Cultures of Contour

Struggles of Sisyphus – On repetition

Jankovics Marcell: Sisyphus (1974) from Living Lines Library on Vimeo

Please, watch this remarkable interpretation by a renowned Hungarian animator. Note that the animation was inspired by the story, however it differs from the standard version of the myth.

Those of you who are not familiar with the Greek myth of Sisyphus I would recommend looking into the existing narrations in detail. There are minor differences in the events that happened prior to the well-known punishment, and none of them differ in the outcome.

Whereby Sisyphus was condemned to roll a stone up a steep hill, but could never reach the top of the hill without dropping the stone, which rolled down each time, forcing him to start the process all over again. His punishment was the hardest practice – to endure the frustration of ‘letting go’ – through relentless repetition with tenacious efforts.

The struggles of Sisyphus can be viewed as an eternal burden or from a different perspective it can be seen as a blessing in hardship. The term ‘sisyphean’ refers to an endless struggle without achievement, that has a negative connotation. Although, what punishment means for one can be seen as a valuable lesson for the other.

This story raises many different questions about human struggles and achievement. One obviously highlighted to me is whether reaching the top of the mountain is an achievement at all. From which point there is only a way downwards, in the absence of any further point to reach upwards. Thus, as commonly understood, the top is the success, but at the same time it can also be a loss. Loss of the objective and motivation for continuing the journey. Therefore I ask: Is it worth reaching the top? Is that really the sought glory? Reaching the top might be a sheer illusion, a false desire, and may even appear as a failed visual representation of human accomplishment.

However, without being certain what is over the hill, we cannot be satisfied coming down from the hill halfway, afraid of facing the inevitable loss at the top. Without accepting transience there is no success. Perhaps there are other hills to climb or there might be a low-land for a while. Either way, the accomplishment of objectives can include melancholy and sorrow. It is of importance to keep in mind that mountain tops could not exist without sloping hillsides.

The repeated action can become a platform for learning, regardless whether we go up and down on the same side of the hill, or coming down in different ways. It all depends on how we experience it. Some of us may need to climb a few hills to learn what others learn on a single hillside.

In short, the way forward is not necessarily upwards.


5 thoughts on “Struggles of Sisyphus – On repetition

  1. Of course my friend this is also a way to see The punishment of Sisyphus, because after all we are using our logic to find the answer. And whenever logic is involved many plausible solution will always come into being…Well written.

    • Your words are much appreciated – Good point that ‘logic is involved’ here, however, I feel that each subject needs to be approached in various dimensions (not only through logic) in order to find the answer. Meanwhile keeping in mind that the answer we were looking for might be just another point for departure. Here, my approach is rather spiritual (looking at the ‘whole’) than logical (reasoning). Some paths are not clearly black or white, but a mixture of the two creating other colours.

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