Thursday, April 24, 2008
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
There is a regular sequence of wholly free moments in academic life, and those moments are far less common in the practice - perhaps upon changing jobs, or closing a really big deal, or settling a really big case. Finishing up my last bit of class prep reminded me of this famous reflection on the absurd effort to find meaning and even happiness in an absurd world:
"[O]ne sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands. At the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain.
"It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock."
Albert Camus, "The Myth of Sisyphus" (tr. Justin O'Brien, 1983)