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The Myth Of Sisyphus
(Albert Camus)

In Greek literature Sisyphus was condemned to ceaselessly push a rock up to the top of a hill only to have it fall back down again, an achingtly apt metaphor for most modern work: futile, hopeless and repetitive.  Camus proceeds to extricate from Homeric legend the exact circumstances that led to this extreme punishment.  Legend states that Sisyphus was a rebel against the gods, that he took them less than seriously and attempted to steal their secrets.  Another legend has it that Sisyphus managed to put Death in chains and was punished for this transgression by Pluto.  For Camus, Sisyphus' denial of death and the gods makes him the ultimate absurd hero and his punishment the equally ultimate metaphor for existential man.    For Camus, the key moment in Sisyphus' punishment lies in that moment when the rock rolls back down the hill and Sisyphus knows he must go after it and try, vainly as always, to push it to top of the hill and over.   This is the moment of consciousness gained for Camus.  Everyone of us must at some point grasp the knowledge and come to the dreaded realization that no matter what our toil, we are doomed to failure in the sense that we will eventually die.   Sisyphus, like man, is rebellious but powerless and it is those moments of lucid consciousness that he achieves transendence over the gods.  Ultimately Camus sees in Sisyphus an image not of continued, overwhelming and ceaseless toil, but a joyful man who recognizes that his fate belongs to him.  He and he alone can determine the essence of existence.  Camus ends his essay with Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain, prepared to undergo the tortuous, vain exercise of rolling it up a hill once again, but Camus doesn't see Sisyphus as tormented and punished, but rather happy.  Happy because he has discovered the secret to life: "The struggle toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart."

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