In Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus, he evaluates the punishment Sisyphus endures for eternity. The punishment is to push a rock up to the top of a hill, knowing every time he does it will just fall back down again. While many consider this to be punishment because he hopes that it will work and it never does, this is not truly creating a life with no meaning or purpose, which was what the gods intended. Camus argues that this isn’t the true punishment because he would have a purpose when he was pushing the rock up the hill, thinking it would work every time. The true punishment is knowing that it won’t work, and continuing to have to push the rock knowing it won’t work. This is the life without meaning that the gods condemned him to. Sisyphus attempts to avoid this “pain” by dreaming about earth and clinging onto memories of what he can’t have. This makes him sad and allows him to be controlled by his inevitable fate.
However, Camus argues that Sisyphus is able to overcome this punishment despite knowing that pushing the rock up the hill will never work. Once Sisyphus can accept that he will never go back to earth or have a perfect life, he can let go. He doesn’t have to chase after these impossible dreams, he can just exist.
I feel that today, especially as a highschooler, students are convinced they can achieve the American Dream by following the path society encourages: getting good grades in high school so you can go to a good college so you can get a good job and a good retirement plan… by the time you can finally look back at what you’ve done and be satisfied and finally enjoy life, you’re 80 years old. Realistically, people fight so hard to follow this path that may not even work out for them. The randomness, or absurdity, of life can push you off your path so easily; who knows when the next recession, familial crisis, or natural disaster will strike?
Many high school students need to appreciate or at least comprehend Camus’ ideas of the absurdity of life. Having lived such a short time, it’s difficult for many to cope with accidents they cause that impact their lives, let alone mistakes or accidents that are purely caused by the randomness of life that impact their lives. Understanding such concepts can help many in emotionally overwhelming times take a step back and maintain their sanity.
No matter how hard you work, nothing is guaranteed, so per Camus’ theories, it is better to just appreciate the life you have now than to keep striving to what you’ll never get (just as Sisyphus stops longing the real world he can never go back to).