4 min read ⌚
What happens when you realize that life is meaningless?
Do you wish to end it, or do you finally find genuine happiness?
Who Should Read “The Myth of Sisyphus”? And Why?
“The Myth of Sisyphus” is a philosophical essay, that tries to elaborate on the question of happiness and how it is achieved.
He also tries to answer if the moment people realize the meaninglessness of life, leads to suicide.
We recommend this text to all lovers of philosophical texts, readers who like absurdism, and those who have read and liked the other books of Albert Camus.
Camus may not make you adopt his reasoning, but he will surely make you think about life and look at your existence from a different angle.
Albert Camus Biography
Albert Camus was a French author, philosopher, and journalist.
He won the Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, as the second youngest winner in the world’s history, and is a huge contributor to the rise of absurdism as a philosophy.
He had devoted his whole work to opposing nihilism and searching for individual freedom.
Who is Sisyphus?
Most probably you have heard of him, as the man who is punished to roll a rock up to the top of a mountain, but once he reaches the top, the rock rolls back down.
So, he has to do it over and over again. The gods punished him like that believing that a whole eternity of hard labor is a right punishment.
Everyone knows the end result, but not many people know the reason for the gods’ anger.
There are many legends and myths that explain the reason for his punishment.
One of the stories revolves around Zeus took away a mortal woman Aegina with him.
Sisyphus witnessed the event and promised Aegina’s father that he will tell him who kidnapped his daughter if he gives his hometown Corinth a fresh-water spring.
Making this deal to be a witness against Zeus is believed to have brought over him the wrath of the gods, who punished him like that.
There is a completely another story as well, that explains how Sisyphus imprisoned the spirit of Death, so nobody could die.
When the gods set Death free, Sisyphus was its first victim. However, he was smart enough and knew how to trick Death: he told his wife not to give him a traditional burial.
So, when he went to the underworld, he started complaining to its God Hades that he did not get any traditional burial rites from his wife and persuaded him to let him go back to “chastise” her.
However, once he got permission to go back on Earth and succeeded in getting a second chance in life, he refused to return to the underworld and lived on Earth until he was very old.
When he finally died out of old age, he went back to the underworld, where he was punished to endure the eternal punishment which we all know about.
Camus is a writer that writes about absurd heroes, and he saw Sisyphus as an archetype of one.
He explains categorizing him as such because of his hatred of death, scorn for the gods, and his passion for freedom and life.
Camus focuses on the state of mind of Sisyphus while he is enduring his eternal punishment in the underworld. More precisely, he concentrates on the moment when the rock rolls down from the mountain.
When he sees the rock go down, Sisyphus follows it, and for those moments while he is free from labor, he is conscious of how absurd his fate is.
His fate, one must think, is tragic, because he knows that there is no hope for a better tomorrow.
However, Camus suggests that Sisyphus is above his faith, because he is aware, and he might even roll the rock with joy.
He believes that melancholy only visits his heart when he looks back and remembers the world that he used to live in, and what he left behind.
When he does it, he just tries to escape the struggle of life.
However, when he accepts his fate and the fact that there is no hope, he does not wish for happiness and therefore the sorrow vanishes; in fact, our fate seems sad only when we compare it with something we would prefer more.
Camus argues that absurd and happiness are connected.
He finds this connection in his idea that both absurd and happiness are linked to the discovery that our life is our own, and therefore we must not hope for something to happen – our fate is what we make of it.
So, when Sisyphus walks down the mountain, approaching his task, he is completely aware of his reality and his fate. That is why he must be happy.
The Myth of Sisyphus Epilogue
Camus does not leave space for any choice in the matter of defining Sisyphus’s wellbeing – he says that we must imagine him to be happy. But, what is the alternative?
What if his awareness makes him unhappy? Doesn’t that mean that the only path to reach happiness is escaping awareness by leaping into hope?
If such is the case, then happiness is an escape – a result of denial.
In other words, if you want to believe that a genuine happiness is possible, you have to imagine Sisyphus as being happy.
Like this summary? We’d Like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“The Myth of Sisyphus PDF Quotes”What is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying. Click To Tweet Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable. Click To Tweet There is scarcely any passion without struggle. Click To Tweet A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future. Click To Tweet The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Camus is never an easy read, but this essay might be slightly harder to comprehend for readers who are not familiar with his reasoning.
In simple words, Camus believes that happiness must be achieved only through human experience and the present moment, instead of denial of the experience by leaping into faith or hope.
Of course, he elaborates the matter in such a way, that if you do understand him, it all makes perfect sense.