Sisyphus, solitary

Albert Camus was one of the more acute and responsive thinkers of the past century. When he speaks of “the unreasonable silence of the world” (The Myth of Sisyphus), we quickly appreciate his reflections on the bleak history of humanity, violence, injustice, and the absurdity of collective efforts to reform society or to cheat death, which is to say, reality. Collective responses to perennial concerns have failed historically. What curbs people’s cold hearts but exhaustion! Sisyphus is condemned by gods or fate to roll a great boulder up a mountain only to watch it slip past down and have to roll it up again, indefinitely. But Camus thinks that his archetype must yet be happy. Sisyphus must study and ponder and take meager delight in “every atom of the stone,” every “mineral flake of that night-filled mountain.” And Sisyphus is, in the final analysis, a solitary, condemned by the gods to solitude, but making the best of it, the very best.