Camus On Happiness, Experience and Gratitude

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I finished reading The Stranger this week, which has me thinking about Albert Camus. The author of many novels, essays and letters, Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 and is remembered by many as one of the finest writers – and thinkers – of his generation. That his philosophy often informed his prose served only to make his stories even better. However, it is to his notes and letters that I thought we could turn today in search of inspiration.

Those who prefer their principles over their happiness, they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness. If they are happy by surprise, they find themselves disabled, unhappy to be deprived of their unhappiness. (via)

Happiness has a tendency to be fleeting and can sometimes appear when we least expect it. Have you ever set out to achieve one goal but accidentally achieved a different, sometimes cooler result? The natural reaction for many in this situation is to deflect credit for this achievement. Some may even be annoyed by the accidental nature of the success. However, the final result would not have been attained had you not been out there giving things a go in the first place.

Take your happiness where you can get it.

You cannot create experience, you must undergo it. (via)

Once again, you have to be in it to win it. You could read about the Grand Canyon and look at pictures and watch videos and listen to your friends gush about their experiences there. Or, you could go there yourself and watch the sun set slowly over the lip of the canyon until you are alone in a silent darkness found in few other places. One option is undergoing experience, and I don’t think I have to tell you which one.

Get out there and live the life you want to live.

I don’t make too much of this sort of honour. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

This quote is taken from a letter Camus wrote to Louis Germain upon receiving the Nobel Prize. Germain was Camus’ teacher and a father figure who offered invaluable encouragement in Camus’ formative years. It is a testament to the power of that encouragement that the only worth Camus could assign to such a prestigious honor is that it gave him an opportunity to show gratitude to Germain.

As we go through life, it is important to stay humble and remember those who helped us attain our grandest goals – to “embrace [them] with all [your] heart”. If we are fortunate, we may get the opportunity to show our gratitude – as Camus has done – through our work and by encouraging those who follow us.

The Stranger





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