18 Feb Don Juanism (ALBERT CAMUS) | Part B’
A seducer who has become lucid will not change for all that. Seducing is his condition in life. Only in novels does one change condition or become better. Yet it can be said that at the same time nothing is changed and everything is transformed.
What Don Juan realizes in action is an ethic of quantity, whereas the saint, on the contrary, tends toward quality. Not to believe in the profound meaning of things belongs to the absurd man. As for those cordial or wonder-struck faces, he eyes them, stores them up, and does not pause over them.
Time keeps up with him.
The absurd man is he who is not apart from time.
Don Juan does not think of “collecting” women. He exhausts their number and with them his chances of life. “Collecting” amounts to being capable of living off one’s past. But he rejects regret, that other form of hope.
He is incapable of looking at portraits.
Is he selfish for all that? In his way, probably.
But here, too, it is essential to understand one another. There are those who are made for living and those who are made for loving.
At least Don Juan would be inclined to say so. But he would do so in a very few words such as he is capable of choosing. For the love we are speaking of here is clothed in illusions of the eternal. As all the specialists in passion teach us, there is no eternal love but what is thwarted. There is scarcely any passion without struggle. Such a love culminates only in the ultimate contradiction of death.
One must be Werther or nothing. There, too, there are several ways of committing suicide, one of which is the total gift and forget-fulness of self. Don Juan, as well as anyone else, knows that this can be stirring. But he is one of the very few who know that this is not the important thing. He knows just as well that those who turn away from all personal life through a great love enrich themselves perhaps but certainly impoverish those their love has chosen.
A mother or a passionate wife necessarily has a closed heart, for it is turned away from the world. A single emotion, a single creature, a single face, but all is devoured.
Quite a different love disturbs Don Juan, and this one is liberating. It brings with it all the faces in the world, and its tremor comes from the fact that it knows itself to be mortal.
Don Juan has chosen to be nothing.
For him it is a matter of seeing clearly.
We call love what binds us to certain creatures only by reference to a collective way of seeing for which books and legends are responsible. But of love I know only that mixture of desire, affection, and intelligence that binds me to this or that creature. That compound is not the same for another person.
I do not have the right to cover all these experiences with the same name. This exempts one from conducting them with the same gestures. The absurd man multiplies here again what he cannot unify.
Thus he discovers a new way of being which liberates him at least as much as it liberates those who approach him. There is no noble love but that which recognizes itself to be both short-lived and exceptional.
All those deaths and all those rebirths gathered together as in a sheaf make up for Don Juan the flowering of his life. It is his way of giving and of vivifying.
I let it be decided whether or not one can speak of selfishness.
I think at this point of all those who absolutely insist that Don Juan be punished. Not only in another life, but even in this one.
I think of all those tales, legends, and laughs about the aged Don Juan. But Don Juan is already ready.
The Myth of Sysiphus