Albert Camus wrote the Myth of Sysiphus. The stories main character is Sysiphus. He lived in Ancient Greece and was the founder and king of a prosperous city called Corinth. Sysiphus was an extremely smart and clever man but did indeed possess a passionate desire to outwit the gods. Sysiphus also possessed a highly rebellious nature. During his time, he was a mortal man who had the audasity to match wits with the gods. Sysiphus was condemned to role a rock up to the top of a mountain, watch it role back down again, and then push it back up again.
His passionate and rebellious nature combined with his desire to outwit the gods is what led to his fate of futile labor. For example, Jupiter, the god of the Sea, abducted Aegina, the daughter of Aesopus. Aesopus was naturally quite distressed by this event and went to Sysiphus to complain of this monstrosity. Sysiphus knew where Aegina had been taken. He then told Aesopus where Jupiter had taken Aegina on the Condition that that Aesopus would provide water to the city of Corinth. Sysiphus tricked death when it came and took him to the underworld he left death there in chains. Sysiphus also once wanted to test his wife’s love for him. He ordered her to publicly display his body and not give him a proper burial. Once he was condemned to the underworld he complained to Pluto that he needed to return so that he could chastise his wife. After once again seeing the pleasures of this world he didn’t want to return to the underworld and for many years he did not. Once again the gods had been outwitted by Sysiphus, a mere mortal. This angered them deeply. Mercury came to seize Sysiphus and ,at once, condemned him to the underworld to carry out his Fate.
Albert Camus, the author of the Myth of the cave wrote this Myth during the tumultuous Shambles of WWII. All around him he witnessed the pain and suffering people had to indure from the outcome of war. He had a bleak but courageous outlook for what one could only imagine to be a very trying time for people. Camus believed that the essence of man was irrational and life is nonessential, but one should face life with a sort of courageous humanism. Camus rather enjoyed the more rebellious side of human nature. Camus is most interested in Sysiphus because when faced with this futile punishment he chooses a rather unusual manner to deal with it. In his writing Camus focuses most on the moment of time when Sysiphus is coming down the mountain. He describes Sysiphus as being in a conscious and lucid state. He feels tragedy, victory, and a bit of sadness for his situation. It is during this time of consciousness that Sysiphus begins to formulate drastic conclusions about his fate. During his descent, he decides that he and only he can control his own destiny. He faces the reality of his situation and makes a conscious decision to reject any god that would have him endure futile suffering. He decides that his fate will lie within his own hands and therefore he and only he will decide whether or not he will allow this condemnation to render him powerless or powerful. In this moment of adversity he finds the courage within himself to continue on and decide for himself that god will not make him suffer.
Sysiphus decides that he will be happy. He will be superior to his fate. Once he rejects god he sees that because of his own nature he can create his happiness. Camus is most interested in this side of Sysiphus. He wonders how one can grasp the consciousness to be happy in the face of such adversity given this terrible punishment. Camus realizes that Sysiphus’ joy is contained within. His fate belongs to him. Camus states that one cannot know what it means to be happy unless one has known what it means to experience sorrow.
Sysiphus has, even to the end, managed to outsmart the gods. The gods gave him what they considered a punishment that would surely make any man miserable. Sysiphus decided not to be miserable at all and makes a conscious decision to understand that his nature lead to his actions and his actions lead to his punishment but even still all is ok within him.
Camus says, The workman of today works everyday of his life at the same task and his fate is no less absurd. People today work hard at trying to get ahead and maintain their standards of living. All these people experience moments of consciousness during which they make crucial decisions for their lives. Some people decide at this moment that the glass is “half-empty”. Life is difficult and it just won’t ever get any better. They may take on a negative attitude towards their future. While on the other hand others decide, just as Sysiphus that the glass is really “ half-full” they will continue to live life the fullest extent and enjoy all it has to offer no matter what obstacles they incur.
Camus also states that “there is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn”. While this approach worked for Sysiphus I tend to disagree that it would be a viable option for people today. Let us even set aside, for a moment, the fact that Sysiphus rejects god. But to carry such hatred on your heart is a horrible way to live since in the process your own heart will become hardened. Another important point to consider is that many today conciously choose to forgive when faced with a traumatic experience. For example a family loses a child in a car accident involving a drunk driver. Naturally, the family will grieve the loss of the loved one. They will possibly not even be able to make any good sense of such tradgedy but instead of harboring hate for the person who committed the act they instead find a way in their heart to forgive. Often out of these senseless tradgedies we even get groups to fight against this sort of thing happening to others such as MADD- Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. When a person is faced with these types of situations one must have God in order to get through. This is why for many modern people rejecting God would not be the choice they would make when faced with adversity. Instead many would choose to seek him during these times for assistance on coming to terms with the tradgedy they face.