This is just a thought that I had after reading and considering the book, but I believe this to be true.
When Camus published The Stranger, he also published his essay "The Myth of Sisyphus." The essay is concluded by this sentence: "One must imagine Sisyphus happy." The main idea of it is that even if you are condemned to roll a rock up the zenith of a mountain, from which the rock would inevitably roll down, you can be happy since life is meaningless and living for the moment, just rolling the rock up is what constitutes happiness.
It is very peculiar thought to consider, but it is kind of what I believe, for I am a ex-Christian turned atheist. As Camus put it in The Stranger, "You die when you die and nothing remains." We exist for no reason, so what does anything matter?
Anyway, my thought about the ending of The Stranger is that it is a happy ending. Just like Camus' essay concluded that Sisyphus was happy, The Stranger ends with Meursault finding happiness in the meaninglessness of life.
So I should say, "One must imagine Meursault happy."
He controlled his fate. By choosing not to appeal. By choosing to kill the Arab. By choosing not to feign guilt. By choosing not to show sadness. He chose his fate. And that made his meaningless life happy. Although happiness is meaningless, according to Meursault himself.
Since I am kind of a grammar nerd and pedant, I acknowledge that I wrote some fragments and other erroneous sentences in this post. However, I am also an advocate of the liberty of expression and I wrote fragments and other erroneous sentences in order to heighten the effect of such sentences.
As a Korean, I am pretty much forced to think about my country. My brain is wired to detect anything Korean there is to find even in very exotic sources.
Anyway, to know about Korea (not just South Korea but including North Korea) is kind of a pain in the butt, since doing so makes you feel extremely indignant and even so helpless.
Korea was divided up during the Cold War conflict after WWII, which came about because Koreans were unable to free themselves before the war's end.
Many Koreans who lived in Manchuria (even today, China recognizes Korean population there and that's why Korean is one of the official languages in the region) and present-day Russian territory of Primorsky Krai were taken under China and Russia, respectively.
Even that no so large country of Korean peninsula cut in half, Korea is surrounded by great powers. China, world's second greatest country in GDP and the most populous country. Japan, world's third greatest in GDP just across the Korean Strait. Russia, 10th greatest in GDP with short but meaningful border with Northeast of North Korea.
To make matters worse, the division of Korea inevitably brought in capitalistic "ally" United States, which made Korean peninsula the equivalent of the Balkan peninsula before and during WWI.
Japan claiming a Korean island to be theirs.
China claiming Yellow Sea fishing rights right off the coast of Korea.
North Korea internationally overestimated as if it can do great harm to United States.
Stuck in between the two superpowers of the world, China and United States, Korea is in great dilemma. Whether to follow US or China. Korea can't follow both. Korea can't follow neither. Korea can't follow one or the other. Every single scenario brings interventions from the shouldered power. If that was it, it would be easier, but it isn't. Japan, still a great power, is trying to make their defense only military (due to their defeat in WWII) into a military that can invade other countries.
Though much better off than Taiwan, which is ignored by US and UN because of China's great power, Korea is in similar situation.
I don't have any solutions or any other thing to add but I just wanted to write my thoughts down.
That is a real struggle, isn't it? What do you guys think?
The topic of the meaning of life has interested for as long as I can remember my existence. As a person who likes to introspect, such topic is a good one to think about. Watching dramas and stories of any kind, the meaning of life in relation to death is often concerned.
Watching the Korean Drama (for I am a Korean who was born there and lived until I was 14) Signal, an insight into the topic came to me. An epiphany, I would even say.
What that is is that life is meaningful, even if you are an existentialist. Maybe that's an overstatement, but it is quite likely that even an existentialist, who thinks that nothing is meaningful and there is no meaning to existence, to believe in this insight. It is this: life and existence are meaningful because they are much better off than not existing.
If you think about it, it is true. If you are the one who lives the worst life of all humans, you have got to live a life at least. Even if you are a baby who died during birth, you actually existed, whereas the others who didn't have the chance to exist didn't have the chance or any life at all.
Of course, the others cannot be identified as individuals or ones with soul and consciousness, since they don't exist and didn't have the chance to have so much as a brain. However, because it is utterly hard for us to imagine not existing, I thought it would be easier to understand to have the not existing "individuals" personified.
You are happy because you exist and you got the chance to be born. Enumerable--cannot be counted in actuality for they don't exist--might-existing "souls" didn't even have the chance.
It feels weird to be so optimistic, for I am usually a pessimist, but it feels good I think. It is an encouraging thought. Even if nothing matters, I think things should go for the better. There is no reason for you to murder someone for no reason, just because you don't think nothing matters, as did Monsier Meursault in Albert Camus' existential novel The Stranger.
