I’m writing on the 16th anniversary of 9/11. Rather than tick off the obvious: where I was, changes in American culture and discussions about religion, I’ll relate how 9/11 first brought me face to face with the Absurd.
I first discovered existentialism shortly before 9/11. A friend at the time had a blog called “On Being and Nothingness,” and while she said there was no real reason for the title, I went to the library and started reading Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Soren Kierkegaard. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness was too much for me at the time, but I instantly connected with Camus’ more approachable style. It was Camus who first taught me about the Absurd: humankind’s futile attempt to find meaning in a life that has none. I was a Christian back then, so I thought Camus was just a nihilist and didn’t take him too seriously.
Then came 9/11. In the days following the attacks, I felt this deep unease in my stomach, as if all illusions of a moral arc bending towards justice suddenly disappeared. It didn’t help that 9/11 happened during my second week of college. Childhood was over, and I was entering an adult world full of violence and chaos, one falling apart underneath an apathetic sky. Maybe Camus was right all along, I thought.
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