My Junior year in High School, Mrs Dietsch gave us a list of the 100 books you should read before going to college. Yes I'm a nerd so I read them all. (and an only child who didn't get my license until I was 17, and didn't have friends in the neighborhood because I went to a parochial school miles away from home, and lived with my grandparents, and... well yeah, a nerd)
One of the oddest and most memorable was Albert Camus' The Plague. One of the problems with reading 100 books in a year is that you don't have time to absorb and remember the details of all of them. (That and having read it 30+ years ago) While I don't remember all the details or even characters of The Plague, I do remember the sensation and feelings I got when reading it. It was weird, and wonderful, and so dramatically deep and profound (as only metaphorical existentialism can be to a 16 year old girl) I wasn't sure what all of it meant, but I knew it was important that I try to figure it out.
It was where I was introduced to the concept of Absurdism. Trying to seek out the meaning of life only to find that it is not possible to do so. I remember having long conversations about the meaning of life, was it possible to know, was it the same for everyone, are we suppose to know, does that definition exist, change, develop, and on and on. One felt so smart even contemplating those things. Of course it was even better when discussed under the influence... (wait what? hey kids I mean this was WAY after High School, and the drinking age was 18 for my friends, who may have legally drank once or twice, not me of course...oh never mind there's no way my kids are reading this anyway)
The Plague is set in the 1940s and poses the questions of immortality, fear, self preservation, loyalty etc It forces you to reflect what you would become if you were quarantined in your city with death an imminent threat. The characters react in predictable ways as human nature tends to steer us towards heroism, recklessness, survival or whatever it is which makes us what we are.
A few years ago I realized that I don't sit around and have deep thoughts anymore. Is it because I am not reading that which is thought provoking; or because I think I have figured it all out; or maybe that trying to figure it out is just too exhausting? Perhaps we get to a place where we accept that the meaning of life is unfolding as we go, or we have a glass of wine and just really don't care that much!