by Terminal Jest
Our minds cannot fathom our inevitable death without a parallel lust for life, of a heaven that is pure and our loved ones waiting for us to return, by thinking of death all we can really consider is of our need to continue on our mission to... Discover the reason for our existence? A tradition which has sought to deliver these desires to men and guide them through their mission is religion. I can only really discuss the ideology of Catholicism and Christianity, as I born in area that was predominantly Christian, I went to church sometimes and attended Friday school. Some of my earliest memories was questioning the legitimacy of Noah’s ark, just how did a man get two of each animal and build a boat large enough to safely house them all... But the bible makes no secret of its patriarchal insistence, of its followers unquestioning service, that we should look up to Him and worship him, for he controls it all... Let us examine this short passage from the Bible, which would have us know:
"What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden that God has laid on men to occupy them. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom the work that God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11)
For a start notice that the worker must ‘toil’ for God ‘burdens’ us. But we must rejoice this, as it is God’s given task to us, right? The writer of this passage within the Bible was King Solomon, whom you can see that this writer does not he himself toil, because the writer uses the the past tense for ‘seen’, it is not a sight of which he normally sees. Knowing that this is darker chapter of the bible and its closing goes:
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
We can see that God believes man is arrogant, and this is God’s choice, as he sets on us the doubt of eternity, by placing it within our hearts. The head is the symbol of enlightenment a far more logical positioning, while our hearts alludes our emotions, by casting this unfathomable concept within our hearts we can appreciate the flowers while we endlessly toil above them. Doesn’t this sound infantile? But not only this, God does consider man arrogant as despite his blessing of eternity within our hearts, we are still yet to ‘fathom the work’ from ‘beginning to end’. Shouldn’t that be a given in Catholicism? As it is within the fundamental teaching of Catholicism, that it is God who is all knowing, not man? Also, should man be fearful of God, it all seems a bit unfair really; humans who are pattern seeking creatures, whom have a capacity of great intelligence and expression- who have eternity literally set in their hearts, should fear He who made them question the beauty they endlessly toil over? For if man cannot fathom of God’s work, and God has allowed for this, surely it seems wrongful to punish those whom only did what God wanted anyway- for man to rebel. For man to find his own truths, whether they were totally true or not, wouldn’t if we ascribed the characteristic of God to man, we would heavily sedate the creature as they would be dangerous?
Take for instance, domestic violence, in relationships such as these the abusers sets unreasonable rules for the victim, like you cannot see X friend anymore. Any questioning of the rule leads to direct consequences which are often violent and degrading (or in God’s case: see the rhetoric displayed around the AIDs crisis of the 80’s and 90’s and how Catholics reveled in ‘God’s’ plague to cleanse the socially undesirable, all till their children became infected and died). However we can also see our DV victims apologising to the abuser for the abuse they have suffered (‘I’m sorry I made you so angry you lashed out and hit me, I know you didn’t mean it, I know you love me’). Is this not much the same of God? As to be absolved of sin, you must confess your sin. That one must do as one is told, otherwise face the wrath of the unknown, which one day may or may not kill you. No should you want to be chosen by God, you must toil endlessly, be fearful and stare at the flowers with a gregarious smile and a vacant mind.
Albert Camus, a famous twentieth century writer, who wrote an essay of this precise quality. Following the school of thought of existentialism, and all of Nietzsche's ‘God is dead’, Camus opens his famous text with the line:
“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” (A. Camus, The myth of Sisyphus, 1942)
The essay explains that the myth, of the cunning king of Corinth who believed in his own grandiosity and importance but also showed disrespect for the gods, by killing guests and visitors. So, on his death, he is condemned to roll a boulder to the top of a mountain only for it to roll straight to the bottom, but he must repeat this for all of eternity. Therefore, Camus writes:
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." (A. Camus, The myth of Sisyphus, 1942)
The parallels between this bible quote and the myth of Sisyphus is both the worker and Sisyphus are portrayed as being happy with the world being in the order it is- evidenced through the beauty of nature, and through the happiness we imagine in both the toiling burdened worker as we do with Sisyphus. And we can recognise this sardonic happiness to be the very opposite of what is portrayed!
