No Truths, Only Objects of Love

“The misery and greatness of this world: it offers no truths, but only objects for love. Absurdity is king, but love saves us from it."

--Albert Camus, Notebooks

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21 thoughts on “No Truths, Only Objects of Love”

  1. "Such love is holistic, not something one turns on or off for this or that person or thing. It's orientation is toward life as a whole. It dwells on good wherever it may be found, and supports it in action. Love is nourished upon the good and the right and the beautiful." - Dallas Willard

  2. I think this is the only consolation of the monist, but it seems cold comfort. C. S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed reflecting on his late wife says, "If Helen ‘is not’, then she never was. I mistook a cloud of atoms for a person” ( Even love cannot stand the withering blast furnace of a material, pointless universe. All is lost (or never was, really). Russell said it well when he said the only option for the monist is to build everything on the firm bedrock of utter despair. Camus's option is pleasant self-deception - a "great lie" to salve what would otherwise be unbearable. The greatest thing is love, to be sure, but it rests in the trinity with hope and faith...

  3. i think existentialism prepared me to open my heart to others in laying down my time and experience of trauma in the service of a codependant relationship!

  4. Willard is circling in on love in the sense of 'agape,' holistic love, love that--at least in the New Testament sense--does not arise in orientation toward some individuals or things over/against others but is as a virtue an overall disposition of the self.

  5. Faith is converted into love--sometimes not until the last gate, sometimes earlier, perhaps. Where faith dies, love continues to burn so darkness cannot have the final victory. Is it our love or His? It's a pointless question. There is only love.

  6. Hi Jeff

    Thanks for the interesting observations, though your critique of Camus's 'pleasant self-deception' makes me wonder how much of his work you've read. My own view would be that Camus looks with glaring honesty into the unbearable-ness of utter despair that you describe and finds very fragile and rare yet profound fragments of affiliative dignity that arise precisely in the midst of this despair. There is a sense that the one cannot truly exist in the absence of the other. Camus (and Vonnegut) have, more than any other writers, helped me to embrace such absurdity and despair and brought to an end my ceaseless efforts to deny and repress these experiences in myself and others. Even as a poor follower of Christ, I have struggled with faith (quite a lot) and hope (slightly less) but, as Richard has recently borne witness, love is a non-negotiable.

  7. I agree. Camus, through his fiction -- The Stranger, The Fall, and especially The Plague -- was an immense influence on my spiritual formation in my early days as a minister, not only as a master of suspicion of a bull-shit compensatory Christianity, but also as a humaniser of my faith. Around the time he wrote The Plague, Camus became acquainted with the work of Simone Weil, a kindred spirit for sure. Alas, his untimely death allows us only to speculate as to whether Camus would have pilgrimaged to Weil's doubt-shaped, hidden-God kind of faith, where "God can only be prersent in creation under the form of absence", and where "Belief in the existence of human beings as such is love."

  8. As something of a newbie to such concerns, I wonder if love can save us from the absurdity of the world in part because it is itself absurd - more absurd perhaps than even this brutal existence. As we are called to live it, it seems to require no facts or logic, or even to disregard facts and logic entirely (while we were still enemies, Christ died for us). Similar to the this world then, it offers no truths, other than itself. The way to fully know it is to be it, to extend it, to offer it.

    It is sourced from outside the universe, often appears eclipsed by it, and, despite all the ways that fallen existence works misery, love remains nonetheless at its core, as it is the very purpose and means of the universe's being called into existence. As in the universe, so in our hearts, I guess, it is intended to work from the inside out.

    Needless to say, I am still very much stuck in and stuck on logic. I am looking forward to seeing God's love break my rules.

  9. WOW you just blew me away ocasional! I've also heard it said by way of my Quaker friends there is 'that of god' in everyone.

  10. just a thot: both camus & vonnegut were survivors of the trauma of WW2 in europe. their particular first hand experiences deepened their capacity for honesty & empathy in so far as they were able to recover their wounded humanity & mqke art. i found some great insights from reading victor frankel's MAN IN SEARCH OF MEANING as well. it seems to me that the legacy these men have left is a great boost to my understanding of what I've been going thru lately in my recovery from the disillusionment owing to having to cope w/ this funky century!

  11. Thanks for your thoughts Charles. I have appreciated your contribution to many past discussions on this blog. I am encouraged now to think that there is "that of god" in everyone, and challenged to go about finding it in all.

    For me, honestly, there is equal challenge in finding that of God in various experiences, in set backs particularly. Maybe it is in those times that God wants me to find the "that of God" that he is putting in me to overcome the difficulties. I wonder what the Camus, Vonnegut, and Frankel you mention above found in themselves in that regard. In any case: you've given me much good to think about. I appreciate it.

  12. Thanks for expanding your thoughts, Jeff, and apologies for any misconstruals or over-generalisations I may have made from your initial comment. I tend to take respectful humility as a given in this wonderful space that Richard provides for us, and didn't intend to come across in any other way in my response.

    It seems we agree on much. If I've understood you better this time, we both acknowledge the tension between faith and meaninglessness. What I'm not sure about is whether you see this stress as necessarily implying mutual threat. My own journey has been away from fearing this tension to a greater acceptance of - even rejoicing in - this dynmaic as the creative and necessary crucible of faith, hope and love. This chimes with today's post on Psalm 23 - it is the suffering of the writer (ultimately the threat of meaninglessness) that announces the arrival of divine intimacy. This seems to chime with your own experience as you describe it in your final paragraph, but to lie more at odds with your analysis of Sartre and Russell? Or perhaps you have discovered a faith that transcends meaning - that would make for interesting reading!


  13. 'I wonder what the Camus, Vonnegut, and Frankel you mention above found in themselves in that regard. In any case: you've given me much good to think about. I appreciate it.'

    Camus &Vonnegut had a literary life that sustained them in a state of anxiety and passing fame that never was enuf to make up for all the spiritual trauma in their lives. they never made it to recovery. some say Camus was a suicide & Vonnegut was a cynical s.o.b. frankel started a movement called logotherapy. he contributed his honesty and empathy b/c that was the way it shook out for him. a lucky thing for me I found him by way of a recommendation of a therapist when I was early in recovery.

  14. "Getting Love Right"
    A paper Willard presented at the American Association of Christian Counselors conference, September 15, 2007
    It's available on Kindle.

  15. Charles, thanks for sharing all this. The opinions some have of Camus and Vonnegut, whether acccurate or not, are another reminder to me of the futility of my own attempts to avoid or deny or my own pain. I keep wanting to rise above or leave behind my worst experiences and responses. The truth to which I keep being returned, however, seems to be, as Robert Frost put it, that "the best way out is through."

    I am glad to hear about what you call your luck in finding Frankel's work. I have been experiencing a steady stream of what seems to be a similar kind of luck over the past few months. Many kind and thoughtful comments and insights, including yours here, have been combining to change my views and encourage my better efforts. Thanks again for your responses.

  16. No truths? Is that true Mr Camus? Such philosophy refutes itself. There are objective moral truths based on God's nature that our relativistic culture and sinful natures yearn to reject...

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