Monday, January 10, 2011

Sisyphus #6
You know, the guy who has to push the rock up the hill—for eternity.

[Reporter's note: I must admit that I was, at first, reluctant to interview Sisyphus. Physical or political obstacles pose no threat, since this is a fantasy one has only to imagine them nonexistent. Of course, I had no choice since I was also a fantasy figure, subject to the wishes of the one who created me. I
had no idea that Sisyphus would have anything to say that was interesting or significant. Now, I'm not so sure. So, here goes again.]

Reporter: [meeting Sisyphus at the bottom of the hill] I've been talking to a lot of people who read my first interviews with you. Funny thing, while almost no one knew your name, when I mentioned the rock, they knew the story.

Sisyphus: That's not surprising. And I bet that almost of them see work, especially that which has to be done over and over again, as a curse. There's more to it, of course. I can talk more on the way down. Right now, I've got to push the rock.

[The two of them ascend the hill is silence. Pushing the rock takes all of Sisyphus' breath and the silence gives the reporter a chance to form his questions. It is only after the old man has to let go of the rock at the top of the hill that either one has anything to say.]

Reporter: That thing you said about work being a curse. A lot of times, I admit, I see my job as a burden. When I first read your case file and your sentence for defying the gods, I expected to find an embittered, tired, resentful old man.

Sisyphus: And now?

Reporter: Well, I knew you were crafty, who else would think of tricking death, and actually be able to do it? But I now understand you to be both intelligent and positive and I don't think you're faking it. And, of course, I appreciate your unique insights.

Sisyphus: You know, Camus, the existentialist, has helped reinvent me, so to speak. He is the one who labeled me an absurd hero. I memorized the closing words of his essay. He said, “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Reporter: I hope you won't be offended, but I had decided, before I met you, that you would be boring and superficial. Now, I don't know. You seem to have an inner peace. Something deeper than just a passive acceptance of your sentence. And I certainly don't see any signs of despair. By the way, what was that tune you were humming while we were coming up the mountain? Sounded like something Enya sings.

Sisyphus: [takes a drink of water the reporter offers him, and clears his throat] Actually, it's an old Christian hymn. Enya sings it and everyone thinks she wrote it, like the folks who think Judy Collins wrote Amazing Grace. But let me sing it for you:
My life goes on in endless song;
above earth's lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul--
how can I keep from singing?

Reporter: I don't see how you can sing when you know your life will never change.

Sisyphus: That's where you're wrong. Sure, I can't run away from this rock—can't change the circumstances. But I am in control of my attitude—my dispositon. I control the change within myself.

Reporter: You just reminded me of a man I met recently. He told me two interesting things about himself. He said he was ninety years old and that he had just changed his mind about something important.

Sisyphus: There is a man who gets it.

Reporter: Our time is just about up. Before we get back to the bottom of the hill, I have to tell you something. I know you are not a man of faith, so to speak, but I have to tell you, I get a lot from your insights and I really appreciate it.

Sisyphus: Works both ways, my friend. Reminds me of an old Hasidic saying that when two Jews meet and one has a problem, the other one is automatically a rabbi. Storytellers, which is what you are, must learn to be storylisteners also.

Reporter: I'll remember that. And on that note, I'll have to leave you. See you next time.

Sisyphus: I'll be here. It's a sure thing that I'm not going anywhere.

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