In times past, I would ask someone if they knew who Sisyphus was. Most of the time, the answer was, “No.” Then if I asked if they had ever heard of the man who was condemned to push a rock to the top of a hill only to have it roll back down and to do it for eternity, almost all would not only answer yes but would identify with him. Zeus, so the story goes, understood endless futile labor. So, when Sisyphus ticked him off, he responded with the rock thing.
Albert Camus [The Myth of Sisyphus]claims it backfired and that Sisyphus is actually happy. I'm writing this on Monday, the day of the week we equate with beginning work, happy or not, all over again. So I'm going to let Sisyphus speak to us on Mondays. And he will do so through a reporter I have invented for just that purpose.
Our story begins in Greek mythology. Sisyphus, a mortal, was the king of Corinth. One day he saw Zeus abducting Aegina, the daughter of Aesophus. Aesophus was the god in charge of water. Corinth needed water so Sisyphus struck a deal. If Aesophus would give Corinth an eternal spring, Sisyphus would tell him what happened to his daughter. Aesophus agreed and the story might well have ended there except Zeus found out who ratted him out and he was mad. Sisyphus was not a paragon of virtue but he was cunning and he escaped the wrath of Zeus for awhile by deception. But he was ultimately caught and consigned to the underworld where he was forced into a permanent relationship with the rock, which, ironically, was the same size as Zeus.
Enter, stage left, my made-up reporter. More about him later, but for now it is enough that he finds his way into the presence of Sisyphus and the two of them begin a symbiotic relationship.
I'll need time later to tell more of the story but the short of it is that a middle-aged reporter has hit somewhat of a plateau in both his personal and professional life. One night he goes for a run. He steps onto the shoulder of the road to avoid a car, slips on loose gravel, slides down a steep embankment, hits his head and passes out. When he comes to, he finds himself in the underworld. He eludes Cerberus, the three-legged monster guard dog and sees Sisyphus who, at the moment, is putting his shoulder to the rock to begin his daily task.
Camus tells us that while Sisyphus must focus all his energy on the rock to get it up the hill, his time is his own while he walks back down to the bottom. Our reporter, realizing who he is with, asks Sisyphus if he can walk up the hill with him. Sisyphus agrees so the reporter asks questions as they go up the hill. Once they get to the top and the rock starts its descent, Sisyphus talks on the way down.
What about the interview? What are the questions—the responses? I'll bet you can come up with some on your own. I would like to hear them. But I'll have to continue the story later.
Remember, there are some people who cannot live with a question and there are others who cannot live without a question. Think about it.