The religious fanatic who believes Earth to be a testing ground, acts in ways pretending there is some other invisible deity anaylsing their every atom to ensure its innocence and eternal worship of the Lord. The earth is not a place for fun, exploration and adventure, but instead a competition to see whom is special enough to sit on the cloud with the gods. For this to happen, they must be meek, pride-less and subservient. While the mythical depiction of Sisyphus is bound to eternity to complete a futile and fruitless labour, in this we can attribute the same characteristics, he must accept his burden as it cannot cease. This is where the word eccendtesiast can be applied, a plastic smile which can end up tricking us all.
This is where the Alienation comes in, using Marx's theory of Alienation, we must look at our material world. We must see where our material world has generated new ways of being which are a detriment to a progressive society where enough is supplied to all.
The Marxist definition of Alienation isn't straightforward (as with everything with Marxism). The origin of the concept that we can discuss known as alienation comes from the idea of commodity fetishism- where by objects (inanimate) hold an inherent value (economic value, sentimental value, etc.). What is important to factor in, is that these objects hold supra-natural powers when we give them inherent value, because they can adapt and govern our behaviours.
This is where we can double-back to the Ecclesiastes 3:9:
"What does the worker gain from his toil?"
But the beauty of his sight, the beauty of the material world... All the while, he knows that others enjoy more, but more what if it is his mind in which he may find pleasure from the world?
Absurdism is a contradiction. It implies that while the primary drive of life is to escape death, that the knowledge of this absolute truth even inspires mortal neuropathy or even a mortal irony. That one’s quest for happiness and salvation comes from the very thing which also hinders one for recognising what is already there...
An irony which gives salvation to many nihilistic characters, whom would seek solace in the inevitable chaos which mystifies our universe. But instead of just throwing those positive emotions away and rendering them chemicals or unnecessary nuisances- they are absurd! They are our chaotic splendor which guides our lives into the oddest circumstances we could imagine. The absurdity of our emotions inspires within us deep passionate connections, which at its worst reduces us to the most basic of primal urges.
Rage, lust, envy, fear- while they do not serve us to make us happy, they strengthen our cores, teaching us of the dangers of others but also of ourselves. But our absurdity, is also which inspires the very best from us, it tricks us into believing there is a point to awaken and that love is a cosmological transcendental experience- because surely despite the labour of believing the lie of humanity, we can also find peace in the blissful nothingness of quietness. For me, my absurdity allows me to see that life is strange, painful but ultimately full of inconsistencies, ones that should make us depressed. But the absurd thinking is akin to depression, but high functioning depression. Depression where you put on your cap and coat and take on the world relentlessly regardless.
But while it doesn’t make sense: like for instance that there are superpowers which tell us who, when, and how we love those we do, they flatten cities in bids to weaken governments for monetary gain: it is the only place we can exist. This small, intolerable world is the only home we could say we have cosmologically, our great Love- our planet- is in disarray. We drain and frack away at our floorboards, and cover over the dreary deaths and misery it causes by constantly talking about the great discoveries we’ve had of ourselves. Of sex we wished we had, of the dreams that seem impossible.
Both because we are finite individuals, we cannot fathom the totality of space, the vast emptiness of it. The vast nothingness of it, of the imploding forces pushing nothing into nothing like mountains forming in nothing, ripping you apart. Of the preciousness of our planet: of the atmospheres that exist out there, full of violent gas, tearing through vital flesh, on the nameless plains of nameless planets. We cannot fathom the impossibility of chance within this dead universe of the miracle of life, because one we do not have the computing capacity to cope with the complex mathematics in our minds, but also because this knowledge that resides within us is alienated from us.
Our personal histories, which are as important as a grain of sand to time (our real enemy logically as his hand ticks closer to a great reunion with Absurdity) is amplified to us. Our sense of self greatly important, our identity or individuality, it makes us seem different to everyone, and modern Capitalism revels in this state. Obsession with identity reflects an inner voice one has, which is harsh and cruel, but nonetheless egotistical, tricking some to think that everyone literally cares about them. Not the lofty cries of liberal people ‘just think of the children’, no these people believe that everyone, even strangers could idolise them. And why would this be ridiculous? Celebrities are greatly worshipped, people get cosmetic surgeries to show their appreciation of them, they stalk them, and if they could- they’d violently assault these individuals- because the absurd pull of ‘Love’ convinces these people that celebrities stage persona is real. That Jimmy Savile, Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein were good guys.
