“One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
Hmmm, Sisyphus. The only Camus I’d read before now was ‘The Guest’ (in grade 10, so it was somewhat lost on me). Having said that, I actually really enjoyed the story of Sisyphus, and it poses some interesting questions about leading a life of eternal aggravation. When Camus says that Sisyphus is ‘conscious’, I assume he means that Sisyphus is aware that his life consists only of pushing a rock up a hill only to watch it roll down again, etcetera. The whole premise of repetition for the sake of repetition really irks me – personally, I find repetitive tasks stupidly annoying and Sisyphus probably does too.
Our conversation about workers who perform repetitive tasks being conscious or unconscious brought up some interesting points as well. For example, if one was a worker in a factory and their job was to sew pre-assembled sleeves onto shirts all day, every day, of course they would tune out. Does this mean they are ‘unconscious’? I don’t think so. They would occupy themselves by thinking about other things, but they would still have to concentrate on the task at hand, no matter how mind-numbingly boring it turned out to be.
Here’s the ultimate question Camus poses: can one be happy if they are forced to perform the same task repeatedly until they die? Maybe ‘happy’ is the wrong word, but they can certainly be content and satisfied. Life isn’t always great, and most of us have to force ourselves to do certain things that we know we ‘must’ do. For example, do any of us actually enjoy taking exams or brushing our teeth? Probably not, but they are things we ‘must’ do (in today’s society). This is not quite the same as Sisyphus being physically forced to push the rock, but it’s a similar idea – if you’re doing something you really hate (but know you have to do), push through and, if possible, occupy your mind with something else.
That’s how I imagine Sisyphus happy. Although his life is fairly crappy, I like to think he spends his time contemplating the meaning of life (or something) as he pushes the rock up the hill. Camus raises a good point here that I think would make for an excellent debate with just about anyone.