Thursday, December 29, 2016

In the Spirit of the Holiday Season

Finally finished Camus' Resistance, Rebellion, and Death: Essays (my holiday reading - very festive).  Unfortunately, this is going to be super short, and not fully satisfying as far as a review might go, in large part because I was reading this and The Rebel alongside one another for a while, and even when I started focusing on this particular collection of essays, it was during 15-minute breaks; as a result, I can't comment as well as I'd like.
  • I cannot but be struck by how incredibly naive Camus seems to me. Perhaps naive is not the right word: in the interview towards the end, the interviewer says of him that throughout his work he demonstrates "not optimism but a sort of confidence. Confidence in the spirit rather than in man, in nature rather than in the universe, in action rather than in its results" (246). I suppose that's a nice way of summing up the feeling you get reading his essays: it's an unrelenting optimism. It's not as if he believes humans are inherently good - in fact he states outright otherwise in his essay against the death penalty - but rather there seems to be an unfailing faith that people will be moved (by his words, by his writing?) to act in a humane way (but who is the judge of that?). It almost makes me sad for him, in the sense that I'd like to throw a punch in his direction if it would wake him up, because wouldn't it be swell if it were true? Except if it were true, and people would be moved to action - the action he urges - with his words, there would have been no need for him to speak out as he did to begin with.
  • In the essay Create Dangerously, Camus writes, "wisdom has never declined so much as when it involved no risks and belonged exclusively to a few humanists buried in libraries. But today when at last it has to face real dangers, there is a chance that it may again stand up and be respected" (271). Which is to say that, if peace, understanding, and all-encompassing empathy actually abounded as Camus seems to want them to, wisdom would actually likely be in serious jeopardy: it is only in times of need, in times of risk, that truly important realizations come about. Or is it simply that previously attained wisdom living in the libraries cease to be understood by those living in times of peace and safety because they were written under more turbulent conditions (i.e. they are no longer relevant)? Or is it perhaps that the wisdom that has been passed on in books through generations will deteriorate under prolonged periods without risk, without a role in rebellion, in revolution? (Which, I suppose, is how history would repeat itself, since previous knowledge and hard-earned teachings become lost, because they are rendered beyond understanding by those who have not lived it.)
  • On the whole, there were essays I enjoyed (the one on the death penalty, Create Dangerously, among a couple others, I think), but I'm pretty on the fence. That being said, I'd still say these essays are pretty timeless and are well worth a read.

No comments:

Post a Comment