Book of da Week: Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus

The Myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus
Albert Camus’ the Myth of Sisyphus.

Good day! It’s time for the Myth of Sisyphus. Why not? It’s Albert Camus’ philosophical statement about the nature of being, the absurdity intrinsic in that being, and why any of us bother with it all. Whilst Camus largely rejected the notion he was an existentialist (preferring to dabble with the Absurd instead), there’s no denying this essay deals heavily with the existentialism. Why? As it deals the question of why any of us go about existing in the face of bizarre and ridiculous daily routines.

Those new to the subject may consider existentialism morose or potentially evil, but it’s a liberating concept consisting of how every human is his or her person – as a free agent, one should endeavour to live as morally sound life as possible whilst enjoying the finer things to a measured extent (tea and, perhaps, skip the cake). Published in 1942, it’s not a tome for the wicked but rather a vividly realised account on why life is worth living. Super!

The Myth of Sisyphus

First, to the Myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus isn’t a big sissy, nor is he related to Sissy Spacey, he was a Greek mythology figure who was condemned to repeat the same superfluous, idiotic routine over and over into perpetuity. Obviously, we can all draw parallels with this in our daily lives, whatever your job may be. Whether you’re a chef, Prime Minister, bin man, astronaut, or Formula 1 driver, every now and then you may have an existential crisis and question what it is you’re bloody well doing.

This, in brutal and blunt detail, is what Camus sets out to explain. From the get go he doesn’t hold back, opening proceedings with this stark gem:

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories - comes afterwards."

In other words, does the absurdity of existence and its apparent meaningless demand an immediate cessation of your existence? Gloomy? Not really. At Professional Moron, we’ve long pondered over the strange question “What is the meaning of life?”, when the answer has always quite clearly been “nothing”. It’s what you fill that void with which matters, so do so with wholesome activities you enjoy and which are productive to society and for your intellect (triggering off a nuclear war doesn’t count).

Geez…

Yet, don’t worry! If any of this has you reciting a rosary, do not fret! Calm your fears with Franz Liszt who is here to remind you not to get too serious about it everything. We certainly don’t, and this is what Mr. Camus would have wanted, you know?

Whilst some consider existential thought (although Camus denied he was an existentialist, to confuse matters) as overly morose, we’ve taken solace in the notion one is a free agent in the universe and living a morally sound life is the most rewarding thing anyone can do. Camus confirms this in The Myth of Sisyphus in what is unquestionably a life affirming and uplifting essay, which all folks should read.

Naturally, it acted as a prelude to his further works of absurdist thought, one of which is The Plague – we reviewed it a while back. Another is The Outsider, which we’ll take at some time soon. As a reminder, Camus died suddenly in a car crash in 1960 in what he had deemed the most absurd way to die imaginable, but works such as this are a reminder he remains as relevant as ever.

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