Monday, December 31, 2007

new year's eve: enjoy the ride!

My friend Barrett offers this analysis of current political events (take your pick):
“Dumb people are doing bad things.”

Thus it ever was, but as Molly Ivins says, “things can always get worse.”

But wait! This is to be my optimistic last-day-of-the year entry.

This morning I decided that after more than a week without exercise, unless you count coughing, I had to drag myself to the gym. So I bundled up and headed out into the cold to walk the half-mile to the YWCA.

As I neared the school on the way, I heard children screaming as they sledded down a hill so tiny that I’d never even noticed it.
There were five little kids and a couple cheap plastic sleds, so they were going down in twos or threes. In the few seconds it took them to reach the bottom, the sledders screamed in joy.
Then they leapt up and rushed back up the hill, dragging the sleds behind.

I thought of the myth of Sisyphus, as retold my Camus. Remember Sisyphus is the guy who ticked off some Greek god, I forget why, who condemned him to endlessly push a boulder up a hill, which endlessly rolled back down again once he reached the top.
Camus says this in an allegory for the absurdity of human existence. We exercise our freedom in assigning meaning to an existence that has no ultimate meaning in itself.
He concludes that we must imagine Sisyphus happy.

I love Camus’ brand of optimism.
It’s the grimmest possible sort, but anyone who can say that he has within himself, in the midst of the wintertime of war, “an invincible summer” is some sort of optimist.

However I never could imagine Sisyphus happy.
Accepting, in a Zen kind of way, yes. But not actually happy.
Until today.
Since Sisyphus was condemned to push that rock forever, presumably he’s still at it. People are very clever monkeys. I’m thinking that by now he has figured out some way to make the downhill ride fun, something that makes pushing the thing back up the hill worthwhile.

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