An Answer to Camus

By Jin-yeong Yi

“If we turn from contemplating the world as a whole, and, in particular, the generations of men as they live their little hour of mock-existence and then are swept away in rapid succession; if we turn from this, and look at life in its small details, as presented, say, in a comedy, how ridiculous it all seems! It is like a drop of water seen through a microscope, a single drop teeming with infusoria; or a speck of cheese full of mites invisible to the naked eye. How we laugh as they bustle about so eagerly, and struggle with one another in so tiny a space! And whether here, or in the little span of human life, this terrible activity produces a comic effect.

It is only in the microscope that our life looks so big. It is an indivisible point, drawn out and magnified by the powerful lenses of Time and Space.”

—Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Vanity of Existence”

“LIFE: To be born in imbecility, in the midst of pain and crisis to be the plaything of ignorance, error, need, sickness, wickedness, and passions; to return step by step to imbecility, from the time of lisping to that of doting; to live among knaves and charlatans of all kinds; to die between one man who takes your pulse and another who troubles your head; never to know where you come from, why you come and where you are going! That is what is called the most important gift of our parents and nature. Life.”

—Denis Diderot, L’Encyclopédie

What’s the purpose of life? What’s the point of living? As a nihilist, I do not believe that life has any intrinsic meaning or purpose. There are people who believe that, without intrinsic purpose, life is not worth living. I’d say that whether your life is worth living or not is up to you. The way I see it, it’s a question of feeling, not fact, and that desire is purpose enough.

For me, Camus’s question, “Why not commit suicide?” isn’t terribly difficult to answer. First of all, it is all but certain that the Grim Reaper will come for me eventually whether I want him to or not, and there’s no need for me to summon him ahead of schedule, at least not right now. If I have even half a reason to keep living, why not continue with my journey and see where it leads? I, for one, am interested in seeing how my story ends.

Another reason why I’m not in too much of a hurry to kill myself is that the disappointments of life have their impact lessened by my belief that experience as a unified whole is more important than happiness. Happiness comes and goes, while experience is for keeps.

So why live? I think each person must find their own answer. Here’s mine:

I live to learn, to improve myself, to experiment, to explore trails on which few have trodden, to overcome challenges, to reflect, to grow, to wonder, to enjoy, to laugh, to love and be loved, to be inspired, to create, to experience Beauty in its myriad forms, to dream and to accomplish my dreams, and to see just how far the rabbit hole goes. In a word, I live to live.


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