Hubby, in a moment typical of his wry wit, said to me the other day:
“Your persistence could be confused with masochism.”
“HA! Wouldn’t that make a good meme” I replied.
But the more I got to thinking about it, the more I remembered the story of Sisyphus.
For those unfamiliar with this character in Greek myth, here’s a few select quotes from Wikipedia:
“As a punishment for his crimes Hades made Sisyphus roll a huge boulder endlessly up a steep hill in Tartarus. The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus himself. Hades accordingly displayed his own cleverness by enchanting the boulder into rolling away from Sisyphus before he reached the top which ended up consigning Sisyphus to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration. Thus, it came to pass that pointless or interminable activities are sometimes described as “Sisyphean”. Sisyphus was a common subject for ancient writers and was depicted by the painter Polygnotus on the walls of the Lesche at Delphi.”
“In experiments that test how workers respond when the meaning of their task is diminished, the test condition is referred to as the Sisyphusian condition. The two main conclusions of the experiment are that people work harder when their work seems more meaningful, and that people underestimate the relationship between meaning and motivation.”
My introduction to the myth came through Albert Camus, one of my favorite authors while at university. Again, from Wiki:
“Influenced by philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche, Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd. The absurd lies in the juxtaposition between the fundamental human need to attribute meaning to life and the “unreasonable silence” of the universe in response. Camus claims that the realization of the absurd does not justify suicide, and instead requires “revolt.” He then outlines several approaches to the absurd life. In the final chapter, Camus compares the absurdity of man’s life with the situation of Sisyphus, a figure of Greek mythologywho was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again.
The essay concludes, “The struggle itself … is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy”.
What absurdity we have witnessed these last few years! How many of us have become Sisyphus in so many ways—whether trying to open the eyes of our friends and loved ones and wider community, or trying to navigate the New Normal, or make sense of the media and political shit show?
Some advice from Camus? Maybe, maybe not. He wasn’t too big on Hopium.
“There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.”
And how about this clever little cartoon as a modern-day Sisyphus myth?