The Myth of Sisyphus
Sisyphus Myth And The Significance Of Life
Nobody would point the finger at Sisyphus for surrendering but he doesn’t. Notwithstanding the obvious aimlessness of his undertaking, Sisyphus’ strength forces meaning. Life is just as absurd, yet we get up each day and do it again in any case. What’s more, it is from our struggle that we create meaning. We go to work and have similar discussions about similar subjects with similar individuals, drink a similar drink, handle similar difficulties, confront similar absurdities, and watch defenselessly as the these repetitive work piles on us. It’s never fully finished but endless. We are never done.
Sisyphus helps us to remember the recurrent idea of our work. Life isn’t direct, it spirals into the future in a progression of concentric circular segments. Here is breakfast time once again, here I am washing my spoon once more. Despite this redundancy we may be excused for giving up on the task. In any case, giving up isn’t unavoidable. Truth be told, the world is neither absurd nor not-ludicrous – it is vague. It is left for us to choose. No one but we can eliminate the state of our own significance. It doesn’t get any more pointless than pushing a stone up a slope. The stone doesn’t do anything, it isn’t for anything, and it’s similarly as futile at the highest point of the slope as at the base. However we should consider Sisyphus to be triumphant because he created the meaning for this mundane task. Every day he was given the opportunity to find the positive message in this task.
Like Sisyphus, we have the ability to transform our destiny into a gift. We can’t change the past, nor the majority of the conditions around us, however we can simply pick new perspectives about those occasions and conditions. In the boundlessness of cognizance, we are fundamentally allowed to force meaning onto the absurdities of life. It is just from our persistent responsibility and conclusive activity that importance rises. His familiarity with his part in life make him a tragic character. He continues pushing, regardless of whether he knows it’s trivial or that it won’t change his condition, however the comprehension of the futility of his assignment is the thing that influences him to acknowledge life as it is and, maybe, be content with it.
Take for example, the repetition of one taking a bus to school every day to study. Though we would take the bus every day, the conditions around us are ever changing which alters our perspectives. On a rainy day we might feel lazy to take this bus as the journey may seem long, but upon reaching our end-stop we may see it as a struggle that we managed to overcome. Whereas, on a sunny day we might rejoice at the idea of taking the bus as it provides us with an air conditioned environment to study for a test later on in the day. With the change on conditions, a simple repetitive task may easily have a different meaning each day. Our comprehension that this mundane task leads to an important role in the bigger picture, allows us to be content with it.
In any case, in actuality, I believe that it is fine on the off chance that we don’t find significance to life that fits what society anticipates us to infer. Toward the day’s end, we may never infer them, and this can influence us to feel futile. It is tied in with discovering satisfaction in spite of when we cannot discover importance to those life desires.
The Myth Of Sisyphus By Albert Camus: An Allegory For The Human Condition
There are many reasons why the tale of “The Myth of Sisyphus” is important to Albert Camus, for one, it is an allegory for what it means to be human. Camus expertly dissects Sisyphus’ existence and relates it to three final consequences of human life with the absurd; freedom, revolt and passion. Sisyphus’ story is the epitome of the human condition, and that human beings cannot escape the condemnation of futile labor. Sisyphus is crowned as the absurd hero of the story by Camus, a title not to be taken lightly. Sisyphus lived his whole life revolting against death and was fiercely passionate about living, he always chose to fight for life. This passion, revolt and freedom is precisely why he was punished for his passions.
The absurd is a theme that much of Albert Camus’ work revolves around. The absurd is described as the gap between oneself and one’s senses, who one thinks they are and the resistance of the world to human endeavors. Camus wrote that “the world evades us because it becomes itself again. That stage scenery masked by habit becomes again what it is”. Here Camus is talking about the primitive hostility of the world, how dense and strange it is. The absurd is the realization that the world exists independently from any meaning that one attempts to give it. Camus wrote about routine and waking up, “Rising, street-car, four hours in the office or factory, meal, street-car, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday, Tuesday… According to the same rhythm – this path is easily followed… but one day the ‘why’ arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement”. Here Camus explains that one can only become conscious by asking themselves ‘why’ they are doing what they are doing, usually this happens when one is unhappy, Camus expresses often in “The Myth of Sisyphus” that the human experience is not an easy one. Camus further explains that habits cover up the obscure character of the world, where the world might seem as though it serves one’s purpose, the world really has nothing to do with one’s purposes, desires or interests. “For if I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers.”, essentially, the world resists any attempts of appropriation. The absurd also involves the knowledge and understanding one has. In the grand scheme of things, we cannot comprehend ourselves and our actions do not mean anything. Camus says that ultimately, we know very little and what we do know falls short of what we really want, “Yet all the knowledge on earth will give me nothing to assure me that this world is mine”.
In order to understand the relationship of the concept of the absurd and of Sisyphus’ existence one must know a brief synopsis of Sisyphus’ story. The myth of Sisyphus is the story of how Sisyphus became the “futile laborer of the underworld” tasked with rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, just to watch it roll back down and repeat the task for all of eternity. Sisyphus had a long list of misdeeds he committed against the gods, from “stealing their secrets”, to “putting death in chains”, and finally tricking Pluto into allowing him to return to earth whence he promptly ran off to live by the sea and enjoy the “smiles of the earth”. These actions made Sisyphus the absurd hero. Camus wrote that “Sisyphus is the absurd hero, as much through his passions as though his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty…”. Sisyphus’ punishment, Camus writes, is the “price that must be paid for the passions of this earth”. This is why Camus is so drawn to the story, the pure absurdness of Sisyphus’ life and the relation to absurd freedom. This leads into the most important moment of the story to Camus, when Sisyphus’ becomes conscious of his punishment.
The moment in Sisyphus’ story that was most important to Albert Camus is when Sisyphus gains consciousness of his futile labor. There is one specific moment, “During that return, that pause…At each of those moments when Sisyphus leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock”. Sisyphus becomes stronger than his rock because he is conscious and content with his sentence, Camus even wrote “One must imagine Sisyphus happy”. Consciousness is key, this is what makes Sisyphus an absurd hero, he is completely aware of his fate in a constant cycle of futile labor.
This moment of realization for Sisyphus relates perfectly to the three consequences of the absurd that Camus outlines at the end of his essay. The three consequences were passion, revolt and freedom. Camus main thesis is that life has no meaning and that is what makes it worth living, this is the perfect introduction to passion. Passion is the commitment to life even though it is meaningless, Sisyphus does this by committing to his destiny, “he knows himself to be the master of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates the serious of unrelated actions which becomes his fate”.
Revolt is the refusal of a certain fate, not the acceptance. A great illustration is when Sisyphus revolts against the gods, he refused even if could not win, he lived without appeal to transcendent order. Another form of revolt is saying no to death by living. Camus lists suicide as one way to evade the absurd, but the only way to revolt against it is to live and search for some kind of meaning in life even though real knowledge cannot be achieved. “The absurd man can only drain everything to the bitter end and deplete himself. The absurd is his extreme tension, which he maintains constantly by solitary effort, for he knows that in that consciousness and in that day-to-day revolt he gives proof of his only truth, which is defiance”. It is clear that Camus believes one should always keep the absurd at the front of one’s mind never suppressing it or attempting to escaping it which is exactly what Sisyphus does by accepting his fate.
