Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sisyphus: Plight or Platform

If stasis is the enemy of story--and you believe it is--then surprise, reversal, and change--which are the antiheroes of reality--enter the landscape of drama like liberating armies, setting the enslaved countryside free.  But as anyone who has spent much time reading story will tell you, the freedom is tidal in nature.  Soon the tide of change will ebb.  More changes are necessary.

Writers tend to call this growth or evolution.  Those who changed or evolved have done so to a level of comfort they call freedom; it is a level, the changed or evolved say, that they have worked hard to achieve.  Now they wish to enjoy the comforts of their efforts.

Individuals who espouse the enjoyment of comforts tend to form or join groups of similar individuals who do so, their names throughout history forming a vivid and ironic lyric.  The irony comes from the revelation that the underlying emotion at the basis of the wish to enjoy achieved comforts is anger.  The anger is directed at individuals and groups whose interests and evolution fall somewhere outside the individuals and groups perceived as wanting also to enjoy comforts, and wanting to do so without having worked for them.

Thus we have come to understand the cultural wars between the conservatives and whatever handy word the zeitgeist offers up to serve as code for aliens and outsiders.  Liberal is a word that comes to mind.  Marxist and Red are others, and any compound word with welfare as its root yet another.  Thus conservatives, who speak at some length of values--even core values--which tend to mean a farewell to dialogue and a gradual discovery that those alien others who have not experienced growth or evolution and who wish to do so should not be allowed inside the town hall wherein to address their opinions and beliefs.

Stasis, whether in story or reality, tends to be represented by some philosophy or religion that demands of its faithful at least a tithing of obedience if not a conscience-driven behavior.  Many are led to believe their turn for enjoying the comforts of their efforts will come in the next life or some equivalent of a life held forth after this one.

This does not intend to argue that there is no anger resident among those variously called Liberals or Marxists or Progressives; anger is resident among all of us as a part of our individual genome.  An individual who has buried his or her anger is not only a victim of a particular kind of stasis, he or she is also being led, whether by an overdeveloped conscience or an underdeveloped sense of awareness.

This is the time of anger and discontent from both sides of the spectrum, each suspicious of the other in increasing measure.  Now, is the winter of the conservative's discontent made summer by tea party intransigence and calls for a Holy Crusade against the working classes.  Now is the winter of the Progressive discontent rendered into an even more ironic devolvement into despair as intransigence and apocalyptic confrontation persist.

We are directed for the moment to Albert Camus's essay, "The Myth of Sisyphus," in which Camus, well out of his own comfort zone," is writing of a figure who has before him an eternity of boring, meaningless work, settled on him by the theological equivalent of a conservative, advancing the argument that Sisyphus is a happy man.

It is difficult to be either Insider or Outsider without at some point considering Sisyphus and his condition.

1 comment:

Storm Dweller said...

"Those who changed or evolved have done so to a level of comfort they call freedom; it is a level, the changed or evolved say, that they have worked hard to achieve. Now they wish to enjoy the comforts of their efforts." I think everyone, even characters reach a point where they say, "It's not worth the effort, this is good enough." Introduce the catalyst that pushes them out of their comfort zone, and lets them know they are indeed capable of doing more, if they will only choose to do so. In the case of Sisyphus (and perhaps it was explained in the story, but I am rather fuzzy on the details anymore) I always wondered what motivating factor was in place that made the lesson in futility more attractive than walking to the top of the hill without the boulder and sitting at the peak to enjoy the view.