Careening into Green Apple this weekend, I breezed past the dollar bins outside but this book leapt up to jab me in the eye. “What is the meaning of life?” it whined, striking a chord with my current ruminations, so I tossed it into my basket. Judging whether life is worth living is the central idea of philosophy, and Camus attacks it by questioning the value of suicide. Of course life is absurd, once you realize that you can either bail (suicide) or embrace it with full conscience. Your life is maximized not by the number of experiences you’ve had, but the number you’re fully conscious of.
Specifically on the Sisyphean myth, Camus attributes moments of happiness to Sisyphus, especially when the rock is rolling down the hill again:
I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate, stronger than his rock…. The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. We have to imagine Sisyphus happy.
The collection of essays ends with this sentence, which segues nicely into another book I’m reading (The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World): “This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.”