Finally, there is freedom. Camus is interested in freedom from the order of transcendent value and freedom from the temporality that is defined by the future. Sisyphus is free from transcendent power because he “negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well”. Sisyphus owned his fate “created by him… soon to be sealed by death”. “The absurd man thus catches sight of a burning and frigid, transparent and limited universe in which nothing is possible, but everything is given, and beyond which all is collapse and nothingness. He can then decide to accept such a universe and draw from it his strength, his refusal to hope, and the unyielding evidence of a life without consolation”. Here Camus explains that no matter the life, choices or consequences, we all have the same fate, and because of this lack of hope for the future one can have a sense of “inner freedom”.
It is clear that “The Myth of Sisyphus” is an allegory for the human condition. Through the triumphant story of Sisyphus who owns his fate and his rock one can see that Camus was marked by the actions Sisyphus took against the absurd to be passionate, revolt and be liberated by the creation of his own freedom.
Albert Camus’ Idea Of Life Having No Meaning In The Myth Of Sisyphus
Today, we find ourselves striving to find meaning in our lives by attending university, finding a career, and making enough money to live comfortably. Some may say that life is worth living because of this search. Others, such as Albert Camus, claim that our life has no purpose and it is through the consciousness of our lack of purpose that we can find meaning. By our consciousness of our lack of purpose, we come face-to-face with the absurd. Of this encounter are raised three consequences. Camus identifies these consequences as revolt, freedom, and passion. In Camus’ story, The Myth of Sisyphus, Sisyphus is convicted to futile labor, revolts against his own death, and is perceived as the absurd hero. Camus talks about the ways in which Sisyphus is sentenced to punishment because he chose life over death. When Sisyphus sides with life, he finds himself cursed to futile labor. Sisyphus is used as a representation of the human condition.
At the beginning of The Myth of Sisyphus, there had been an abduction of Aesopus’ daughter, Aegina. Aesopus was complaining to Sisyphus about his daughter’s disappearance, when Sisyphus, who knew of the abduction, offered information in exchange for water. By his choice of water as a blessing, Sisyphus was punished in the underworld. Sisyphus is punished by having to push a boulder up a hill. When Sisyphus finally pushes the boulder to the top of the hill, he finds that the boulder rolls back down to where it started. At this point, Sisyphus walks back down the hill to repeat the process of pushing the boulder up the hill. Camus reflects, “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart”. This identifies that Sisyphus finds passion in pushing the rock up the hill. Camus claims that Sisyphus acknowledges the futility of his duty and the certainty of his fate. Camus states that “crushing truths perish from being acknowledged”. What Camus means is that through the acknowledgement of a crushing fate, one can overcome that fate. For Sisyphus, the acknowledgement of the futility of his task is what gives his bleak existence meaning.
Due to the futile labor and torture that Sisyphus must endure, he revolts against his death by seeking permission from Pluto to return to Earth. Through Pluto’s granting of Sisyphus’ request, Sisyphus was able to return to Earth. When arriving to Earth, Camus says, “Many years more he lived facing the curve of the gulf, the sparkling sea, and the smiles of earth”. Sisyphus revolted against his death by running off to continue living. When the gods find him, they immediately take him to the underworld and force his fate onto him. Although Sisyphus’ return to Earth was not very long, that act alone was his refusal of death. Camus claims that the only way to refuse death is to live. We refuse to think about our death even though it is our fate. We can be aware of this, however, we seem to be occupied with living in the future and obsessing over our past. Camus reflects on how revolt gives us value. Therefore, by Sisyphus revolting against his death, he is given value through the consciousness of it. From Camus’ perspective, in order to live a meaningful life, we must remain aware of our fate while simultaneously revolting it.
During the futile act that is Sisyphus’ fate, there is a point where he becomes conscious of his task’s futility. It is at the point when he must walk down the hill that he becomes conscious. Camus states, “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”. This is the most important part of Sisyphus’ existence because it is here that he becomes “superior to his fate.” Sisyphus is made superior to his fate, through consciousness, because he thinks of his circumstance and will then transform his torture into his victory. Camus claims that “the lucdity that was to constitue his torture at the same time crowns his victory”. From this quote, we can gather that through the consciousness of our futile acts, we can overcome their futility and find a way to make them meaningful. Sisyphus is conscious of his difficult tragedy, however, it is this lucid recognition that gives Sisyphus his victory over his fate. By Sisyphus accepting his futile labor, he remains conscious of his situation, which gives meaning to his life, making him an absurd hero.
Camus uses Sisyphus as an example to support his claim that life has no purpose, and through the acknowledgement of this, he can give life meaning and make it worth living. Camus uses Sisyphus as a representation of the human condition by identifying Sisyphus as being convicted to futile labor, revolting against his own death, and as being the absurd hero. We can compare Sisyphus’ existence to that of our own. Through the revolt of our fate to die, we continue to live. By living one’s life similarly to Sisyphus’ life, one can find meaning through acknowledging the futility of their actions. Camus ends his essay by saying that “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”. It is through Sisyphus’ perspective of his existence that he finds meaning, and ultimately, happiness. Sisyphus finds meaning in his futile labor by remaining conscious and continuing to push the boulder up the hill. We can find meaning, like Sisyphus did, by taking part in futile acts while remaining conscious of their futility. Many people live their lives consumed by their daily routines and habits, completely oblivious of their fate to die. Some may be conscious of this fate and some will ignore it. Many of us try to find meaning in our lives so that we have a reason to continue living. However, Camus believes that this order must be reversed. The search for meaning does not make life worth living, it is only through living that meaning can be found. Camus’ aim in writing The Myth of Sisyphus is for the story to be used to change people’s perspective on finding meaning in life.
The Question Of Suicide In Albert Camus’ The Myth Of Sisyphus
Albert Camus studied the philosophy of the absurd and decided that, to him, the most important philosophical question was “why not commit suicide?” In “The Myth of Sisyphus: An Absurd reasoning” (1942), he discusses his thoughts on the answer to this question. He considers the absurdity of life, how to deal with it, and explains his reasoning throughout the story of Sisyphus. He concludes his thoughts with saying “at that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which become his fate, created by him, combined under his memory’s eye and soon sealed by his death.” Although this may seem miserable at first, Camus clarifies throughout his writings that it is possible to find happiness in a meaningless, habitual life. He believes that “killing yourself amounts to confessing. Life is too much for you, you do not understand it,” and giving up is not the answer. Happiness can be found, and life can be lived passionately, full of experiences, but still have no purpose.
First, it is necessary to give some context on the myth of Sisyphus. In the story, it is not clear on how he came to his fate, but it does tell the readers that Sisyphus had a passion for life, and a hatred for death. He cheated the gods, and he is faced with an eternity of futile labour. He is to roll a rock up a hill, only to have the rock roll back down every time it reaches the top. Now at first, Camus suggests that the gods are clever to give Sisyphus this punishment, but at the end he “conclude[s] that all is well,” with Sisyphus, and that he is a happy man. The only way for this to happen is for Sisyphus to acknowledge his crushing truth of his eternity, and once he does this, it is just a little less crushing. He knows the whole extent of his fate and has discovered what Camus calls the absurdity of the meaningless of the habit of life, from which springs happiness. He is a master of his own days and as he walks back down the hill, he is free to reach a state of accepted content.
Camus relates this back to our own lives and that we are in the midst of filling our days with meaningless tasks, such as Sisyphus is. People look for solutions by either discovering the meaning they want through a leap of faith, or they conclude that life has no meaning. These seem to be the only two options, so if someone does not believe in a deity or any religion, and they decide that there is no meaning, should this person automatically commit suicide? Camus thinks no, that there can be a third possibility that we can accept and live in a world devoid of meaning or purpose; this is the absurd. Suicide amounts to confessing that the world is too chaotic and devoid of purpose, it is too much to handle, as quoted earlier. Camus believes that the third possibility can let us live a fulfilling life, even with accepting that it is a meaningless and absurd world. Facing the absurd in our world and accepting it, is the only way to find happiness in it.
