The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2011) presents a rather gloomy portrait of the great French Existential philosopher Albert Camus (who denied being either an Existentialist or a philosopher). He mostly brooded over the meaning of life in the face of inevitable death. It has no meaning, he said; we are compelled to spend our days in an irresolvable emptiness. Camus rejected God and religion, declaring that wisdom can be found in the “conscious certainty of a death without hope.” With no meaning in life, there are no fixed values, no ethics. The ultimate questions are thus ‘why not kill yourself,’ and ‘why not kill someone else.’ Without ethics, those are dangerous challenges. Camus notes “… in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.” It’s simple: sometimes you’re happy, sometimes you despair, and then you die.
The philosopher Alan Jackson (never before accused of being a philosopher) also recognizes the absurdity of life in the face of inevitable death. As he says, “life goes on for a little bitty while.” But for Jackson, there’s no reason to despair. He prefaces this observation with its resolution: “Might as well share, might as well smile.”