I have really been thinking about this subject for as long as my life. I'm pretty sure anyone who is reading this has thought about this as well. This question, "what comes after death?" interests any human being and if they can think, all animals which are alive would ask this question as well. Since I am a philosophical soul, like my father, I've been thinking about this a lot, probably a lot more than any of my cohorts.
I introduce myself as an atheist, because there is no word that describes someone who believes in non-human form "creator". Not that I am aware of. So to make it simple, I just say I am an atheist, a person who believes that there is no god at all.
(It feels a little like a digression here, but I have a point that I want make by discussing this issue, so bare with me.)
If you study or just know at least some religions, Gods in most popular religions are always in the form of human. Egyptians believed in gods that looked like humans. Greeks and Romans certainly did with their myths. Scandinavian viking myths are similarly human-centered religions. Korean myth also portrays a god-like ancestor who is also a human that was once a bear. Christianity and Islam similarly have gods that look like humans. Buddhism even believes that every human being can reach the state of god-like serenity.
It is really hard to find any religion at all that is not human-centered. Why? Because we are all humans. We made or according to believers interpret the words of god. It is obvious that if the one that interprets or makes something then the thing that was made will be biased by the one that made the thing. It is obvious. That is where my thoughts and beliefs stem from. I believe in "god" or "creator" that is not human at all. Maybe not an organism or a living thing at all. The creator I believe in is something or someone or anything at all that caused the big bang, the start of our world and universe. Whoever or whichever caused the big bang is my "god" and "creator."
Don't you think that non-human creator is at worst feasible? Don't think that believing in God or gods that look just like humans a little bit unbelievable? Where is God, who listens our every prayers and acts upon them? I once was a dedicated believer of God, but that silence from the alleged answerer made me quit. I can't stand it. I do not understand people who says they believe in God at church and they do science at school. It is a total hypocrisy. It is not logical or rational at all to believe in both things at the same time. It is scientific, logical, rational, and not hypocritical to believe in the non-human creator ideas. It certainly is.
If you at least think that non-human creator can be real, then you can follow my logic to my conclusion to the question, "what comes after death?"
My conclusion is this: there is no life after death. Please think for a minute in the perspective of a person who believes in the non-human creator model. So you think that there is no god that looks like human or possibly an organism, but the "creator" is some kind of chemical or physical or metaphysical mechanism that started the big bang. Now think about the beliefs in the life after death. What do you think? There is no god that grants the afterlife. The person who dies, who is quite possibly have suffered some kind of aging and weakening before death, will be literally perishing. No god means no afterlife. Our soul, which is powered by a series of electrical signals among billions of neurons, goes off as soon as our brain stops functioning. Unless some extraordinary, paranormal phenomenon preserves the previously alive brain's activities, the dead person's soul is for sure gone.
Now, that is extremely pessimistic. It depresses us if we were to think that we are going to perish after our deaths. We don't want to just puff off out of this world, although this world isn't a very happy place. This is another reason why I believe religions are biasing people to believe that there is afterlife and therefore there is god. Religion soothes people. It alleviates mental, psychological pain. Believing that there is no afterlife is a pain. And I believe that religion functions to relieve the pain from believing there is no afterlife by forcing people to believe that human-like god grants afterlife. Almost all religions believe in afterlife. Almost all religions soothes people who might believe that there is no afterlife.
Yet another evidence comes from our common sense and our science. According to our common sense, our brains becomes feeble as they grow old, and as we grow old, our behavior goes a little childish, I would say. Even though we don't suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's, we as old people tend to be a little impetuous and unthinking compared to our younger selves. Scientists have found that brain connections grow weaker and slower as we grow older and that causes the childishness of older people. Most of us think that people have soul. We see the soul by seeing the soul owner's behavior. But the behavior is controlled and driven by hormones and chemicals which are chemical. We can control people with drugs. We are able to control a person's behavior completely if we were to let such action happen. Are we going to call it his soul if he is completely manipulated by other humans? Are we going to call it his soul if he is driven by some chemical that stimulates his happy gland (drugs)? I believe that the belief in soul is also hypocritical. Our every thoughts, emotions, and intuitions are all wired in brain and used by sending electrical, physical signals. Where can soul fit in? Where is it? How come we can't detect it? If we cannot detect it in anyway, then it doesn't exist. Therefore there is no soul and there is no afterlife.
Human's hypocrisy about soul and religion is very understandable. People aren't perfectly logical. People are driven by their hormones. All are. However, if we were to discuss this deep question, "what comes after death?" then we should be detached and cold. We should be logical and not biased. By realizing how self-centered religions and the belief in soul are, we can now see that the most feasible explanation to the start of our world is the big bang caused by some non-human creator and that there is, quite possibly, no afterlife.
Thank you for reading my pondering today. Please share your thoughts because my thoughts are not perfect nor is anybody's.
This was written by Justin Won.
Jin Woo Won
An undergrad at Columbia University, studying Computer Science and in particular artificial intelligence.