This weekend I was doing some thinking about Sisyphus. In the past couple of weeks I’ve come across a couple of cartoons referencing him (one above, one at the end of this post), and these got me thinking of the actual myth of Sisyphus as I recalled it from my undergrad philosophy degree.
As retold by Camus, Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to roll a giant boulder up a steep mountain every day for eternity in the underworld. Whenever he would near the top, the weight of the rock would cause it to roll back down to the bottom, where it would wait for Sisyphus to start over. Sisyphus was condemned to this fate because – long story short – he cheated death and wished to remain on earth.
“His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of this earth.” (Camus)
Camus states that not much is told about Sisyphus’s time in the underworld, so he imagines Sisyphus happy – not because of his fate, but in spite of it – that the struggle is what makes Sisyphus joyful, that his rock belongs to him. That his rock is of his own creation – the manifestation of his actions and representing his fate – and that only he can push it up a lonely mountain in negation of the gods.
So, why compare this myth to startups? If you do not decide to roll a boulder of your own making, what will you be left doing? Will you help roll someone else’s? Will you opt out entirely and stay in one place for eternity (or for at least what feels like an eternity, waiting for the clock to strike 5)?
Anyway, this is what was on my mind this weekend. Thanks for reading.