“Momentary relief from the existential terrors of existence”
– happiness, according to Will the Krill
I watched Happy Feet 2 today, and that quote above, uttered by an existentially angsty shrimp, reminded me of the first Camus novel I read (The Plague), which prompted me to dig up the essay I wrote about it in freshman composition, which concludes with:
If there were indeed no God, no open door behind the black curtain of death; if there were only oblivion after life, then the world would have no ultimate meaning. But, The Plague seems to say, something in the world possesses meaning. If meaning lies not in an afterlife that does not exist, then meaning must lie in the life of man, while in death lies the end of meaning. But since there is no avoiding death, then man must struggle for man, and against whatever it is that might defeat humanity, for the world to make sense. …
… But what makes life worth living, really? The heroism and nobility of certain acts, or, as Rieux puts it, “common decency,” notwithstanding, the truth of the struggle against the plague and all that it symbolizes is the truth that there will always be pain, misery, loneliness, death. … In concluding the novel with the deaths of Tarrou and Rieux’s wife, and with the idea that the plague “never dies or disappears for good,” and that a day would perhaps come when it “roused up its rats again and sent them to die in a happy city,” Camus points out that man lives in a condition where suffering predominates, and that happiness is but a brief respite from it. Perhaps we should just accept it, and make the most of such a condition; but The Plague also tells us that we must not bow down to it, for life is a struggle that man can dominate. We must affirm that in times of tribulation, there truly is more to be admired than to be despised in man. It is therefore up to us to endeavor for those brief respites of happiness.
Five years hence and I still think the same (I don’t know whether to count that as early maturity, inherent melancholy, or mere consistency — and I don’t know whether that’s good or is just is), except now I’m not so anthropocentric. But, I suppose, as the only species that ponders existence and its anxieties, only the happiness of our own kind matters to us.
It was so, even for Will the Krill.
On Happy Feet 2: I think the movie handled its many big ideas very messily but at least the ideas were there to chew over and write thought pieces about later (hopefully): parenting, community and belonging, individualism, heroism and common decency, existentialism, ecological awareness, will vs biological determinism, etc.
If it were up to me, I’d do without the penguins and make the film about the krill. :))