Understanding Human Existence and Its Meaning Through the Famous Quote of Albert Camus

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“Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” isa quote that is commonly attributed to French philosopher Albert Camus. However, there is no solid evidence that Camus was the source of this quote. Regardless, it is an interesting way to illustrate the absurd nature of the universe and reality. How can two such diametrically opposing things like suicide and drinking a cup of coffee be uttered in a sentence? The quote makes the point that in an absurd world where there is no identifiable order and the course of life is what you make of it, committing suicide and having a cup of coffee are ultimately one and the same.

For most of human existence, you would have spent most of your days just trying to stay alive. There would have been very little thought about what makes life meaningful when you are just trying to gather enough berries to not starve. The c rts of modern existence is what ironically gives us the opportunity to explore these questions of existence. While we have far more pathways in life today, there is still a somewhat limited mobility in what we can accomplish in life. Some groups are stymied by the circumstances they were borm into and the ceiling for these groups isn’t very high. The difference here is that basic needs are not much of an issue anymore. We are no longer using most of our energy to survive, but to make life meaningful enough to continue on. The paradox here is that the harder you look, the less meaningful existence appears. The immense scale of the universe tells us that we are simply a minuscule part of the universe.

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Our planet is one of an estimated 100 billion planets in our own galaxy and there are an estimated to be at least 200 galaxies in the universe. Our planet and the lives we live in this small section of the universe makes our existence seem hollow. With the plethora of ways the universe is trying to eliminate our existence, there is very little reason to believe that there is an order to the universe that governs or guides our existence. Even in the biological sense where reproducing and propagating our own species is the primary goal and meaning of our existence, what is exactly is the means to the end? In the general sense, continuing the line of our own species still falls into the circle of futility of attempt to extract meaning out of our existence. This is where the absurdity of existence is perfectly illustrated by the quote “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” The meaning of life is what we make it out to be. There is no single meaning or purpose to life. We can choose to believe that life is meaningless and kill ourselves or we can decide that life is worth living for whatever reason you see fit and have a fresh cup of coffee instead. Ultimately, they are essentially the same act that ventures down the same road of giving meaning to your existence.

We’ve fallen into the trap of moderm civilization that gives us a relatively narrow template to live our lives. When an individual feels they do not fit into this template, it becomes difficult to fathom what the purpose of living is outside of this template The paradox here with committing suicide is that you’ve given meaning to existence by identifying it as meaningless. Life is meaningful by default, as a consequence of existing at all. Our existence is a contradiction to the high unlikelihood that life in our form should even exist at all. Evolution of life on Earth has taken the long road to giving us large brains and cognitive wherewithal to try to dissect and comprehend our existence. It is of great irony that the knowledge gained as a result is that the universe lacks any real order and existence is likely to be the result of random chance. It is this realization that challenges us to decide between suicide or a cup of coffee. Ultimately, our existence and its meaning is decided by what we believe its meaning should be.

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Understanding Human Existence and Its Meaning Through the Famous Quote of Albert Camus. (2023, Feb 19). Retrieved from


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