Camus wasn’t being funny when, in ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, he grappled with suicide. Is there a reason why we shouldn’t just end it? In coming to his conclusions, Camus tapped into what modern neuroscience and biology know about our brain and bodies.
In short, Camus wrote that the world is absurd. While humankind discovers the laws of the physical world and can take some forms of control over it, there’s a lot of chaos and entropy. And the reason it’s worth living is to use our consciousness and revolt against the absurd.
“Being aware of one’s life, one’s revolt, one’s freedom, and to the maximum, is living, and to the maximum.”
The absurd can be seen in our anatomy. There’s a famous YouTube video (in the anatomy world at least) called “The Fuzz Speech”. It describes how the body lays down “fuzz” overnight between muscles. It’s why we’re stiff in the morning.
When we move, much of the fuzz gets burned off. If we don’t move, the fuzz stays. The next night yields more fuzz. So if we’re not active, there’s build-up.
Fuzz restricts movement because it’s laid down chaotically. We counter this chaos through movement; we keep what’s useful and burn off what we don’t need. In this sense, movement is revolt against the absurd.
This happens in our brains too. Have you ever been so into something that you look at the clock and are shocked at how much time has passed? That experience is called flow, and it’s our brain’s revolt against the absurd.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term in his book ‘Flow’. In it he describes a brain prone to chaos but with an ability to self-organize:
“Consciousness is not a strictly linear system, but one in which circular causality obtains. Attention shapes the self, and is in turn shaped by it.”
As it turns out, shaping our thought patterns feels really good. The more people experience flow, the happier they are. Camus might even suggest it’s a great reason to live.
These principles can even be examined in nation-states. Given the current absurdity in American politics, self-organization is also the way to meaning as a citizen. Csikszentmihalyi sums it up this way:
“If values and institutions no longer provide as supportive a framework as they once did, each person must use whatever tools are available to carve out a meaningful, enjoyable life.”
The world tends toward entropy from the microcosmic to the macrocosmic. And in all cases, consciousness and revolt through self-organization are means not only to live but to find meaning in that life. Pattabhi Jois said “practice and all is coming”. I would add “practice and all is organizing.”