In the Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus, “The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.”
Many times I have thought of myself in this way. This is my punishment for the sin of the joys of the earth. Sins innocently committed without knowledge of looming punishment. It’s never ending, back breaking, defeating, impossible. And most certainly an “unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing, a torment of which I will never know the end.”
Camus explains that the torment of Sisyphus only exists as tragedy due to the moments when he becomes conscious of his punishment. “Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him?”
Like Sisyphus, I am well aware of my “wretched condition.” However, knowing that this is meant to be my torture, I can, like Sisyphus, see this monumental task as my victory. Laughing at the condemners by a change in consciousness. “The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.”
I have been given the gift of consciousness. A wicked and two-faced gift to possess. It screams out that my condition consists only as torment, a stone too heavy to bear. This gift only whispers words of blessings. I must be listening carefully, astute, or the whispered words will be lost to the breeze. The stone I must bear relentlessly is the task of hearing and seeing the blessings afforded me by those burdens. I must remember, “There is no sun without shadow.”
I will always know my burdens. Every pebble that is sewn into my essence, every demon that I carry, every weight within my soul, come together to form my world, my stone. Every moment of every day I struggle to climb that mountain, and as I ascend, I gather blessings to fill my heart, my eyes fixed on the crest.
I have made it to the top many times, only to watch my world, my existence, pause briefly, and in a blink, disappear to the bottom of the mountain. I stand hopelessly, as my entirety falls further and further away. The view from the top is grand. I let it fill me. A sigh of failure and defeat. A breath of determination and strength. I gather as much as I can, forcing it into the empty spaces of my being, then silently turn back down the mountain to start again.
“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. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
(All quotes are from The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus)