Meaningless Suffering

sisyphus

When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.

– Viktor Frankl from Man’s Search for Meaning

One must imagine Sisyphus happy. 

-Albert Camus from the Myth of Sisyphus

 

One must imagine Sisyphus happy only because through his tedious, repetitive task, has he found meaning to his existence. And that is to say that there is no meaning, but only the task itself that is filled with a physical and psychological suffering that most would find excruciating to bear. He perseveres simply through acceptance and a renunciation of hope. Tomorrow will be as futile as today, and infused with just as much pain. The rock moves forward, and the muscles ache, but there is no break – there can never be a break. It is not the idea of a break that inspires him forward, but rather the denial of one while his joy is derived from watching the rock tumble down, once more to be heaved upwards.

“It will all be over soon” is not a consolation but a reminder that once “it” is over, another trial begins. The same thing in a new form. Suffering is everyone’s destiny. And Sisyphus accepts his. We repeat our mistakes, bear the consequences of our actions, repeat our mistakes, suffer accordingly, reflect on what we have done, and repeat our mistakes. Yet our fault is not in repeating our mistakes, but deluding ourselves in believing we have learned from them, and expecting to not make them again.

When Sisyphus’ boulder came to its peak he never once believed it would not come down again, and therefore felt no disappointment when it did. He accepted his suffering, it was what it was, and so we must imagine Sisyphus happy.

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