Lau and Behold

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A couple of months ago, Mrs. McEvoy gave my English class a pop quiz that consisted of one question: what is this New Yorker cartoon’s significance? The cartoon showed a man at the gym pushing a monstrous boulder up a hill. I didn’t get the joke.  The following day, Mrs. McEvoy explained that the cartoon was emblematic of the iconic myth of Sisyphus. The myth goes something like this: Sisyphus stole secrets from the gods and was sentenced to a life in the underworld, where he must roll a boulder to the top of a mountain only to watch it roll back down again and repeat the task. In short, the task is futile and pointless.  Sisyphus knows his punishment has no end, but he does it anyway. The fact that Sisyphus knows the results will be the same but consciously pushes the boulder anyway makes him my hero. Because of his strength even when there is no hope, Sisyphus is, as Albert Camus so eloquently put it, “stronger than his rock.”  There’s something beautiful about this scenario.

Sisyphus has been especially important to me during these past few months. As a senior, I find myself grappling with the idea of leaving my home and venturing out of my comfort zone. I oftentimes find myself ceaselessly rolling a boulder of college applications and scholarship essays up an infinitely large mountain. Once I finally feel as though I’ve reached the top of the mountain, I watch as more work accumulates and I have to start the process over again. Though it is easy to get swept up in the pressures of preparing for college, I try to think of Sisyphus during my moments of frustration. I am stronger than my rock.

Though Sisyphus is known for his rock (as multiple New Yorker cartoons have demonstrated), the rock does not define Sisyphus. Similarly, my seemingly never-ending college stress does not define me, nor do my college acceptances or rejections. The gods might have condemned Sisyphus to his punishment, but he doesn’t allow himself to be defined by his fate. We all might be stuck in the same mundane routines, but we have the liberty to decide what do with these fates. The fate is not what is given to us, but what we make of it. We are stronger than our rocks.



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