Fewwriters articulate existential anxiety as eloquently as Albert Camus, the famed French absurdist philosopher of the twentieth century. In his 1942 essay “The Myth of Sisyphus”, Camus asserts that life can be nothing but a nonsensical and chaotic experience. The world is incomprehensible to us and fundamentally meaningless, and any effort to understand it through logic, science, or morality is futile. As he proclaims, “That universal reason, practical or ethical, that determinism, those categories that explain everything are enough to make a decent man laugh … A horde of irrationals has sprung up and surrounds [us] until [our] ultimate end.” Our philosophies, our social expectations, and our grand visions are hopeless attempts to avoid, rationalize, or otherwise obfuscate the senselessness and indifference of the universe. Accordingly, absurdity represents the tension between our innate desire for meaning and the unassailable meaninglessness of existence. Daunting as the absurd may be, however, we cannot dance around its presence for long. No matter how rock-solid our values, no matter how stubborn our determination and vigor for life, we all must eventually question the foundations of our existence. We may become conscious of the absurd at any time - in the middle of an office shift, during a relaxed vacation to Italy, or late at night in the comfort of a dorm - but once the awakening occurs, we can no longer return sincerely to unconsciousness. In particular, Camus presents an anecdote of a wage laborer who unfalteringly follows a monotonous industrial routine, but for whom “ … one day the ‘why’ arises and everything begins in that weariness.” Weariness, he claims, calls upon an individual’s consciousness, producing “the BY Y I HAN DENG PAGE 35 VOL. 1, NO. 1 ZEITGEIST gradual return to the chain … or the definitive awakening.” One can return to nonthinking, but Camus argues that such a life is a mirage, for “nothing is worth anything except through [consciousness].” On the other hand, if one does choose to confront reality in its absurdity, there can only be two outcomes: “suicide or recovery.” Here one makes the decision to live or die. Thus, if we are to lead fulfilling and authentic lives, and indeed to exist at all, we must face the intractable question of “Why?” At IMSA, which perpetually engages us students in a competitive and high-stress academic environment, Camus’ inquiry is particularly significant. We, like the worker, cannot go through the motions - pursuing the next spotless transcript, the next prestigious internship, and the next national award - without eventually questioning the purpose behind our actions. In our weariness, we will inevitably discover that terrifying truth at the center of it all: we have no purpose whatsoever. Many of our wants are either tied to the welfare of our body, which simply demands that we have a secure, comfortable existence with food and shelter, or societal expectations, which impose standards of behavior and worth that are utterly foreign to us. In response, we set our eyes on material goals, thinking that we will finally feel fulfilled when we edge out the competition and conquer our spoils. But we find that these laurels bring us no joy except for the brief validation of an arbitrary, faceless, and alienating system. This exercise in vanity erodes us. We can numb ourselves momentarily with work and play and sleep, but during lonely nights spent in introspection, the anguish returns. The greatest anxiety one can know is to stand before the mirror and not recognize the unfamiliar canvas staring