There are a number of things I likely wouldn’t agree with in Albert Camus’s work The Myth of Sisyphus, there are a few bits that at least ring true. Though, for the sake of clarity, I’ve not actually read the work. I should probably attempt to do so, but my track record with trying to actually read actual philosophical texts is a poor one indeed.
For anyone unfamiliar, Sisyphus was punished by the greek gods to forever roll a heavy boulder up a mountain, either never reaching the top or always having it roll back down to the bottom where he would start over. A never-ending and pointless physical labor.
I’m only aware of this specific work from Camus because I came across the quotes “one must imagine Sisyphus happy” completely out of context and unattributed to boot, though I was at least generally aware of who Camus was and his general philosophical bent.
That quote in particular was one that I found particularly interesting. The idea that one could find some measure of contentment in a task that is eternally pointless is a very compelling one, if you can imagine it. Without context I quickly applied it to the industrial work environment, much as Camus did. More importantly, I asked myself what happiness there was to be found in the eternal physical labor. Not exactly the point he was trying to make, but he doesn’t get to dictate what his words mean to me.
Well, it turns out for me and I suspect many others, repetitive physical tasks work well for encouraging thought. It seems to keep just enough of the mind occupied to keep it out of the way. If you had to perform the same labor literally forever, it would eventually reach this stage. So, on the upside, there would be plenty of time to think.
I know some have made the case that this thinking time could be turned toward a solution to his punishment, if he wished. He was supposed to be quite clever, a trait that many greek protagonists had in spades. It also tended to get them in trouble, especially when combined with pride. Looking at you Odysseus.
I do not necessarily agree with Camus’s suggestion that “the struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.” Instead I would say that while the labor itself may be pointless, meaning is found in what other things the labor allows one to do. The labor is a means to an end, as it were.
Of course it would still be a miserable position. With nobody to talk to, nothing new to see, there eventually be little of interest to think about other than the occasionally stirring the pot by picking at the edges of Zeus and Hades’s plan. That would likely be entertaining, but infrequent.
Either way, it was a curious thought. Maybe one that makes sense to you in its own way, or maybe not. If nothing else it’s a mildly amusing exercise in finding the silver lining in a bad situation. Something I must occasionally practice so I don’t forget it’s possible.
Y’all take care. Try to imagine Sisyphus happy.
Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.