Monday, September 30, 2019

The Gospel According to Sisyphus: Chapter Six

This is the sixth installment in a seven-part thought experiment, in which the myth of Sisyphus collides with the gospel of Jesus.

Chapter one, along with an explanation of the project, is here.
Chapter two is here.
Chapter three is here.
Chapter four is here.
Chapter five is here.

If Sisyphus is now your homeboy, read my "Triumph of Sisyphus" here.


The rock came to a rest at the bottom of the hill. We all stared at it. Then slowly, gradually, we all left.

A few of us wandered around. I helped a few folks push their boulders a bit, but I don’t know how helpful I was. My heart wasn’t in it. All those promises, dashed by the rock. I felt all the pain still lingering in my soul. I ached everywhere.

And then it happened. We were caught off guard by it. He was just . . . there. Right there next to us. We could see the marks of his injuries, but he didn’t seem fazed by them.

“This world gives you rocks,” he said. “I give you peace.”

I felt it. We all did. Whatever happened when he whispered or touched or acknowledged the hurting, happened to us. Our souls leapt back to life. Our backs straightened. Our resolve quickened.

“Where should we go next?” I asked. I hoped he didn’t remember my betrayal, but he did. “Let’s talk,” he said.

We stepped out of earshot of the others. “You know I love you, right?” he asked. I did.

“Do you love me?” I did. It hurt to think that he didn’t know it.

I of course told him, mustering all the confidence I could. But he just looked at me. Again and again, he repeated the question. “Do you love me?” Again and again, I told him I did.

I did the math. One question for each betrayal. He smiled. I think he figured out that I’d figured it out.


Tune in for chapter seven, the exciting conclusion to our collision of myths.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Gospel According to Sisyphus: Chapter Five

This is the fifth installment in a seven-part thought experiment, in which the myth of Sisyphus collides with the gospel of Jesus.

Chapter one, along with an explanation of the project, is here.
Chapter two is here.
Chapter three is here.
Chapter four is here.

If you find yourself ready to declare #teamsisyphusforlife, read my "Triumph of Sisyphus" here.


The night it happened we were all caught off guard. I suppose we shouldn’t have been. He had spoken pretty plainly for a while about how the overseers were gunning for him, how they’d come for him so they could get us back. He actually seemed to believe they’d succeed. But he didn’t stop there. “Even then, trust me. I’ll be back for you, and your life will be unbelievably better.”

But that night, we had let our guard down. Nothing seemed to faze him, and no one seemed to be able to stop him. When the overseers showed up to take him into custody we couldn’t even figure out how they knew where we were.

Turns out there was a traitor in our midst. Turns out it wasn’t me.

I wasn’t a traitor—I didn’t sell him out to the overseers. But I will admit that his capture shook me. We wandered around in the aftermath, weaving in and out of all the people pushing their rocks, trying to figure out our next move.

“You followed him, didn’t you?” someone asked me.

I panicked. “No, of course not. I’m just making my way back to my rock.”

Again and again, people caught my eye and made the accusation. Again and again, I denied I even knew him. I could feel my soul shriveling a little, but what could I do? He had promised a better life, and it turns out he couldn’t deliver it. Better the devil you know . . .

It was morning. I looked up the hill and saw him, tied to a rock.

He saw me. I’m sure of it. He didn’t look angry. He looked tired. He looked a wreck, actually. The overseers had not been gentle with him.

“This is what happens to those who disrupt the work!” someone shouted. I don’t think it was an overseer. I think it was whoever oversaw them. I used to fantasize about that voice, offering me mercy, delivering me from my back-breaking work.

Then they pushed the rock, the rock he was tied to, down the hill.

It tumbled. It slid. It rolled. We heard the bones crushing, we saw the blood spatter.

Someone made a joke. “Too bad he’s not around to heal himself.” What had we become?!?


Tune in for chapter six, wherein catastrophe becomes eucatastrophe.

Monday, September 02, 2019

The Gospel According to Sisyphus: Chapter Four

This is the fourth installment in a seven-part thought experiment, in which the myth of Sisyphus collides with the gospel of Jesus.

Chapter one, along with an explanation of the project, is here.
Chapter two is here.
Chapter three is here.

If you find yourself starting to stan Sisyphus, read my "Triumph of Sisyphus" here.


We looked back to him, but his attention was on the woman he healed. He didn’t seem to put much stock in what the overseer had said.

Eventually, though, he stood up and turned around to face the overseer. “No one should ever have to wait to be healed.” He looked at us. “You don’t know it and you probably don’t believe it, but you’re lucky that you had to push these rocks.” I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about, but he continued.

“You’re lucky you were stuck behind those rocks. They obstructed your view so that the rock was all you saw. And then when you saw the better life that God has in mind for you, you knew intuitively that it was better than that rock.

“You’re lucky you were so exhausted when I met you. You were able to appreciate the value of the rest I was offering you.

“You’re lucky you know what it’s like to be hurt, because with me that means you’ll know what it’s like to be healed—all the way down to your soul.”

That was certainly true. I hadn’t experienced the devastating injury so many of the others had, but my soul was getting better every day, and I knew it because I knew how it felt before.

“But you,” he turned again to the overseers. “That perch you sit on, judging everyone? That’s all there is for you. And that sense of self-satisfaction you feel knowing that you never have to push a rock like these people? It’s a mild sedative masking the emptiness of your life, and the sedative is going to wear off sooner than you think. And that confidence you have that this is all there is and it’ll go on forever without interruption? You’re wrong. Your confidence is misplaced. There’s more than this—” he motioned around at all of us, and up and down the hill, the totality of all of our experience. “And what you think goes on forever is already coming to an end.”

That sent the overseers into a rage. We didn’t quite know what to expect. They had all the power, but he had all the people. We kept looking between them and him, him and them. And then abruptly the overseers turned and left. He turned to us again.

“A lot of you think they have power over you. And in some ways, they do. This hill, these rocks—they’re the domain of the overseers. So do what you have to do with them. But don’t believe them, because in the things that matter most, they have no idea what they’re talking about. They’re trapped in the same broken environment that has held you trapped for so long. It’s all they know. And because they reap the benefits of it, the good life I’ve been promising you sounds less good to them.

“Keep your heads up, and your eyes on me. I’ve treated you well, right? Your life is better, right? A time is coming when this hill will become something completely new—a place where you can do work that gives you life and find rest whenever you need it, a place where you don’t see the people around you as enemies but as family. I promise it’s coming, and I promise you’ll love it.”

Still, we noticed, the overseers had put the fear in some folks. People who had been following him for a while went back to their rocks. Better the devil you know, I imagine they thought, than the angel you don’t.


Tune in for chapter five, wherein treachery and tragedy strike.

Both Inspiration and Cautionary Tale: Excerpts from Middling

What follows is an excerpt from the Winter 2021 edition of Middling, my quarterly newsletter on music, books, work, and getting older. I'...