The myth of Sisyphus.
Although I don’t consider Wikipedia to be the best of resources, I do find that some entries are accurate enough to quote. Today, I find myself thinking about Sisyphus. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about him:
In Greek mythology Sisyphus or Sisyphos (/ˈsɪsɪfəs/; Ancient 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 for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity. Through the classical influence on modern culture, tasks that are both laborious and futile are therefore described as Sisypheanhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus
In college I became fascinated by the concept of existentialism and by extension because intrigued by writers/philosophers like Albert Camus who believed in absurdism. In 1942, Camus wrote an essay titled “Le Mythe de Sisyphe” which was translated into English by Justin O’Brien and published in 1955. This translation was my first exploration of Sisyphus and quite honestly I have felt a kinship with this mythical king quite often in my life.
Camus believed that life is essentially meaningless and absurd, yet we continue to search for meaning. He likened that search to the futility of Sisyphus and his tedious eternal task of pushing that boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again every day.
I don’t subscribe to the concept that life has no meaning – but I do believe that sometimes meaning is wickedly hard to discover. Lately, I feel like my life is a constant reminder of Sisyphus. Every time things feel better, something comes along to mess life up again – often worse than it was before.
I see this in the United States right now as the pandemic gets worse and worse, largely due to a combination of poor leadership and the basic stupidity and sociopathy of a huge portion of the population. Every time things seem better, a combination of those elements comes along and says, “Oh, you think it’s better? Here, hold my beer.”
In my own life, today I feel much like Sisyphus. I have tasks to achieve – grant writing, interviewing artists, handling finances for an organization where I serve as board treasurer. And even more personal mundane repetitive tasks – cooking, eating, cleaning, getting dressed.
But like the mythical Greek king, I feel somehow that I am being punished by having to just keep doing things over and over and over with no sense of any forward momentum. Just when I think things are better, I suddenly wake up and feel hopeless again. Today, despite having nothing overt going wrong, I feel a pervasive sense of gloom and doom – a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness again.
Again and again and again and again.
Just when I feel better, they come roaring back. I have discovered that even my massive reduction of time on Facebook and other social media channels is not enough. Even the few short moments I spend each day are now stressing me out. I can’t avoid seeing things I don’t want to see, even when I am not actively doomscrolling. The stressful content is so pervasive, even from heretofore positively-minded friends, that I can’t even log in without feeling my blood pressure spike and my adrenaline pump.
I am moving backwards, and I don’t enjoy this feeling. Like Sisyphus, I feel compelled to keep up a brave front, to keep working and being “productive,” to power through my angst. But deep down I am slowly unraveling and I can’t keep up this pretense for much longer.
The boulder is getting ready to roll back down over my poor, exhausted body. Maybe being squashed by existential angst will feel better than what I’m feeling now. That thought intrigues me.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.