Ice Shards

Shimmering shards of stories have been coming to me lately. Bits and pieces of fleeting ideas, glimmering in and out of my peripheral. I will start to write a post, begin crafting these thoughts into tangible form, but they fall away from me. My mind wanders, and off with the cold wind float my efforts, however small. I fight the chaos, but some ideas are simply not ready to be brought to life. Perhaps they never will be. Today, I rebel against these scattered thoughts. I will finish this post, god damn it, even if I have to scrape up every last transient word with a dustpan.

I recently travelled to Merritt Island, Florida with my boyfriend and his family. (She looks to the sky and squints; pale fingers clench around the fading remains of her vacation recap post.) Overall, it was wonderful to have some leisure time, despite some unexpected setbacks. I did some swimming, some reading, some shopping, and a fair amount of adventuring. I found meaningful trinkets, made meaningful memories, and spent time with the people I love. It was warm enough, beautiful, and absolutely, wonderfully devoid of any snow.

The sun, however, teamed up with my medication to scorch the living daylights out of my delicate, fair visage. I learned the hard way that the new meds I started taking make me more photosensitive. Despite quite a few days spent battling anything between persistent discomfort and searing pain, I still managed to have a good time. It was vacation. Need I truly say more?

Now, I look outside and I see hills upon hills of white fluffy bullshit. I don’t hate winter per say, and snow is beautiful as it falls, but I don’t always do too well in the cold, and I get a little stir crazy. I take after my dad in that the winter is the perfect breeding ground for my depressive tendencies. I get sad for no reason. Stare outside and desperately wish for warmth, blossoming trees, fresh air. Who needs serotonin when you have cripplingly bleak landscapes full of white voids and dreary beige grass?

My inspiration is fleeting, as should be clear by my lack of activity on this blog this month. In the winter, that motivation is even harder to find. I can physically feel the inspiration flowing into me when I step outside on warm days. While obviously it’s not impossible for me to be inspired during these darker times, I confess it is significantly more difficult. I draw energy from nature, and not being able to get outside regularly takes its toll on my mental wellbeing. I get exhausted. And god, I’m tired of being tired.

With Spring comes the promise of many beautiful things. The end of the semester, the start of the MLB season, nice weather, pretty flowers. I’ve always wanted to try gardening, but I was never disciplined enough to keep up with it. This year, however, I’ve got a good feeling about it and have decided I’ll make another attempt. I have some flower seeds picked out already, and I can almost fell the dirt on my hands. I swear I can smell the soil.

Soon, I will be able to spend more time outside, both alone and with those dear to me. I look forward to it, and hope to make the most out of the Spring and Summer. Baseball games, bonfires, camping, walks in the park… Perhaps, with the assistance of these precious outdoor experiences, I will be able to pull all my fragments of ideas together into something worth reading. In the end, that’s what we writers aim to do.

C’est la Vie – Albert Camus’s Take on Absurdity

 – Written for Intro to Philosophy – 

Albert Camus was a 20th century French philosopher and author whose life and legacy could easily be considered absurd. As one of the founding fathers of the absurdist school of thought, he would likely be pleased to be referred to as such. Absurdity in philosophy reaches further than the concept of the incomprehensible or unbelievable; although it is complex in nature, coming to peace with it can feel remarkably mundane. “The Absurd” refers to the human tendency to desperately seek some kind of objective meaning in life despite the human condition making it impossible to find. In Camus himself’s words, “The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.”

It is important to note that it is neither mankind nor the universe itself that defines the absurd, but the juxtaposition between two inherently contradictory ideals. Camus finds this struggle to be a universal fact, and it is the basis of most of his teachings. In his essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus delves deeply into the effects becoming aware of the absurd can have on the human psyche. An absurdist worldview implies that life itself has no true objective meaning. When all hope seems lost, however, Camus raises the important point that life can still be lived without meaning. In Sisyphus, Camus determines that there are three possible outcomes after making this realization: suicide, faith, and revolt.

The opening line in The Myth of Sisyphus is “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest … comes afterwards.” For the first few sections of the book, Camus touches upon suicide and why people consider or follow through with it. There are many reasons, he determines, why someone might want to end their own life, but the deeper reasoning always stems from the absurd. When a mere man is faced with the reality that his life is devoid of meaning, the mind’s first response is a desire to cease living it. Why should one exist if not for some greater purpose?

Camus understands the mentality behind suicide as an answer, but he quickly dismisses it as “irrational” and “nonsense”. Of the suicidal dilemma, Camus writes, “I am interested––let me repeat again––not so much in absurd discoveries as in their consequences. If one is assured of these facts, what is one to conclude, how far is one to go to elude nothing? Is one to die voluntarily or hope in spite of everything?” Suicide to Camus is an irrational yet human desire born out of knowledge of the absurd, and while he is certain it is not the answer, too many men fall victim to the despair of this unattainable knowledge. Whether their motivations be some kind of afterlife or simply an end to their suffering, suicide is not the answer they truly seek. “If one could say just once: ‘This is clear,’ all would be saved.”

