Imagining Sisyphus Happy
Some days, fuck it, most days I feel out of sync with the world. It feels like I’m constantly pushing against the current. Attempting to get a spark going from the damp. Nothing seems to work, despite the effort, the good intentions. Do you know what I’m talking about. Like Sisyphus. Pushing a boulder up that hill that’s impossible to summit. And once you do eventually crawl up, you have to start again. I don’t know who came up with the story of Sisyphus, but they did a pretty good job at explaining how this all works.
I know that most days will feel this way, and I’m okay with it. But I wasn’t always. I’m not always okay with it. But I’m okay with it now. I understand that this is process. This is the tax we must pay. A hefty tax, but unavoidable. If we want to receive all that we want, we have to pay for it. And the thing we’re paying for is as brief as the moment when Sisyphus reaches the top of that hill. When the boulder is still, the weight is lifted, and there is a second to pause. This is what we’re working towards. This single, perfect moment. Because we can live in it. We can live for it.
The years of struggle and disappointment make this moment sweet. It would mean nothing without the payment. So on days when I’m struggling under the weight, I try to remember this. I try to remember that all of this discomfort is building towards something worthwhile. And this is not an exercise in belief. This is how the universe works itself out. So, when I show up day after day, despite all of the evidence that I should give up, it is not delusion. It is fate in this universe. It is understanding that my time is simply not right now. I haven’t made it to the top of the hill yet. I haven’t pushed my fair share of the weight, I haven’t yet earned it.
When Albert Camus said that we should imagine Sisyphus happy, I don’t think he meant that we should believe Sisyphus enjoyed pushing the boulder up the hill, that he was happy the entire time. Because no person can be happy all of the time. Rather, I think he means that Sisyphus understood the process. He would earn his peace, his brief moment, at the end of the push. That the time spent struggling against the weight was part of this happiness. That he couldn’t have his happiness without first enduring his suffering. And if we live in this understanding, we can put up with the days when we feel out of sync, when the world feels like it is weighted against us. Because some days it is. Some days we have to pay our tax, we have to carry the weight.
And eventually, so long as we keep showing up here every day, we’ll get to the top of the hill. And the wind will hit our face, and the weight will be released. We’ll get our moment if we accept the bad days. We just have to be patient.
So, when I imagine Sisyphus happy, I see someone who works hard, despite the pain and disappointment. Who keeps coming back, day after day, because he understands that this is the only way through.
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