“The Myth of Sisyphus”

    Albert Camus, a 20th century philosopher, thinks that the idea of carpe diem can be found in the Myth of Sisyphus, and he states such in his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus”. There are two important sections of his much larger essay that emphasis the idea of carpe diem and living in the present. “The Myth of Sisyphus” and “Absurd Freedom” details Camus’ view of carpe diem and how he believes that living in the present is the only way to live. Through analysis of the secular view, a clearer picture of the Christian view can be formed. Without looking at the secular view of carpe diem it become increasing difficult to see the hopelessness that accompanies Camus’ view of carpe diem. Camus presents the idea of carpe diem through an allusion to Greek mythology and pathos.

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Camus begins his explanation of carpe diem by establishing common ground with his audience through the introduction and discuss of the myth of Sisyphus. He frames Sisyphus’ punishment by reminding the readers of this Greek character’s “hatred of death, and his passion for life” (Camus 490). It is in this idea of love of life that Camus develops his idea of carpe diem. Sisyphus conquers the punishment bestowed on him by the gods because in his punishment he finds joy. Each day, Sisyphus lives in the moment of pushing his rock up the hill. He is not thinking about his descent and subsequent return back up the hill, instead he is reminded that “his fate belongs to him” (492). Camus is encouraging his readers that it is within the monotony of the daily task that joy and happiness can be found. Through the conscious thought and decision to think solely on the present, happiness can be found. By connecting the myth of Sisyphus to the idea of living in the present, he gives his readers an example of how to truly live in the present and break from the normal expectation. He concludes this section of his writing with a final word, telling his readers that “the struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart” (492). It is when there is struggle in the day to day that a person is truly living in the present and has truly achieve carpe diem.

Camus cements the idea of a struggle and conscious decision to live in the present through pathos. He establishes an emotional connection with his audience through the use of terms like conscious and revolt. Camus introduces the idea of revolt as the decision to remain living consciously and aware of the decisions being made daily. He states that “revolt gives life its value” (480). It is only through making a daily decision that life can truly be seized. Many people do not live life this way, and instead choose to commit philosophical suicide, choosing to accept the situation that a person is in instead of trying to challenge or change it. To live in the present, a person has to keep the absurd alive.

It is not just about what actions a person does, but it is now about how they are thinking. Camus states, “the absurd enlightens me on this point: there is no future” (483).

The whole premises of his way of thinking is based on his belief that there is no future. If there is not future than there is nothing for a person to be working towards. Through carefully word choice, Camus convinces his audience that freedom comes when they detach themselves from the idea of a future. A person must live only in the present if they wish to experience freedom. “Being aware of one’s life, one’s revolt, one’s freedom, and to the maximum is living” (486) while being lost in the monotony of going throughout life without being aware is not living but rather philosophical suicide. Camus closes his argument with one final point.

He urges his readers that “the point is to live” (488).

Contrary to religious writings or even the writings of poets like Longfellow, Camus tells his readers that the point in life is to live, or carpe diem.

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Through allusions and establishing common ground through pathos, Camus presents the idea of carpe diem to his readers. He attempts to convince them through the character of Sisyphus that even in the most menial of tasks, joy can be found in the struggle. By framing his argument of living in the present with words such as revolution, he elicits an emotional response to what he is saying. He states that the whole point of life is to live. There is nothing to work for except for the present moment. Horace’s view of carpe diem suggests similar themes to Camus’ work. Camus’ view of carpe diem is shaped by a secular way of thinking and in doing so, there is no hope or something to look towards for his readers.

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