Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #73
The Myth of Teacher (Part 4)
I am almost at the crest. Sheer gravity has made the boulder and me nearly one . . . I have most of the class engaged. They are discussing the documentary I showed based on last night’s reading. Time flies. Then we realize there are ten minutes left in class. Some students keep discussing while others shut down. They clear their books off their desks and shuffle them into their backpacks. Cell phones appear on desks. Several turn and visit with those behind them. One even dares to meander to the door, ready to be the first one free...
Seeking a moment of relief, I dare sigh. The ground so stable on my ascent, suddenly gives . . .
Last Memorial weekend, I was cleaning my room and found an old textbook, Themes in World Literature. I couldn’t help page through it, scanning the authors and titles. An essay entitled “The Myth of Sisyphus” by Albert Camus seized my attention. It changed my view of Sisyphus forever.
Camus casts Sisyphus not as a wretch toiling forever in futility; rather, Camus casts him as a hero, arguing that while Sisyphus's struggle seems to be in vain, it is really just the opposite. While it is true every effort to deliver the rock to the crest of that mountain is met with disappointment, it is also true that when the boulder inevitably tumbles back to the bottom, Sisyphus has time to reflect on his return. It is on his return that Sisyphus becomes heroic. Here he is aware of his fate. He does not toil in vain; Sisyphus is conscious of his fate. It is his fate, of his doing. Thus, he is master of it.
Camus reasons that since Sisyphus is conscious of his fate (he has no illusions about ever getting his boulder over the crest) he can take pleasure in the work, as Camus writes, "All Sisyphus's silent joy is constrained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is his thing” (231). Is it tragic? Certainly. But it is his consciousness that makes it tragic and, at the same time, heroic.