June 11th, 2017

I went on a bit of a Camus jag a few years ago, reading The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus and several other of his essays and then earlier this year, at the recommendation of Charles Johnson in his The Way Of The Writer, I began reading Camus’ notebooks.

Doing so led me this morning to come up short reading a piece by Oliver Burkeman because he used a marginal note from Camus as his conclusion on the subject of death. Burkeman wrote:

Ultimately, the only solution may be the one suggested by Albert Camus, scribbled in the margins of one of his notebooks: “Come to terms with death. Thereafter anything is possible.”

I couldn’t find the quote, so I emailed Burkeman and he pointed me Camus notebook dated between September 1945 and April 1948. With the help of Google Books I was able to find the quote on page 151 of Camus’ Notebooks: 1942-1951, translated from the French and annotated by J. O’Brien.

There is but one freedom, to put oneself right with death. After that, everything is possible

Camus, however, continues, writing:

I cannot force you to believe in God. Believing in God amounts to coming to terms with death. When you have accepted death, the problem of God will be solved—and not the reverse.

I’ve found that to be true, having long ago come to the conclusion that death is simply a dreamless sleep from which we never rise. Able to dismiss fantasies of afterlifes and rewards for good behavior, I’ve also solidified my position as an Atheist.

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