As one of life’s depressives, I’ve long questioned the meaning of life and what drives us on, day after day, to continue our existence in this world. And over the years I’ve learned to become content with following fellow depressive Winston Churchill’s philosophy to just ‘Keep buggering on’ – a favourite phrase of his. To me, this approach is neither about maintaining eternal optimism nor applying a tenacious, stubborn, single-track myopia to get through our daily trials and tribulations, but instead speaks more to the kind of constant Sisyphean struggle of life espoused by Albert Camus.
In Greek mythology Sisyphus is cursed to spend his days pushing a boulder up a hill, only to find it back down at the bottom every morning, where he begins his thankless task again – the ultimate Groundhog Day frustration of perpetual motion. My understanding is that Camus posited the idea that the sheer absurdity of our everyday life experience as conscious beings is at the heart of everything we do. Humankind’s never-ending search for meaning, order and control in an effectively meaningless and chaotic world creates a dynamic tension that cannot ever be tamed; ultimately it can only ever be avoided or accepted.
According to Camus the avoidance of such absurdity comes in the form of physical suicide (annihilation, a complete rejection of life) or philosophical suicide (an evasion of reality through religious belief in the promise of something better ahead). Instead he suggested a philosophy of simply embracing our lot when it comes to the absurdity of life – accepting that however hard we try we can never apply enough order and control to square the circle of life and learning to be content with that fact. Understand the inevitable difficulties we must always face in our daily grind, and learn to live with them as they are. Keep on pushing that rock up the hill every day, knowing that we’ll be doing it all again tomorrow, and effectively embracing the challenge.
To me this is closer to what Churchill meant with his oft-repeated favourite phrase ‘Keep buggering on’ – it’s a kind of stoic acceptance of whatever potential chaos is likely to be put in front of us every day and dealing with it all just as it is, in the moment, whatever it takes. It’s about struggling with the futility and inevitability of our meaningless existence, yet rising to the daily challenge and not ever giving up on life, no matter what. And that’s a pretty long-winded way of me describing what I feel drives me in life these days – a sheer bloody-mindedness not to give up, no matter what, and meanwhile hanging on and enjoying the ride as best I can…