Dearies, I hope I didn't fumble the ball here. I posted this essay from a fellow alum because I wanted to demonstrate how freakin SMART my classmates were and how my brain works so completely differently. I promise you that the person who wrote it actually thinks like that as though it's second nature...eloquent...intelligent....amazing. So you can imagine what it was like to walk into the lounge while a discussion like that was happening and a chubby co-ed comes in with her Jackie Collins novel and says "Hi, Everybody! What's for lunch?"
I have been a bit of a "mascot" my whole life, and it's a role I have learned to embrace. In high school, my circle of friends were smart and beautiful. I was funny and had a car.
So don't worry that my inferiority complex is in overdrive because of the essay request. I have finally grown into myself a bit and am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of that major at a school that never should have accepted me in the first place.
Life has been, continues to be, and will be wonderful for Yours Truly, so if I went to the wrong school or was accepted into the wrong major...joke's on them because, in the immortal words of Charlie Sheen, I. Am. Winning!
I was a Great Books major at Notre Dame. To be honest, I think I went that route because I figured it would be the best way to prepare for law school. Turns out, it was three years of 42 ridiculously brilliant people...and me...studying and reading and discussing and writing about things I still don't understand.
We received a letter from the Chair of the department recently asking us to contribute essays about our experience during this pandemic and how our education has impacted our thinking...how has the reading of certain texts given us perspective, etc.
So I sat down and started writing, but realized there was an attachment that was an example of an essay submitted from another alum of the program. I'm sorry that I can't credit it properly, but here is what he wrote:
After weeks of quarantine in New York City and after a long week of solitary overworking, I spent a Sunday thinking about the absurdity of life during the Coronavirus crisis. I said to myself, “I am Sisyphus.” I recalled Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus, his essay on “l’absurde.” Camus writes:
“Sisyphus is the absurd hero. ... At the very end of his long effort ... the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. ... It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me.”
I did not remember that the essay famously begins with the line “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” I did not turn to Camus for consolation of that nature. I did not read the essay for his dissection of Kierkegaard’s leap. I wanted to remind myself that absurdity, feeling at odds with the world around me, is a natural condition. Awareness of that condition is lucidity.
“If I were a tree among trees, a cat among animals, this life would have a meaning or rather this problem would not arise, for I should belong to this world. I should be this world to which I am opposed by my whole consciousness and my whole insistence upon familiarity.”
In isolation, even if with the people I adore, I found myself craving familiarity, but not the familiarity of the workaday world, the path “easily followed most of the time.” I wanted my friendship routines back and all the things I once took for granted. I was weary from trying to exempt myself from thought—do my work, bake bread, cook, drink wine, sleep.
“But one day the ‘why’ arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement. ... Weariness comes at the end of the acts of a mechanical life, but at the same time it inaugurates the impulse of consciousness. ... Just as there are days when under the familiar face of a person, we see as a stranger one we had loved months or years ago, perhaps we shall come even to desire what suddenly leaves us so alone.”
Camus counsels us to embrace each human experience, to remain lucid even when (perhaps most importantly) the experience is unpleasant:
“All man has is his lucidity and his definite knowledge of the walls surrounding him. ... I must admit that struggle implies a total absence of hope (which has nothing to do with despair), a continual rejection (which must not be confused with renunciation), and a conscious dissatisfaction (which must not be compared to immature unrest.)”
At the end of the essay, Camus presents us with Sisyphus’ “silent joy.” His absurd hero does not “cling too tightly to memory,” let the “call of happiness become too insistent,” or let his rock itself become “melancholy arising in his heart.” Rather,
“At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. ... His fate belongs to him. His rock is a thing. ... The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
And I am.
I'll pause for a few minutes here to give you some time to ponder how that writer and I could have possibly come from the same place.
I swear...I went to school. And I promise you they gave me a diploma and everything. I was there. The diploma came in a nice blue cardboard frame and I had a white thingie that hung on my hat and we wore rented gowns and it was hot and I was sweaty and missing my mom and then we went to eat.
But I read that, and then I read my drivel on this here blog and I realize that I am definitely the poop in the proverbial punchbowl when it comes to proudly representing my Alma Mater and the program from whence I came.
This guy wrote eloquently about the greater meaning of life and suffering and Camus (did we even read Camus?) and other crap that just makes my head hurt.
I write about dog pee and making things with thread.
Don't cry for me, Argentina. I'm not looking for sympathy or reassurance. As Meg says in You've Got Mail (another pop culture reference that would probably make my former professors want to smack me again) "I lead a valuable life. Valuable, but small."
Rich thinks I should contribute an essay, and I probably will. But I can guarantee it won't be in any way related to Camus.
(Note to self...you really gotta go check that guy out.)
Let's just hope it's not about dog pee.