Thursday, September 1, 2022


 

Sisyphus Wises Up


The name Sisyphus may not strike a chord with you but almost every maturing adult will know and identify with the story of the man who is condemned by Zeus to push a rock to the top of the hill only to have it roll back down for eternity.

I met Sisyphus, so to speak, when I returned from the Korean War, at a time when I was not sure that life had any real meaning but when I was also looking for hope. A professor introduced me to The Myth of Sisyphus, recently published by Albert Camus. I was intrigued by the fact that Sisyphus found no meaning in life but was unwilling to completely give up—to commit suicide. Sisyphus continued to live with me, and several years ago, I began an internal dialogue with him. I created a reporter and gave him access to Hades in order to interview Sisyphus, who I also imagined had the ability to observe the world as it now is.

I have always found it interesting that while Sisyphus found no meaning in life he never complained and never seriously contemplated suicide. There is strength and integrity in that. I found that admirable. Now in my later years I've decided to challenge Zeus's power to keep Sisyphus chained, so to speak, to the rock and give him a chance at hope beyond. With  apologies to Camus, this is how I imagine it.


Unbeknownst to Sisyphus, all the time he had been struggling with his rock, Eleos, the Greek Goddess of compassion, had been watching him from her vantage point at Mt. Olympus. After years of watching, she decided to defy Zeus and help Sisyphus if, indeed, he wanted to be rid of the rock. There was just one problem with this decision. If she really wanted to enter Hades and interact with Sisyphus, she would have to become human and give up her goddess status. That's just the way it is because that's the way I have written it.

Her decision made, here's what happened. One morning as Sisyphus woke and was getting ready to push his rock, he noticed a tent had been erected at the bottom of the hill. Curious, he ambled over to where a woman was busy setting up a coffee bar. She greeted him and said, “Hey, I know you're on a tight schedule but the coffee is just about ready and I've got an idea I think you will find interesting.”

“I'll take the coffee; what's on your mind?”

“Here's the deal. My name is Eleos. I've been watching you all the time you've been pushing that rock. I have to say that I'm impressed that you've made your peace with the whole rock thing and I know you think that life is essentially meaningless, but what if I told you that I am willing to help you push the rock over the top, if you're interested. That's a serious question because I know some folks don't really want to give up their burdens, even if they may say otherwise."

Sisyphus was skeptical of the idea but was willing to give it a try. So when they had finished their coffee, Eleos put away the coffee cups. They approached the rock and started off up the hill together. Sisyphus would push the rock by himself until he felt he had to let go off the rock. At that point, Eleos would step in and help.

They didn't talk much at first as each was considering what this decision would make in their life. Sisyphus thought sure, he would be glad to be rid of that infernal rock, but he had gotten used to dealing with it and did he really want to give it up for the unknown? He thought, "Am I really up to life without it? Do I really need Eleos' help? Maybe this time I'll be able to get the rock to the top by myself. Why is she really doing this? This is the first time anyone has ever offered to actually help me. Am I worth all this?"

While Sisyphus was pondering these things, Eleos was thinking of what the decision to become human in order to help Sisyphus meant for her. She had given up all the power and prestige of being a goddess. She knew she could never go back. She thought, "Was I too hasty in trying to help Sisyphus? Is this really necessary and should I have intruded?"

Meanwhile, the hill was getting steeper. Sisyphus began to give out. He called for Eleos to help. Together they struggled until they were within a few feet of the summit. With their last bits of strength, together they pushed as hard as they could. The rock moved ever so slowly to the summit where it tottered for a bit and then settled on the top of the hill!

Now before them loomed a large bottomless chasm. Eleos found a smooth rock ledge and invited Sisyphus to sit with her. Sisyphus said, "In a moment, but first I have to get rid of this.” He walked over, got behind the rock and with one more push sent it bouncing down the hill and into the chasm. Then he joined Eleos on the ledge.

Eleos asked, "What did the rock mean to you?"

"More than anything else, I think, it represents my regrets, my guilt," Sisyphus answerd.

They sat there in silence for a long time until Sisyphus whispered, "Captive no longer!”

Eleos responded, “No longer a goddess. What now?”

As they stared in silence at the chasm, they felt a soft breeze and then from the wind came a voice, “I am beyond. Stand up!”

Eleos exclaims, “What is that?”

Sisyphus answers, “I've heard that voice before but it has been a long time ago. I thought if I ignored it, it would go away. Some say it is the voice of God, others say it is the Voice of Love. Maybe they both are right.”

Eleos thinks before responding. “Well, what do you say? Are you ready for a surprise?”

They stand up.


