This is actually a very common theme for Albert Camus the french philosopher. He was an absurdist, which incorrectly gets lumped in with the existentialists. For Camus, the Absurd is the feeling we get when we try to find inherent meaning in life. Because when we look at the Universe and how seemingly pointless our existence is, trying to find meaning in that nonsense causes us to feel despair. It’s absurd to think our individual lives matter in any cosmic sense. But this realization also causes us a lot of despair.
And we have to answer a very crucial question, for Camus it’s really the most important question: Why not just kill ourselves if there is no meaning?
And this basically creates the foundation for existentialism, life has no purpose, therefore it has no meaning. So why not kill just end it? This is basically what the point of view of the main Character in ‘The Stranger’. So bad things happen to the main character, and he does not react to any of it, views nothing as good or bad, does not cry at his own mother’s funeral, etc. There is too much to go into with The Stranger to do it any real justice, but the point is basically that because he has no ‘skin in the game’ so to speak, his life ends up being undeniably worse.
So Camus claims we should reject the idea that meaning comes from without. That our reason for existence is defined somehow by the uncaring universe. Instead, we should realize that our meaning comes from ourselves. We give ourselves reasons to live, things to live for. The people in our lives. Our family. We derive meaning from what we bring about during our brief existence through the effort of our spirit. In this sense, we actually have a tremendous amount of agency.
But my favorite interpretation of this philosophy came from this little television show called Angel by Joss Whedon.
The main character is a vampire who fights to help people because he believes it is the key to regaining his humanity. That he’ll be redeemed if he saves enough people. But eventually he discovers that there is no score card, that no one is keeping track and everything good he does can and probably will be undone by the evils of someone else.
This kicks off a few episodes where he’s just a major asshole, does some bad shit because he doesn’t see any point to being the good guy, but then he has a realization that I think is actually very beautiful.
Angel: Well, I guess I kinda worked it out. If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters… , then all that matters is what we do. ‘Cause that’s all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy, but I never got it.
Kate Lockley: And now you do?
Angel: Not all of it. All I wanna do is help. I wanna help because, I don’t think people should suffer as they do. Because, if there’s no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.
Which is quite a beautiful way to give your life meaning if you’re worried you have no purpose, that there’s no point. If there’s no meaning to the universe, then any meaning you add is infinitely more purposeful. If there’s no grand plan, then deciding to make things better for the people you care about means you have brought order and purpose to a chaotic, uncaring, and often unkind universe. You have struggled against the cosmic plan of indifference.