Irony of the Myth of Sisyphus

The myth of Sisyphus describes what is supposedly the harshest of all punishments: the Gods condemn him to a lifetime of futile servitude for the crime of disdain for the Gods and disdain the procession of death. Sisyphus’s punishment is to roll a boulder up a hill which immediately falls down once reaching the top. Sisyphus will do this for eternity; the supposed torture in this act being the meaninglessness of it all. 

Although an eternal torment, Camus’s genius is to highlight the ironic fact that Sisyphus’s tasks are no different than those carried out in modern everyday life. We (as humans, not mythical creatures) perform repetitive tasks, some undertaken with imaginary purpose, all of which in turn appear in and of themselves as devoid of meaning. Any value taken away from a human task is merely what we imagine it to be. The wafer taken during communion is meaningless to most; for those believers, it is imparted with a great deal of imagined significance. Or social popularity which truly manifests solely as idols in an individual mind. 

            Sisyphus keeps pushing the boulder; every step up the hill serving as an inspiration for the next. There is no change in this routine, the same results are produced, and the same hardships are endured. Like Sisyphus, Man creates a purpose for these repetitive tasks no matter how meaningless the task, such as pushing a boulder up a hill. 

          It is the pursuit for purpose in one’s life which in itself gives meaning to mans’ lives. “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.”

One thought on “Irony of the Myth of Sisyphus

  1. CAIT O.

    Sisyphus was given meaning to his life, something that all of us spend our time on earth searching for. However, and this is just a personal opinion, how can someone be happy pushing a heavy boulder up a hill for eternity? Yes, a struggle in real life can be fulfilling, but only after you make it out. Sisyphus never quite catches a break, so for me, I must imagine Sisyphus miserable.


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