the individual devil/a lie agreed upon

[a man and his devil were talking…]


I wanted to run this by you: you’ve heard of Sisyphus, right?


“Sounds familiar.”


The ancient Greek king who was murderous and deceitful, and then when Zeus tried to send him to the underworld, he tricked Hades and chained him up…to a wall, like…


“Go on. Hades, the death guy. Stopped by a wall? Okay, but go ahead..”


Well, since no one could die as long as Hades was held captive, sacrifices could not be made, so he was forced to release him. He does some nasty stuff to his wife Persephone (always liked that name) after that; I can’t remember… but in the end his punishment is to be forced to roll a giant boulder up a hill, day after day, for all eternity…and every time he’s just about to reach the top, the boulder rolls back down and he has to start again. So it’s about the futility of life, and the fact that no matter what we do in our time here, it means nothing, and that at the same time, what we do here means everything. That’s my interpretation, based on some readings of it anyway. There are different versions, of course.


“I’ll bet you didn’t read much about this before starting up.”


…Maybe that’s true, I say, but sometime’s the reader’s digest version is sufficient to make a point.


“Guess they wouldn’t publish that version if if weren’t. Sometimes, anyway..”


Don’t accuse me of trying to be pretentious here,


“Wouldn’t dare…!” [gesticulating]


…because I’ve seriously been thinking about this whole thing, I say. I’m really not.


“Not really pretentious or seriously not been thinking about this whole thing?”


[the devil cracks a smile]


Bear with me….Camus’ interpretation is that, in the end, despite the frustration and futility and absurdity of it all, we have to imagine Sisyphus as ‘happy’. He says something like ‘the struggle itself is enough to fill a man’s heart’. I don’t know if he’s happy, but I can meet Camus halfway and say maybe Sisyphus was at the very least ‘occupied’. He had something to do. And maybe that was enough that he was neither happy nor miserable, but at least for the most part, ‘okay’….I guess.


“Worse things to be than ‘okay’. But I shouldn’t be the one to tell you this.”


My ‘something to do’ I’ve regarded as futile and meaningless, and maybe that’s why I’ve been so miserable. I’m coming around to maybe considering the idea that it really is just up to me and me alone to decide how it’s going to be: am I going to live out each day as some tragic ancient greek punishment….or decide to be contented, or at the very least ‘occupied’, with this giant boulder, knowing that this is all there is. This is all there is. And I’m really tired of being miserable. A giant boulder and a steep hill is all you get, maybe. I say.


“This is all very Greek [says the devil]…I’m more of a freezing, white waiting room in the middle of nowhere kind of guy. Fire, rocks, the dark…you can sleep in the dark, you know. Make do with the rocks. The fire…well, that keeps you warm. A bright-white, freezing waiting room…no blankets…no fire, no thermostat…that’s uncomfortable. And the key word…’waiting’.”


Exactly. Maybe it’s not about being uncomfortable at all. The punishment is wrongly prescribed to fit the crime. Or, taken the right way, maybe the prescription can be abused. You’re describing ‘waiting’, essentially. Not cold, not bright light. Maybe just having a boulder and a steep hill is more than enough to neuter the punishment of ‘waiting’.


“Talk of abusing drugs prescribed by Hades himself. You do belong in the Hell.”


Abusing your drugs, too. I think I’ve found a way to circumvent the ‘waiting room’. Simply…stop waiting. Take my medicine on my own terms.


“You’re still just waiting on yourself, no matter how you take your damn medicine, no matter how you wait or while away the days, everything is vanity, everything under the sun…and all that…and where you are, there ain’t no sun. Let’s face it, friend…just exchanging secret ecstasies of the imagination (hoisting at long last that giant boulder over the summit of the hill)…for a single moment of sweet release that never comes. The doctor is taking it easy on you. He at least says he’ll ‘be with you momentarily’ (that moment never comes…no matter…it’s the lie that gives you hope). You [the devil grins] are your own lying doctor…he who NEVER is there ‘momentarily’…or at all…he who NEVER comes. So by all means…self-medicate. It won’t make your days any shorter, any less tedious. Still a lying doctor…”


Only if I let myself be the lying doctor.


“Only if. But….won’t you?”


I want a boulder to labor over…even if it means never making it to the summit. At least I’m waiting on my own terms. Maybe not waiting at all…I say. Maybe the labor itself really is enough.


“Enough of a distraction. And what is it you’re really saving yourself from? What a circular argument! [exclaims the little devil]


That’s a matter of philosophy, I guess.


“Enjoy your philosophy, then. See if it keeps you captivated for an eternity. …Either way, it’s a lie. A lie agreed upon, either you tell it to yourself or the doc tells it to you, and either way, you agree upon it. You can’t win. Which is worse, who can say. Your thing is all very Greek, but when you get right down to it, who are you kidding. Who’s anyone kidding. You’re just waiting…I’m your doctor, friend…and I’m here to help.”


[the man’s individual little devil smiles; irascibly] 


Death, death death. Your thing is weak. Nothing but the dead and death. I feel some sign of life…having some inscrutable ‘something’ to roll up a hill…even if that is embracing misery, then what the Hell else is there to embrace? Otherwise you just wait…in the cold. I say that, and at the same time, I feel a chill rattle up my windpipe…perhaps I’m coming down with something.


“…’Who’ll sop my gravy, when I’m old and grey?’…[sickening, sing-song falsetto]


Who’ll roll my boulder…when I’m cold and ill… I say


[the man’s little devil grins irascibly]


“you just wait either way…burning in cold or drowning in flame…ain’t it?”



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