How the Absurd Serves Our Imagination.
We castigate when others pass the gate we forbid.
The absurd absorbs the excess of sense, too much of which makes us dense and indifferent to the ways of imagination. Yet, rightly understood, the absurd inspires imagination. In fearing it, we judge others and ourselves by criteria, which few can meet and which cheats us of its excellence. It also cheats us of life itself when we understand life’s breadth, which the absurd reveals.
To understand the absurd, we must examine sense and its pretensions. Else we won’t perceive the absurd’s essence, which rejects our pejoratives. We use these to discourage its embrace. Hence the absurd’s service; hence the need to indulge things that lack wings occasionally if we desire to do the amazing.
Even genius needs respite from the heights it scales when it dwells indefinitely in inspiration, which the absurd hastens. Then it gladly flees to relieve itself and to renew its breath. Failure to indulge diversions via the absurd sanctions myths, which mate madness and genius, making them synonymous. What we deem synonymous, however, reveals our ignorance of the relationship between sense and absurdity.
Reason rates the two based on a subtle cue, which only appears when we resist the spark that inspired the Age of Reason. Therein the absurd suffered insensibly because of reason’s obsession. Sirens cited religious and political imprudence as provocateurs. The former sanctioned superstitions that superseded absurdity and common sense.
Since this age, we have weighed our worth irrationally, which, itself, suggests absurdity in ways that yield incivility. Still, our self-worth rests on our ability to contribute technologically. Seldom do we see the absurdity in consigning reason so. Instead we sting others for their indifference towards technological imperatives, impugning their preferences and contributions.
In fact, we frame as a fraud any pursuit whose roots betray these imperatives. We do so because we don’t see how absurdity serves society or imagination. Thus we label others absurd to discourage their pursuit and to change their priorities. In doing so, they relent and reason extorts.
Some people, in contrast, use absurdity philosophically to describe life and what happens herein. They err, however, when they use it to justify injustice and moral obtuseness. Consider the keepers of natural religion. Consider how its explanations rankle reason and insult sense. Therein flares reason’s folly because some things are inexplicable. They must be accepted instead, however absurd they seem.
Otherwise reason sanctions nonsense. Philosophically, religion is reason’s sycophant.
Sycophancy betrays reason until the absurd becomes inhumane instead. Stalwarts seldom consider that not everything is designed to make sense, but is designed to make the absurd instead. What follows dispels the aura of insanity that threatens when the absurd beckons. It is natural for insanity to threaten when the absurd beckons and we hearken.
Yet, rightly regarded, the absurd disciplines the pretensions of reason, and takes us into regions normally denied. Herein we consider what reason denies de facto based on the fallacy of its sufficiency.
The absurd serves when we understand its purpose and perceive its limits, beyond which it deceives. Perceiving its limits doesn’t mean betraying morality or endorsing stupidity. Such fear reinforces fear. Practically, the absurd exists between sense and incense — the spirit of inspiration that sponsors change. To be incensed doesn’t mean to be angry, but inspired instead (literally, “to set fire”).
To equate it with anger is absurd and shortsighted. This view prevents reason’s reception when the absurd descends. Like the muse, the absurd extends rational limits without violating them. In this regard, reason creates best when it questions least.
To question least, however, it must trust itself when the absurd descends, suspending its pursuits until it perceives the appropriate moment when again to take root.
Only with the absurd’s help can reason create what renews life and inspires us. In fearing its hazards, we hinder creation. Why else do we bind the absurd with nonsense if we don’t fear it? Why else do we respond with disgust when it thrusts itself upon us? Even so, rational history is poorly written without the absurd’s influence.
In this regard, the absurd is preposterous indeed, because inspiration comes before, while reason follows behind after inspiration declines. Yet because its fruits are initially frail, we rail when the absurd solicits, and resist when it lights. In responding so, we show our ignorance of its meaning. We also forfeit the means that follow when we follow it until the end.
In following, we develop temperance amid its turbulence, wherein ideas develop.
It is impossible, moreover, to be indefinitely rational. Neither is it possible to be permanently absurd. Else we wouldn’t seek assistance through various substances. Attempts to extend the state substances induce deceives. They also deprive us of the rationality needed after the absurd has seeded. Yet how often do we deem absurdity odious before it illumines us?
We deem it so because we forget that the absurd syncs criticism with creation, hyper-rationality with heightened sensitivity. Once its torch touches, we extend our boundaries. In dousing it prematurely, we forfeit inspiration and creativity. Then we see the absurd as an apparition mocking our aspirations. Yet rightly embraced, it mates with these, providing seeds for their fulfillment.
Most people fear absurdity because it makes them feel crazy. Hence their tendency to deride what devolves when it descends, whether on themselves or their friends.
A former corporate trainer and university lecturer, Dr. Joel Bryant is an avid reader, writer, speaker, thinker and dreamer. He is also the author of over 40 books on various topics, each exploring themes of change, growth and greatness. He holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership from UNC Charlotte, where he spent five years lecturing in the Philosophy Department. He resides in Charlotte, NC.