The world is quite an absurd place, mostly run by criminals, thugs and at least one ridiculous but very dangerous sociopath with a fake tan.
As remotely-piloted drones blow up civilians thousands of miles away, we obsess over the best yoga positions for pets and finding the right brand of organic, gluten-free toothpaste. Each day, a dozen more species disappear as we gorge on ‘reality’ TV shows featuring Z-list celebrities being eaten by giant mutant crabs.*
It’s no wonder that comic book adaptations have become so popular on the big screen, when real life often seems like a plot from some dark dystopian tale, where super-villains vie for world domination as the very fabric of society threatens to unravel. Who then can resist a team of troubled heroes with perfect teeth, super-human powers and snappy one-liners, saving us from the devils of our worst nature, and the worst perils of Mother Nature. Of course in most comic books, it’s easier to tell the heroes from the villains.
As Fascism rises and the ice caps melt, halfwit Presidents and insane billionaire tech gurus post a steady stream of gibberish on social media. Are we witnessing the fall of the great capitalist / neo-liberal empire? The end of humanity as we know it?
Smart people tell us not to panic and say that things are better than they’ve ever been, but it often feels hard to see the bigger picture when you’re assaulted daily by an endless stream of grim news. And it’s probably not much comfort to be told how great things are when you are being bombed, starved, shot or thrown into prison by the psychotic little dictators running the freak-show.
Many philosophers have grappled with the problem of absurdity. Søren Kierkegaard and Albert Camus are two seminal thinkers with very different approaches.
Kierkegaard (whose name means Churchyard in Danish) suggested that the best response to the absurdities of life was laughter. No fan of organised religion or other man-made institutions, this tortured soul (he coined the term angst) thought the example of a certain super-hero figure from Nazareth was the inspiration mankind needed to do better. It was all about a leap of faith.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards” Søren Kierkegaard
Albert Camus, on the other hand, had little time for any semi-fictional sons of imagined deities. Camus thought an acceptance of things as they are, however absurd, gave us the freedom to enjoy our lives, despite the inherent lack of meaning in the universe. His past experience as a goal-keeper suggests he had some experience of saving, although some may find his ideas a little bleak. His fiction is not exactly a laugh a minute either. But his Absurdism does seem a very fitting philosophy for our age. And he certainly did know how to enjoy life, despite its stubborn refusal to make any sense.
You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus
Personally I think we need a new breed of superhero that reflects these crazy times in which we find ourselves: enter The Absurdians. Genderless beings from a different, but sort of similar dimension, they swing wildly between optimism, despair and obsessive punning.
They often wear a snorkel and flippers for no apparent reason. They are known to favour a breakfast of magic mushrooms on whole-wheat toast, washed down with tequila. Occasionally they stay under the covers all day, shouting at the dust monsters under the bed. But on a good day, evil-doers look out!
Absurdians can spot said evil-doers from a great distance, but sometimes fail to notice when they are being mugged. They have incredible physical strength and resistance to pain, but cannot step on the cracks in the pavement, or fight crime during a thunderstorm. They are also very ticklish. Their Achilles heel is they can be killed by a bullet to the knee, wrist or elbow. Assuming you can find their knees, wrists or elbows.
Absurdians love dancing to architecture and inventing new adjectives for things that don’t exist. Their most adored sport is played mostly after sunset, with no rules and a rock that is too heavy to move.
They carry an impressive arsenal of ultra high-tech weaponry which they are completely incapable of using.
Their outlandish costumes are bullet-proof, but shrink in the wash and have sequins, which provide poor camouflage. They laugh uncontrollably at triangles and like to keep pet chameleons, which they can never find.
Taking Kierkegaard a little too literally, Absurdians sometimes walk, talk and even think backwards, which is extremely annoying and rarely much help.
Yes, The Absurdians might be the anti-hero saviours for our times. Or maybe not. If you are in trouble, and the weather is fair, perhaps they can help. Just don’t laugh at their very tight costumes or the inappropriate snorkel and flippers. With sea levels rising, they might just have the last laugh.
*I may have dreamed that.
© Copyright Jason Lennick 2018