Nov 28, 2010

The sublime quality of Absurdity

The 'original' Absurdity: Man-in-the-universe
Absurdity of human life, make no mistake, is its defining condition. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the entire lexicon of all human languages that so precisely, and dare i say handsomely, describes the human condition as the cute little word 'absurd'.
At the outset, this is no reason for pessimism, neither for despondency nor is it anything particularly remarkable - in fact, what ought to be remarkable , truly amazing and almost incomprehensible is how it takes considerable effort , sincere dedication, intelligent thinking and some good guidance to realize this pervasive substrate of reality that underpins each and every human experience - or for that matter any experience at all of a self-conscious being. Self-consciousness, thus conceived,  is the necessary and sufficient condition to experience the absurd. In fact, the degree and purity of the absurdity experienced is in direct proportion to the extent and intent of self-consciousness. Ordinary human experience has to be excoriated, layer by layer of all its unstable, superficial conceptions, sheaths and semantics to uncover what lies at the core - pure, ineffable absurdity. 

Crazy thing is, the psychological development of an individual, right from the moment of his nervous system taking shape to the time just after birth when he is bombarded with unknown incomprehensible and strange sensory simulations of the 'external' world for the first time, and then on his cognitive development where he attains psycho-cognitive capacities such as object permanence, conservation of properties, symbolic thought and finally human language - all of it; is an existential exercise in making sense of the absurd, so in a certain way, a developmental undertaking to reduce absurdity (whatever that means) by assimilating and accommodating experience into 'meaningful' semantic architecture(s). All this is absolutely necessary to enable effective transactions with the environment and also for abeyance of  that basic anxiety that attends the trauma of birth. While the process is not radically different, in its schemata, for different animals, humans distinguish themselves both qualitatively and quantitatively in the development race due to fundamental phylogenetic cognitive advantages.

So, a life spent materially, morally, psychically in making 'sense' of the absurd stream of consciousness; is what then needs to be invested in un-scaffolding, from the human experience, the same very 'sense' that inevitably becomes a fetter exactly for the same purpose for which it acted as a scaffold - ie - to grasp the 'reality' of existence, to somehow get a metaphysical lever, as it were, on 'reality' and guide your interaction with it.

There is a very real positive danger of not being able to experience, accept and embrace this absurdity - a  failure not just for the individual but for the species, if it fails to institutionalize this 'realization' of absurdity. The risk is of forever getting lost, irretrievably so, in the puerile, shallow, and epistemologically sub-optimal narratives of life that seem to over-populate the whole sphere of human existence today. Realization of this absurdity ought to be the rite of passage to psychological and spiritual adulthood in our race; and we ought to do things to ensure that we cultivate adults , so defined in all the members of our species. Not only is the danger here of not attaining what must be attained to experience the closest cousin of truth that there is, but also because if it is not done so, it effectively prevents 'authentic' commitment to any value in life. Only the complete, un-afraid and consummate primary consciousness of this absurdity can render a man able to truly understand, and ,in fact, to truly have, a 'purpose' or 'value' in life - as anything else is a compromised commitment built, as it is, on false premises.

But that is not all that there is to absurdity, there is something aesthetically overpowering about it, once you overcome the initial anxiety that its cognizance or mere anticipation provokes in the psyche. Absurdity then, does not remain what is generated by the paradox of existence, but it becomes the experience that transcends that very paradox. Dichotomies dissolve, temporality is suspended and every boundary of separation between the 'I', the objective consciousness and the 'Me' the object of consciousness ceases to be in the midst of a true experience of absurdity.

Absurdity then, is not only the one unqualified universal of human life, a common denominator of human experience, but also the fiber that  interweaves into all conditions of possibility and as such, is the foundation of all 'truths'.

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