Milk and Cigarettes

Rambles about stuff I like.

The Thrilling Conclusion to The Outsider – what was Camus on about?

I have no real idea how the “Top Posts” widget on my sidebar works. Apparently it only takes into account clicks that have happened in the past 24-48 hours, rather than all-time clicks (as I would want it.) Now, although my “I Hate Stana Katic” post appears in the sidebar, it will only stay there for a couple days, or until someone clicks on it again. (Fair warning: I gamed the system and clicked on the post a bunch of times so it would show up.) Anyhoo, I’ll probably change it around a bit so that it’ll keep track of “all-time” clicks. But we’ll see.

Anyhoo, can I talk a bit about how great coffee is in the cool of a summer morning. Right now it’s 16 degrees out, which is fairly warm, but since it’s summer outside (for all intents and purposes) it’s nice and cool in my room, comparatively to the stanky hot it’ll be later today. It’s very brunky out – it smells like a mixture of wet and burnt leaves. A gorgeous, earthy smell – combine that with some black, syrupy coffee and brother, you got yourself a nice morning.

It’s a shame – because this is the type of coffee that would go excellently with a wake and bake session. It’s unfortunate I have to teach tonight, because I tell ya – if I could fire up the bong right now, puff a bowl, drink my coffee and then do a whole bunch of math, that would be a sweet day. But I teach tonight, so even though there’s like, 8 hours before I teach, I can’t be getting high until after class. It’s just too risky – not worth risking my career over a blissful, hazy morning. Alas.

I do love the mornings. It’s usually peaceful in the morning (when I don’t have painters watching me take a shit) and I feel all productive and energized. I would like to start getting up early in the morning – but I love staying up late, too! It’s fun to stay up late – look at stupid stuff on the internet, smoke the ever-present bong. I think I’ll have to start retiring at 9:00, so that I can be alone for a couple hours before I go to sleep. 

Whatevs. Early morning ramble, I suppose. What I really want to talk about is the ending to “The Outsider”, and how I probably missed the entire point of the book.

When we last left our hero, Mr. Meursault (I checked, that’s the correct spelling) – he was on trial for his life after shooting a guy in cold blood. The lawyer for the defense is arguing for, “Murder with extenuating circumstances”, and the prosecutor is shooting for straight-up murder. After all the closing arguments have been said – and when Meursault gets asked if he’s got anything else to say (to which he replies, casually, “No.”) The jury brings back a verdict of guilty, with no extenuating circumstances. The penalty is death.

After the trial, the remainder of the book deals with Mr. Meursault lying in prison, trying to avoid seeing the chaplain. Eventually, the chaplain comes and argues with Meursault about how he should accept God’s love and repent before he dies. Meursault is pretty annoyed by all this God talk. Finally, Meursault explodes at the chaplain, in what is probably the most important part of the book.

Then, I don’t know how it was, but something seemed to break inside me, and I started yelling at the top of my voice. I hurled insults at him, I told him not to waste his rotten prayers on me; it was better to burn that to disappear. I’d taken him by the neckband of his cassock, and, in a sort of ecstasy of joy and rage, I poured out on him all the thoughts that had been simmering in my brain. He seemed so cocksure, you see. And yet none of his certainties was worth one strand of a woman’s hair. Living as he did, like a corpse, he couldn’t even be sure of being alive. It might look as if my hands were empty. Actually, I was sure of myself, sure about everything, far surer than he; sure of my present life and of the death that was coming. That, no doubt, was all I had; but at least the certainty was something I could get my teeth into – just as it had got its teeth into me. I’d been right, I was still right, I was always right. I’d passed my life in a certain way, and I might have passed it in a different way, if I’d felt like it. I’d acted thus, and I hadn’t acted otherwise; I hadn’t done x, whereas I had done y or z. And what did that mean? That, all the time, I’d been waiting for this present moment, for that dawn, tomorrow’s or another day’s, which was to justify me. Nothing, nothing had the least importance, and I knew quite well why. He, too, knew why. From the dark horizon of my future a sort of slow, persistent breeze had been blowing towards me, all my life long, from the years that were to come. And on its way that breeze had levelled out all the ideas that people tried to foist on me in the equally unreal years I then was living through. What difference could they make to me, the death of others, or a mother’s love, or his God; or the way one decides to live, the fate one thinks one chooses, since one and the same fate was bound to ‘choose’ not only me but thousands of millions of privileged people who, like him, called themselves my brothers. Surely, surely he must see that? Every man alive was privileged; there was only one class of men, the privileged class. All alike would be condemned to die one day; his turn, too, would come like the others’. And what difference could it make if, after being charged with murder, he were executed because he didn’t weep at his mother’s funeral, since it all came to the same thing in the end? The same thing for Salamano’s [ed. Meursault’s neighbor] wife and for Salamano’s dog. That little robot woman was as ‘guilty’ as the girl from Paris who had married Masson, or as Marie, who wanted me to marry her. What did it matter if Raymond [ed. I called him Bartolino in yesterday’s post] was as much my pal as Celeste, who was a far worthier man? What did it matter if at this very moment Marie was kissing a new boy friend? As a condemned man himself, couldn’t he grasp what I meant by that dark wind blowing from my future? …

Yeah… That’s his basic reasoning for why Meursault comes to accept his upcoming execution. I think this ties into the “absurdist” philosophy that Camus came to be known for. Namely, that the world is a cruel and unforgiving place, and that there’s no reason why bad things happen to good people. The world is chaos and void, and instead of seeking meaning in logical inference, embrace the absurdity of life, and do what makes you happy.

That’s my initial sort of thinking, but I should probably read that quoted paragraph again and again. Something tells me I’m not getting enough meaning out of it as I should. Well, I’ll think about that for a bit and get back to you, as typing all that out took a lot longer than expected.


May 22, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment