Sunday, January 31, 2010

Three Things I pray this day.....

As I prepare to greet the day,
I pray for strength and courage
to embody 3 things;

Be Kind

Be Happy

Be True

Each one benefits the other;
likewise, they benefit me
and they benefit you.

These 3 things should cover
any situation I may meet this day.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Reason for the Season(ing)?

There was a time when my past pains and current 'limitations' seemed doubtlessly insurmountable. By dwelling constantly on what seemed wrong, what had gone wrong, what was likely never to change, I found myself in a quagmire of hopelessness. This consumptive thinking is also self-fulfilling prophecy, which it kind of helps to know!

When you feel despair, it's deceptive. Convinces you that its voice alone is true. Convinces you that the seduction of self-pity is more rewarding than graceful struggle. After all, life is instability, movement, flow, and change. 'Success' is not about a dollar amount or acceptance from others; those things are unreliable. Learning to know our inner selves, and accepting what we find...this is the task we have before us, and it is a lifelong journey.

I've been thinking about influence recently. Last night I heard about how people can take the difficulties of the past and use it to the advantage of another suffering person. That we can transform heartache into hope by sharing our personal story with others. Making use of a tragedy or hardship to build a bridge.

Last night wasn't the first time I had thought of this notion of being of service through taking the risk of being open. This quote sums it up for me.

"It takes more courage to reveal insecurities than to hide them, more strength to relate to people than to dominate them, more 'manhood' to abide by thought-out principles rather than blind reflex. Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles and an immature mind."
- Alex Karras

The most connected and warm feelings in my life have come from two kinds of experiences--both of them opposite sides of the same coin.

Years ago, when the city of Tampa was having hearings to repeal the "Gay Rights" ordinance, I was active in speaking out against the measure. (I was defending the need to have protection under the law. All that 'overturn the denial of the affirmative' gets confusing!) I was handing out a newsletter I had written defending my position and giving specific examples of how gay and lesbian people are hurt by such measures. One guy I handed a paper to circled back several times on the campus that day, and I was a tad concerned about personal safety. Finally, he approached me and said very simply "Thank you for being out here and doing this for those of us that can't." And then he simply walked away.

That incident was an awakening of spirit and soul for me that has kept me going through many dark nights. A revelatory inspiration. The connection I felt to humanity that day allowed me the strength needed to keep working all these years. I have had a small handful of similar incidents happen through the years, generally when the isolation and loneliness of being an outspoken agent of unpopular sentiment is about to overtake me. I thank the Universe for these blessings of feedback.

The other thing that has assisted me is when another person stands up and speaks out, in ways big or small. Whether it's Linda Ellerbee fighting to keep journalism alive and well, or Nadine Smith keeping the fight for Equality alive, or even a Christian who stands up in their congregation to say they disagree with an action of the church. Could even be a friend who risks sharing a secret with you; this is the most sacred trust of all. These are the things that shape us.

We often never know the impact of our actions or words on another person. In management they teach you that for every person who speaks up about an issue, there are an average 10 to 15 people who feel similarly but said nothing. With political and sexual matters--which are, unfortunately, the same in this country-- I imagine the number of mute admirers is greater. (plus, there are always plenty more detractors willing to share their opinions than there are supporters. Just the nature of the beast.)

We may never know the impact we have on other people in this life. Why would we waste precious energy assuming that no one cares and we have nothing to offer, when the opposite could just as likely be true? That we have impacted more people than we know. That we have helped others through the courage of our convictions, though we may never know it.

The point of speaking up and speaking out is not to receive praise or admiration! It is certainly not to receive financial benefits! (As my dear friend Ernestica says: "No-no-no-no-NO-no-no! IT ain't that kind of party!") We do what we do for the rightness of it. Because truth needs to be spoken.

When I share who I am, other men and women who are attracted to the same sex know that they are not alone. We may never speak personally. We may have nothing else in common. But when the world tells you to hand your head and feel shame for what you feel, and you see that not everyone buys into that garbage, there is hope. Others inspired me thus.

When I relate without trepidation that I suffer from depression and mental illness, it gives a real face. It eliminates stigma and fear. It creates understanding. It links others in the same boat to me.

