The Artwork of Michael Divine

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Happiness and Absurdity

February 16th, 2012

Echo Cliffs, Malibu, CA

My wife, Violet, sent me the following excerpt from “The Myth of Sisyphus” by Albert Camus  last night. I have sometimes suggested that her sometimes rather arduous trek through grad school (for her PhD in philosophy) sometimes seems like Sisyphus and his boulder. Unfortunately, in the case of Sisyphus there is no happy ending – the boulder rolls down the hill again and again and again and he is stuck pushing it back up again and again and again in perpetuity. At least grad school does have a final punctuation mark, of sorts, upon it!

I also felt that this bit of writing was relevant here because of a previous piece I’d written about ‘the absurd’. The truth is, there is beauty everywhere. There is love and joy in everything – even this head cold I’m feeling! Read on….

“One does not discover the absurd without being tempted to write a manual of happiness. ‘What!—by such narrow ways–?’ There is but one world, however. Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable. It would be a mistake to say that happiness necessarily springs from the absurd discovery. It happens as well that the felling of the absurd springs from happiness. ‘I conclude that all is well,’ says Edipus, and that remark is sacred. It echoes in the wild and limited universe of man. It teaches that all is not, has not been, exhausted. It drives out of this world a god who had come into it with dissatisfaction and a preference for futile suffering. It makes of fate a human matter, which must be settled among men.

“All Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is his thing. Likewise, the absurd man, when he contemplates his torment, silences all the idols. In the universe suddenly restored to its silence, the myriad wondering little voices of the earth rise up. Unconscious, secret calls, invitations from all the faces, they are the necessary reverse and price of victory. There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night. The absurd man says yes and his effort will henceforth be unceasing. If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is but one which he concludes is inevitable and despicable. For the rest, 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 that series of unrelated actions which become his fate, created by him, combined under his memory’s eye and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But 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.”

-Albert Camus
 The Myth of Sisyphus

The Artwork of Michael Divine

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