The absurd is defined as one’s search for purpose within this life, but what is key is the inability to find any. People desire purpose in life, and this is why they make leaps of faith and jump to religion for answers, but truly knowing and accepting the absurd means that you are conscious and okay with the fact that there is no possible meaning to this confusing and chaotic world. Acknowledging the absurd, may seem like automatic suicide, but by accepting the absurd, it can be living life to the fullest, in spite of being aware that humankind is here for a short time, all people must die, and this is an unreasonable world. There is a constant conflict of what we want from the universe and what we will find in the universe. If you choose to live the third option of the absurd life that Camus proposes, there are three characteristics of the absurd; the revolt, freedom and passion. We are always aware of our desire and reality, and the difference between the two is called the revolt of the meaningless of life. Suicide is a way out of this consequence, but hope is also a way. Revolting the notion that all people must die must be constant. Freedom is the second consequence. In most people’s lives, they are under the impression that they have the freedom to make choices, and these choices usually lead to a common goal. The struggle with this, is that it limits the possibilities to comply with the goal. When the absurd is accepted, this goal has disappeared for there has been acceptance of no true meaning in life, and freedom is a whole new concept. It is a new type of freedom to think and act as one chooses, knowing that they do not have to fulfill any predetermined roll. Man is now free of any preconceptions he has or other people have for their life and may live to the fullest in freedom. Finally, the third consequence is passion. Sisyphus himself had a passion for life, and it is nice to think that this passion continued even when rolling the rock. There is no reason for doing one thing rather than another, meaning there is no reason for him to be doing anything else but rolling that rock up the hill, for, as said before, there are no roles to fulfill when living in acceptance of the absurd. In this case, it only makes sense to judge the quantity of experience in a life. Camus desires to live a full life, full of passion, the more experiences, the better. Being aware of every moment that passes us and treasuring the present can lead to a happy life.
When people discover the absurd, there is a feeling of uncertainty, just as there is in the philosophy of skepticism. The skeptic, Descartes, and Camus start on the same basis by doubting everything, and dismissing all meaning. However, this is where Descartes chooses one of the first two options, of suicide or faith, and chooses to believe in a deity in order to evade skepticism. Camus mentions a few existentialist philosophers at the end such as Kafka, and Kierkegaard who are unable to accept their absurd conditions, and instead make a leap of faith as well. Those who make a leap of faith are struggling with the absurdity and attempt to explain it with their faith, evading the fact that there is no truth. However, Camus accepts the uncertainty and knows he can only live his life to the fullest. He is similar to Hume in this sense as well, as Hume decided that absolute skepticism destroyed common sense of the physical world and created mitigated skepticism. People can doubt their daily lives, and accept the absurd, but only to the point of human intelligence. It only makes sense to live life to the fullest, with revolt to suicide, freedom and passion for life, accepting that not only is there no meaning, but that there is no purpose in looking for one for it is beyond human comprehension.
Sisyphus keeps pushing, knowing the certainty of his fate, but also knows that he is free to reach a state of accepted content. In the moment where Sisyphus walks back down the hill to retrieve the rock again, he is happy, and if he is happy with this even more absurd fate than the reality of this world, then all people have the opportunity to also find content in their meaningless, habitual lives.
The Absurdity Of Life In The Myth Of Sisyphus By Albert Camus
The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus is a philosophical essay written in 1942 that addresses the question of whether life is worth living through. From the perspective of the author, people share a similar path to the Greek hero Sisyphus, moving a boulder up a mountain only for it to roll back down and to repeat the process indefinitely. Camus’ essay represents a metaphor for life having no meaning, through his interpretations of past constructs. With the premise that all living things including humans are organisms evolved from the smallest bacteria, a package of atoms without a purpose in life or even a set of directions. Camus relates the human constructs of choice, religion and purpose to emphasize the incompatibility of human existence in the universe but in the end, unlike other philosophers, Camus feels that people should accept this to live better and to embrace the hopeless situation to get the most out of life.
Albert Camus was a French writer, journalist and philosopher, whose mother was illiterate and whose father had died from wounds during the Great War. As an advocate of human rights and a recipient of the Nobel prize, the words of Camus held a lot of weight and have undoubtedly contributed towards the philosophy of absurdity and existentialism. Thus to examine Camus’ ideas and views, one would have to take a look at his past work. In his previous work, The Stranger, it is shown that people may not express or feel emotions when another person dies. In this case, the main character Meursault, does not feel any emotions towards his friend’s death nor towards the man he shoots and kills in an altercation. Meursault feels no sadness or remorse. Only when he is sentenced to death does he express himself, stating prior to his death that he would not take the opportunity to turn to god, which Rubin finds, indicates that life is indeed meaningless when death is trivial. In addition, the absence of a god or higher figure connects to his work with The Myth of Sisyphus in which without god, there could be no choice or purpose in life. Rubin finds an interesting distinction between the two in which it is not the pointless futility to despair over, but a futility which is to be acknowledged and celebrated. Like Sisyphus, Meursault has achieved a strange peace of his predicament and himself, silencing faith and hope and finding happiness in the absurd and acknowledging the meaninglessness of life.
In Camus’ writing on The Myth of Sisyphus, the main idea can be interpreted towards life being absurd. People are born into the world in which they have no choice on the matter, “limited through the conceptions of society, resources… and the environment”. When considering the scope of the world and the universe, Whistler explains how humans are in the “limit of nothingness”, meaning that they have no real choices to make and thus no purpose. Camus presents the Myth of Sisyphus as a metaphor that explains how life is meaningless and absurd through his interpretations of purpose. It could be seen that the repetition of what Sisyphus does symbolizes the plight of humanity, representing what people do every day of their life with no alternative. Forced by the environment and surroundings which offer no choice of living differently. Camus establishes that human lives are without purpose, believing that the rest of humanity also understands but takes a leap of faith to believe that human existence does have a justified purpose. However, Elif describes Camus as someone who “does not want to make that leap,” as purpose emerges from choices, and because there is no one to choose to give people life (no god), humans would therefore lack purpose.
Furthermore, one must look at the state of being lost. Lost to god and lost to life, seeing as Camus’ writing on Sisyphus seems to be advocating the rejection of what one is bound by. Sisyphus, like the rest of humanity is condemned to perform thoughtless tasks, symbolizing the absurdity which humans live in and, as Camus believes, the lack of purpose. As nothing that anyone does is attributed towards progression in “which progression means purpose.” and the things made up by humans such as money, possessions and love are simply constructs for progression, which is to say that in the grand scheme of things, is meaningless to the universe. With the boulder also representing the fact that humanity has been condemned with a curse – as Whistler argues, the urges and the false constructs of humanity, and the things one needs to satisfy them.
In addition, it is made important to remember that Sisyphus is not moving the boulder indefinitely. Sisyphus is made to roll the boulder up a mountain, only for it to roll back down due to its weight, but in this moment, Camus expressess that “during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus should interest oneself”. In the words of Elif, it is not the act of pushing the boulder itself that is most important, but rather the brief intervals before and after each trip up the mountain. Camus puts the true cause of Sisyphus’ suffering not so much in the physical strain as he does over the the knowledge or consciousness that the futile task, set upon him is all he has to look forwards to or expect for eternity or the rest of his life. To Camus, the suffering of humanity wouldn’t be the pain that is undergone that would be unbearable but rather the conscious understanding that the pain and suffering would be all people would ever know, never leading to anything more fruitful. Camus compares this consciousness with the human condition, as every arc completed in life represents each time Sisyphus reaches the top with the boulder, which is inherently meaningless to the universe. Every test and exam passed only to move on to the next, from a larger perspective of completing elementary school to high school to university, the perspective gets larger as does the daily grind only to end in death and nothingness. What then, to leave no impact on the universe is there to continue living further when one could end it much quicker?
