4 min read

Thinking of Sisyphus this morning.

At the desk, 7:50 a.m.

You know the story right? Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

"Sisyphus was son of King Aeolus of Thessaly and Enarete, and the founder and first king of Ephyra (Corinth). He was the father of Glaucus, Ornytion, Almus and Thersander by the nymph Merope, the brother of Salmoneus, and the grandfather of Bellerophon through Glaucus.

King Sisyphus promoted navigation and commerce but was avaricious and deceitful. He also killed travelers and guests, a violation of Xenia which fell under Zeus' domain. He took pleasure in these killings because they allowed him to maintain his iron-fisted rulership. Sisyphus and Salmoneus were known to hate each other as Sisyphus had consulted with the Oracle of Delphi on just how to kill Salmoneus without incurring any severe consequences for himself. From Homer onwards, Sisyphus was famed as the craftiest of men. He seduced his niece Tyro in one of his plots to kill Salmoneus, only for Tyro to slay the children she bore by him when she discovered that Sisyphus was planning on eventually using them to dethrone her father Salmoneus. King Sisyphus also betrayed one of Zeus's secrets by telling the river god Asopus of the whereabouts of his daughter Aegina (an Asopides who was taken away by Zeus) in return for causing a spring to flow on the Corinthian Acropolis.

Zeus then ordered Thanatos, god of death, to chain King Sisyphus down below in Tartarus. King Sisyphus slyly asked Thanatos to demonstrate how the chains worked. As Thanatos was granting his wish, Sisyphus then seized the advantage and trapped the god of death in the Underworld instead. This caused an uproar since no human could die with Thanatos out of commission. Eventually Ares (who was annoyed that his battles had lost their fun because his opponents would not die) intervened. The exasperated god of war freed Thanatos and turned King Sisyphus over to the god of death as well.[3]

Before King Sisyphus died, however, he had told his wife to throw his naked body into the middle of the public square (purportedly as a test of his wife's love for him). This caused King Sisyphus to end up on the shores of the river Styx. Then, complaining to Persephone that this was a sign of his wife's disrespect for him, King Sisyphus persuaded her to allow him to return to the upper world and scold his wife for not burying his body and giving it a proper funeral (as a loving wife should). Once back in Corinth, the spirit or shade of King Sisyphus thereby scolded his wife for not giving him a proper funeral. When he then refused to return to the Underworld he was forcibly dragged back there by Hermes.

In another version of the myth, Persephone was directly persuaded that he had been conducted to Tartarus by mistake and ordered him to be freed.[4]

As a punishment from Queen Persephone for his trickery King Sisyphus was made to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. Before he could reach the top, however, the massive stone would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again.[5] The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for King Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus Himself. Zeus accordingly displayed his own cleverness by consigning Sisyphus to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration. Thus it came to pass that pointless and/or interminable activities are sometimes described as Sisyphean. King Sisyphus was a common subject for ancient writers and was depicted by the painter Polygnotus on the walls of the Lesche at Delphi.[6]"

Cliff Note version? King Sisyphus was one of those guys who seemed to work every angle and get away with everything. He stole, cheated, lied, and manipulated all for his own end. He was just one of those guys who had his way with everyone and everything in this world only to do the same thing in the after life. So disgusted by his behavior, he finally  received the wrath of Goddess Queen Persephone. She cursed him to spend eternity rolling a huge boulder up a steep hill. Once it reached the top, the boulder would roll to the bottom and Kind Sisyphus would have to push the boulder up the hill again.

King Sisyphus has capture the minds and attention of such great philosophers as Plato, Albert Camus, and even Franz Kafka.

Here's my problem with the Myth of Sisyphus - What usually happens in life, is that someone else does the deed - some pedophile molests a child, some alcoholic destroys a family, some batterer beats a wife and child, a father walks out on a family leaving them penniless, some rapist captures a person on the street, some murderer kills a child - and the victim pushes the rock.

Every where I look, I see good, kind, loving people pushing the damned rocks of shame up the stupid hill only to find have them roll back down the hill again. They didn't do anything. They just happened to get in the way of a knight of the selfish, power hungry, manipulative, and cruel King Sisyphus.

The knight never seems to push the rock. The knight gets to rule their world, treat people how ever they choose, be as mean and cruel as they can get away with, and buy a politician when someone looks too closely.

Loss, shame, grief, and trauma chain the victim to the rock. Victims must push the rock or get squashed by it rolling on top of them.

Therapy helps to get out from under the burden  of the  rock. Meditation helps to cement the lesson. Alanon and CoDA help root people in 'you're only responsible for what you do yourself, not what someone else does.'

So how does this apply to me?

In doing all of this clean up and shredding, my mind wanders to King Sisyphus and my own boulder. I've created mountains of paper out of my own efforts in life. Some of these efforts were successful. Some of these efforts failed. Most of my efforts were a mixture of success and failure and that stupid boulder. I can see why I put this stuff in boxes.

In someways, starting new things is really pushing the boulder up the hill of forgotten paper.

Just my thoughts while I hang out with Sisyphus, his boulder, and the last of the mounds of paper (I hope).