There are many ways of looking at optimism. One way is that it shall be the best way, to keep us stress free and live a peaceful life. Two is that things aren’t always going to your way, so be prepared for the best, and remain positive through it all.
However, I interpret Camus’ words from his writings in Myth of Sisyphus differently. In a way, he says that there is nothing but disappointment, and we must recognise that truth, and yet smile. Recognition of the truth is far more important to Camus than positivity/negativity. In his opinion that recognition and clarity allows us to be positive in some way or the other.
He speaks of Sisyphus, a King from greek mythology who was punished to roll a boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back after sun-set. How tragic. Of course this does not seem like an activity any sane person would want to engage in. Sisyphus though continues ceaselessly.
Camus suggests that all of us are in fact like Sisyphus. We all with our existential crisis hope not to believe that we are like him, however for Camus it is the only truth. We too roll a boulder up every day, and watch it come back down. Maybe not today, but we must recognise the possibility of our work being impermanent by tomorrow, or one day in the future.
Existential crisis, mid-life, or quarter life crisis, is when people start to wonder what and why they are doing , what they are doing. They start to notice the boulder they roll up everyday. They notice the pointlessness of many activities. This absurdity either turns one towards religious / philosophical inclinations, to start and develop a loyalty to an ideology that helps draw a rose tinted curtain before our naked vision. Or it turns someone into a completely boundless person, who faces this truth of pointlessness and the moment when the boulder in our lives will roll downhill. That recognition at first could initiate concern about one’s value, but soon with the understanding of the truth eliminates the same fear. It turns one into someone who fears nothing, since our ego, our value, and the idea of the consequences out to torment us, all eliminate. The ‘why’ of our lives’ daily actions, haunts and excites us at the same time.
The absurdity isn’t necessarily meant to be escaped from, or loved. It is to be understood. The focus moves to the future, in hope that one day the boulder will have meaning but that could take us away from absorbing the irrelevance of the boulder. He says,
Due to our messed up minds, we look for a way out. But Camus says we are going to roll a boulder up anyway, so we might as well be happy. We can find a boulder (aka job/relationship) we believe in, or not. However, in both cases we must recognise the boulder is a boulder – meaning, it could roll back down anytime. The only option we have, is to recognise that truth, and smile.
Camus’ optimism shines through tireless misery, and yet recognises that misery is at every step. His protagonist in his novel ‘The Stranger’ too lives in a detached state, where he observes the futility of life, and yet finds happiness in the breeze, and an occasional smoke. For Camus happiness can shine through the many boulders, that will continue to roll down.