Alienation is the obfuscation of the self, others and the material world. By ascribing objects (to be clear- objects that refer to commodification, like the iconography of McDonalds, or social tribes assigned by branding, like Hypebeasts who follow fashion labels like Supreme, OBEY, etc.) powers which can render us infantile- wide-eyed and suggestible. These powers come from a deep longing for connection, community, and inclusivity. Mass production of consumer goods saw the manufacturing process become more intensive, competitive and alienated.
The community that existed before, while rife of its own inequality, had a superior characteristic of community. With the 19th century insistence of the nuclear family, and patriarchal family types, we start to see new forms of exploitation and inequality. As before industrialisation, there was clear distinct lines between class. However, the bourgeois received their liberation by rebelling against the tyrannical aristocracies and taking ownership of their creed. In doing so, the people in which they trained and employed were now subject to a new form of oppression. That of commodity fetishism and thus alienation. The ordinary worker had to contest with the market economies dictating his hourly value, competitive work places whereby you are policed by your fellow worker, and strict religious doctrine forever reminding him of his eternal damnation and meekness (though it is the meek who will inherit the Earth).
But alienation, this takes away the ordinary workers reward of working. It is not only that man is a social creature, as man remains a child for much longer than any other mammal, it is that through our labour we can achieve great things for our society, like electricity to light the streets at night... Which here in the UK in rural areas after say midnight all street lamps are shut off, however when you enter the high streets (with the shops) the lights can remain on their as the empty Shops full of Commodities (clothes, food stuffs, etc.) must be terrified of that violent midnight break in. Do you see, here I am ironically using emotions to explain the absurdity of this act? While crime rates may be lower in rural communities, this is an obvious display of which object (referring only here to people and commodities alike) has more significance and needs protection.
Not only this, but we can see a favouring of commodities over people, and should we be meek about it, we allow for the Tesco Metro to be lit up in protection with its heavy enforced doors and window. We must protect Tesco!
The meekness which in our living age allows us to accept abuse and social exclusion, leaves us feeling pathetic, uncared for, and even abandoned. By being a follower of newspapers, you can follow smear campaigns of politicians you’ve only just heard of, follow your favourite new celebrities embarrassing moments, find a sports section which is larger than your international news... The more you read newspapers, and especially in their online platforms you can see the obvious click-bait, papers like the Guardian hide behind their liberalism and air of uppity, but they still feed into the problems of relentless news... As let's face it, if you bought three different newspapers every day for a week, you will each day be given a different perspective of the same news story. The papers will all comment on the same things, when you read fringe newspapers, they tend to be full of more direct propaganda, but also with articles about strikes across the country, better international coverage, and less adverts... The more you come to think about the adverts within News Media you start to see them more and think that this page could’ve had something of interest or importance but instead it is another dead space giving us another reason to part with our money.
Let’s put this into more of a scenario, the cliché rhetoric being a woman who reads Cosmopolitan magazine. Each month they are reminded: how to dress themselves, which ridiculous sexual act to perform on your man, how to be sexy, an aimless celebrity interview and a healthy recipe. All obviously fulfilling the role of a modern Stepford Wife, a perfectly manicured paw sweeps thick luminous yellow curls the size of a Pringles tube off a perfectly smooth and shiny forehead which looks so tight that you wonder if the Botox will make it split. Despite the visual splendor this modern woman conjures, could we ever consider this woman to be... At odds with her appearance? For instance, a hair on the nipple is to be treated as the greatest enemy... And not the culture of which tells you to hate what is biologically there. Could the hyper-femme (referring to those whom identify as a feminine/Woman) see past the material world and into her inner world to find the answers she needs to seek her solace? Or will she we guided by society’s voice to fit the modern ideal of femininity?