To Camus, Elif claims that suicide is one of the only real problems to existential philosophy. One of the major issues presented by Camus is that in a world that is meaningless and absurd, the purpose to live within suffering seems to be incompatible for many. The point that is trying to be made is that there is no solution to the problem on living in an absurd and meaningless existence. Camus’ argument is that the sole solution to confront it is to live in the absurd, therefore confirming the incompatibility of human existence, or life in general. To commit suicide does not bring about the solution to eliminating absurdity, which is why Camus says one “must imagine Sisyphus happy.” According to Whistler, all solutions to absurdity have been attempted or tried before, which Camus categorize as “honest” and “dishonest” ways, such as the use of religion for the purpose of erasing or distraction oneself from their lives. The honest way which Camus acknowledges is to live with and be aware of the absurd. Through either way, in order to avoid what Camus calls “philosophical suicide”, or the errors of absurdity again, one must imagine Sisyphus happy. In this way, one is able to achieve meaning in themselves and within absurdity. In this, Camus acknowledges the absurd and meaninglessness in life, and concludes that suicide is not the answer as it does not negate the meaningless existence to life.
Albert Camus’ writing on The Myth of Sisyphus serves as a way in which to explain his interpretations of absurdity. To understand the absurdist philosophy of Camus, it is also necessary to know about the background and interpretation of his thinkings on the philosophical subjects of suicide, suffering and purpose. It is all well and good to carve out reasons for existing and to fill the empty spaces with meaningful prospects of money and love in order to find reason from the meaningless tasks set out from the false constructs of humanity. However, if there is no ultimate meaning, or at the very least not one which would provide a trace of hope and purpose that everyone could agree to, then what would be the point of undertaking ventures at all? Camus makes a point of confronting the reader with the solution to suicide – if the ultimate conclusion to life is total obliteration, then where is the point in living at all? This is what Camus ultimately means when he writes that “one must imagine Sisyphus happy,” and thus, remains the reason as to how his writings represent a metaphor for how life has no meaning.
A Theme Of Life Purpose In The Myth Of Sisyphus By Albert Camus
For as long as humans have lived on the earth, they have looked for a purpose, for meaning to what we do. In the essay I read it talks about just that. The essay I read was The Myth Of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. In this work he explains how individuals use ignorance as protection from the idea that our life needs to have purpose. Only when we stop thinking about our own mortality and purpose, can we really start to enjoy the present.
Camus is correct in his assumption that the world is absurd, subsequently, people should live their lives without concern for a higher meaning, which is proven through Nagel’s argument of the absurd and Nietzsche’s argument posed about absurdity. For Camus, the absurd is the realisation that the world isn’t rational, he describes it as a man who is face to face with the irrational; he wants to be happy and have a reason to live. “I’m filled with a desire for clarity and meaning within a world that offers neither”. Camus says the absurd is born from the human need and the silence or mysteries of the world that will never be solved. Nagel disagrees with part of Camus’ explanation about the absurd, he argues that even if nothing we do matters in the distant future, nothing in the distant future matters now. Nagel explains that if we cannot predict whether or not what we do will matter in the future, how can we be sure that what we do matters now. He also argues a similar point to Camus, which is that everything ends in death anyway, so really there is no final purpose for our actions. Nagel’s main point on absurdity is on the lack of similarity between the importance we place on our lives from a subjective point of view, compared to how unjustified they appear objectively. What this means is that in our subjective lives, we stress over our appearance, our relationships, etc. But, objectively, we think about whether life is worth it. Usually, after a period of reflection, we just stop thinking about it and proceed with our lives. To avoid the absurdity in our lives we place meaning on our lives through a role, something “larger than ourselves” such as being in the service of society or joining the military to protect your country. In the end you could still question how this higher purpose will bring you meaning or when your quest for justification will end, so realistically, the quest is futile.
In Nagel’s last main argument on absurdism he says that reflecting on our lives doesn’t mean that they are insignificant compared to what’s important, but that they are only significant when compared to themselves. So when we step back and reflect on our lives, we compare the claim that we have about the meaning of actions with the larger perspective in which no standards of meaning can be discovered. This showing that no matter what, comparing your own accomplishments with that of “the purpose of living” will lead you to believe that your actions will never truly live up to that standard. Nietzsche was known for his existentialism. He argued that there was no meaning to life and that the only reason for us to imagine a higher purpose is because we were taught to do so by different religions. He believed religion and faith were a lie and believing in them would only hinder your experience in life as a person. He also believed in making meaning for yourself just as Camus did and that even if others find meaning in different things, it does not mean that your view is invalid. There is no ultimate meaning, therefore making your own is the best and only way. To satisfy your own meaning in life, one must line up their aspirations and have reason behind their goal. Nietzsche found the notion that the human being is all and only what that being does. He believed we could grow past the lies and deceptions to dive into a more profound humanity.
My life consists of me bringing myself into being, I am the makeup of my past actions. Although what I do is free, I am not free, not to act; therefore my existence is a requirement. Living in a worlds where people rely on their own courage and reasoning in order to figure out their own path rather than hoping a higher purpose will guide you is how the world ought to be. It would make people control their own path instead of following a made up one. Everything may be meaningless but to a person it can mean everything, so if life has no higher meaning, try to give it your own.
In conclusion Camus is correct in his assumption that the world is absurd because people should live their lives without concern for a higher meaning. The world is not rational and there is no higher purpose only what is created by ourselves. Nagel’s argument explains that if we cannot predict whether or not what we do will matter in the future, how can we be sure that what we do matters now. He also argues a similar point to Camus, which is that everything ends in death anyway, so really there is no final purpose for our actions. He argued that there was no meaning to life and that the only reason for us to imagine a higher purpose is because we were taught to do so by different religions. He believed religion and faith were a lie and believing in them would only hinder your experience in life as a person. Overall what is important in life is not to live for a higher meaning but learn to live for the things that give meaning to you, to make sure you live the life you want.
Albert Camus And His The Myth Of Sisyphus
Philosophical views have become widely recognized as a handbook for mankind. Though some philosophical views may sound surreal and out of the world, most of them can be directly applied to life as well as the various happenings in life. The earliest known philosophers include Thales of Miletus who is often hailed as the father of ancient Greek philosophy, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and many others. They based their works on themes such as love, existence, logic and others. Various philosophical works have been out doored, embraced and criticized such as Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Plato’s Apology of Socrates, candide by Volta and a whole other. All these philosophical works have a major aim which is discerning the truth. Scott (1995) exposes Plato as the first philosopher to answer the question about if the mind brings innate resources of its own to the process of learning or if it relies wholly upon experience. This essay would introduce one famous philosopher, Albert Camus, and his work titled, The Myth of Sisyphus which talks on the theme of absurdity and human resilience.
Cruickshank (2019) introduces us to the life of Albert Camus, who was born on November 7, 1913 in Algeria and passed on the 4th of January, 1960 in France. He was a well-known novelist, essayist and playwright famous for his works such as La Peste, La Chute, The Rebel and The Myth of Sisyphus. Most of his works focused on nihilism and absurdity. In 1995, Albert Camus published The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. Camus (1995) explains that his book attempts to resolve the problem of suicide. He further states his view on the legitimacy and necessity of one to question the meaning of life. He further gives an answer by saying that despite one’s belief in God or not, suicide is illegitimate. The Myth of Sisyphus ushers us into the life of Sisyphus, the main character of Albert’s book. Sisyphus was described by some as the most prudent mortal. However, he was punished by the gods to repeat the meaningless job or rolling a rock to the top of the mountain which results in the rock rolling back down. The cause of Sisyphus’s eternal punishment was due to the fact that he chained death with the hope that human beings would not have to die anymore which infuriated the gods. Camus describes Sisyphus as the absurd hero who lived his life with meaning, despised the concept of death and yet had to be condemned to engage in a very meaningless task.
