Is a Happy New Year Possible?
“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” – Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
Really? Or was he joking?
Whenever January rolls around and a new year begins with its implied ending, I think of my father and Albert Camus, both born in 1913. Camus died on January 4, 1960 in a strange car crash, which might have been an assassination according to Italian author Giovanni Catelli, while my father, who almost died in a car crash, was born on January 9. They did not know each other personally, although they were kindred souls in the way that seeming opposites attract.
One a Nobel Prize winning author who wrote The Fall, the confession of a lawyer, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, whose monologue from a seedy bar reveals his guilt for living a phony, cowardly, and inauthentic life – “When one has no character one has to apply a method,” he says; the other a lawyer with character, an eloquent and witty writer who always, unlike Clamence, downplayed and did not parade his good deeds because he did them out of a pure heart.
Camus said he did not believe in God, yet I think a part of him did as filtered through his secular saint Tarrou in The Plague and his dialogue with Dominican Friars, among other writing, although he kept it publicly well hidden. My father, baptized a Catholic like Camus, was a life-long believer, never letting any doubts directly show. Both were reserved men in the best sense of the word.
For faith and doubt always play their shadow show in all souls.
In a review of Bread and Wine by Ignazio Silone, Camus wrote, “For the grandeur of a faith can be measured by the doubts it inspires.” In this case he was referring to secular faith, but he was lavishing praise on a novel that explores the interplay between secular and sacred faith, the former having its deepest roots in the later.
It is the story of Pietro Spina, the anti-fascist Italian revolutionary during Mussolini’s time, who is in hiding disguised as a priest, and his former teacher, the priest Don Benedetto. Hunted and surveilled by Italy’s fascist government, they secretly meet and talk of the need to resist the forces of state and church collaborating in violence and suppression. Don Benedetto tells Pietro, “But it is enough for one little man to say ‘No!’ murmur ‘No!’ in his neighbor’s ear, or write ‘No!’ on the wall at night, and public order is endangered.”
And Pietro says, “Liberty is something you have to take for yourself. It’s no use begging it from others.”
The two characters represent one truth, that the spirit of rebellion is sacred and profane. This Camus knew from the start, despite his reputation for being an unbeliever. When Pietro and Don Benedetto meet and talk about the need to resist the fascist government – two priests, so to speak, one disguised and one real – we come to fully realize that they are one genuine person separated at birth for story-telling purposes. The younger tells the older that “it was a religious impulse that led me into the revolutionary movement,” but that he lost his faith in God many years before.
To which the elderly priest replies, “It does not matter. In these times of conspiratorial and secret struggle the Lord is obliged to hide Himself and assume pseudonyms. Besides, and you know it, He does not attach much im
Article from LewRockwell