Monday, February 7, 2011

Sisyphus #10

It's Monday again and as our reporter shows up for his weekly interview with Sisyphus, the old man greets him with “TGIM”

R: I know about TGIF but TGIM?

S: Thank God It's Monday. It's part of the rhythm of life. Monday, so to speak, is when we get the chance to start over.

R: But you have to do the same thing over and over. Don't you ever get bored?

S: Bored people are boring people. A lot of folks have to do the same thing over and over and even though they have more freedom than I have, everyone can control the way they look at life. I find meaning in my work. I know it's hard to understand but it's the way I preserve my dignity.

R: I suppose that's true. Even retired people can find tasks, work if you will, that gives them purpose. I know of a lady who is well up in her nineties and whose health is severely threatened but who delights in discovering 12-letter words.

[The two talk a lot about work and it's meaning all the way up the hill. While the reporter does most of the talking while Sisyphus is pushing the rock, the old man has learned to pace himself and talk a little more. The scene at the top is always the same. Sisyphus tries his hardest to get the rock over the hill but, of course, it fails. So, it's back down the hill they go.]

S: Let me catch my breath and then we'll start back down the hill.

R: That's an interesting choice of words. The Hebrew word for God resting after creating the world literally means “catch my breath.”

S: Isn't that what Sabbath provides? It's the other part of the rhythm of life. One can work too hard. It has only been a few years since the Japanese created a word that means death from overwork. I stand by what I said about work giving one purpose and meaning but some people are obsessive. That's not healthy.

R: I once interviewed an eighty-year-old man who felt he had to record every activity of every minute of every day of his life for his past sixty-nine years. When I talked with him, he hadn't missed a day and had recorded over nineteen million words.

S: And you think pushing a rock is boring. It seems to me that people too often shortchange themselves by not taking the time to rest and reflect on the meaning of their work. The concept of Chi is that the body will often heal itself if we allow it to. There is a story about some who were scandalized to find the Apostle John playing with his followers. John told one of them, who was carrying a bow, to draw an arrow: he did this several times and John asked whether he could keep on doing it without interruption; the reply was the the bow would break in the end. John therefore argued that man's mind would also break if the tension were never relaxed.

R: I've heard it said that when one ceases from work, we show ourselves to be labor's master.

S: The hassidic rabbi, Zalman Schachter says the sabbath is long and full when one knows how to be beyond doing. Or, as Tilden Edwards, an Episcopal priest says, “Love in the Triune “God is open, connecting, freeing, playful, painful, transforming. Its two faces are labor and rest, ministry and sabbath. Such love is the fulfillment of all the commandments...It is a rhythm that God provides to human life for its care, cleansing, and opening to grace. This rhythm is not for one day or one week or one year only. It is for life.”

R: Once again, we've talked all the way down. I've got a deadline to get this interview in then I think I'm going to take some time off to reflect on what we've been talking about. See you next week?

S: I'll be here.

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