“In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.”
This is perhaps one of my favorite quotes of all time. It comes to mind especially on cold, dark winter days like today.
Did you know that Camus wrote this during World War II? He had just returned to Algeria to visit an old ruins he had fond memories of exploring in his childhood. But when he arrived, the place of his childhood dreams was not the same. It was wrecked by bombings. Looking at those ruins, he was disappointed – gone was the place that had meant so much to him in the past 20 years.
But then he noticed the “trees and perfect columns in the transparence of the crystalline air” as if they were twins. What he saw is something which we all know deep within our own hearts – he saw nature and the artifice of man as being one. And in this moment, time stood still and he realizes that the place of his memories is still there.
Here is the rest of the quote:
“Here I recaptured the former beauty, a young sky, and I measured my luck, realizing at last that in the worst years of our madness the memory of that sky had never left me. This was what in the end had kept me from despairing. I had always known that the ruins of Tipasa were younger than our new constructions or our bomb damage. There the world began over again every day in an ever new light. O light! This is the cry of all the characters of ancient drama brought face to face with their fate. This last resort was ours, too, and I knew it now. In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.
from “Return to Tipasa,” in Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
I relate to Camus’ experience so much on so many levels. Have you ever longed for something in your memories? An idyllic place, a perfect moment, or someone very close to you? You ache for it sometimes, thinking your happiness was there and if you could just get it back, you’d be happy again. But life goes on and everything changes. Even if you could go back, you already know it’s not the same. This is the “winter” of which Camus was speaking of.
And still, summer is there too, has always been there. This is because the memory that made you so happy is in you. It is you. It is you that made the place, the moment, the person, more than what it is. It is you that makes it magic. And when you remember that, you’ll know your own beauty can never be lost.
Knowing the rest of Camus quote has bought me even more hope and joy than before. I hope it reminds you too of your own invincible summer.