The main theme of The Myth of Sisyphus is absurdity. Ansel Pereira (2019) describes absurdum as a philosophical theme associated with humans attempting to acquire or find meaning and purpose in life through search which may end up in two main conclusions. She further states these conclusions, the first being a belief system associated with an abstract concept or religion and the second being that life is meaningless and purposeless in an irrational universe. Plato also uses absurdity to describe very poor reasoning, or the conclusion from adopting a position that is false and reasoning to a false conclusion. According to Camus (1995), absurdity mostly goes with suicide. A lot of times, people end up questioning the worth and value of life which might lead them to make decisions of taking their own life, whether they believe in a religion since there are recorded cases of ministers of the gospel who took their own lives. Contrary, those who find the meaning of life may end up dying according to the theory that reasons to live give reasons to die. Suicide might be perceived as the solution to absurdity. Absurdum sets in when man loses connection with his real self. Suicide, described as voluntary dying, implies that one has seen that dying does not have any kind of significance. Suicide is also an act prepared for and occurs when one begins to undermine oneself and whereas beginning to think is beginning to be undermined. In The Myth of Sisyphus, the weariness of Sisyphus in carrying out the same meaningless task, pushes him to acknowledge the worthlessness of life which introduces the theme of absurdity by Camus. The theory of absurdist may be related to existentialism whereby an individual is free to choose his own meaning to life as per Frankfurt (1928). Camus perceived life as meaningless and viewed it absurd for one to try finding the meaning of life and discusses weariness, anxiety, strangeness and horror as forms in which absurdity shows.
Moving further from absurdity to another theme of Albert Camus, human resilience. Resilience can be defined as the unutterable quality that enables an individual to overcome things like trauma, emotional issues, injury and others. Kaplan, Turner, Norman and Stillson (1996) describe resilience as the capacity to maintain competent functioning in the face of major life stressors. Resilience is seen to be promoted based on the meanings one reads into their various life experiences. Though in the Myth of Sisyphus, much information on human resilience is not seen, we can still notice the resilience of Sisyphus in trying to find meaning to life and his quest to totally eliminate death. Yet, this just leads to his meaningless punishment which later has his surrendering to the theory of absurdity since he could find no meaning to his life at that moment. However, Albert Camus, The Plague, focuses more on the theme of human resilience. This novel talks about a deadly plague that hits the people of North Algeria. The people eventually had to be quarantined to prevent the spread of the disease. Though initially, they complained and wailed, they eventually saw the good and benefits of their suffering such as protecting their loved ones who had not gotten it. This shows resilience where the people found meaning to their suffering.
Albert Camus through his works and even juts the book, The Myth of Sisyphus demonstrated slight veering away from his theories. Firstly, he introduces us to absurdity where he tries to explain that life actually has no meaning and this leads to the all for suicide. Yet he also talks on how suicide is actually illegitimate yet does not suggest any solutions to the theory of absurdum. Later, he talks about human resilience which can be seen in the life of Sisyphus who was determined to make meaning out of his life and who tried to get rid of death all to no vail but to win him a punishment that makes him believe in absurdum. Perhaps, in the long run, living becomes absurd, especially after living for very long years. In his book, The Plague, he also expresses resilience on how the people eventually saw the benefit from being quarantined and expressed that life should be that way. Ultimately, Albert’s view on human resilience is much more preferred to absurdity which has suicide as its solution.
Albert Camus’ Portrayal of Optimism As Demonstrated In His Book, The Myth of Sisyphus
Sorrow and joy go hand in hand, as does Sisyphus, as he crowns himself in his defeat. The pendulum between night and day swings, for it is not possible to experience the light without the dark. That being said, there can be joy found in the struggle as you work towards your own purpose. On your journey, as you conclude how all is well, it measures your next step. The struggle on its own was enough for Sisyphus. To find hope in The Myth of Sisyphus, to breathe joy into your own rock, one must picture Sisyphus happy.
Even with the knowledge of the extent of his condition, Sisyphus still found joy. He believed it to be achieving the purpose of fate, to see the top of the mountain, even as the rock rolls back down. Through hard labor, to see the sky for fleeting moments, only to work what seems like ages for that again, is that not life? That happiness, however evanescent, returns as quickly as his torment. That is the period of when consciousness arrives. That period is the breath you exhale before seeing your descent. Therefore Sisyphus knows himself to be the master of his days, the controller of his fate.
Physically, Sisyphus cannot change his fate, yet he wields all the power within his mind. Grief and depression grow from dissatisfaction, as the beginning of our journey calls for success and happiness too insistently. Our mind cries for us to move at a pace faster than we are able, and for that sadness grows. The period of consciousness if turned negative, can turn into a heavy sadness. However patience, even with knowledge of your condition assures your victory. It is what changes your outlook on fate.
It is a balance between both passions and torture as Sisyphus can show you himself. The depending factor being what you choose to focus upon. To have the belief to conclude that all is well, could be a reassurance found delusional. Yet is what hope stems from, the belief that all will be, or could be well. It is what helps us push our own rock. The issues with this are that many people do know what our rock is. However, what we choose to work toward, the top of our mountain is uncertain, or seen as unattainable. We block ourselves from seeing the sky, from pushing our own rock, from finding our purpose. Which is why we must picture Sisyphus happy as the master of his days.
This One is Enough for You?: Vladimir and Estragon as Figures of the Despair of Philosophical Suicide and Denial of an Absurd Existence
“We can always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?” Samuel Beckett’s character Estragon asks his friend Vladimir in Beckett’s tragicomedy, Waiting for Godot. This postmodernist play has provoked an enormous amount of analysis, commentary, and criticism since its first performance in 1953. Intellectuals have not ceased trying to interpret Beckett’s intentions in creating such an obscure and disconcerting “story” if one could even go so far as to call it that. The confrontations regarding the entities of self and existence that arise from such a work elicits a demand for further understanding that stems from each individual’s quest for truth. However Beckett has been notoriously silent to all inquiries on the subject matter behind his work. He has said, “My work is a matter of fundamental sounds made as fully as possible, and I accept responsibility for nothing else. If people want to have headaches among the overtones, let them. And provide their own aspirin.”
Martin Esslin delves into Beckett and his concept of art and this very rejection of applying specific meaning to his work. He says, “[Beckett’s literary creations]– through their very uncompromising concentration on existential experience, also claim attention as human documents of great importance; for they constitute an exploration, on a hitherto almost unprecedented scale, of the nature of one human being’s mode of existing, and thereby into the nature of human existence itself.”  Esslin argues that because Beckett denies the observer a pre-existing set of concepts or ideas to his works, that they “constitute the culmination of existential thought itself.” Thus countless works today can be found associating Beckett with the existentialist philosophers like Jean Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, and many more. However, this essay focuses in on Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and the ways it parallels Albert Camus’ specific philosophy of absurdism as described in his essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus” and argues that Beckett’s depiction of existence illustrates the consequences of failing to reach fulfillment through acceptance and revolt in such an existence as Camus describes.
