What Is The Myth Of Sisyphus?

An ancient myth of sisyphus speaks of a man eternally condemned who, in spite of his punishment found meaning in the suffering.

The "Myth of Sisyphus" was little known and well-filed in those libraries of archaic lore which rarely see the light of day until Albert Camus came along. He repopularized Sisyphus and the suffering he went through. Using the example of Sisyphus, Camus brought forth his philosophy, and said something revolutionary. Something profound. Something very difficult to understand. He said Sisyphus was happy.

Many are familiar with the ancient gods of mythology, namely the Greco-Roman variety due to our Western culture. Many know the stories of these gods being both benevolent and malevolent and subjecting to cruel, insufferable punishment those who would dare cross them, or even so much as cast a side-long glance at them. These gods, we know, condemned Atlas, a vanquished Titan, to holding the world on his shoulders. These gods condemned Prometheus for bringing fire to mankind. What kind of punishment did they have for our friend Prometheus? For the god who separated man from beasts by granting fire from the gods' personal alter? He was eternally bound to a cliff whereat, every day, an eagle would swoop down and peck out his liver, and at night it would re-grow, whereby he'd be subjected to the same punishment the following day. Given these considerations, it's hardly any surprise that the beliefs in these temperamental gods got thrown by the wayside as time passed.

But what was the punishment to which our friend Sisyphus was subjected? Somewhere along the line he angered one of these "great" gods and was condemned to pushing a stone up a hill for eternity. Every time the stone reached the top it would roll back down, forcing him to roll it up again""and, we would surmise, to endlessly face disappointment along with physical pain and laboring.

So now you see the "absurdity" in Camus' statement that ""¦we must believe Sisyphus to be happy." Such a statement at first seems the wording of a mad-man, until one digs deeper into the philosophy of it and, perhaps, applies what he learns to his own life. In life we tend to be very distracted. If asked what the meaning of life is, you'll find it varies from person to person""and that's when the person can give an answer, which often they can't. We have to many things that we love and "live" for. Family, friends, love, hope, money/material possessions, religion/God, power, etc.""all these compete to find a place in our list of priorities.

Imagine, however, what would happen when all the sticks fall, all the balls drop, all the bets are placed. It is said that in moments of intense pain people develop strengthened/renewed religions convictions. Why? Because pain reduces the human mind to only two things: pain and God. That's all you can focus on, everything else swims out of view and becomes moot and pointless. Imagine eternal focus. That is one thing Sisyphus had going for him""his only goal in life was to push that stone up the hill. That's all he lived for, that's all he focused on. One goal""one that we know is impossible""to reach the summit and have the stone stay. We can imagine that every time the stone rolled down the hill, rather than being disappointed, Sisyphus knew that was just one more step towards the goal, that every time the stone reached the summit of the hill and rolled back down, he was a little bit closer to his ultimate goal. In this intense situation it is quite possible that Sisyphus indeed found meaning and purpose, that he forgot the gods' curse that he'd never be able to have the stone stay at the summit of the hill. Rather, he must have thought that at some point it was bound to happen.

Sisyphus' life was further defined and clarified by the lack of his concern over anything else. We worry about tomorrow, about our future, about what we will do with our lives. Sisyphus knew the point and meaning of his life. He knew very clearly that there was no getting around his fate, and he accepted it. It is, then, quite possible that we can follow the same pattern. Accept what comes to us and move on. Find a purpose to your life and follow it to its conclusion. Maybe for you, too, will Mr. Camus be right. Perhaps, when all the cards are played and all bets are down, we shall imagine you to be happy.

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