31 July 2006

Sisyphus is Us

All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: Act as if it were impossible to fail. That is the talisman, the formula, the command of right-about-face which turns us from failure towards success. --- Dorothea Brande

Maybe, given her career and success, Ms. Brande was talking about writing, which contrary to most people's opinion, is not easy. But even if she was, her words are the absolute key to transforming one's self from whatever We are that isn't satisfying to that sought-after category called "winner."

And as is My wont, I see Puerto Rico in this quote. Join Me in this: every time an idea or proposal is set forth at the public level, notice how quickly, adamantly and pervasively that idea or proposal evokes reactions of can't. Not won't; can't. It's uncanny how often the only person in favor of the idea is the proposer, and he or she has to fight like Sisyphus to keep the idea from being crushed by the weight of negativity and apathy.

(Yes, I know those two don't go together, but they do in Puerto Rico. Trust Me. It ain't pretty.)

Now, in actuality, almost nobody in the public light is worthy of being considered a hero in the Sisyphus mold, for he was known for being the wisest and most prudent of mortals. However, out of the public light, there are thousands of Us who are Sisyphean in Our efforts and can bear up to the comparison with dignity and pride. But in the words of Albert Camus, Sisyphus is "the absurd hero." Sisyphus, condemned for eternity to the empty Underworld, neither man nor god to share with, pushes an enormous rock up the mountain, only to have it always roll back down. As Camus explains:

"...Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

It isn't a stretch to say We live on a masterless island, for if anything, The Fools are bigger idiots that even the demented Greek gods. The daily struggle for many of Us has the crushing futility of Sisyphus' eternal night. Maybe Camus is right and Sisyphus is happy; the Greeks were certainly keen observers of human nature and Puerto Rico has recently topped a few global "happiness index" studies.

But I don't agree. Or rather, I don't want this to be true, for it seems to Me that if We are modern-day versions of Sisyphus, the absurd hero, then by being happy with futility, We are absurd, not heroic.

Some might say We aren't happy, that We are, in fact, dissatisfied. In that case, where's the drive to seek satisfaction, to create the change that will create such satisfaction? Is it all going into pushing Our personal boulder up a personal mountain? Or is that Our collective boulder is just too damn big to get it rolling uphill?

What if isn't "uphill" that this collective boulder needs to roll? What if it only needs to get rolling in any direction? What if making that damn boulder roll is not impossible, that in reality, not making it roll is actaully impossible? Wouldn't that make a difference?

Would Sisyphus be a hero if he knew he couldn't fail? That damn the gods, his freaking boulder is going to stay on the freaking mountaintop because that's the way it is going to be?

Of course he would be. He would be a hero. Not an absurd hero, but a true one.

And so would We.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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