Rock On

Elsewhere I have brought out the fact that human will had no other purpose than to maintain awareness.  But that could not do without discipline.  Of all the schools of patience and lucidity, creation is the most effective.  It is also the staggering evidence of man’s sole dignity:  the dogged revolt against his condition, perseverance in an effort considered sterile.  It calls for a daily effort, self-mastery, a precise estimate of the limits of truth, measure, and strength.  It constitutes an ascesis.  All that “for nothing”, in order to repeat and mark time.  But perhaps the great work of art has less importance in itself than in the ordeal it demands of a man and the opportunity it provides him of overcoming his phantoms and approaching a little closer to his naked reality. (115)
All that remains is a fate whose outcome alone is fatal.  Outside of that single fatality of death, everything, joy or happiness, is liberty.  A world remains of which man is the sole master.  What bound him was the illusion of another world.  The outcome of his thought, ceasing to be renunciatory, flowers in images.  It frolics — in myths, to be sure, but myths with no other depth than that of human suffering and, like it, inexhaustible.  Not the divine fable that amuses and blinds, but the terrestrial face, gesture, and drama in which are summed up a difficult wisdom and an ephemeral passion. (117–118)
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. (123)

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, Justin O’Brien (trans.), Random House, New York, NY, 1991.  Originally published in France as Le Mythe de Sisyphe by Librairie Gallimard, 1942.  First published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.

This entry was posted in Absurdity, Albert Camus, Diversity, Existentialism, Freedom, Myth, Oedipus, Passion, Revolt, Sisyphus and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Rock On

  1. Poor Richard says:

    I think we bipolars have a special kinship with Brother Sisyphus. Of all the reasons to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, my own special obsession-compulsion is curiosity.

    • Jon Awbrey says:

      This was a difficult reading for me. I had to go back to the beginning and start over 3 or 4 times, which I guess is only fitting. It helped me when I could see links to Peirce’s pragmatism, but that was possible only on occasion. Camus describes the Absurd in much the same vein that Peirce describes the “Irritation of Doubt” — the initial impulse to inquiry. So there is that common point of origin. As far as the curiosity that maintains inquiry, Camus sees a lot of value in the sort that inspires phenomenology, pure observation, but little value in the sort that seeks explanation, and that is a point of departure from Peirce.

      • Poor Richard says:

        Does inquiry have a “point”? For me its just an obsession or an addiction, the same type of thing that I imagine motivates most forms of “creativity”. I just can’t help it. Oh, we tend to think of addictions in general as bullshit–but what isn’t? (I recently read that “even sincerity itself is bullshit.” Ouch!) Since your subject is “Inquiry into inquiry,” what do you see as the point of it?

    • Jon Awbrey says:

      The point of inquiry is making reality your BFF.

    • Jon Awbrey says:

      And for much the same reason — to wit, or not — that evolution made us this way.

    • Jon Awbrey says:

      Presently she opened a box, which Prometheus had warned Epimetheus to keep closed, and in which he had been at pains to imprison all the Spites that might plague mankind: such as Old Age, Labour, Sickness, Insanity, Vice, and Passion. Out these flew in a cloud, stung Epimetheus and Pandora in every part of their bodies, and then attacked the race of mortals. Delusive Hope, however, whom Prometheus had also shut in the box, discouraged them by her lies from a general suicide.

      — Robert Graves • The Greek Myths • 39. j

      • Poor Richard says:


        All saints revile her, and all sober men
        Ruled by the God Apollo’s golden mean —
        In scorn of which we sailed to find her
        In distant regions likeliest to hold her
        Whom we desired above all things to know,
        Sister of the mirage and echo.

        — Robert Graves • The White Goddess

    • Jon Awbrey says:

      triply, triply, …

  2. Poor Richard says:


    Triply lucky, all you men
    To whom death came before your fathers’ eyes
    Below the wall at Troy! Bravest Danaan,
    Diomedes, why could I not go down
    When you had wounded me, and lose my life
    On Ilium’s battlefield? Our Hector lies there,
    Torn by Achilles’ weapon; there Sarpedon,
    Our giant fighter, lies; and there the river
    Simoïs washes down so many shields
    And helmets, with strong bodies taken under!

    — Virgil • The Aeneid 1.134–143, Robert Fitzgerald (trans.)

  3. Pingback: Strangers In Paradise | Inquiry Into Inquiry

  4. landzek says:

    Yes. Poetic and melancolic the nobility of man and his relation to thought. And this ‘rolling’, the description that is itself the rolling, is the motion of God taking another form, of Being that which manifests as the reality held out from itself, impossible to its own view, to be decided upon by the reasoning fashions of the day, just how God is or is not.

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