sisyphus

“One must imagine Sisyphus happy.“

He says, Sisyphus is the perfect model for us, since he has no illusions about his pointless situation and yet revolts against the circumstances.With every descent of the rock he makes a conscious decision to give it another go. He keeps pushing that rock and recognises that this is what his existence is all about: to be truly alive, to keep pushing.

adding page because of this (love the illustrations):

is it worth the trouble

View story at Medium.com

In 1942 Albert Camus wrote a book called “The Myth of Sisyphus”[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Sisyphus]. It is about the one truly important philosophical problem: Given the circumstances of our existence, shouldn’t we just kill ourselves? This is his answer:

At first Camus describes those moments in our lives when our ideas about the world suddenly don’t work anymore, when every daily routine — going to work and back — and all our efforts seem pointless and misdirected. When one suddenly feels foreign and divorced from this world.

In these frightening moments of clarity we feel the absurdity of life.

Reason + Unreasonable World = Absurd Life

This absurd sensitivity is the result of a conflict. On the one hand we make reasonable plans for our lives, and on the other hand we are confronted with an unpredictable world which does not comply with our ideas.

So what is absurd? Being reasonable in an unreasonable world.

[..]

So if reason and an unreasonable world are the key components, then — argues Camus — we could “cheat” and avoid the problem of the absurd by simply eliminating one of the two.

Denying the unreasonable world

One way is to ignore the senselessness of our existence. Contrary to obvious evidence we could pretend that things are stable and live our lives according to distant goals (retirement, the big breakthrough, an afterlife, the progress of mankind, etc.). Camus says, if we do so, we can’t act freely, ………A second strategy to avoid the absurd is to let go of reasoning…..Both ways to avoid the absurd are unacceptable to Camus. He calls any strategy to ignore the problem of absurdity “philosophical suicide”.

So if “philosophical suicide” is not an option, how about real suicide? Camus can’t justify suicide philosophically. Suicide would be an extreme gesture of acceptance — we would accept the contradiction between our human reason and the unreasonable world. And killing yourself to uphold reason is not really reasonable.

Instead, he suggests we should do three things:

1. Permanent revolution: We should constantly revolt against the circumstances of our existence and thus keep the absurd alive. We should never accept defeat, not even death, even though we know it can’t be avoided in the long run. Permanent rebellion is the only way to be present in the world.

2. Reject eternal freedom: Instead of enslaving ourselves to eternal models we should hold on to reason, but be aware of its limitations and apply it flexibly to the situation at hand — or put simply: we should find freedom here and now, not in eternity.

3. Passion: Most importantly we should always have a passion for life, love everything in it and try not to live as good as possible but as much as possible.

___________

wikipedia small

In Greek mythology Sisyphus (/ˈsɪsfəs/;[2] Greek: Σίσυφος, Sísuphos) was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity. Through the classical influenceon modern culture, tasks that are both laborious and futile are therefore described as Sisyphean (/ˌsɪsˈfən/).

[..]

Interpretations

Sisyphus as a symbol for continuing a senseless war.

Johann Vogel: Meditationes emblematicae de restaurata pace Germaniae, 1649

According to the solar theory, King Sisyphus is the disk of the sun that rises every day in the east and then sinks into the west. Other scholars regard him as a personification of waves rising and falling, or of the treacherous sea. The 1st-century BC Epicurean philosopher Lucretius interprets the myth of Sisyphus as personifying politicians aspiring for political office who are constantly defeated, with the quest for power, in itself an “empty thing”, being likened to rolling the boulder up the hill. Friedrich Welcker suggested that he symbolises the vain struggle of man in the pursuit of knowledge, and Salomon Reinach that his punishment is based on a picture in which Sisyphus was represented rolling a huge stone Acrocorinthus, symbolic of the labour and skill involved in the building of the Sisypheum. Albert Camus, in his 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus,

saw Sisyphus as personifying the absurdity of human life, but Camus concludes “one must imagine Sisyphus happy” as “The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.”

[..]

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.

literary interpretations

[..]In Plato’s Apology, Socrates looks forward the after-life where he can meet figures such as Sisyphus, who think themselves wise, so that he can question them and find who is wise and who “thinks he is when he is not”

Albert Camus, the French absurdist, wrote an essay entitled The Myth of Sisyphus, in which he elevates Sisyphus to the status of absurd hero. Franz Kafka repeatedly referred to Sisyphus as a bachelor; Kafkaesque for him were those qualities that brought out the Sisyphus-like qualities in himself. According to Frederick Karl: “The man who struggled to reach the heights only to be thrown down to the depths embodied all of Kafka’s aspirations; and he remained himself, alone, solitary.” The philosopher Richard Taylor uses the myth of Sisyphus as a representation of a life made meaningless because it consists of bare repetition. James Clement van Pelt, co-founder of Yale’s Initiative in Religion, Science & Technology, suggests that Sisyphus also personifies humanity and its disastrous pursuit of perfection by any means necessary, in which the great rock repeatedly rushing down the mount symbolizes the accelerating pace of unsustainable civilization toward cataclysmic collapse and cultural oblivion that ends each historical age and restarts the sisyphean cycle.

Advertisements