If not suicide, then what? Camus considers another simple answer: faith. By putting your life in the hands of some higher power such as a god, you are inherently denying the existence of the Absurd. Camus quickly dismisses this ideology as existential folly, pointing fingers at many known thinkers who he claims are “escaping” the Absurd despite being aware of its reality. Camus claims, “The Absurd, which is the metaphysical state of the conscious man, does not lead to God. Perhaps this notion will become clearer if I risk this shocking statement: the Absurd is sin without God.”

At first, this seems very black and white–acceptance of the Absurd leads to suicide, denial leads to the fabrication of faith–but Camus raises the claim that there is a third option. A major question he raises in Sisyphus is whether or not one should continue to live life even if it has no meaning. When pondering this, he says, “It was previously a question of finding out whether or not life had to have a meaning to be lived. It now becomes clear, on the contrary, that it will be lived all the better if it has no meaning.” To “revolt” against the meaninglessness of life is to live life to the fullest, as opposed to taking the leap of faith and committing “philosophical suicide.”

Camus believes in revolting against the absurd, but that is not synonymous with rejecting it. If one rejects the absurd, they are not truly living. To Camus, the point is not to overcome the feeling of meaninglessness the absurd throws at you, but to learn to live with it, even embrace it. Being religious is not without its downsides. When discussing Chestov’s views on god as the absurd, Camus states, “Everything is sacrificed here to the irrational, and, the demand for clarity being conjured away, the absurd disappears with the terms of its comparison. The absurd man, on the other hand, does not undertake such a leveling process. He recognizes the struggle, does not absolutely scorn reason, and admits the irrational.”

Camus views religion when used in retaliation to the absurd as a weak and desperate attempt at denying the phenomenon’s existence. In order to truly face the absurd, one must accept it and face it head-on. Relying on religion in the face of absurdity is resigning oneself to their inability to live without meaning. As an alternative to faith, Camus describes “The Absurd Man”, a creature of boundless passion and infinite potential. “The certainty of a God giving meaning to life far surpasses in attractiveness the ability to behave badly with impunity. The choice would not be hard to make. But there is no choice, and that is where the bitterness comes in.” The absurd is difficult to live with once one has come to terms with it, but not impossible. Through faith, one fabricates a universal meaning, deciding to live with a false sense of ignorance. Through revolt, one fights hard for their humanity and gives life a subjective “meaning” of their own. Religion in response to the absurd is not the worst outcome, but it is in no way harmless.

Having thoroughly covered the thoughts and beliefs of Albert Camus, I find it essential to review them through my own modern eyes. Personally, I believe Camus is a very grounded and sane individual. My whole life, I have struggled with a strange sense of morals and a sheer lack of tangible purpose. For quite some time, I agonized over the sheer despair and meaninglessness of my young life. Those were years wasted, I recently realized, as in the end, why must one strain himself with thoughts of the great beyond? Our lives are right in front of us, the moment is here to be cherished.

Camus writes, “And here are the trees and I know their gnarled surface, water and I feel its taste. These scents of grass and stars at night, certain evenings when the heart relaxes––how shall I negate this world whose power and strength I feel? Yet all the knowledge on earth will give me nothing to assure this world is mine.” Those words resonated with me, and I believe that Camus has spoken a lot of the philosophies I myself could never put words to. I’m not sure I can think of a claim he makes within Sisyphus that I inherently disagree with, but that doesn’t shock me; I am open-minded by nature. I have lived two decades, and among them, some years were devoid of life, love, or passion.

As I have grown, I believe I have come to terms with the absurd and accepted my place in this universe as an insignificant speck. Reading Camus only made me realize I was not alone in my mentality. I’ve found comfort in the concept of the absurd, just as he did. I have always asked myself, “Do we really need answers?” To simply accept that the universe is more complicated than I could ever understand is the only answer I truly need. Once upon a time, during the depths of my despair, I confess I considered suicide. Sometimes the darkness weighs down on me, but I have a life, friends, family, love. I refuse to let irrationality get the best of me again, and after all, as Camus himself said, “Everything considered, a determined soul will always manage.”

Red-Book Rewind

In late 2017, I decided for the second time to attempt keeping a bullet journal. For those unfamiliar with the system, I would recommend Ryder Carroll’s website for some quick information on what exactly it is. In it’s simplest form, it’s an “analog system in the digital age” for keeping track of your life and thoughts. During my first attempt back in February 2017, I was trying too hard to make mine look like the really fancy ones you see on YouTube or other parts of the internet. That didn’t work so well, because I kept realizing how much mine sucked compared to every other. When I decided to try again, I decided to stick a little closer to Ryder’s original design: simplistic and functional, making modifications as I discovered what worked and didn’t work for me.

