Who says that the antiseptic observations of a consummate existentialist anti-hero can’t inform our deepest emotions?
I recently took mental inventory of the wonderful people in my life, souls who selflessly provide me care, companionship, affection, security, joy and unwavering support. “I am blessed,” I thought, and remembered old man Salamano, Meursault’s neighbor in Camus’ The Stranger. Salamano has an old dog who he mistreats consistently and persistently over eight years. Finally, during an outing at a fair, Salamano stops at a booth to watch a short skit titled The King of the Escape Artists. In the midst of Salamano’s distraction, the dog runs away and the old man is left alone. Salamano looks for the dog in angered frustration. He doesn’t find him. That night, Mersault listens to Salamano pacing in the adjacent apartment. The bed creeks. Salamano is crying.
For whom are the circumstances more tragic: Salamano or the dog? Beyond this simple, binary question lies a larger truth, the truth that both have suffered and that both have accrued irretrievable losses from the circumstances, for who among us would chose to be Salamano and who among us would chose to be Salamano’s dog?
And so the dispassionate existential exposition of these circumstances, just as much as any canonical literature, teaches us to be patient, to be caring, and to be grateful for those special souls in our lives before, through the rush of unstoppable fate, they are no longer in our lives.