Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category
Tags: Camus, Sisyphus
Albert Camus penned an exploration of the absurdity of life titled The Myth of Sisyphus. In it, Camus examined the essential absurdity of life (that we look forward to tomorrow even though tomorrow brings us closer to death).
One of the 4 chapters of the book covered the Greek myth of Sisyphus who was consigned to punishment in the underworld of rolling a boulder up a hill until, right before he reached the top, it rolled back down. Forcing him into a perpetual punishment of never completing his hellish task.
Camus essentially argued that, despite the unceasing toil, Sisyphus would actually be contented because he recognizes the absurdity of his fate and is thus able to reach a state of acceptance. This is similar to the theme found in many religions in which the acceptance of death is the precursor to satisfaction in that it removes all vanities so that one can focus on the joys of life.
We each need our mindless task, a continuing struggle that makes us confront our vanities and fears. This is not a call to sink into negativity but, rather, a call to action. Mine is kendo, specifically suburi and hayasuburi. In my daily practice each swing is done fully with as much as focus as I can muster until I can almost smell the wood of the shinai or bokken and the sound of the strike.
“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
Life. It’s full of questions and the answers can be approached in multiple ways. In my search I am open to those multiple approaches and this is why I am hooked on a few podcasts and the FX show, Louis. My podcast of choice right now is the Jocko Podcast with Jocko Willink and Echo Charles.
Willink is a retired Navy SEAL but his show covers everything from the expected to the unexpected. Case in point, his recitation and review of the WWI memoir by Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel, was both insightful and touching. Willink discusses a lot of subjects including his military experience, his life now as a consultant, and his love of fitness and MMA.
Polar opposite to that is Louis C.K. who tackles the same subjects through his portrayal of an insightful schlub who embraces and yet hates his life and his persona.
Despite the huge difference between the two, both Jocko and Louis tackle issues that range from the singularity of human existence to the mundane. Their shows help me answer my questions and I enjoy them in the process. Really can’t ask for more than that.
Though Louis really should consider going to a gym…
I don’t know what Mishima’s goal was, and maybe he didn’t either, but his actions signaled his understanding of the many masks that we all wear. Suicide pulled the last mask from his face.
Whenever I get bored or frustrated, I think of Yukio Mishima because he is the example of a truly less-than-heroic person who had nothing special except for an rich mind and inner life and he was able to externalize that life in some spectacular ways, including his own death.
I have no such need to die quickly or even spectacularly but I can learn from someone who did.
In general, death is not an exciting topic for conversation but it is the ultimate destination for every single living creature so it merits some attention.
The idea of an afterlife satisfies the human organism’s desire for continuity since the alternative, obliteration, is so difficult to comprehend. Nature imbues everything with a will to live, from the simplest bacteria to humankind. The continual drive to exist is what enables life to grow and evolve but it also contributes to the inability to imagine no life after death.
This chapter from The Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts entitled, Transformation of the Sparrow and the Butterfly, encapsulates my view or understanding of death. It somewhat ties in with the Hindu concept of the deshin, or life force, that exists in every person but somewhat as a third-party identity or energy that exists in our personas but then migrates on after biological death.
This is similar to Aristotle’s meditation on death by comparing it to the burning of wood. The wood burns and becomes ash. The smoke and heat rise up and disappear but, since energy in nature only changes but does not wink out of existence, they must go to some other place or time.
Existence, according to the dying man in the story of the sparrow and the butterfly, is dependent upon form. Form is what drives the various types of behaviors and thoughts and, when that form is destroyed, so too is the persona of that creature.Yet, the energy of that creature moves on to something new, forgetting what it once was; living in an eternal and universal present that goes beyond individual consciousness.
Going back to the Hindu concept of deshin, our life is a gift that we hold temporarily. It is our duty to make the most of it, to grow and develop it like an organism; simple or complex, striving to to be our best. Then we die our works embodied in that energy migrate on.
Is this empowering or is this so frightening that it stifles action? For me, it empowers because it frees me from consequence save for the consequence of wasting time and opportunity.
Mindfulness is all the rage right now with studies showing that living fully in the moment and being aware of your surroundings and body drive the right behaviors in terms of nutrition and stress reduction.
More importantly, being mindful opens you up to your immediate surroundings and enables you to see more broadly and deeply.
In a stressful situation, being mindful allows you to see details that you wouldn’t if you are overwhelmed and in tunnel vision. Being mindful also helps you avoid those situations!
This also includes non-public safety situations like tense meetings, aggressive co-workers and managers, etc. Frankly, being mindful during the job interview process will reveal those issues and allow you to make the right decision.
Being mindful essentially allows you to say “no” to negative experiences. It empowers you to live the life that you want.