Sisyphus

Sisyphus : He was punished for cheating death twice by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity”

If we think about it, are we any different from Sisyphus? At least he had only one boulder to roll up a hill, were as we all have multiple boulders to take care of. And invariably all those boulders roll down the hill one after the other and we need to start rolling up them again. Our work life is one, where we keep rolling up the hill thinking we could attain a certain position or power, only to realize that there is always someone with more powers sitting at the helm of affairs. One might ask, how can this be compared to the boulder going down the hill? Is there any difference between thinking that you attained a point only to realize that you haven’t and seeing the boulder going down the hill?

When it comes to economy/wealth, we have a wonderful system, i.e., Capitalism, that makes us run with an illusion that we could become rich at some point. As Carlin put it, “We buy things that we don’t need with money we don’t have”. System makes us believe that in order to live a better life you need to have more stuffs. To buy more stuffs we need more money. To earn more money we need to work more. This is a vicious circle. At least, Sisyphus knew that his boulder is going to roll down the hill and that he must roll it up for eternity. The poor souls, who run non-stop to make money and acquire wealth, don’t know that their runs in the end are meaningless. The ace in the sleeve of the economic system is that it hardly lets us think why we keep running. The moment one stops and think/question the system, there will be enough people around that person to remind that others are forging their way ahead and that the person would be left behind. So the person has no option but to stop thinking and start running again.

The heaviest boulder most people roll up the hill is that of family & relationships. Some people get stuck in same relationship thinking that the boulder would reach the hill top and stay there, while others keep trying the same thing with a new boulder only to realize that no matter how hard they try, their boulders are going to end up in foothill. But to be fair, of all the meaningless boulders people push up the hill, relationship boulder is the best among the worst. People tend to say that their relationships give meaning to their meaningless lives, may be they get some meaning, but in the end they do have to roll the boulder up & down the hill for eternity.

Woody Allen said in an interview that Camus tried to give a positive spin to this story, when he said that, “….one must imagine Sisyphus happy”. To be happy one must be conscious. If one is doing this futile job, would that person be conscious? Would we be conscious? Unless one pauses for a moment and thinks about the drudgery of what he/she is doing. Let’s say one does that, what would be the consequences of it? We might loath what we are doing for a while, try to rebel against the forces that made us endlessly repeat the activities, realize that we won’t be able to & then continue the same activities. This would be the case for millions of people around the world. Very few might try to take some actions, but whether or not they succeed depends upon the conditions that exist at that moment of time. Best case is that they succeed and start doing other activities, which inspires them for a while, but again after sometime they would feel the burden again. They might find some other activity interesting, which they might even pursue, only to be left boring after a while. See – even if we become conscious of our drudgery, we have no other choice but to indulge in it in one form or the other. May be Camus realized all these and then just to keep his readers happy, he said what he said. Who doesn’t like a happy ending?

Was Sisyphus happy? We would never know nor did Camus. But to think that one is happier even when doing such menial endless activities could lead to one of the two consequences. One : People find pleasure in whatever they are doing and keep doing just to crawl through their existence. These people wouldn’t mind because their situation might not be that worse. Two : People just accept this as fate and pretend to be happy. This is a worrisome consequence. They might be thinking that only they’re undergoing this and that they are responsible for their fates. They might not be aware that there are countless others going through the same thing as they do. What would happen when these people come together and rebel against the forces that be? Will it make their existence any better? Even if their existence gets better, after a while wouldn’t they be going through a different hardship endlessly? One can presume that at least they will be happy of having changed something in their lives and wouldn’t mind living rest of their lives pushing another boulder up and down the hill.

Am I trying to put a positive spin, just as Camus did? Definitely not! People cannot be happy if they keep looking at the past, which is one of the greatest sources of unhappiness, according to Kierkegaard. So, even if we (modern day Sisyphuses) stop, think and do something, we end up pushing the same or may be different boulders, but boulders nonetheless, up and down the hill. And, we cannot be happy either for having accomplished something in the past, as per Kierkegaard. He suggests us to live in the present. The present, as we know is a drudgery. We are caught between rock and hard place. There is no other way to cruise through our absurd existence but to push our boulders up and down the hill.

PS: If you think, this article makes no sense, then you’re right. The article’s only point is to make no point and highlight the absurdity of our existence. If you’ve realized this, then good for you. You’re on your path to enlightenment.

PPS: To make your job easy, the word count of oft repeated words

Boulder : 18 times, Hill : 15, Boulders : 7, Realize: 6

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