It’s All Greek

Once the Gods were all metaphors. If you blacked out from too much wine Dionysus possessed you. If you couldn’t sleep due to heartbreak, it was because you weren’t showing enough respect to Aphrodite. Not sacrificing to Ares would leave your village without an army. But the metaphor for life, that was left to a man. A man named Sisyphus.

Sisyphus was a tricky king. He betrayed Zeus, seduced his niece, backstabbed his brother to get his throne and was an all around nice guy. As punishment Zeus gave him a task. There was a boulder he had to push up a hill. It would take all his strength to get it to the top and right as he reached the apex, Sisyphus would stumble and the boulder would come tumbling down and Sisyphus would have to start over.

Once when I was down a friend gave me the book The Myth of Sisyphus. It’s a weighty essay by Albert Camus that I never got around to finishing. The gist of it was that although life can seem repetitive, mundane, and pointless, the struggle is what life is all about. If your reason for living are your goals, whether it’s to be a billionaire, a Casanova, or an expert bridge player, you will ultimately be left unfulfilled. Just look at Sisyphus. He always got so close to getting that rock up to the peak, only to trip up and fail. According to Camus if you want to find any meaning in life, you must embrace the ride and not the destination.

But still it can be frustrating when Sisyphus enters your life. You can shave every day for a year and then you abstain from razors for a week and you have a beard. You can drink eight glasses of water a day for fifty years and still dehydrate under a hot sun. You can try your hardest every day and still you haven’t moved that rock any higher.

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5 thoughts on “It’s All Greek

  1. damn that’s a pessimistic view, Dave. There are other ways of interpreting it too and i’m sure Camus wouldn’t have used those exact words. It is a valid point, I’m just saying its not the only point in the story.

    • You are correct, sir. His words would have been in French. I don’t see it as pessimistic, though, to try to find pleasures in everything even your most mundane of tasks.

      • Though you did attribute that “… the struggle is what life is all about” to Camus, you pointed out that “… still, it can be frustrating when Sisyphus enters your life…You can try your hardest every day and still you haven’t moved that rock any higher.” Which was how you ended your blog, so I though it was a little bit on the darker side of things.

        Everyone will probably have a slightly different take on the myth depending on their own perspective at the time. I thought you were seeing it more through that harsh reality of it. So, now, when you’re saying the moral is “…to find pleasures in everything, even your most mundane of tasks”, is that your personal view? I can see how that attitude makes sense and how it appeals to you. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the summary of Camus view, though.

        Camus ends a short critique of Sisyphus by saying, “we must imagine Sisyphus as being happy”, mostly because of the conscious human freedom he posseses when he walks back down the hill.

        For a long period of time this story was seen through a punishment view (“god fearing”) that implied that Sisyphus was destined to a horrible life because he defied the gods. Similar to the fall of “man”, in the Graden of Eden, who were punished by God for eating the date (apple) of knowledge.

        However, there is a strong element of persistence and perserverence present as well that can be seen as hardheaded, independent, or, more eloquently, self-confirming. Camus also helped to point out these “heroic” qualities of Sisyphus’ defiance of the gods and their punishment.
        Sisyphus first defied the gods’ commands and then continued his human nature of being true to his own ideals and wishes.

        Seems like we are playing out the nature of the human condition right here in this thread by seeing it our own way and holding on to what we believe in…, 😉

        Here is a link to a short critique by Camus of the Sisyphus myth:
        http://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/hell/camus.html

        Maybe he wasn’t a Sisy after all…

    • He’s optimistic in the fact that he didn’t think you’d throw the book in his face after giving you such a pretentious gift. He sounds like a beret wearing bum. You made the right move dumping him. Whatever happened to flowers?

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