The Guest – Albert Camus


Why? I have nothing to fear. (16)

I talked to a local priest, once. Actually, many times, since I was a catechist at my church. In one of our many complicated theological debates, I asked him about fate; its possibilities and limitations. If there is such a thing, how it could complement the idea of man’s freedom? To me, rationally, the concept of free will did not seem to match the notion of fate. If everything has been seen by this omniscient God, is there something left for me to choose? Am I drinking tea or coffee because of him? Am I happy or miserable because of things that have been already decided? Why didn’t I get a memo or something, just to check before? There was never going to be a memo because we are all sinners and we deserve nothing from him, so we cannot ask for anything. Bible says?
The priest answered me in a very articulated manner, I remember. He told me that we certainly are the ones who choose to drink coffee or tea, for we are not puppets amid the powers of good and evil. Thus, he moved away from fatalism. The decisions of life are surely subject to the foreknowledge of God—everything is part of his divine plan—and we must decide which influence is going to rule our lives and therefore, where we are being led to. Heaven or hell. The questions I made concerning that matter received a well-known reply: it is a mystery; it is beyond the small comprehension that man is capable of having, comparing to God’s. Do not be so arrogant as to try to understand what you cannot even start to grasp, child.
Even though I could never completely accept the existence of fate, I honestly wanted to. I felt I could have a reassurance, a source of comfort, a lighter responsibility in this illogical world of ours. A less-than-biblical but inevitable fatalistic view of life. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t have a choice. There was nothing I could do. Do you really wanted this for me? What in the world were you thinking?!
For all intents and purposes, we choose our destinies; but a supreme being already knows what we are going to choose. If we are going to be saved. In the mystery of God, predestination and free will are a coherent combo. What is the choice to make in order to deserve the heavenly kingdom of a merciful god that foreknows whether I am going to be saved or condemned to eternal punishment? The choice is God.
Algeria. A schoolmaster has to decide what to do with a prisoner. A gendarme has to decide whether to tell or not. The prisoner has to decide between freedom and jail.
…that the Arab might have fled and that he would be alone with no decision to make. But the prisoner was there. (21)
In the land of the absence of a god, there is nothing more than a person and the faculty of choosing. The core of existentialism. Death cannot be avoided, no matter the choices we make. To fully accept that fact leads to freedom. The curse of certain freedom. There are no stars. No previous knowledge. We are thrown to the world, alone. Facing its absurdity, alone. You, me, and the responsibility for our actions.
Too damn scary.
The act of imparting catholic knowledge to children in front of such a trembling faith of mine caused me a revolting sense of hypocrisy. After some time, I stopped teaching and left the church. I left it to be in this ambivalent universe of uncertainty; floating between reason and faith. Evidence and assumptions. Existence and nothingness. You and me.

* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.

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