This is Sisyphus, perhaps you've heard of him?
He is a king from Greek Mythology,
whose story is often used as a metaphor,
to describe acts of great futility.
He was a crafty and persuasive ruler who cheated death twice, exposed Zeus's indiscretion and refused to follow the rules. His punishment for angering the Gods was to push a large boulder to the top of a high mountain. The heavy stone would then plummet back down to earth. Sisyphus' task was to push that stone back up the mountain again and again for all eternity.
As a special needs parent, I am no stranger to the word futility.
I can identify with Sisyphus.
So much of my life feels chaotic and futile, there is an intensity of effort and heaviness of responsibility that feels a lot like pushing a large boulder up a very steep hill.
But there is something very powerful about the story of Sisyphus.
In fact, a French philosopher named Albert Camus had a theory about his struggle. In his book, the Myth of Sisyphus, he proposes that Sisyphus is not frustrated by his predicament; but is instead a happy man.
Happy, you ask? How can this be?
Well, according to Camus, Sisyphus is happy because he is not a prisoner of hope. When there is hope, there is expectation. When there is expectation, there is disappointment when things do not turn out as anticipated.
Sisyphus, you see, is free from hope or expectation, He knows his fate and accepts it. However, futile, absurd or chaotic his life, by accepting his situation, he is free to enjoy it.
To Camus, Sisyphus teaches us to embrace pain, struggle, even futility.
He explains that when the stone falls back to earth, and Sisyphus turns again to retrieve it, this is his defining moment. He is happy because he knows his fate. He knows the rock will keep falling to the bottom. He is aware. He acknowledges that his life is futile, yet he rebels against it by continuing to stomp back down that mountain to push that stone up. The monotony of his absurd plight brings him peace. To Camus, it is Sisyphus' rebellion against the absurd that frees him, allowing him to live passionately in the moment. While it is the pain that allows him to feel alive, it is his rebellion against it that brings him peace.
By turning back around, he chooses to accept, he perseveres, he rebels, he wins.
In a way, Sisyphus cheats death for a third time.
When you think about life, what is it but a monotonous series of daily routines, pushing a stone up a hill and watching it fall back down again. Sisyphus is pushing his stone forever, he is "living" for eternity.
He learns to embrace his pain, distracting him from thinking, forcing him to live in the moment, accepting his fate.....living.