King Sisyphus of Ephra (Corinth) was a bit of of a megalomaniac. His “brand” self-promotion was beyond compare. Still, under his tyrannical rule, Corinth became a wealthy center for business, a hub for travellers and tourists. It was a happening place.
He was also a liar and murderer, especially of guests originally welcomed to town. “Outsiders” that brought different ideas or foreign ways had to be expunged from his society because if it didn’t work his way – he would lose power.
Now – he was a smart guy, and according to the mythology, he even managed to defy Zeus, deceive Thantos (whom Zeus sent to take him to the underworld) and annoy Aries (because with Thantos\Death bound no one died in battle). The gods got it sorted.
When he finally died, his wife threw his body into the town square – as he commanded – and he used that to convince the goddess of the underworld to let him return to ask his wife to bury him. The goddess took pity and agreed. But Sisyphus refused to return. That didn’t work our well – and his punishment is that for eternity, he will spend the day rolling a big rock up a hill until it almost gets to the top, then it will roll down again.
He deceived in life, he deceived in death, and he received eternal frustration.
So, how was YOUR day?
Amongst the moments of mine, I had time to chat with some martyrs rolling their stones up hills. Each described their stones in exquisite detail; the size, weight and colors of their rocks. They described their landscape; the steep grade, the slick spots, the uneven ground. And they elaborated on the futility of their efforts; trapped in a loop, never getting anywhere, always tired.
Only one could tell me why.
That reason wouldn’t be enough for me, but I honor both her commitment and her self-awareness. But in my experience, most don’t know the ‘why’ of their own behavior.
It usually boils down to concentrating so hard on the rock, the hill & our (I’m not immune) feelings that we don’t see other options. We keep at it, trying to power through it, or hope one day it will be different. We tell ourselves the hard work will pay off, there will be a reward – but at the end of the day the rock is right back where we started.
There are two solutions:
One is to keep rolling the rock – we justify the futility. This is what we deserve, this is what it takes, other people have to do this so we do too. This is life, this is our destiny… But it is neither.
The other is to recognize we’re not Sisyphus. Stones bring forth water (Moses), they cry out if we are silent (Jesus entering Jerusalem) or are rolled away by the guy in white (Easter Sunday). We, simply, weren’t made or remade for this kind of life. We work, but futility doesn’t rest well on the shoulders of the living. It bends us, breaks us, until we stare at the rock & give up. Or until we decide to change our method.
We could find a new one, lighter, on a much easier landscape. Find some friends to get that stone on the top of the hill and leave the thing there. Work smarter, not harder: break up the stone into smaller, more manageable pieces.
I don’t know your stone, or your hill. But I know this. It’s in your way. It’s a distraction from your journey, and it will eventually crush you if you keep going. You’ve proven you’re strong. You’ve proven your endurance. You’ve proven your heart.
Now prove you’re smarter than you were yesterday. Step away from the stone.