I’m an absurd pacifist. Allow me to explain:
Albert Camus’ essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus” is certainly one his crowning works. This is an essay that outlines his philosophy of the absurd, and the inability to find meaning. He says, “There is but one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” Instead of this end, we must revolt. So in the final chapter he addresses the character of Greek mythology: Sisyphus. To conquer death Sisyphus must roll a rock up a mountain, forever. He is freed to realize the absurdity of his situation by accepting the futility of his task. He is not hopeful, but content with his situation. Here again, Camus:
I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
I have recently started reading, Janine di Giovanni’s Madness Visable, a chronicle of the Balkan people during the continuing breakup of Yugoslavia. In one section detailing the refugees in Durres, Albania she says, “There’s a tenth-century Byzantine church, neglected, because there is more important business going on here…” In the midst of war, guns blazing and bombs exploding, questions of God are all too often placed on the back burner.
I would like to consider myself a Paciphus. The attempt to explain a pacifist position, in my opinion fails. Ideologically there will always be issues, and with arguments they can always be defeated. Yet, I still hold that a pacifist position is what I am called to. Yet, I feel at times I have made a deal with God to accept a position that is needed and yet impractical. Being an American, we measure the greatness of something by its practicality, not it’s peace-ability. So, I push a stone up a mountain called pacifism, and hold it in highest regard. That the powers and principalities will not find it suitable, nor the family that has endured great horror a just resolution.
Yet, I find myself content. I find myself listening to the stories and horrors of war and past wars, and I roll my stone harder. I find myself at the impasse that calls out for a prophetic voice, one lost in the wilderness. Whereas in the past society looks for the great voice that has united a people, today we look for the united people that will unite a world. This world does not need a 10th-century Byzantine chapel, what it needs is a chapel of humanity, a safe harbor from the guns and bombs. What we need are individuals that called themselves a Paciphus, committed to rolling a stone that is great and heavy, but worth the strife.
A Paciphus knows neither creed nor color, neither bold ambition nor quiet discontent, neither silver linings nor steel resolve, but a commitment to that which a mountain of blood and tears could bear to hear. To quote Paul from All Quiet on the Western Front:
“But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony–Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”