Friday, August 21, 2015

Senior sleigh ride

After a couple of weeks of being obliged to deal with minor – but extremely annoying, persistent and impossible to ignore – physical nuisances, I am put in mind of Zeus, the father of the Gods, and the shenanigans of King Sisyphus.

You know the punchline in the story of Sisyphus:  He’s the guy Zeus condemned to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this frustrating and meaningless action forever. 

His days at stone rolling can be likened to those of unnamed persons, working at the futile task of staving off the siege of years.

The truth of it is Zeus got sick of Sisyphus’s scheming and deceitfulness.  So, he designed that particular punishment for King Sisyphus to match the hubristic belief that he could outsmart Zeus himself.  

Yeah.  Ole Mr. S. was a tricky and slippery dude.  Back in the day.  But not that clever: So far as we know, he’s still rolling the rock. 

And I was wondering if there are any parallels in the real world today.  Like for other people who try to deceive – not Zeus, or God or Morgan Freeman – but themselves. 

Not that I know anyone like that.

But let’s say there is a person who has taken up residence in Denialtown, right down the road from Who-do-you-think-you’re-kidding.  Around the corner from  Maybe you’ve visited that neighborhood.

Let’s pretend that such a person could never admit to herself certain things that she does not want to admit.  Why should she?  What is the value?  Who benefits from such confessions? 

No one that I can think of except maybe the I-told-you-so crowd that insists on being right all the time and gloating.  Who needs ‘em?

You can speculate on what such a person might be pressured to acknowledge if you want to.  Go ahead.  What could it be?  That she’s been coloring her hair since 1998 not because it’s the cool thing to do, but because it would be white – white! – without her steady commitment to color and chicanery.

She dyes her eyebrows. 

She wears athletic shoes!  O.M.G.  And skinny jeans!  Hahaha!

She maintains a Facebook account and even Instagram in what some might call feeble and grasping efforts to be ‘with it,’ though it’s fairly certain that she doesn’t know what ‘it’ is. 

She tweets for goodness sake.

(She has the niggling feeling that all those followers are perfunctory.  Most likely they are following her just in case she has something they might want some day.  They will say they knew her when.)

She’s rolling her own rock up the mountain of inevitability!  She thinks she’s fooling Father Christmas.  Or someone.

But let’s say Sisyphus overcomes.  Yes!  Let’s say he reaches his goal and pushes that boulder up to the top of the incline.  Then what? 

He finds himself at the top with that big ole rock under his arm by his side, like a pal.  He surveys the landscape with a sense of accomplishment and exhilaration.  He inhales deeply.  Cool at last!

Here’s what our protagonist fears:  She fears that just then, when she, er, Sisyphus has had only a moment of glory, when he’s only just begun to take in the panorama before him, he will feel a tremor.  A faint wobble.  Was that a tiny earthquake?  Maybe it was a gust of wind.

Poor King Sisyphus doesn’t know that Zeus employed his fiendish wit by enchanting the boulder to perpetually roll away.  File it under You Can’t Win, old Buddy! 

That rock will lean; then it will strain in place, pause for the briefest moment, perhaps drawing a breath before lurching and throwing itself down the other side. 

It’s all over now for Sisyphus, right?  He can never catch up to that rock.  And what if he could?  Is he going run around in front and stop it in place midway down that slippery slope?  Spoiler alert – no, he’s not.

And even if he did, what could he do but start trying to push it back up the hill! 

I’m beginning to see as I near the crest of the mountain, I need to outfit myself with a toboggan.

It’s downhill from there and I want to enjoy the ride.