Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Myth of Sisyphus

There was time in college when I was attracted to existential novels. I went through novels of Camus, Sartre and Kafka et al.  One day I saw this book in the library ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ couldn’t resist picking it up for the title was so mysteriously attractive. I was soon disappointed. It wasn’t fiction but heavy dose of philosophy. I didn’t have the mental perseverance to go through that philosophical assault so left the book back to its shelf.  I haven’t read that book even now but we can read the summery in Wikipedia and save ourselves a lot of trouble. In the Greek myth of Sisyphus, the wily King who even foxed God of death but eventually so incensed Gods that they punished him to roll a heavy boulder up the hill ad infinitum which would roll down as soon as it reached the summit. It appears Camus used Sisyphus’ pointless effort as a metaphor to explain his philosophy of absurd and reaches the conclusion that only in moments of realization of the futility of meaning of life we are unhappy, however persistence of the thought would eventually lead us to a situation of contented acceptance therefore to a state of happiness. In essence he says, we must assume Sisyphus contentedly resigned to his fate therefore was happy.

While I have no quarrel with Camus’ conclusions even though his conclusions are dicey but another aspect of the Sisyphus myth bothers me. Do we need to have tougher punishment available to enforce a punishment served on a fellow? The point is what happens if Sisyphus refuses to roll the boulder up the hill?

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Phoenix (pronounced finiks) is a mythical bird. It rises from its ashes reinvigorated every 500 to 1000 years. This is an interesting concept coming out of Egyptian mythology. This virtually means immortality with some painful but short interludes. One story that is common suggests a phoenix builds itself a nest of twigs and branches then sets it on fire with itself occupying the nest. Both, the bird and the nest, burn in a fiery fire. When all is reduced to ashes the bird rises from it alive and young to live another 500 -1000 years.

This is common knowledge but the paradigm of phoenix has profound meaning. To remain immortal is our hardwired trait. There is no escape from it. A miniscule minority does have nihilistic bent of mind but they are the aberrations. In nut shell, the myth of Phoenix is paradoxical in the sense it doesn’t circumvent death. Our wish for immortality does not take into consideration an interface of death at some standard intervals. In fact, given option like Phoenix i.e one can rise from his own ashes, how many of us will be willing to rise again young from our own ashes and how many would simply want nothing to do with life? It is not life we love so much but the death we fear.