Sysyphus Dancing


In The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus wrote: "There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn." He may be right, though I found this approach to fate far more appealing as a younger man. Back then my scornful poses struck a note of rebellion, and may even have contributed once to a liaison with a beautiful and nihilistic young trust fund baby I met on a cruise ship in the Bahamas. But in the end scorn--however admirable it may seem to the angry heart--is not fun. Not when carried on well into middle age, and certainly not for an eternity.

Camus also argued that the struggle toward the heights is by itself enough to fill a man's heart. Again, perhaps true. Scorn and struggle are no doubt fine things and I try to set aside quality time for them, at least on the weekends.

But as an alternate strategy, what if Sisyphus danced?

The intended agony of Sisyphus's punishment lies in the absence of any ultimate achievement, in its abject purposelessness. He succeeds, after strenuous effort, in rolling the rock up the hill. It rolls back down again. His work has been undone, will always be undone, and yet he's damned to do it again and again. Nothing changes. In the end his work is aimless.

But so is much dancing. Clearly that in itself needn't be a problem.

Dancing--particularly the kind you do alone in your living room--has no utilitarian goal, no practical purpose, no functional telos. And dancing can consist of strenuous effort. Just ask any out of shape man who has stepped onto the floor of a club with a partner ten years his junior. But dancing is joyous, and liberating. And also far more rhythmic than scorn.

And when I imagine, as Camus did, Sisyphus heading back to the valley--or rather when I imagine myself as Sisyphus heading back to the valley--I like to think of the rage I might inspire in the gods. When they watch me literally boogie down to my own beat, and then rock and roll myself back up the hill once more.