The first Noble Truth of Buddhism is that life is suffering.
the 17th-century Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote of our “constant unhappiness” and futile efforts to fight it: “Men seek rest in a struggle against difficulties; and when they have conquered these, rest becomes insufferable.”
In The Myth of Sisyphus, he acknowledges the futility of Sisyphus’s task, and its obvious parallels in our ordinary lives. But he argues that despite the hardships of this world, against all apparent odds, human beings regularly experience true happiness.
Instead of feeling desperation at the futility of life, Camus tells us to embrace its ridiculousness. It’s the only way to arrive at happiness, the most absurd emotion of all under these circumstances.
Happiness, for Camus, is an existential declaration of independence. Instead of advising “Don’t worry, be happy,” he offers a rebellious “Tell the universe to go suck eggs, be happy.”
The practical advice that follows is clear: If you have an inexplicable moment of happiness in a difficult world, don’t overthink it.
You can’t necessarily change your perception of the world, but, as I have written, you most certainly can change your response to that perception.
One of the best ways to cultivate futility is by focusing on the big things you can’t control—war, natural disasters, hatred—as opposed to the little things you can.
When the broad sweep of life brings you horror, concentrate on this moment, and savor it. The pleasure and meaning you can find right now are real; the meaninglessness of the future is not.
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