Could the hyper-femme express even the tiniest masculinity? For masculinity in this definition would be that which is not feminine. Which when we consider inanimate objects, can we genuinely ascribe gender to anything? Of course not, however should she wish to receive the privilege which her looks can afford her, this appearance and its constant maintenance, she is convinced, is what is acceptable.
So, while there may not be overt measures of oppression or control, there are unconscious biases we are subjected to through the ingestion of perpetual branding and advertising. We internalise the images that we see: as honest depictions of beauty, youth, vitality- what is pigeonholed to be synonymous with happiness culturally. ‘You’ll never be this young again, get out and enjoy yourself!’ is something commonly heard by those who are reclusive, but no one genuinely considers why someone would hide away.
Like by being in crowded areas, those who's absurdity is more pronounced becomes a problem for those whom are repressed. While those who tend to embrace the absurdity of life, they also tend to be the more alienated, think like Trans people whom experience the parallel of being assigned a sex at birth and growing to be at odds with their physicality as the form was too absolutely one sex or the other. However, when we look at other cultures, transgenderism is not as alienated as it can be in the West, gender can be more fluid.
The opposition to Trans-folk cannot accept the new traditions as they can only, like broken records, skip and repeat old fashioned traditions. Due to this rhetoric, of traditional gender roles, how a transgender woman may conduct herself and the responses she may receive in the public can be dependent upon her appearance. She may only be recognised as a She should she adhere to the socially determined symbols of womanhood... She can receive help from the same place as the modern Stepford Wife: by following the fashion and sex tips of institutions like Cosmopolitan. Talons for fingernails, excessive makeup and over-glamourous wardrobe can coverup the masculine qualities that gives them dysphoria (it sounds as though I condemn this practice totally, I do not for everyone, just for those whom secretly wish they did not have to follow strict gender coding).
This overcompensation of femininity can be accepted by the exclusionist womankind, as the imagery is so desperate to not be masculine. The transgender individual should give up their genuine identity and the expression of it for one which is similar, or socially acceptable and desirable. Giving up that which is considerably important to us as individuals for the sake of social acceptance, of being able to walk down a street and not be harassed or assaulted.
These exclusionist people who are trapped in their own mind and body, cannot accept this blatant disregard for old traditions. That a toilet in fact can just be a toilet. In fact, they believe that trans-folk are charlatans who just want to get a peep or worse of you when you’re on the loo... Here is more absurdity!
The fear and hatred of the unknown (absurd) allows you to believe that the sole reason an entire group of people enter a room which smells like excrement and urine, is not for the use of the toilet but to attack others? The only way you could enforce sex assigned toilet spaces would be with a guarded entrance... But how does one prove the validity of their sex, are we coming to a time in history where we need to show government approved identification to expel our waste? As someone who passes as either Man or Woman (but more often than not in the reverse of how I am presenting), I can say that both binary genders are terrible at understanding the difference between sexuality and gender identity, and all tend to think that I take a fancy to them. For instance, I used to use the male bathrooms at work in a workplace that had a total of five other workers. My friend, who I spent time with outside of work with him and his wife, put in a formal complaint about my use of the bathroom as he felt I was in there, to guess what- peep! Like the I, of 4 years ago, at nineteen, would have been interested in a thirty-four-year-old married man with four children. This is heteronormativity, it is also narcissism in its most basic of senses.
But truly what is absurdism? What is alienation? What is the relevancy to each other?
Well, it's important to consider that it is not simply that which is weird or exactly that of feeling estranged. Absurdism is the philosophical thought that we live in a world whereby there is no meaning, we are simply chaotic creatures in a chaotic universe, hence it being absurd as we are pattern seeking creatures. But not only this is that we are seeking for the answers to this chaos, for answers to the unknown, and we should embrace this state of ignorance by being honest of our ignorance. Like Socrates says ‘The ancient Oracle said that I was the wisest of all the Greeks. It is because I alone, of all the Greeks, know that I know nothing.’ It does not mean to be ignorant that one is stupid, it means that one should acknowledge in oneself that you do not know everything, that you cannot know everything but this should not hinder you on your quest to discover the truthful answers. It is also the awareness that the truth will hurt you, sometimes it may even make you wish for death.