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.