When I reveal that I survived an abusive childhood, that gives hope to someone else who is enduring one now. It gives connection to someone else who went through their own hell. Possibly, hopefully, it allows a burden of aloneness to be lifted off the shoulders of another suffering person. Let's them know it can be put in the past, and a future free of fear awaits us.

When I stand tall and face oppression head-on, I show others that 'lying back and taking it' does not have to be an option. If I am able to find courage and fierceness to face life and injustice, then anyone can do so.

We all need connection to others in order to survive. We need to know we aren't alone, and know that our desires and loves and needs are not absurd. We need to be acknowledged for our genuine selves, not the plastic facade the world teaches us to present in polite company. I risk telling 'too much' so that someone else doesn't have to suffer for feeling completely insane or all alone in the world. Far too many are stripped bare of their personhood for the sake of fitting in and making others comfortable.

Time was, I couldn't imagine that my experience could offer anything to anyone. Still don't know in what ways it might be used, and that's okay. If I wait until there's a 'perfect' opening to say the perfect words and actively try to have an impact on a specific person...I may be waiting a good long time. But if I live openly and honestly in my world, then the possibility of impacting people increases exponentially. I may never know the specifics of said impact, but it isn't about recognition.

I'm right where I need to be; living out loud and proud. Hoping to be of service to others. Showing by example, as best I know how, to be the person I was born to be. Hopefully, letting others know that they are perfect just the way they came to be in the world, no matter what anyone else says.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's Been a Hell of a Week.....

And it ain't over yet, sweethearts.

As the seemingly universal suck-ass week continues, we soar headlong into a Full Moon
on the 29th. A full moon's pervasive intensification of moods and emotions takes place several days in and out of the actual designated Full Moon night.

(For those unaware, the moon has extreme influence over the human body and mind, since we humans are made up predominantly of water. Those of us with additional components prone to influence--mental disorders, addictive personalities, physical handicaps, emotional issues, etc.--are especially affected.)

The energies of the world, its people, its events...they do not happen in a vacuum. Once some tremendous wave of energy becomes manifest, it permeates other people, places, and things. We are all interconnected, and the possibility of 'picking up' excess prevalent energies is increased.

Where has it all come from? Where did it begin? What started this whole disastrous week of despair and heartache?

January was already the month where the highest number of break-ups occurred. Statistically speaking, relationships explode into nothingness this month as a result of a variety of factors. But is that not the result of other energies influencing destructive, apathetic behavior?

We just went through a rough holiday season where high numbers of people had to adjust to a completely new financial and sociological norm, feeling the sting of less income, no income, inability to provide for families, and other matters that can break a spirit in a heartbeat.

Maybe all the constancy of palpable animosity in this country over our President, the Health Care debate, the deepening schism of seemingly insurmountable disagreements between the 'Two Americas' has become too tiresome and pervasive.

Post-Holiday Season is also a big time for suicides and suicidal tendencies. People get despondent and discouraged, deflated and disappointed that a 'new year' has not started producing any (noticeable) significant changes to their liking. They start imagining that this perceived bad luck will continue endlessly. We become friends with 'worst case scenarios' and desolation.

The earthquake in Haiti was been a non-stop television spectacle for many. It's impossible to keep the imagery of such loss from affecting our subconscious, no matter how strong or jaded we imagine ourselves to be. The bombardment of such negativity and despair only leads to useless hand-wringing and obsessive negativity for many. The best thing to do is disconnect from what has happened and focus on improving what we can, placing our minds on the positive.

There are those in this country who have utilized fear and confusion to their own economic advantage. Preying on the masses, religious leaders and talk show pundits have beat the war drums, decrying that "The End is Near!" Tearing down is easier to do than building up; more profitable, too. The mob mentality of defeatism, blame, and presumed unavoidable catstrophe
is sucking the life force from our country.

We're also creatures open to the whims of fate, if we aren't dedicated to a chosen path of specific way of thinking. We are easily influenced by the world around us. When everyone at work is having a horrible week, somehow things in our lives start 'going badly' too, and we start to draw an unscientific conclusion that it's "just a bad week." There may be some truth in that, but it is not an unavoidable destiny.

