In honor of the 100th birthday of Albert Camus, the Huffington Post Religion section featured an essay about the Nobel Prize-winning existentialist philosopher and favorite of angsty teens everywhere. The essay itself is about Camus as a cherished figure is for atheists, nones, non-believers. It also wisely suggested that people who don’t follow a religion remain mindful of the feelings of people who do.
In one famous exchange over the purge trials of Vichy collaborators, Camus reacted strongly against Catholic intellectual Francois Mauriac for “throwing Christ in my face.” Camus couldn’t have been more right. But neither should unbelievers throw their strident atheism in the face of believers.
Unfortunately, the Huffington Post got a little bit carried away with the Camus love. Yesterday, the site’s Religion channel tweeted out the following quote to its 135,000 followers, a quote which it misattributed to Camus.
“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” – Albert Camus
— HuffPost Religion (@HuffPostRelig) November 7, 2013
Anyway, despite the internet’s love of this alleged Camus quote, no one is able to cite the book or letter from which it came. Chances are though, if you went to a Jewish summer camp, you’ve heard the quote in song form, probably at a Havdallah ceremony or a really intense campfire. The summer camp version of the song has one more crucial line.
Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend
And together we will walk in the ways of Hashem.
Something makes me think this isn’t the work of Camus. But if it is, I think it’s safe to ask summer camp for a refund.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.