Question Of The Week: "The Myth Of Sisyphus"

by Conor Friedersdorf

A reader writes:

By far the most influential work of art for me was Albert Camus' brief essay on Sisyphus, which I read when I was 17. I was confused and unhappy about a lot of things, only one of which was the death of my father. Because I'd had a pretty sheltered upbringing, I had never experienced any deep suffering before. I was in a state of turmoil and feeling sorry for myself. Camus' essay simply blew me away. Sisyphus was condemned for all eternity to one repetitive, back-breaking and utterly futile task - but Camus wrote that, by accepting his fate, Sisyphus transcended it. I have never forgotten the overwhelming last line, "One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

In the years since then, I've encountered this idea (the transformative power of accepting suffering) elsewhere - for example, in Buddhism - but Camus' essay was the thing that made me get over my self-pity and grow up.