Monday, July 20, 2015

Sisyphys the Writer: My Life with the Rock

You would not be inviting a significant counterattack if you were to argue that a story is about one or more individuals seeking an outcome of happiness.  The attacks would more likely begin when you tried to pin down what happiness meant.

The same would be true were you to substitute outcome of satisfaction for outcome of happiness, in effect equating satisfaction.  You were one hired to develop a screenplay about a man who wanted nothing more in life than to play his flugle horn five or six hours a day.  

The man had not thought that playing daily would make him a better flugelist even though you, at the time, nourished the belief that writing five or six hours a day would make you a better writer.

Again with the definitions; now "better" is added to those other words, happiness and satisfaction.  Your recent discussions of one of your favorite characters, Sisyphus, brings to mind a question you don't think Albert Camus initiated in his essay in which he argued for the point that Sisyphus,  knowing the nature of his task, was actually a happy man.  

Your interest here is the potential--or lack thereof--for Sisyphus to get better at his task, even to the point where one or two persons might come to watch work, then ten or twelve, and finally, crowds.

"Will you look at the way he leans into that rock."

"Makes you want to get out a rock yourself, doesn't it?  Have a go at a small hill, maybe work your way up."

"Freaking inspirational, the way he leans into it.  And that look on his face, while the rock is rolling down the hill.  Never seen a look like that before."

"They say he can do that with any rock."

"It's a gift.  There'll never be another like him."

"You can't tell.  Some kid, even now, playing in his back yard with a melon-sized ball, he could be the one to take this all away from Sisyphus."

Things don't happen that way, but on the other hand, thinking about Sisyphus in this particular context, after having thought of him in so many others, reminds you of something special.  There is a reason why you're attracted to him as a character and as an archetype.  You came to writing for entirely different reasons than Sisyphus came to his rock, but you understand the connection, nevertheless.  

You do essentially the same thing with a story or a novel or a booklength essay or a review,pushing it up the hill of resistance.  This resistance is and will always be the gap between your vision of the project and your attempts to get it down on paper in an acceptable way.

More definitions.  What is acceptable?  Thus another word goes into the pile started with happiness, added to by satisfaction, with better piled on.  Now, you've brought in acceptable.  You are pushing an idea up a pile of concepts that open cans of worms within every philosophical vision.

You are not well versed in philosophy, your probable strengths being Heraclitus and Hegel, each of whom would be suspicious of such value-judgement words as happiness, satisfaction, and better.  For that matter, each might well ask what was meant by the term ability.  Heraclitus, for certain, would say that a person does not have the same ability twice.  Whatever that quality is--or is not--it changes each time you roll the rock up the hill.

Story deals with people trying to secure definitions and authentications of things they have been programmed to seek without properly understanding what they mean.  These narratives are directed by persons such as yourself and persons at some great remove from yourself, trying to push these ideas-as-stones up the hill of effort, ceaselessly trying to capture a truthful outcome.

What, you ask, is the outcome of a rock, rolling down the slope of a hill on which it was perched?

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