Sisyphean Existence

Sisyphus by Titian, 1549
Image via Wikipedia

Responding to my post on happiness, Mariel writes:

if our life is only the pursuit of happiness, we will never be truly satisfied. it would be a sisyphean existence because there is no concrete definition of what happiness is- it is an ever-changing abstract concept. we will never be able to reach the top level of happiness because the doubt and uncertainty that is inevitable on this journey would lead to perpetual turmoil. we will always be on the search for ‘better’, never reaching ‘best’.

I know this is quibbling, but I would hesitate to fully endorse this view only because I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with a Sisyphean existence, at least in the sense Camus and other existentialists thought of it. Recall that in Camus’ famous essay, he concludes that Sisyphus is aware of the futility of his task, and yet, “one must imagine [him] happy.” That’s because his life-long project is one that he knows will never be completed—and, as a result, he will always have an end to strive towards.

So Sisyphus winds up looking a lot like the model of existence I would propose as an alternative to this self-involved pursuit of happiness. Where I would break with Camus is in his insistence that all possible projects are equally absurd, and rolling a boulder to the top of a mountain is as worthy a goal as any other.

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