The Myth of Sisyphus: The Deeper Meaning

The main concern of The Myth of Sisyphus is what the author calls absurd. This claim stems from the idea that there is a conflict between what we want from the universe and what we’ll get from the universe. That we won’t find what we truly want in life. This argument is told through the story of Sisyphus who, after dying and going to the underworld, asks Pluto (part of the universe) to return to earth which Pluto allows. After realizing how beautiful earth Sisyphus does not want to return to the underworld, however, Mercury (also part of the universe) forced Sisyphus to return to the underworld. After returning to the underworld people created myths of Sisyphus and how he was being punished in the underworld (though “hopeless labor”), one being that he had to push a rock up a large slope and once he was able to make it to the top of the slope he had to return back to his rick to repeat the process. Camus utilizes this to further explain that having meaning and purpose on earth is only an escape from facing the absurd and struggling against it.

Camus’ Theory of Life: HD

Life is objectively meaningless and full of absurdities, we are temporary beings in a subjective world.

To many, it is a shocking statement, a statement that goes against our conceived notions on life and what exists.

Conceived.

Think about that word.

We can say that word probably comes from latin or greek or some old language, but I propose something different, and stick with me…I will get to Camus…but I want you to stick with me while I explain something

We created the word conceived, or its predecessor words, in order to describe a feeling we hold. It appears humans have desires, it appears we want to fill those desires, and we created language because we desired it.

This, what I am taking about right here, is metaphysics. I am talking about what humans are, and I am talking about how things got the way they are. Notice how I have not made any *pre*scriptive statements yet, any ‘should’ statements. I have only discussed what we appear to see.

I will once again make another metaphysical claim; a *de*scriptive claim: humans appear to use metaphysics to describe the world, because we cannot say what we should do before we have the conditions for the world, the world in which we create terms like ‘conceive’ and ‘should’.

So…speaking metaphysically…we have desires…and we created the language necessary to make moral ideas.

But now I will show the difference between the metaphysical and the normative. With the metaphysical lens, we can see a tree exists because we have the eyes to do so, and we agree on what a tree is. With the moral lens, the subjective lens, the ‘should’ lens, we ask: should we look at the tree?

You cannot answer that objectively due to the difference between the metaphysical and the normative; the pre and de scriptive.

This is why I do not think there is not objective morality. Perhaps we are all born with similar desires for happiness and fulfillment, but we cannot say that it is “right” or “wrong” objectively.

To say something is right or wrong presupposes that we both agree on the same systems of ethics, which…is evidently not true.

Now I return to Camus.

Camus believed, among many things, that we live in a subjective, absurd world.

A world without objective truth, and that our search for objective purpose or some authoritative god is futile, and that we must realize that we are devoid of any ultimate explanations to the “why’s” of the world, and that we don’t even know all of the “what’s” either.

We cannot find the answers, whether the descriptive ones or the moral ones.

The famous Socrates quote: “I know that I know nothing”, the Descartian method of doubting everything…is correct. Really…what else to we know except our own inadequacy in this world, and that we know that we want the answers, but we. simply. cannot. find. them.

This realization has driven many into depression, myself included. And Camus would agree…somewhat.

Camus would ardently agree that life is absurd, so absurd! It is absurd because we are beings built to observe in a material world that does not allow us to find the ultimate answers of what we are and why we are here, as well as some other deep stuff.

But Camus…loved life. Why?

Well, his theory was that yes…we live in a wild world, but we might as well revel in it. We have no answers or masters?

We make our own, dammit. So why not be happy?

Frederick Neitzsche once said: “Everything in the world displeases me: but, above all, my displeasure in everything displeases me.”

Camus diverged:

“Love is not just a confrontation with the absurdity of the world; it is a refusal to be broken by it.”

Should you love life not despite but because it is absurd?

I cannot tell you that. That is up to you.

But it is one hell of an attitude.

Nabokov and Camus

It is no secret that Vladimir Nabokov was a controversial figure. Nabokov famously said inflammatory things about many authors who are in high regard in the literary cannon. For instance, on Gogol, Nabokov said “I was careful not to learn anything from him. As a teacher, he is dubious and dangerous. At his worst, as in his Ukrainian stuff, he is a worthless writer; at his best, he is incomparable and inimitable.” On Hemingway, Nabokov proclaimed, “[He is] a writer of books for boys. Certainly better than Conrad. Has at least a voice of his own. Nothing I would care to have written myself. In mentality and emotion, hopelessly juvenile.”

One possible explanation for this is that unlike many authors, Nabokov writes for the art of writing. Nabokov’s vision of a good writer as presented in his essay on good readers and good writers is a person who does not take the world that exists and morph it to convey their own message but instead embraces a new world for it’s own inherent artistic value. Nabokov is dissatisfied with authors, including many literary giants, who he perceives as trying to push some sort of agenda or philosophy through their works. This is something of which Camus is undeniably guilty, as Camus’s work serves largely as a vehicle to demonstrate Absurdist and Existentialist principals in practice. It’s no surprise then that when asked his thoughts on Camus, Nabokov responded “Dislike him. Second-rate, ephemeral, puffed-up. A nonentity, means absolutely nothing to me. Awful.”

Perhaps all is not lost, however, for the Nabokovian reading Camus. Some have pointed out the similarities the writers have in their contemplation of the absurd, despite their vast differences in style. Further, it is definitely possible to employ the technique of “reading with the spine” when reading Camus’s masterpiece The Stranger as the novel is neither cerebral nor submerged in emotion but rather a curious in-between (something that can also be said of Absurdity as a philosophy). In the end, it’s important to remember that while comparing these author’s philosophies may be a fun exercise, they are still just that — philosophies. And philosophies are only useful in as far as they can help us make sense of the world, as opposed to make it more convoluted.

Sisyphus is not Happy

Camus’ argument that Sisyphus is the happiest person in the world is just a flat out lie. I would like to know how pushing a rock up a mountain for the rest of your life brings happiness. Just because Sisyphus was “the wisest and most prudent of mortals” doesn’t make him the happiest. I actually would like to argue that his realization is what makes him the most sad man in the universe. I’d like to connect Sisyphus and Camus’ theory to a show I watch called Rick and Morty. I’m going to focus on Rick who in the show is the smartest man in the galaxy and is basically a God because of this. But on the other side of his intelligence is that he is extremely depressed, because he is so smart that he realizes that he is in a TV show and knows that his life is “absurd”. This is almost directly tied to Sisyphus and maybe his wisdom has allowed him to realize that life is absurd while the rest of us live our life with the window dressing of meaning.