To best illustrate the parallels between these texts, we must begin with a discussion of Waiting for Godot’s immediate association with the absurd. The play and Samuel Beckett himself both come to the forefront of most discussions involving what is today known as the “Theatre of the Absurd.” The term came into use as a result of Martin Esslin’s 1962 book by the same title, in which Esslin defines its purpose: “Theatre of the Absurd strives to express its sense of senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought.” The term is used less to describe a movement or a genre than a collective of post- World War II writers creating extremely unconventional drama to depict the existential dilemmas of the time, specifically the absurdist view of existence proposed by Albert Camus. In “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Camus picks up where existential philosophy leaves off. In his acknowledgement of a godless universe, the reality that existence precedes essence, and that life has no objective meaning, he claims that existence is inherently absurd, and that this is the only reconcilable truth that man can cling to. The absurdity, he deduces, stems from “the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart.” This longing for clarity, understanding, and unity is one that Camus claims is inherent to human existence, and he refers to it as “nostalgia.” The truth that man must exist in a world without reason, without understanding, and without hope is truly absurd.
Beckett’s depiction of the world itself through the voices and actions of the characters Estragon and Vladimir is indicative of the world’s irrationality and failure to satisfy man’s desires and needs. Camus says, “The mind’s deepest desire, even in its most elaborate operations, parallels man’s unconscious feeling in the face of his universe: it is an insistence upon familiarity, an appetite for clarity.” The absurd reality is that the world cannot be this for us. The world is inherently disassociated from man, inhuman, and will forever be beyond the scope of man’s understanding or comprehension. As previously mentioned, it is the confluence of this unintelligibility and man’s desire for understanding of it that is the very essence of absurdity. Beckett’s created universe of purposeless acts, repetitive dialogue that consistently negates itself, disjointed time, and short memories lacks all elements of comprehensible reality. There is a lack of any objective conclusion or truth to much of anything, contributing to the sense of anxiety and dissonance that results from the play’s overarching theme of eternal waiting and suspension.
The tension and dissatisfaction of the characters existing in this environment is apparent. After Estragon has “despairingly” awoken from his dreaming, Vladimir protests loudly for him not to share what he dreamt. Estragon, “gesturing to the universe” as Beckett includes in the stage directions, replies: “This one is enough for you?” Throughout the play Estragon and Vladimir both make outbursts such as, “I can’t go on like this!” and “This is awful!” in response to their conditions. The world they exist in is utterly irrational and utterly unbearable. In addition to an irrational universe, absurdity springs from mankind’s desire to grasp it. According to Camus, this desire can never be fulfilled. Absurdist, alongside existentialist view commits itself to the absolute truth that there is no tomorrow and there is certainly no eternal—there is only the present moment in which one can exist, making life utterly meaningless. However, the history of man is one that constantly creates and puts faith in the fact that life has meaning and purpose. This is evident in religions in particular, and in every commitment to the eternal.
However it is also apparent in the average man who spends his daily life working towards the future, towards tomorrow. The need for man to ascribe purpose and order to his life is a basic one, and also, from an absurdist view, an impossible one. It is a falsity to live for anything, to aspire towards anything. The entire culmination of purpose for the days of Vladimir and Estragon is waiting for Godot. It is for this that they find themselves in an unfamiliar, empty place where “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes.” Waiting for Godot gives Vladimir and Estragon a purpose in life, though a dreadfully boring and monotonous one. What is most devastating is that Godot never comes, which can and has been interpreted as an indication of the futility of existence, and the tragedy of devoting your life to higher orders than the present moment. “Habit is the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit.”
Samuel Beckett and Albert Camus had similar conceptions of habit’s place in the modern life. Camus explains that the absurdity of a life committed uselessly to the future is cultivated largely out of habit. But it is out of this monotony, this habit, which often emerges what he calls, “moments of lucidity”—moments that absurdity is realized. One of the ways that the absurd world is born into consciousness is the rising of the “why” out of the daily repetition and rhythm. Camus declares that following this awakening to the absurdity of life is either a gradual return to the old rhythms or a “definitive awakening” in which results either ultimate despair and suicide or recovery. This moment can be detected in Waiting for Godot after Pozzo’s exit in Vladimir’s monologue in which he reflects on his confusion with reality, his inability to make sense of what is happening around him. “Was I sleeping while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will be there?” We must ask then, where does this moment of realization and clarity of his condition leave Vladimir? Does he return to his monotonous life? Does he accept this reality? And if so is he to embrace it or to despair? Camus begins his argument for absurd philosophy with the question of the “one truly serious philosophical problem… suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living.” Camus’ initial question regards whether this absurd life devoid of purpose, directed towards nothing, and with no prospective except to embrace the hopelessness that all of this entails—is this life worth living? Vladimir and Estragon mention committing suicide repeatedly during the play.
In the first act it is depicted as means of entertainment, and Beckett even adds a touch of humor: Vladimir: What do we do now? Estragon: Wait. Vladimir: Yes, but while waiting. Estragon: What about hanging ourselves? Vladimir: Hmmm. It’d give us an erection. Estragon: [highly excited] An erection! Vladimir: With all that follows. Where it falls mandrakes grow. That’s why they shriek when you pull them up. Did you not know that? Estragon: Let’s hang ourselves immediately! The two decide against the idea. They decide to wait and to hear what Godot has to say before they decide, clinging to their hope once more. Suicide is brought up again at the end of the first act and again in the second act in a more melancholy fashion, however because the characters lack rope, they cannot go through with it.
At the end of the second act, following Vladimir’s “moment of lucidity” and the announcement that Godot is yet again not coming, he says, “We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow,” but then he follows it with, “unless Godot comes.” Camus concludes that an absurd life is one that must indeed be lived. He even says, “It [life] will be lived all the better if it has no meaning,” referring to the vast amount of freedom that comes from living for nothing but the present moment, with no obligation or motivation except to live it. He concludes that to escape the absurd life through suicide is in fact to annul its very absurdity. Absurdity only exists within the combination of man, in all his desires for order, and the world in all its irrationality. To be rid of the rational man is to be rid of the absurd. No, the answer to the question of existence in absurdity cannot be suicide. Camus deduces that the way to live this life is to live it in revolt—revolt of despair and suffering. It is to live knowing fully the state of one’s existence and to live momentously anyway, with no pursuit except that of the present moment, and he says that joy can be found there. Vladimir’s moment of lucidity brings him to a choice. He must accept this absurd reality that he has come to realize or he must deny it.
Vladimir’s decision not to kill himself, however, does not indicate that he has accepted the knowledge he attains. Richard Duran argues that the existence chosen by the characters in Waiting for Godot, even if they do not kill themselves, is still a form of suicide Camus refers to as “philosophical suicide”. Camus uses the examples of existentialist philosophers Kierkegaard and Chestov to demonstrate the way in which those who find themselves aware of the absurd, discovered in that moment of lucidity, in an effort to “leap” from the struggle that implies: “total absence of hope, a continual rejection, and a conscious dissatisfaction,” deny the absurd by attributing rationality to the world, despite evidence to the contrary. Camus defines philosophical suicide as, “the movement by which a thought negates itself and tends to transcend itself in its very negation,” and adds, “For the existentials negation is their God. To be precise, that god is maintained only through the negation of human reason.” Kierkegaard, Chestov, and other philosophers and thinkers who have experienced this moment of lucidity, and then denied it by promising some form of transcendence yet, have sacrificed knowledge in the pursuit of hope. Vladimir’s promise to return to wait for Godot at the end of the play, even after he has come face to face with the absurdity of it all, is an example of this murdering of knowledge and reason in exchange for some meaning in life.
