Law in Contemporary Society

Human Condition of Absurdity

-- By ChihIFang - 26 Feb 2010

Introduction: A Narrative of Absurdity (a true story)

Three young children gathered around a lobster tank in a grocery store. They were staring at the sea-creatures with obvious palpable fascination and debated all the wondrous theories about them with their untainted minds. The children’s discussion was cut short, however, by a fish counter clerk who kindly offered them an opportunity to “pet” the lobsters. The children, glowing with excitement, responded in “hurrahs.” The lobsters’ claws were not banded; and as the fish counter clerk pulled a lobster out of the tank, he said the magic phrase that will maximize the probability that at least one child will leave the grocery store with less fingers than he had entered with: “Okay, now, be careful of the claws.”

Ever since starting law school, the absurdities in life have been becoming more and more pronounced to me – whether it is the action of the fish counter clerk or my decision in attending law school. In this essay, I hope to expound on the two types of absurdity that exist in my world and what I want to achieve in the company of them.

Two Absurdities

“External Absurdity”: The Absurdity I Laugh At

The external absurdities in my world are behaviors conducted without common sense and decisions made without reasonable judgment. The lobster story is an example of it, as well as the fact patterns to 99.9% of all tort cases I have read. To be sure, common sense is subjective itself. It is a form of evidence based purely on individual’s perspective or personal philosophy. As such, it is impossible to judge the validity and reliability of any decisions made based on any individual’s common sense alone.

Enter our legal system. After all, what is the law other than a collection of societal consensus on what common sense is? This may give the law its validity, but certainly not its reliability. Hence, as the societal expectations change, the law changes (although infrequently, the law does initiate the some societal change before the majority of the society accept it). Although the society assumes our laws as valid, its reliability nevertheless changes over time. The reliability of such law will vanish at a point where it is no longer buttressed by the society’s common sense, or it has become absurd. Usually, individuals who are affected, irked, and disappointed by the absurdity of the present law arouse this change.

“Internal Absurdity”: The Absurdity That Laughs At Me

The internal absurdities in my world stem from my continuing desire to ask questions that I have (and probably can find) no answer to, and the degree of my internal absurdity seems to correlate positively with the number of cases I read. I started toying with the idea of internal absurdity during a two-week preoccupation with Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus’s essay structured around a human condition that he called “absurd,” which results from the incompatible dualism of men’s search for life’s clarity and significance and the inevitable lack of response from the universe. The essay used the Sisyphus, a Greek mythological figure who must perform a meaningless task repeatedly for eternity, as a metaphor for the absurd condition.

Yet Camus’s answer to the absurd condition is simple – revolt. One must revolt against her natural instinct to search for life’s meaning and accept the absurd state of being. This revolt will invite her freedom. By realizing the absurdity of one’s condition, one is free to construct the absolutes of the universe by her ideals, ethics, and morals. The freedom will deliver her passion; her ability and freedom to think in her own absolutes, the universe as she sees it, will progress into her own individualized meaning and purpose of life.

A Case Study of Myself: Revolt Against the “Internal Absurdity” and Challenge the “External Absurdity”

A internal absurdity I have been struggling with since last fall is the question “Why am I here?” I am at law school by default. It is a reasoned decision I made, but the reasoning has lost its validity and reliability over the course of months. I do not dislike law school; in fact, I enjoy it. But it nonetheless bothers me that I do not know why I am here.

Revolt against that internal absurdity; imagine that question irrelevant. Accepting the fact that it does not matter why I am in law school, but rather what I could do with a law degree unbounded by the societal, personal, or familial expectation. It provides a freedom that allows me to develop my passion, my purpose.

I want to minimize my own external absurdities; I want my own common sense to be guided by the law, but not determined nor bound by it. I want to challenge some external absurdity. For John Brown, the idea that was most absurd to him, most contrary to his unique common sense, and most offends his reasonable judgment is slavery. For me, there are many (ban on gay marriage, juvenile rights, etc.) societal absurdities that irk me. But I hope to find one that I may be so keenly aware of, that will, as Eben said, make me into a person that has a little John Brown in it.

Final Thoughts

I do not pretend anything that was discussed above was original or revelational to anyone reading it. Only that it is an abstract idea that has been set to replay in my head and contours to my personal background and beliefs. Moreover, this class and the process of writing this essay confirm this idea - at least that is how I feel at the moment.

“Thus I draw from the absurd three consequences, which are my revolt, my freedom, and my passion. By the mere activity of consciousness I transform into a rule of life what was an invitation to death, and I refuse suicide." - Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

I don't think the problem is originality or revelation. I think you've been very successful so far. It seems to me, as with these sorts of moments of growth in awareness, that it can be distilled a little more tightly than your essay does. You've found, I think, that not knowing why you are in law school frees you to find out why you might want to be. You've also traced one possible route to the discovery of work you could commit to: the effort to remove one inhumane absurdity from the world. These are very valuable insights, and in my view you've got the thread that leads out of the labyrinth in your hand. But with just a little more thinking you could compress the part of the essay that's here already, making it simpler and more accessible, while making room for taking your ideas further, to see what greater implications you can get from them.


Webs Webs

r3 - 13 Jan 2012 - 23:14:10 - IanSullivan
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