I recently finished a selection of Lyrical and Critical Essays by Albert Camus. The lyrical essays were way too lyrical for my tastes, and the critical ones were kind of a grab bag, much of which didn’t much grab my attention. But I did pick out a quote or two that I thought were worth holding on to.
Here’s one, for instance, that reminded me of Alasdair MacIntyre’s argument in After Virtue:
For the Greeks, values existed a priori and marked out the exact limits of every action. Modern philosophy places its values at the completion of action. They are not, but they become, and we shall know them completely only at the end of history. When they disappear, limits vanish as well, and since ideas differ as to what these values will be, since there is no struggle which, unhindered by these same values, does not extend indefinitely, we are now witnessing the Messianic forces confronting one another, their clamors merging in the shock of empires. Excess is a fire, according to Heraclitus. The fire is gaining ground; Nietzsche has been overtaken. It is no longer with hammer blows but with cannon shots that Europe philosophizes.
And here’s Camus on the joys of voluntary simplicity:
From time to time I meet people who live among riches I cannot even imagine. I still have to make an effort to realize that others can feel envious of such wealth. A long time ago, I once lived a whole week luxuriating in all the goods of this world: we slept without a roof, on a beach, I lived on fruit, and spent half my days alone in the water. I learned something then that has always made me react to the signs of comfort or of a well-appointed house with irony, impatience, and sometimes anger. Although I live without worrying about tomorrow now, and therefore count myself among the privileged, I don’t know how to own things. What I do have, which always comes to me without my asking for it, I can’t seem to keep. Less from extravagance, I think, than from another kind of parsimony: I cling like a miser to the freedom that disappears as soon as there is an excess of things.
And here’s a moment of Zen:
The most loathsome materialism is not the kind people usually think of, but the sort that attempts to let dead ideas pass for living realities, diverting into sterile myths the stubborn and lucid attention we give to what we have within us that must forever die.