Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Fall by Albert Camus

A book for the 'do-gooders'. A warning. I saw myself in this book. I saw what I set out to achieve, metaphorically looking for the blind to lead and at times my frustrations with them to the point where I felt like kicking their sticks from under them (metaphorically!). I saw myself as the 'judge-penitent', a contradiction in terms. I judged and found people wanting and tried to 'help' but then felt guilty that it was never enough or not possibly the the right thing or just guilt for my own inadequacies or for the reasons I was doing what I was doing. Both sides of a coin.

The book examines the sometimes less than altruistic reasons we 'do good' , whether they are to salve our consciences, to feel better than others, to feel good about ourselves, to be seen to be 'good' by others or to have the most 'Brownie-points' at the final court hearing after death.

The book made me question my motives and was brought to mind when yesterday I stopped to enquire of a man (holding a can of lager sitting on the street with blood dripping from his head) if he needed help. He and his friend said 'Thanks but no', an ambulance was on its way. I was disappointed. I wondered if I should hang round in case the ambulance was a long time. Then I saw the ambulance pull up and I felt relieved. So why the disappointment? Was it that I missed an opportunity to 'do good' or that I would have felt guilty if anything happened to the man and I hadn't done everything I could?

I intend reading The Fall again, as its a short and insightful read, I would imagine, again and again. For more on the book check out Wikipedia's article on The Fall.

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