It’s so funny – when I had to read it in high school, I hated Albert Camus’ The Stranger. As a lifelong depressed person, the ideas in the book were the worst thing for me to read. The idea of the futility of essentially everything did not help my chronic hopelessness. I searched for meaning in religion and morality and art and beauty, the former two because I had always attended Catholic schools and had many resources regarding at least Catholicism readily available to me.
In fact, I hated The Stranger so much, I cannot bring myself to pick it up again and read it to see if my opinion has changed in over five years. This does not mean, however, that I do not respect the work and its author. I know it to be an important book, especially for the absurdist movement. Still, as someone who has always searched for meaning, who probes endlessly and is an incessant poser of the question, “why,” the book was a shock to my system. I have never picked up The Stranger since the period during which I studied it.
Now, what’s funny is that some of my favorite quotes are attributed to Camus. Though, to be honest, I do not know their origination, many of the quotes I have in mind are poetic and profound, and I love them very much. They include:
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”
“An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.”
“I know of only one duty, and that is to love.”
“Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears.”
That last quote is my favorite, especially the second sentence. I’ll admit it – I’m a crier. I cry with happiness, with sympathy, with pain, with sorrow. I am an empath, someone who literally feels the joy and the pain – physical and emotional – of others. Empathy is much deeper than sympathy. It can be exhausting, feeling things so profoundly, but I would not trade my depth of feeling for anything.
Though it would be easy to end there, to attribute my “living to the point of tears” to my being an empath, I believe it goes further than that. To me, living to the point of tears does not necessarily mean being someone who is quick to cry physically, whether from joy or sorrow or anything else. I believe tears, whether actual or figurative, arise due to an immense propensity for love. We cry when in physical pain because we love our bodies. We cry when feeling sorrow or joy because we love something or someone, including ourselves. We cry in sympathy because we love others. So, living to the point of tears means living in love.
Live in love. Live to the point of tears. I’ll be there with you.