Albert Camus and Sysiphus | images via Wikimedia Commons
The 7th of November is the anniversary of Albert Camus’ birth in 1913. A writer and philosopher, Camus was known for his belief in absurdism—the notion that humans perpetually and futilely strive to find meaning and sense in an existence that is meaningless and nonsensical.
In his essay The Myth of Sysiphus, Camus compares the absurd human condition to the Greek myth in which Sisyphus defies the gods and puts Death in chains in order to prevent all humans from dying. When Death is freed, the gods punish Sisyphus by making him push a rock up a mountain for eternity; whenever he reaches the top, the rock rolls back down. According to Camus, Sysiphus is an absurd hero because he lives his life to the fullest by helping humanity cheat death, but is ultimately condemned to do a meaningless task forever.
But the essay’s conclusion is not so dismal as you might expect: Camus argues that once Sysiphus acknowledges the futility of pushing the rock up the mountain and accepts it as his fate, he can reach a state of acceptance and contentment—achieving happiness, in a sense. Camus concludes: “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
The Prompt: Writing as yourself or through a character, discuss whether life has meaning and reason—or whether it’s as meaningless and nonsensical (i.e., absurd) as Albert Camus believed. Given your position, consider what people can do to find happiness in life.
Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.
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