Will Sisyphus and Eleos assume new names, new identities to face their future? I am turning the story over to you at this point. If you choose, you can answer those questions and more. Since it will be your story, anything you come up with will be right. I would like to know what you come up with. You can email me at sisyphus2015,mh@gmail.com

Max

Saturday, March 5, 2022

 

Words for the Young

(no matter how old you are)

 

Last night I dreamed I

          was a butterfly struggling

                   to get out of a cocoon

Let me tell you it wasn't

          easy I was exhausted

                   by the time I got out

I woke to a warming sun drying

          my wings as they took

                   shape and structure

Oh my wings were

          beautiful did I tell you

                   I dream in color

Basking in the moment

          as the dream morphed into

                   metaphor I waked to

The existential question will I

          have the courage to fly

                   when my wings dry

In normal times there

          is enough suffering and

                   sorrow to stifle adventure

These are not normal times naked

          evil stalks heart-wrenching

                   loss punctuates

Yet beauty hits us right

          in our face kindness hums

                   in the background

Truth is still spoken daring

          takes its turn goodness

                   will not be denied

Troubled souls still wake to

          wonder love has not

                   lost its power

Then and Now don't have to trade

           places are you ready

                   let's fly






           

Friday, January 28, 2022

 

Epiphany


The wisest of

     the ones who

          made the trip

Wise enough to

     eschew theatrics

          perceive the real

Came to touch beauty

     rephrase truth

           reset goodness

Knew humble trappings

     were an extravagant

          soul filled welcome

Tutored in mysteries beyond

     ken they worshiped

          with second sight

They had come to the

     place where they could

          change their lives

Inspirited to make epiphanies

     palpable for the journey

          entering a new dimension

What I wouldn't give

     for a star here and now

          to cancel Covid fatigue

Pull us back from

     the precipice

          of depression

Nurture the bereaved

     embolden the scared

          succor the survivors

Be a companion to those

     who are forced to

          sleep in the ruins

Dispense justice for those

     who exploit suffering

          impose harm

No star has the magic to do

     our work those who are

          able must stand and sing

The star amplifies the vision

     of love incarnate gives

         light for the journey

The wise among us will

     wed science to love

        to give us truth

The wisest among us will

    share the promise and

         so redeem the suffering





Saturday, December 11, 2021

 


Kyoto Madonna


In a train station dimmed and

     drab people scurried

          without touching

A young mother's adoring gaze

     allowed light and peace

          for those with patient eyes

Her babe held secure with

     love transparent the mother

          ready to share the joy

Our eyes met and with a smile

     she spoke and invited

          a moment of grace

Did I want to hold her baby

     bridged all barriers

          real and imagined

Light sourced from the

     babe the mother

          illuminated the moment

A train moved in

     broke the spell and

          they were gone

I never raised my camera

     but recorded the moment

          in my soul

I coded my story of the Madonna

     moment to peruse later

          and caught the next train

 




Saturday, November 27, 2021

 Movable Mountain




Descending into

     the Bighorn

          Basin on 296

Slowed to fifty

     stopped by the

          sight of the mountain

Breathe hear feel the

     silent exploding

          reverential beauty

Fifty million years

     ago it was a 500 square

          mile breakaway

Rock that left the plateau

     slid sixty two miles

          in thirty minutes

The hardened larva gave us today's

     8'000 foot mountain with

          the old rock on top of new

The Kiowas called this upside

     gift Heart Mountain its western

          view an expansive beauty



Beauty had a bitter twist

     for 14,025 Japanese

          Americans in '42

Forced from their West Coast homes

     by jingoistic paranoia left

          rootless in Wyoming

Looked at the mountain daily

     from behind barbed

          wire and tar paper barracks

One's view of the mountain's beauty

      depended on which

          side one lived on

Barbed wire rolled up in 1945

     leaving one shack

          damage done

Freed from the camp lesson

     learned internees left

          Wyoming's loss

                 ~

Today I live where

     mountains don't

          grow or slide

But where faster than a

     speeding bullet Covid

          rams returns rams

With an impact that

     distorts truth and

          threatens hope

While we watch

     mindlessly mired

          in denial

Past memories and future

     dreams turned

          upside down

And we are left to sort through

     the rubble decide what to

          cherish for rebuilding

Must we blend the past

     and knead the future to

         fashion a livable now



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

 

Not My Final Answer

(at the prospect of turning 90)


Something funny happened

     must stay awake when

          it happens again

The moving finger

     writes to extend three

          score and ten

Now that I

     have forgiven

          my past

Having escaped

     the illusion

          of boxes

Living in the intense

     reality of

          transformation

Engaged in

     the search for

          better questions

Letting go of the

     clutch of clever

          defense mechanisms

Shaking off

     the need

          to fit in

Joyously aware that

     age is not a

          disability

Enriched by rare

     moments

          of joy

Injured when I didn't

     know enough

          to be sorry

Scars of mostly

     self-inflicted bumps

          and bruises

Little time left

     to belabor

          life's offenses

No room to host

     fear or

          anger

Cutting back

     on sighing

          and arguing

Going to bed in

     love waking up

          in love

Reviewing new

     ways to say

          thank you

Tracing new designs

     from recycled

          trash

Challenged by

     a God that

          grows with me



Saturday, August 21, 2021

 

As

It

     happens

          as I

Keep the energy

     lose the fear

          accept the grace

Reserve anger's energy

     to break the evil

          build hope's path

Embrace the dark

     look through

          the pain

Forgive the past

     accept healing

          strengthen joy

Stay the course

     play the ball

          where it lands

Rest my soul

     pause to thank

          rise to pursue

Just so will

     I write

          my life