How Albert Camus’ The Stranger Suggests Humanity’s True Purpose

An image of a city at night — Photo by Hoover Tung on Unsplash
An image of a city at night — Photo by Hoover Tung on Unsplash
Photo by Hoover Tung on Unsplash

The Stranger

Albert Camus published a short, accessible tale called The Stranger in 1942.

It is an absurdist, existentialist tale — and though Camus rejected the existentialist label, The Stranger certainly carries themes that explore the very nature of human existence, and perhaps existence itself.

And this tale might suggest humanity’s true purpose.

But first — a bit about the tale.

The tale

The Stranger centers around a radically indifferent French-Algerian named Meursault.

Meursault does not feel good, nor does he feel bad.

Meursault feels nothing — absolutely nothing.

Meursault is not inactive though — not by a long shot.

He can act, but when he does so, he acts not out of any apparent purpose — and when it comes time to face the consequences of his actions, Meursault pays them no notice. …


Anne Rice’s Louis has no phobias, and neither should I

A vampire — Photo licensed from Shutterstock
A vampire — Photo licensed from Shutterstock
Photo Licensed from Shutterstock

The moment when I began to fear spiders

When I was in the third grade, I opened a large textbook at random, and what I saw frightened me so thoroughly that it gave me a phobia for the next two decades.

It was a two-page spread of a tarantula — its eight legs were splayed out across the book’s bound center, and above two hairy fangs were eight small eyes staring right at me.

The third grade version of myself yelled, and to this day — if I see a close-up of a spider, I might still yell.

Make no mistake, I know — cognitively — that spiders have incalculable value. …


How the transition from speech to text turns us all into temporary psychopaths

Silhouette of a young man — Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash
Silhouette of a young man — Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash
Photo by Joe on Unsplash

One of the problems we have in these times is that global empathy is on the decline.

A study by Sara Konrath shows the downward trend in empathy is measurably the case, and there are certainly quite a few variables contributing to this phenomenon.

Let’s focus on one — one that we can measure, and one that a professor of Behavioral Science at Berkeley named Dr. Juliana Schroeder has measured.

Could the global transition of communication from speech to short-form text decrease our global empathy?

The answer to this is yes, it could — and Dr. …


How introducing human safeguards and Focusing on the Outputs might save us all

Image of man and woman symbol, the man is black on light background, the woman is light on black background
Image of man and woman symbol, the man is black on light background, the woman is light on black background
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Part 3 of a 3 part series — The Perils and Promise of Data

In Part 1, we showed how data can lead anyone, including you, into a state of psychopathy.

In Part 2, we showed how algorithms can lead anyone, including you, into a state of bias.

So what do we do?


Partisan outrage gets attention. Recognizing your opponent’s humanity gets results.

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Photo courtesy of plqml-felipe-pelaquim on Unsplash

In this day and age, there is a lot of pressure to ‘pick a side,’ and if you consume any type of media, it’s often quite easy to do this.

Opposing political figures and pundits say outrageous and reprehensible things, and all you have to do is experience the human emotion of disgust, send out a rage tweet, and there you are — on the supposed right side of history and morality.

But let’s take a step back, and gain insight from someone who was once fully entrenched in the Us vs. Them narrative, an ex-CIA operative named Amaryllis Fox.

Fox’s experience allowed her to see the truth beyond the headlines, a truth that might be behind most of the world’s conflict. …


Part 2 of a 3 Part series — The Perils and Promise of Data

In the last article, we showed what happens when data strip emotions out of an action

In Part 1 of this series, we argued that data can turn anyone into a psychopath, and though that’s an extreme way of looking at things, it holds a certain amount of truth.

Newspaper headline proclaiming Final Enemy Stronghold Falls
Newspaper headline proclaiming Final Enemy Stronghold Falls
A newspaper headline like this can make its readers cheer, though note that the headline abstracts the underlying data, and removes any notion of the suffering of bombed civilians

It’s natural to cheer at a newspaper headline proclaiming the downfall of a distant enemy stronghold, but is it ok the cheer while actually watching thousands of civilians inside that city die gruesome deaths?

No, it’s not.

But at the same time―if you cheer the headline showing a distant military victory, it means you’re a human, and not necessarily a psychopath.

The abstracted data of that headline strips the emotional currency of the event, and induces a psychopathic response from you. …


Ghosts, magic and angels might be real, just not in a way that we can understand

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Photo by Duncan Sanchez on Unsplash

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
— Arthur C. Clarke

But there is a corollary to it, and it is that humans can go beyond first impressions.

To explain this, let’s ask ourselves a question.

Question―If aliens came down and showed us their sufficiently advanced technology, what would happen?

Answer―We’d all eventually know it was technology, no matter how much it looked like magic.


Part 2 of a 2 Part series — True Detective and The Pursuit of Cynical Optimism

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Rust Cohle from the series True Detective

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed bleak fiction―TV shows like True Detective, and literature ranging from Thomas Ligotti to Ian McGuire’s The North Water to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

Why do we love them, and more specifically―why do the bleak worlds they present leave us so happy?

We should feel bad after watching True Detective’s portrayal of a corrupt world that is so pervasively bleak but instead―


Part 1 of a 2 Part series — True Detective and The Pursuit of Cynical Optimism

Screenshot of True Detective Season 1 — Rust and Marty — Published under Fair Use
Screenshot of True Detective Season 1 — Rust and Marty — Published under Fair Use
Rust and Marty in True Detective — Season 1

There’s a scene in the middle of the first season of True Detective, when the mesmerizingly dour detective Rust Cohle councils his partner Marty’s wife, Maggie.


You have time to write, and the world needs you to take it

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Photo by Benjamin Manley on Unsplash

The life of a working parent doesn’t seem conducive to writing at first glance

All right, here’s your day―

You get up, shower, and commute to the office. You work a half day, go to lunch with your co-workers, work another half day, commute back, cook dinner, eat dinner, clean up after dinner, and then bathe your kids. Now it’s 9pm and you’re too tired to think, let alone work on your short story/novel/blog post.

Well I’ve got news for you―you’ve got the time to write, and you’ve got the energy to write―you just need to know where and how to find both.

Here are eight steps to do just this.

About

Jonmaas

I read a lot and occasionally write ;) See more of me at Goodreads.com/JMaas

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