It is interesting that, even though this moment of clarity for Vladimir occurs at the end of the play, an awareness of the absurdity of their existence suggests itself in the language of the two characters from the beginning. The very first lines of the play suggests the idea of surrender: Estragon: Nothing to be done. Vladimir: I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t tried everything. And I resumed the struggle. Here we not only see an acknowledgement of life’s futility from both characters, but we also see the first instance of Vladimir’s relentless hope. Here it is important that we note the different ways that the two main characters approach the absurd and hope. Vladimir, though he seems to possess a sense of the absurdity of his life even before his moment of lucidity, holds on to the hope of meeting Godot more persistently than Estragon does. In the first few pages of the play, Vladimir makes disjointed commentary referring to the notion of suicide, “It’s too much for one man. On the other hand what’s the good of losing heart now, that’s what I say. We should have thought of it a million years ago, in the nineties.” It seems as though, as the overwhelming vanity of life begins to enter into his mind, he seeks escape in killing himself. However, he does not have the courage, and thus continues to commit to hope, even though he is beginning to become aware of the uselessness. His clinging to a rational world is apparent in his acknowledgement of a system of morality. He reacts to Pozzo’s abuse of Lucky: Vladimir: [exploding] It’s a scandal! Pozzo: Are you alluding to anything in particular? Vladimir: [stutteringly resolute] To treat a man…[gesture towards Lucky]…like that…I think that…no…a human being…no….it’s a scandal! Vladimir is largely ignored by both Estragon and Pozzo. Estragon yells out: “A disgrace!” in support of Vladimir before he goes back to gnawing on bones, and Estragon is more concerned with Vladimir’s age than the accusation set against him. In an irrational world, one without a God, one without a purpose— then morality itself is obsolete. The value of a human being could also be argued to be obsolete. Vladimir struggles with this throughout the play as he continues to attribute meaning and purpose to his meaningless and purposeless life.
Estragon, on the other hand, seems less aware of the general happenings that occur in the play. His memory is notoriously short, and Vladimir must constantly inform him of what is happening. The following exchange occurs repeatedly throughout the play: Estragon: Let’s go. Vladimir: We can’t. Estragon: Why not? Vladimir: We’re waiting for Godot. Estragon: [despairingly] Ah! Estragon is only minutely aware of the entire purpose of his and Vladimir’s life and must constantly be reminded what it is they are devoting themselves too. He is thus less committed than Vladimir, and seems to largely be engaged in this waiting simply because Vladimir is. While Vladimir reflectively ponders suicide, it is Estragon who repeatedly suggests it. It could be argued that Estragon has already become overwhelmingly aware of life’s absurdity and has already given up hope in a rational existence. His inability to remember what they are waiting for or what happened the day before or sometimes only minutes before, suggests that he exists only in his present moment, an absurd existence devoid of hope.
However, he is also unable to embrace this existence and enter into Camus’ rebellion because of his tie to Vladimir and Vladimir’s hope. Estragon often suggests that the two part ways. Estragon: I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off alone, each one for himself. We weren’t made for the same road. Vladimir: It’s not certain. Estragon: No, nothing is certain. Vladimir: We can still part, if you think it would be better. Estragon: It’s not worth while now.  Estragon, though he has given up hope that Godot will ever come, is still bound to waiting for him and unable to accept his fate because of his bind to Vladimir, committing him to a tragic existence condemned to monotony that one is unable to even overcome. “I can’t go on like this,” he tells Vladimir at the end of the second act. The two, in each their inability to truly embrace the absurdity of their lives, can only strive to distract themselves and avoid confronting it. They desperately try to remain occupied and to avoid silence—Vladimir especially. Estragon: In the meantime let us try and converse calmly, since we are incapable of keeping silent. Vladimir: You’re right, we’re inexhaustible. Estragon: It’s so we won’t think. Vladimir: We have that excuse. Estragon: It’s so we won’t hear. Vladimir: We have our reasons. Estragon: All the dead voices. Vladimir: they make a noise like wings. Estragon: Like leaves. Vladimir: Like sand. Estragon: Like leaves. … [long silence] Vladimir: Say something! Estragon: I’m trying. [long silence] Vladimir: [in anguish] Say anything at all! Vladimir is aware of the knowledge creeping up on him, the unbearable reality of life’s absurdity, and because he does not want to face it, it is essential that he not allow himself time to think, time to be conscious, to be lucid. Esslin proposes this as not only an avoidance of life, but an avoidance of one’s very self, “The hope of salvation may be merely an evasion of the suffering and anguish that springs from facing the reality of the human condition.” If we propose that Estragon has already acknowledged life’s futility, then he fears silence for a different reason. He is simply and devastatingly bored of this life that he knows is meaningless, and is unable to act against.
Perhaps the greatest devastation of Vladimir and Estragon’s position is the fact that as Camus says, “Once man has admitted his truths, he cannot free himself from them. A man conscious of the absurd is forever bound to it.” They no longer possess the joys of ignorance and naivety towards absurdity and even in their efforts to escape their reality by fruitless hope or by distraction, the knowledge will never leave them. However, theirs’ is also still a more tragic fate than that of the absurd man who, accepting absurdity, “lives out his adventure within the span of his lifetime, aware of his limited freedom, his revolt devoid of future, and his mortal consciousness.” No, the fate of those who possess the truth but refuse to live it, is condemned to not only a meaningless existence, but a tormented one—forever stubbornly reaching for something denying one’s own knowledge that it cannot be attained.
Camus says that the only true tragedy of “The Myth of Sisyphus”, a tale of Camus’ absurd hero, is that he is conscious. Thus Waiting for Godot can be argued to be an example of the misery of life lived in refusal of Camus’ revolt, the revolt that turns Sisyphus’ fate from tragic to victorious, and even, as Camus says, happy. “The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.” Camus argues that this scorn to one’s fate, this facing the devastation of a fruitless fate and conquering it is the only path to happiness in an absurd world. By this ‘yes’ to one’s “inevitable and despicable” destiny, man becomes in control of his existence on earth, and this struggle towards mastery of that existence, as Camus says, “is enough to fill a man’s heart.” This is the only viable path to happiness. And this is what Vladimir and Estragon deny themselves in clinging to their routine, clinging to that last shred of hope, refusing to accept the truth that they will never be able to deny. They will return each day underneath the willow tree, and they will talk ceaselessly to avoid confronting the silence that brings with it the whisperings of truth. They will wait for Godot, even though they both know that he will never come. Estragon will try to dream, to escape briefly to some other universe, and Vladimir will wake him in fear of that other universe. And Estragon will ask again, “This one is enough for you?” And there will be no answer, only distraction, only waiting, until two fruitless and unhappy lives reach their meaningless and absurd end.
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Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot(New York: Grove Press, 1954), 59.
 Samuel Beckett in a letter to Alan Schneider, printed in the Village Voice in March 1958.
Martin Esslin, “Introduction,” in Samuel Beckett: A Collection of Critical Essays(New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965), 4.
 Ibid. 5.
 Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd, Third ed. (England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1980), 24.
 Albert Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, trans. Justin O’Brien, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1955), 21.
 Ibid., 17.
 Beckett, Waiting for Godot, 8.
 Ibid. 58, 53.
 Ibid., 32.
 Samuel Beckett, Proust, (London: Chatto & Windus, 1931),8.
 Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”, 14-15.
 Ibid., 13.
 Beckett, Waiting for Godot, 81.
 Camus, “The Myth”, 3.
 Beckett, Waiting for Godot, 9.
 Ibid., 84.
 Camus, “The Myth”, 53.
 Ibid., 28.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 41.
 Beckett, Waiting for Godot, 1.
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid., 19.
