Sisyphus, Camus and Absurd

on the ledgeТhe meaning or meaninglessness of human existence has always been a favorite subject of philosophy. Many philosophers have come to believe that human life is ABSURD. For them, it was a conclusion and a final result of studies.  Albert Camus  makes this conclusion a starting point of his argument.

The idea of the absurd, best expressed  in The Myth of Sisyphus, waAlbert Camus’ first significant contribution to philosophy.

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterward. 

In a nutshell, the essence of The Myth of Sisyphus is this: There is no reason, faith and/or hope for the future in this world. The feeling of life’s absurdity casts doubt on the very existence of God and the wisdom of social order. The eternal truths about life is discerned through feelings and emotions. There comes a time when a man has to make a choice: either voluntarily leave this world or challenge absurdity and meaninglessness.

Well, something along these lines.

So there. Life is absurd. Live it or leave it. There are so many wonderfully effective ways to raise above the absurdity of life, step out of it and into the oblivion (or whatever your idea of thereafter might be.)

How sad and how true.

For some.

For most?

Fulfilling your destiny through life experiences —  however dreadful or exiting, painful or pleasant they might be — becomes in itself the meaning of life.

Take Sisyphus, for example. This mythical character gets punished for his earthly passions and love of life.

Devious gods devised a clever if cruel punishment. What can be more absurd than rolling a huge boulder up the hill, huffing and puffing, straining and sweating, and then looking down in despair, realizing that his labor was in vain, and he’d have to start over.

What fate! Poor guy. Exerting his mythical self toward accomplishing absolutely nothing for the rest of his mythical life… Won’t it be so much easier to just give up and end it all, stepping under the rock, by the will of gods rolling down the mountain?

However, according to Camus, fate is not a punishment. Even if his fate is, in fact, a punishment of gods? Ah, never mind. Back to Camus:


Frankly, I can’t. Imagine that Sisyphus was happy, that is. Unless he is a quintessential masochist, and the myth is covering up this peculiarity of his psyche.

Camus: “I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world.” 

Thus Sisyphus is Camus’ absurd hero. Or, rather, a hero in a world that is absurd (and is ruled by absurd gods). And he is not alone at the top of the mountain with his damned rock about to start rolling down. Camus puts other historical figures and literary characters right there with Sisyphus: Don Juan and Commander, Moliere’s Alceste, Adrienne Lecouvreur and a few others.

The existence of a modern person (and many might disagree!) is similar to the fate of Sisyphus — in many ways it is absurd. Awareness of it, according to Camus and his ideas of absurdism,  should allow people to reevaluate the absurdity of  their own destiny and become free, either stepping under the rolling stone or, Camus hopes, summon lots of courage and become… a hero like Sisyphus.

Like Sisyphus? Find your burden, conclude that all is well and hope it’s enough to fill your heart.

Oh, the absurdity of absurdism!

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