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On this day in 1914, Britain declared war on Germany and so began what is known by many as the Great War.
Certainly that was a black day and sixteen million people are estimated to have died before it finished, but time and again we see how magnificently the human spirit responds to adversity. Albert Camus, the Algerian French agnostic thinker and philosopher, wrote “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” (From L’Etranger 1942)
Another Frenchman, Jean Paul Sartre, writing somewhat earlier, put it more succinctly: “life begins on the other side of despair” (from La Nausee 1938). Both Camus and Sartre are closely linked to Existentialism (though Camus rejected this, preferring the word ‘Absurdism’). This philosophy proposes that the individual is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely. Some are guided by a God of their understanding and others follow agnostic, humanist or existentialist paths, but life should be lived as well as possible, even when it appears to have no meaning.
George Herbert says this in his poem, The Flower:
Who would have thought my shrivelled heart
Could have recovered greenness? It was gone
Quite underground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown,
Where they together
All the hard weather,
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
I ask that today I will do my best in everything and that every choice that I make today will be the right one for me and for the rest of mankind.