 Ibid., 6.
 Ibid., 44.
 Ibid., 84.
 Ibid., 52-53
 Esslin, Theatre of the Absurd, 61.
 Camus, “The Myth,” 31.
 Ibid., 66.
 Ibid., 121.
 Ibid., 123.
Placing Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus in the Philosophical Structure of Existentialism
The Myth of Sisyphus is one of the profound philosophical texts written in the 20th century. The book was originally published in French as Le Mythe de Sisyphe in 1942. Albert Camus’ philosophy of absurdity is most apparent in Le Etranger (The Stranger). Camus’ third novel La Chute (The Fall) is a passionate denunciation of all-or–nothing approach to human problems which Camus describes in The Myth of Sisyphus as a form of consciousness of absurdity. Martin Esslin says, “In one of the most seminal heart-searching of our time, The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus tried to diagnose the human situation in a world of shattered beliefs.”The symbolic marriage of natural and social evils, of metaphysical problems, creates a certain element of ambiguity in Camus’ novels. Both nature and society as seen by Camus are evil; both certainly are powerful; and both exact the same sort of sinister idolatry from their victims. It is against this spiritual sanctification of material force and the ignorance and illusions on which it thrives, that Camus speaks.Camus’ sense of absurdity of human existence and his ethics are founded on an identical act of revolt against the existing structure of the universe. For the self-styled agnostic as he was, the one seems as arbitrary as the other. Were Camus merely telling us that moral values cannot be grounded on pragmatic facts, nor political right upon political might, it would be easy to accept his point of view. He seems rather to be telling us that moral values are incompatible with pragmatism facts, that political morality is incompatible with political efficacy. In other words, he must suppose not only an a-moral but a directly anti-moral universe—a highly anthropomorphic pagan deity of some sort—as fitting object of revolt. There would be little point in shaking our fists at blind, insistent matter.Camus divides The Myth of Sisyphus into three sections and each section into several chapters. In the first section Camus says that life becomes meaningless to most of the human beings in the absurd world. This leads to the serious philosophical problem ‘suicide’. Many people die of this, realizing that life is not worth-living. It is very difficult to define life. Some nightmarish experience might undermine oneself and lead him to death.There is a relationship between individual thought and suicide. Too get prepared to think is beginning to be undermined. Society has very little to do in it; the culprit lies in man’s heart. Living is never easy, so to speak. Dying vulnerably implies that one has lost faith in life and recognizes the ridiculous character of life. So, utter meaninglessness of life leads one to commit suicide. The alienation between man and his life is properly the feeling of absurdity. Belief in the absurdity of existence must dictate one’s conduct. It differs from man to man whether a man compromises with the absurdity or confronts it. Most of the time, we realize a yawning gap between one’s thought and one’s action. We can say that those commit suicide, were assured of the meaning of life. The relationship between human thought and suicide is infected by contradictions and obscurities. The reasoning about the point of death is absurd, that is why the section is called “An Absurd Reasoning”. There is hope between absurdity of life and death.Deep feelings always mean more than the actual emotional outburst. Everything of a man can not be known and there is in him irreducible that escapes us. Complete self-knowledge is impossible. The climate of absurdity is in the beginning. The end is the absurd universe and the attitude of the mind towards it. The absurd is essentially the divorce. It lies neither in the comparison of fact and reality, rather it is born of their confrontation. We find a fissure between actual knowledge and simulated knowledge. Absurdity has no aura. It creates lucidity in the person’s mind to be conscious of his absurdity. Irrational feelings are created for this.Suicide settles the absurd. It engulfs the absurd in the same death. Suicide is a repudiation. The absurd man can drain everything to the bitter end deplete himself. If the absurd cancels an individual’s chances of eternal freedom, it restores and magnifies on the other hand the individual’s freedom of action. Death and the absurd are the principles of the only reasonable freedom—that which a human heart can experience and live. The absurd man catches sight of a burning and frigid, transparent and limited universe in which nothing is possible but everything is given, and beyond which all is collapse and nothingness. He can then decide to accept such a universe and draw from it his strength, hope and unyielding evidence of a life without consolation.While describing the general ideas of absurdity Camus presents some existential philosophers’ view on it. Mere ‘anxiety’ as Heidegger says, is at the source of everything. Usually time carries us but occasion comes when we have to carry it. He does not separate consciousness from the absurd. Jespers says that we have lost naiveté in life. He knows that the end of the mind is failure. Chestov demonstrates that the most universal rationalism always stumbles eventually on the irrationally constructed human thought. To Chestov, reason is useless and there is something beyond reason. To an absurd mind reason is useless and there is nothing beyond reason. He says, “The only true solution is precisely where human judgement sees no solution…we turn towards God only to obtain the impossible.” For Kierkegaard, Antinomy and paradox become criteria of the religious. He says, Christianity is a scandal. To him despair is not a fact but a state—the very state of sin. Sin alienates oneself from God. The absurd which is the metaphysical state of the conscious man, does not lead to God. Hussrel and other phenomenologists, by their very extravagances, reinstate the world in its diversity and deny the transcendent power of the reason.Although Camus’ symbols are equivalent to all the age-old images of divine injustice, they are no less painfully recognizable as human events. If we go back to the myth of Sisyphus itself, we find that the gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a stone to the top of a cliff, but the stone would fall back again and again. Gods thought that there could be no more deadlier punishment than futile and hopeless labour. Sisyphus is to be seen as hopeless as an absurd hero. He is as much through his passions as through his torture. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself. His moment of suffering is his moment of consciousness. Happiness and the absurd are the two sons of the same mother earth. Camus believes that men who are fighting together against a common evil, even though they are fighting a losing battle, can give some meaning to their lives and achieve a sense of solidarity.Camus does not suggest that this intellectual and moral struggle against the existing structure of the universe is Man’s primary goal on earth. The affirmative side of Camus’ thinking rather in the positive side and quality of life itself, in the occasional moments of earthly happiness which, however, ephemeral, however gravely menaced, are as real and as important an aspect of human existence as the symbolic plague.The intimate understanding of the underlying tragedy of human existence brings an acute and painful awareness of man’s temporal bond with the world he lives in. This is what Camus calls “the other side of the coin’. The special resonance of Camus’ writing lies neither in its stern lucidity nor in its latent sensuality but in the equilibrium maintained between the two. Bleak and barren, mediocre and uninteresting, these modern metropolitan deserts, so utterly devoid of man-made beauty, of nature and of history, seem to symbolize the stifling prison of the 20th century mind itself. Herein perhaps lies the secret of their special attraction for Camus.In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus had already described the ‘incalculable fall from the image we have of ourselves”, as a form of the consciousness of absurdity. Camus says, “Man, at bottom, is not entirely guilty, since he did not begin history, nor altogether innocent, since he continues it. Those who go beyond this limit and affirm their total innocence, end in the fury of definitive guilt”.At the conclusion of The Myth of Sisyphus, he writes: “The struggle toward the summits is enough to fill the heart of man. One must imagine that Sisyphus is happy”. If Camus has b been able to revitalize the theme of individual happiness, to snatch it from the jaws of habit and convention and make us fill its insistent pull on the human heart, it is not because he has any illusions on the subject. It is perhaps because Camus—one of the few French novelists of any stature have known the real meaning of the word ‘poverty’—has had an especially intimate experience of the obstacles standing in the way. Nietzsche often identified life itself with the will to power. Camus considers the ability to contradict in this world as an important spiritual force. We can draw a conclusion to this by a remark about The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus himself: “Although The Myth of Sisyphus poses moral problems, it sums itself for me as a lucid invitation to live and to create, in the very midst of the desert.”