Sisyphus and Starbucks

In Mental Training by Brock Bourgase

According to a Starbucks’ cup that I read recently (The Way I See It #76):

“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating — in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around a rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.”

On the subject of the Greek myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus wrote:

“Je laisse Sisyphe au bas de la montagne! On retrouve toujours son fardeau. Mais Sisyphe enseigne la fidélité supérieure qui nie les dieux et soulève les rochers. Lui aussi que tout est bien. Cet univers désormais sans maître ne lui paraît ni futile. Chacun des grains de cetter pierre, chaque éclat minéral de cetter montagne pleine de nuit, à lui seul forme un monde. La lute elle-même vers les sommets suffit à remplir un cœur d’homme. Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”

So who’s right? The coffee shop or the Nobel prize winner? Qui dit la verité? Both messages are very similar, yet one is likely to garner more attention. Based on how our society has been watered down, it seems more people pay attention to the international conglomerate. Rather than contemplate Camus’ essays, they read a partially developed statement, think for as longs as it takes to finish the cup, and believe that they are making a difference.

Sisyphus commits to pushing the rock up a mountain so others won’t die: a self-less act. It seems that he has no alternatives, as he has committed to a life of endless toil. Yet he shouldn’t kill himself because he can still do better. He improves himself and is happy as a result.

There lies the problem with the coffee cup, it doesn’t acknowledge that the physical and mental are not separate, but complementary. Self-evaluation and analysis by the internal critic is not tyrannical but nurturing.  Commitment on the basis of somatic urges cannot defeat the fear of failure. It remains in any domain where the participant cares about the outcome. Understanding and managing the fear is the only way to control it.

“A la fin d’une vie, l’homme s’aperçoit qu’il a passé des années à s’assurer d’une seule vérité.”

If Sisyphus was merely present on the hill and pushed the stone up casually, he would still demonstrate commitment yet it is uncertain whether he would be happy. Only by defeating obstacles on a daily basis , intellectually, and overcoming absurdity will he guarantee personal satisfaction.