughts for the future?

But take away their diversion and you see them bored to extinction. Then they feel their nullity without recognizing it, for nothing could be more wretched than to be intolerably depressed as soon as one is reduced to introspection with no means of diversion.

Courtesy and Obligation

On the way to school — The bus stopped, and several people got up, including an old woman. Everyone who had got on then had a seat, except her. She walked to the middle of the bus, peered around the back of the bus for seats, realised there were none, and stood where she was.

Seat in front

I was three seats away from her, wondering if I should do the right thing and give up my seat for her, when I noticed there was an empty seat at the front of the bus — “if she needed a seat she’d have got that one,” I thought to myself.

But then again, perhaps that seat is dirty or spoilt? unusable? Should I or shouldn’t I? I looked around to see how other people reacted to the situation — nobody seemed to notice her; if they did, they tried their best not to.

Didn’t do it

I looked at her face one last time, and then looked away — partly in shame, partly in guilt, partly in resignation, as well as partly for her — there just wasn’t a way to give up my seat without a proper back-up plan to handle rejection, for her and for me. There were many people on the bus, but not enough for everyone to mind their own business.

I was afraid she’d say no because she was only going a few stops. I was also trying to help her avoid being obligated to sit. What can you do when a stranger offers you a seat? Can you not take it? — if you did, that’d be rude.

To say no

To say “no” to one who offers you a seat is akin to saying “I don’t wish to sit at a place where you have just got up from,” and from here, dozens of meanings could be gotten, and most aren’t very nice (“I do not wish to sit next to the person you’re presently sitting next to,” or “No thanks. You stank up the seat by your sitting there,” or “I don’t sit where commoners have just sat.”)

To say “no” would be rude indeed.

Urban Myth — the Butt-worm

Older Singaporeans (and occasionally the younger ones) have a habit of hitting a seat that is warm (from the body-heat of a previous sitter’s bottom) to disappate the heat — it is popular belief that sitting on a warm seat will give you “butt-worms” — butt-worms make your butt itchy. (My reasoning is that worms from the intestines are attracted to heat, so when a heat source is found they float towards it.)

If I had offered my seat, chances are she wouldn’t want to hit the seat for fear of offending me. If she sat without hitting the seat, and hitting the seat is something she normally does (because of the butt-worm theory), would she not have prefered just standing?

The Insatiable Search for Uncomplicated English (Plain English Please)

While preparing to write my SIP (Student Internship Program) report, I came across some quotations on English; most of these refer to the cutting down of utterly redundant and unnecessary words, like “utterly redundant and unnecessary”.

“Ingest, imbibe, and be full of cheer, because the next day you and I shall bite the dust.
(Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.)”

Peter Gordon, Verbiage for the Verbose

“Executives at every level are prisoners of the notion that a simple style reflects a simple mind. Actually, a simple style is the result of hard work and hard thinking.”

William K. Zinsser, On Writing Well

“If we make a habit of saying ‘The true facts are these’, we shall come under suspicion when we profess to tell merely ‘the facts’. If a crisis is always acute, and an emergency always grave, what is left for these words to do by themselves? An unfilled vacancy may leave us wondering whether a mere vacancy is really vacant.”

Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words

“In order to attract readers, every layout needs a focal point. Without one, viewers quickly move on.”

Lori Siebert and Lisa Ballard, Making a Good Layout

Readable: 1. Able to be read, legible. 2. Giving pleasure or interest when read; a greeable or attractive in style.”

The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary

I realised that the guidelines to the report I have to write for SIP had some verbose verbiage (read: unnecessary words) as well:

Self Appraisal Form to be duly completed by student

As opposed to what? Is there any other way to complete it, if not duly?

Sex Through the Navel

A little glint showed in the doctor’s eyes then. He had had other well-bred young men come to him shortly before their marriage. Sometimes it was gonorrhea, less often syphilis; sometimes it was mere fear, masturbation phobia; a widespread theory of the time maintained that the wages of self-abuse was impotence. But usually it was ignorance; only a year before a miserable and childless young husband had come to see Dr. Grogan, who had gravely to explain that new life is neither begotten nor born through the navel.

John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman