Have you ever read something that you connected with in an eerie sort of way? This has happened to me on various occasions throughout my life. I recall one such occasion when I first encountered Albert Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus back in my senior year in high school.
We had a substitute teacher who came in to take over the second half of the school year. Up until that point in my life, I had never encountered any formal introduction to philosophy, or any literary works that explored philosophical issues.
Our substitute teacher in question, Mrs. Bucarelli, introduced us to the philosophical notion of the absurd, and fictional literary works that represent its presence in fictional work: The Myth of Sisyphus, and The Stranger, by Albert Camus were the two works that we were assigned to read in connection with the topic at hand. The two works are a good introduction to the concept of the absurd, as twentieth century authors and philosophers such as Camus and his contemporary, Jean Paul Sartre, explored it.
The Myth of Sisyphus depicts a man, Sisyphus, who is condemned to all eternity to push a heavy rock up a hill, all the while knowing that his efforts will only result in the boulder rolling back down to its point of origin where the hero must begin his efforts all over again. The idea is that life is absurd, pointless, and yet we are condemned to try to live it, despite the inherent senselessness of it all.
My teacher noticed how easily I understood the concept of the absurd as presented in the two works in question. I myself did not think much of my innate understanding at the time. It was a no brainer type of thing, as easy as knowing that the sun rises each morning. Fortunately, this deep understanding of the absurd at such a young age did not traumatize me, perhaps because I somehow suspected that Camus’ explanation stopped short of something.
The little something that we did not consider in our exploration of Sisyphus’ fate was the little gap at the bottom of the hill. It’s a gap of repose, of stillness, that exists before he recommences his efforts to push the boulder back up the hill, and before the rock rolls back down to its point of origin.
Now I liken that little gap to the stillness that exists within all of us in between the busy moments of our lives. It’s the part that often goes completely unnoticed, has become completely overshadowed by all of our efforts, our resistance to what is, our incessant stream of thoughts, and our information overload in the world we live in.
So, when I pause today to consider this work that I first encountered so long ago, I like to especially consider the little moment that went unappreciated by Sisyphus and perhaps by many of its readers. The little gap in the efforts of Sisyphus offers a glimmer of hope, a place of resuscitation, a doorway, which offers an opening to a place of infinite possibilities. Taking notice of the little space between all of the efforts made by Sisyphus at the bottom of the hill is the beginning point for further exploration of the freedom that exists within that space.