Missing the Essentials!

“Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest— whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards.”

So begins The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus.

15 years ago, I remember sitting in a University lecture hall studying Camus. “So what of Camus’ question of suicide?” the professor asked. We discussed the problem of suicide passionately for 35 minutes.

I had semi-seriously contemplated suicide the previous year. I was extremely depressed. To me life was meaningless! Why had I not noticed this fact before? At that period in my life, I had not yet read Camus, but if I had, then his question would have made perfect sense to me. Life had its moments for sure, but were those moments really enough?

A year before that, I had become a vegan. I did not change my diet much, I had just stopped eating meat and dairy – I tried to eat a few more nuts and grains here and there. I felt fine at first. Apparently, it takes a number of months, even years, before your B12 becomes sufficiently depleted for you to notice. To this day, I really do not know exactly what I was missing, but I definitely noticed that something was very wrong. Apparently, the question I was really contemplating back then was “Is my life, missing a few essential vitamins and minerals, really worth living?”

I improved my diet and I started exercising. That was all it took. By the time of that Camus lecture I was a very happy person. (And I have been to this day.)

Camus’ question sounded absurd to me. “Why not commit suicide?” If Camus had been happy, he would not have asked this question.

Happiness is its own reason for living; you do not need another. I spoke up in class, “Perhaps Camus was just depressed. Maybe he simply needed to exercise more; maybe he was simply missing a few essential vitamins and minerals.” The class laughed in unison mostly dismissing my comment. No, no this is Camus; he is a serious philosopher, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. His ideas are important and profound.

However, the professor was not laughing. He looked at me and nodded. He understood my meaning and asked a better question: “If one is full of joy and contentment, then does one actually need a philosophical reason to live? What could possibly compel you to commit suicide if you were and continued to be happy?”

Not a single person in the large lecture hall had an answer.

Of course, Camus’ question is a serious question for most people because most people are simply not happy.

This is just my way of reminding those of you in the northern hemisphere that the darker days of winter are coming. Spending hours and hours of your time meditating is wonderful, but do not forget to do the easy things too – like taking your vitamins.


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