Theatre of the Absurd

by Jon Sullivan - 2020-02-05

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You might think you know what this post is going to be about. You might see the photo below as symbolic of the Red State vs Blue State political divide. For me it is : Chop wood, carry water.

I love the photo. So simple. So vivid. So ready for all viewers to pour their own meaning into it, as it is perfectly without meaning. I took it on my trip to the Salton Sea last year. For me the photo is a delightful intersection of reality and pure abstraction. I don't think I have a "style" as a photographer. But if I did it might be a search for lack of meaning.

Back when I was a youngster figuring out how the world worked I was very much drawn to the philosophies of Existentialism and Absurdism. I might simplify and personalize those as : a search for purpose, value, and ethical grounding in a world completely without meaning. How fucked up as a child are you if your capital M "Meaning of Life" is a Fankenstien monster of Camus, DT Suzuki, and Kierkegaard?

For me Existentialism meant that life had no true meaning, and that each individual, based on their existence alone, not rules or religion, must determine their own meaning of life (faith), and that the individual should then strive to live a life authentic to that personal faith. And no, it is not lost on me that my interpretation derives religion from solely Existentialism.

For me Absurdism is most wonderfully portrayed in the two recent Deadpool movies. That is, the fundamental disharmony between the individual's search for meaning and the meaninglessness of the universe. (aside : we should dismiss the obviously out of place love story theme in Deadpool 2 as just the fact blockbusters aren't filmed without rich investors needing a comforting love story because they're too shallow to appreciate Camus)

Which brings me to the photo. For me it is a delightful rejection of meaning. I even tossed all accepted proper rules of composition by placing the horizon line where I did. You could easily use it as a metaphor for all sorts of things. It is the Zen Koan of photos.

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Marilee Harrison
2020-02-05 16:14:27 : I absolutely love this picture.
On a different note, as you already know, I am.not an absurdist and put lots of faith in the meaning of life and universe. I realize that our country's government feels rather bleak at this point but I still have faith that there will be a tipping point that will move the pendulum back to balance. Sending you love.

Marilee Harrison
2020-02-05 16:16:44 : Oh and the "chop wood carry water" reference was not lost on me and felt quite appropriate.

Jon Sullivan
2020-02-06 07:45:47 : Existentialism is a young person's game. I've long since worked out my meaning of life. And Absurdism is just too much work.

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