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The Myth of Sisyphus

by Joe Crocker

“One must imagine Sisyphus happy”
(Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus)

Sisyphus and brain
Cartoon © Alexei Talimonov 2021

The gods condemned Sisyphus to roll a boulder up a hill for all eternity. Camus argued that this symbolises the human condition, true for all of us: the world is without meaning, and our lives are inescapably absurd. The point is to embrace the struggle with it, and to live without falling prey to despair, or hope, including in the supernatural.

I brace for balance when I work the stone.
Its weight is what I want against my shoulder.
It is my burden. It is all I own.

The grip, the heave, the angle, and the groan.
I wrap my arms around it like a lover.
I am in balance when I work the stone.

At long last hope and hopelessness are gone.
My fate is mine to steer, to scorn or hold to.
My work. My burden. Everything I own.

The leap of faith forsaken, I have grown
aware. There is no angel and no ogre.
Only struggle and the balance and the stone.

And when I fall again, I fall alone.
My fate waits at the bottom with the boulder.
My rock. The burden I will not disown.

The steep track back, to start again. The known.
The undeluded effort. My place holder.
I find my balance. It is shaped in stone.
I lift my burden, consciously. My own.

© Joe Crocker 2021

Joe Crocker was given a copy of Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus sometime in the 1970s by his student flatmate. The arguments still resonate. During lockdown he succumbed to the muse and has had several poems published, mainly in Snakeskin, Light and New Verse News.

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