The myth of Sisyphus is a classic tale of unimaginable cruelty, patience, and great courage. It is a powerful symbol of mankind's indomitable spirit. In the modern context, the story is a clear mirror of every freedom-loving man (and woman) who has fallen from grace and suffering the indignities of lost power, reputation, and liberty in defiant silence. That's why Sisyphus is forever seared in our minds.
I am one of those skeptics or revisionists who believe the myth should be revisited in order to put a more pragmatic slant to it. And a better ending.
In the myth, Sisyphus is condemned by the mighty Zeus to an “eternal” struggle against the rock, in a desolate hill because he indiscreetly revealed a number of Zeus' secrets. Through Greek mythology, provoking the ire of Zeus leads to many kinds of cruel punishment. Sisyphus also displayed the arrogance of hubris toward Zeus, believing that he could outsmart the great one.
For his transgressions, Sisyphus was sent to the hills of Tartarus in the underworld where he was made to push a big rock (to which he was chained) up the highest hill. It was a daunting, punishing work because upon reaching the top of the hill, the rock would slide down, as if it had a will of its own, and the poor condemned man would have to go down and repeat the task. A never ending up-down battle.
The cruelty and absurdity of Sisyphus' plat is not to be dismissed, however, because it holds an important lesson in life: Sisyphus is condemned by the gods to an eternal toil and yet he remains undaunted and resolute.
Albert Camus 'famous essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” underline the significance of Sisyphus' struggle. To Camus, the character of the man is evident during each and every descent when the brief reply from the agonizing chore gives him a taste of freedom and the will to go on.
He knows that it's all absurd and that the journey will never end; yet he plods on. And so Sisyphus, by his unflagging spirit, becomes stronger than the rock.
In hindsight, we can now take some liberties with the myth and add that possibly Sisyphus was smarter than the gods save him credit for. As a smart man and an alert observer of his surroundings, Sisyphus must have noticed that every descent welcomed with it hope, as the rock dwindled in size as it rubbed against the surface of the craggy hill.
The discovery must have buoyed him. It would not be a permanent bondage, after all. There will come a time when the big rock will be so reduced in size as to be immobile, and then allow Sisyphus to remove the chains around it.
That day of liberation is the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
The myth of Sisyphus and similar myths that so guided us, resonates in our contemporary life because of our admiration for brave souls who dared to defy powerful forces and faced their fates and adversities fearlessly.
Sisyphus so lives in many of us in the modern world where the mythical rock may be a natural disaster, a tyrannical boss, a troubled marriage, financial crisis, ill health, or a boring job we have to end.
Like him, we must plod on and over the adversity that seeks to defeat us.