10 Quotes by Albert Camus That Will Change Your Perspective on Life

Auriane Alix
“If something is going to happen to me, I want to be there”
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Image: DietrichLiao on Flickr

Tuberculosis closing the doors to his much-desired profession as a teacher strongly marked his vision of life. From then on, French writer Albert Camus remained convinced that life was unjust. Death, on the other hand, was seen as the greatest scandal of creation.

Camus never knew his father. His mother, half deaf and almost illiterate, used to do housework to ensure the survival of her two children. They’ve been raised by their grandmother, with the help of a whip.

Instead of sinking into a non-productive pessimistic vision of life, Camus developed a great appetite for it. He decided to live in the present. Here and now. To savor every moment of life he was given to enjoy.

His literary work bears witness to this.

“I am stingy with this freedom which disappears as soon as the excess of goods begins.”

My family tends to keep everything. I grew up seeing my parents having a hard time getting rid of stuff from me and my brother’s childhood. My grandmother stores boxes she hasn’t opened in years. All this is cluttering up their space. Both physically and mentally.

I used to keep everything too. Until I moved into a tiny little apartment. Then, I discovered the art of sorting things out. And it felt great. Liberating.

What Camus also denounces is this constant greed for more. The ability of human beings to fill their inner emptiness with external acquisitions. At least their attempt to do so. Turning inward is a great source of freedom. In the end, we don’t need much.

“Whenever it seemed to me that I felt a deep sense of the world, it was its simplicity that always moved me.”

He adds:

“It’s all simple. It’s men that complicate things.”

Society and progress have cluttered our lives with tons of rules, protocols, and duties. What’s left if we put that aside? Probably life, in its simplest state. Human beings walking around the world, with no other purpose than enjoying their existence.

Life is simple. It’s everything we’ve loaded it with that’s complicated. But nothing prevents us from getting rid of it all and getting back to the essence of things.

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

That one hit me like a slap in the face. What have I been doing for a few years now? Wondering about this all.

Maybe the purpose of life is to live it to the fullest. Maybe the answers will come by themselves, over time. Here’s another one that may provide part of the solution.

“What counts is to be true and then everything fits in, humanity and simplicity. And when am I truer than when I am the world? I am fulfilled before I have desired. Eternity is here and I hoped for it. It is no longer to be happy that I wish now, but only to be conscious.”

Mindfulness, the return. Something we have forgotten in our present societies so caught up in purely man-made considerations.

“When am I truer than when I am the world?” This sentence reminds me of a feeling I once had when I was walking alone by the sea. I was practicing mindfulness, and suddenly, I reached a place in which I felt as if I was merging with my surroundings. It made me feel deeply fulfilled.

Maybe the secret to existence is feeling it.

“If something is going to happen to me, I want to be there.”

I sometimes have the feeling that human beings, including myself, are anesthetized. Anesthetized by the constant flow of worries, by the substitutes of reality that we have constructed. We’re absent from ourselves. As if each one of us was a house, plunged in darkness, whose windows would not be lit.

Everything passes over us like it never happened. We are so focused on always more, always better, always bigger that we don’t see the beautiful things that happen to us anymore. What about the little things? The everyday things, which are infinitely more beautiful and powerful than anything else?

“It’s curious, though, how we live among people in a hurry.”

This one speaks for itself. It is the very last sentence of “L’Envers et l’Endroit”, Albert Camus’ first book. In this early work, he saw the secret source of all his thinking.

The simple fact of meditating on this sentence for a few moments reveals all its strength and truth. It creates contrast. Let’s try to slow down the pace of our lives. Let’s take some time to stop. To let our thoughts flow, freely. Slowing down allows interesting ideas to emerge.

“Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.”

Now is all we have. Yesterday was yesterday and is now frozen. Tomorrow is tomorrow and remains unreachable until then. So why not focus on the one thing we have control over the present?

I have found myself constantly using my present to shape my future. Using my whole days to work for a tomorrow. Although it is necessary to build one’s future, one must not forget to live now. Let’s stop getting ready to live, and start living.

“Now is happening” — Anonymous
“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”

I’m not sure I fully grasp the meaning of this one, but something in this sentence speaks to my unconscious. This quote resonates more with my photographic work than with my writing. My images are a quest for a feeling, an emotion of intensity, rare and ineffable. Something related to light. I’ve been looking for this since my early days in photography.

It is, perhaps, a will to find an intensity once lived, or to reach, to touch with our fingertips, what we know that life, consciousness, fullness can be.

“The price of travel is fear. Far from our own, from our language, torn from all our supports, […] we are whole on the surface of ourselves.”

What particularly spoke to me was the notion of being on the surface of oneself. It ties in with what I was thinking about the absence from ourselves.

I compare it to the sensation of touch. When you consciously touch a surface with your fingertip, you focus entirely on that sensation. On that fingertip. I think our consciousness is on the surface of ourselves the same way our tactile sensation is. We can experience life and its joys by being on the surface of ourselves.

As if the human being was a cell. The nucleus is the place of our reflection, in which withdrawing is healthy. The reality lies in contact with the air. On the cell membrane. That’s where the intensity of life is.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

This quote splits reality into two parts. As if the human being was a fortress. Wind and rain may beat its ramparts, but nothing will come in unless the gates are opened.

Behind a fortress can hide beautiful gardens full of color, well-protected behind the walls. We can be our own shelter from the storm outside.

It made me think of this:

“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with magic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.”― Warren Buffett

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