Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, July 2, 2010

As If It Matters

This morning, I am returning to my fascination with Sisyphus, by way of my current absorption with Eric Maisel's (The Van Gogh Blues:  The Creative Person's Path Through Depression) thoughts about meaning.  (Sisyphus, you might remember, was doomed to spend eternity rolling a rock up the side of a mountain.  What's more, once he reached the top, the rock would roll back down, so that he would have to start all over again.)

The chapter I finished reading over breakfast, on "Reckoning with the Facts of Existence," concludes with this quote from the end of Camus' essay, The Myth of Sisyphus:
Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks.  He concludes that all is well.  This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile.  Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world.  The struggle toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart.  One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
My earlier post focused on the fact that Sisyphus is never finished with his work--a condition I identified with, and still do.  But today I am concerned, like Alfie, with meaning--with "What's it All About?" With the seeming futility of our hero's task.  And of human existence in general.

I am given to understand that these questions I am pondering are often part of grieving when we lose someone close to us.  Tomorrow is the third anniversary of my father's death, an occurrence I am taking my own sweet time in coming to terms with.  A troubling voice inside my head has been whispering "What's the point?" for a while now.  

I take comfort and instruction from Ellen Silverstein, songwriter and creativity coach, as she is quoted by Maisel (herself quoting Gandhi):
Gandhi said,"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."  I try to remember this crucial idea whenever I'm beset by the "Why bother?" blues, when I hear that whiny song in my head that says, "Who cares?  What's the point of trying?  The last thing the world needs is yet another unnoticed book/song/poem/painting.  What difference does it make?"
Well, it makes a huge difference to me.  [emphasis mine]
Silverstein goes on to speak of hearing from a stranger who was inspired by a story Silverstein wrote to re-establish contact with his estranged son.  This reminds me that none of us know what part we may play in the lives of others and in the world, but that it is not right--according to the ethics that are an essential component of the meaning I am coming to recognize--to withhold our energies, our voice, our talent, our unique contribution.

For now, I see only the silhouette of what my life might mean.  But I know I want it to mean something.  And that it is up to me to figure it out.  And to live--and to write--as if it matters.

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