So, at the start of March, I figured now was as good a time as any to take a look at my bullet journal and what I’ve done with it. For those who are looking for a good way to journal or plan, you may want to consider giving bullet journalling a shot. Frankly, I believe it’s changed my life for the better. I’m not going to go through every page or even every section of my journal, rather highlight the system I’ve developed and why it works for me.

Let’s start from the beginning.

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Here we have the outer skeleton of my bullet journal. I haven’t named it, which honestly is surprising knowing me, so let me know if you have any suggestions. It features a NaNoWriMo sticker, a sticker from Golden Gecko in Toronto, a somewhat sad looking MLB sticker and some holographic tape. I wish I could show you the beautiful rainbow shifts of the holo, but alas. You will simply have to imagine it in all of his holographic glory. For those who are unaware, I adore anything holo.

I believe there’s no need to personalize the cover of your journal, but these little additions all came to me one by one, and perhaps more will come to me over time. I enjoy the character it gives to something so inherently personal to me. And be assured, this is certainly personal. I believe there is only one person in this world who I would give free reign of this entire book. Maybe more will come with time and trust, but for now, only my best friend has that privilege. After all, I tell him everything.

For the sake of this post, I’ll obviously be omitting any juicy personal details. Keep dreaming, you curious fools.

Next, we have the Future Log. Ryder classifies this simply as an overview of the year ahead.

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It’s simple enough, but I elected to add the mini calendars as an aesthetic detail. That, and it does help me determine what day of the week any certain date might be. Mine starts with December because I started this journal in November, but you could start yours whenever, like with January. Here and on the next three pages, I chronicle events that will be taking place months from now such as holidays, birthdays, or (marked with stars) events that came up after the fact. I tend to only use this section for things more than two months out, because for the current month and the one following, I use my monthly spreads.

Speaking of which, here’s mine for March:

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Over the last few months I’ve determined that this is the setup that works best for me. In Ryder’s original model (yes, I’ll be comparing each of mine to his) the left page consists of merely the month’s name, the numbers, the days, and what needs to be done. The right page consists simply of a list of tasks. As you can see, I added a lot more than that. I have a column for school classes on the left there (it was formerly my work schedule) and a “Coming soon” section for events in the near future; it’s easier to access than the future log. On the right, I added a large calendar, which is mostly for visual aid like my tiny ones were in the future log, but I also do like to cross off the days as they go by. It’s fun and it’s pretty. Below it I have my general tasks, which can move to the next month if they’re not important or are more long-term, my resolutions, and my class schedule.

I do admit I think this is my prettiest monthly spread yet. My choice of color and decorative touches vary mainly only by season, and throughout December, January and February, I was using light and dark blue and drawing snowflakes. I find that with March comes the promise of Spring, and my little doodle flowers help solidify that in my mind. It’s simple enough to still be functional. The main purpose of this journal, after all, is to keep track of things and write down my thoughts or feelings. Making it look nice is an afterthought, but it’s still important to my enjoyment of the journalling experience.

As such, I get something cute, but not so cute it disrupts the flow of my tasks and thoughts. An ugly cute; a happy medium.

The main additions I decided to make this month were color coding my three classes as well as anything related to baseball. For my classes, I simply delegated the three colors I already had designated for the month (three now, as opposed to my former two), and for the Sox… well, red. Also notable, but not new, things relating to my boyfriend are green.

Following the monthly spread is the weekly spread, which is something Ryder didn’t have in his original model. To be honest, I neglected to do these throughout most of November and December. It wasn’t until I got serious about journalling again that I decided the weekly spread would be helpful.

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Admittedly, it bothers me that I didn’t make the days of the week pink instead of green. I fucked up.

This much is pretty simple and hasn’t changed since I started doing them. I write down things I’m doing or may be doing, people I may or may not be seeing. Edits can be made where appropriate. Last month I had a rather messy weekly spread which I think is still worth sharing:

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Plans change. Life is messy. Pages like this are simply a testament to the beautiful unpredictability of the world. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Nonetheless, moving on. Next is the heart of the journal, the daily spreads. This is where the “bullet” aspect of bullet journalling actually becomes more relevant.

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I decided I wouldn’t censor anything on this page. I’m baring my soul. Okay maybe not, but still.

Everybody has a key they use in terms of what their different bullets mean. Ryder has his own system, and I’ve used some of his basic indicators, but I have also developed a system of my own. Here’s a quick breakdown of what I’ve determined works for me:

• = task
○ = event
– = note or recommendation
☆ = thought or introspection
♡ = boyfriend
! = important (not shown)
♪ = music (not shown)

And that’s the gist of it, honestly. I do this every day, or if I forget or am busy, I try and catch up. I personally believe bullet journalling has been a truly life-changing experience for me, and I hope to continue it for many years to come. To anyone who journals or wishes to, I hope you find as much meaning in your personal logs as I do. After all, we each create our own meaning in our day to day lives. For me, I like to chronicle my adventures. All times immortalized, good or bad. Someday, I hope to be able to look back on them and smile.