Absurdism And Camus's "The Nostalgia of Unity"


In the "Myth Of Sisyphus," Camus uses the term "nostalgia of unity" to describe rationalism. What does that mean? I've given it a lot of thought in recent weeks. So many of my patients deeply desire some narrative thread to their lives and closure to painful and horrible things that have happened to them. 

This is not a new insight. Viktor Frankel and more have discussed more have discussed the role in finding meaning in suffering and Narrative Therapy is built around the idea that we are fundamentally storytelling creatures, and that good therapy involves reframing our stories. Yuval Noah Harari makes it a central theme of his book, "Sapiens." 

But what Camus does to all forms fo narratives and unity is shatter them. He says that all human beings try to use their rationalism and logic to make sense of a world that doesn't make any. In a word: absurdity. It's absurd that a bomb could kill me today when I go to the subway station or that a friend could die in car accident. None of it really makes sense. 

Most people, I suspect, would argue this. But I've heard far too many horrific child abuse stories of torture and sexual abuse from patients. It's beyond awful but also completely absurd. If God exists, he's either indifferent or sadistic or a psychopath. There's no reason for children to suffer. There's no reason the holocaust happened or that human beings invented chattel slavery. And someone tries to tell me that's a part of God' plan... let's just say I'll probably need to walk away from the conversation. 

Camus tells us to revolt again the "nostalgia of unity" and embrace the uncertainty and chaos of the universe. He tells to revolt against everything that tells us we are special and unique and deserve a happy ending. He tells us that no one is coming to save us, that all we have is this moment That our only choice is to try and give our lives meaning when there isn't any. It's an absurd battle. But what else are we going to do with our time?