We have within us the capacity for harboring any storm. We have the ability to detach from emotion and circumstance and determine for ourselves that we needn't give in to despair, depression, apathy, the sway of anger, hopelessness, or other dark thoughts.

Because when we allow our minds to be tainted by such temporary impressions, the decisions we make can have far-reaching effects that color and impact our future accordingly. This is not evidence that difficulties are unavoidable; rather it's proof that our outlook has direct influence on the manifestation of reality. We expect, and thus it transpires.

We have choices.
No matter how devastated we feel.....
no matter what tragedy has befallen us.....
no matter how many other 'bad things' have occurred this day/week/month/year/lifetime......
we don't have to give up.
We don't have to lay down and take it.
We don't have to be victims.
We don't have to erupt with anger.
We don't have to end jobs or relationships or other things of value due to despair.

Life is all things; the bad is part of the mix. It's not more important or less important
or irrelevant or all-encompassing. It just is.

Death, no matter the age or circumstance, is a part of the equation. Dealing with the loss, grief, rage and shock of it is part of the journey, too. If life were something that never ended, how would we be able to acknowledge the value of those lives that matter to us? How would we gauge the significance? If people were always going to be around, would we have any reason to care at all?

Sickness, hardship, losing prestige, stuff breaking, people betraying, hurt feelings, stubbed toes, split pants, broken nails.....they might all be copacetic on their own (or at least manageable) but when they team up on us? It can seem awfully much like a pattern. Like a conspiracy. It can knock us down, rob us of our will, weaken our resolve, and shake our foundation.

"And still I rise...." (Thank you, Maya!)

Choices make all the difference. We are all in this together; you are not alone. Somewhere, somebody else is going through hell too. Keep going. There is nothing that can happen on this earth which can defeat you...without your permission.

I used to aspire to 4 things for a day to be considered successful;
*Get through the day without:
-Killing someone else
-Killing myself
-Taking a drink or drug
-Going to jail

Now my standards are a bit higher. (I still maintain those four standards, though!)
I want to do more than survive; I want to thrive.

That's a choice I have to make before the shit hits the fan; I have to keep making that decision throughout every stumbling block and surprise that comes my way. I have the power, and so do you.

Believing in your ability and worthiness might be the first step you have to take.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Our Need For Touch

There are many ways to change a negative pattern. Start looking critically at how you do all the things in your life; listen and watch your day as if you were an outside observer experiencing it all for the first time. You may be surprised at what you witness.

We have need of touch, to feel welcome and human and whole. Whether or not we have loved ones present who provide us with daily tactile stimulation, it is important to love our own bodies. To feel connected to and comfortable with our own bodies is a major hurdle for many of us, but that simply highlights the importance and necessity of starting work.

(NOTE: Even though these acts are not sexual or invasive in nature, if you have serious traumatic issues of rape or physical abuse, these sorts of exercises should not be done without supervision, therapist input, controlled environment, or much study and preparation.)

Researchers have proven consistently that touch can make the difference in a multitude of issues, including;
* Regular touch helps decrease depression
* Constant touch stimulates senses and brain responses
* Prolonged touch can 'anchor' people to more calm, less stressful states
* Touch improves circulation
* Massage releases toxins from the body
* Muscles and tendons manage better with deliberate healthful touch
* Nurturing touch creates more elevated moods and promotes better overall health

In relation, a lack of regular touch has been found to increase problems including:
* Lack of connectedness, feelings of security, sense of being loved
* Increased depression, frustration, suicidal tendencies
* Increased difficulties with health
* Greater chance of heart and bowel problems
* Social dis-ease and antisocial behavior
* Anger


maintaining boundaries!)

It will take some doing for some of us to learn to be more sociable. Don't beat yourself up if it feels unnatural; you aren't a demon seed! It takes time to get accustomed to something that isn't a normal part of your world. Keep at it. Hang in there! Not every hug happens gracefully. Not every handshake feels super. Don't over think it. Try not to get discouraged.

Also, some of these more personal aspects of touch are not for making a show of yourself. They are for quiet moments to yourself where you feel safe and secure; not public places. (If you feel fine hugging yourself in public, more power to you! Just know that's not the expectation!)

If you are very self-conscious and don't live alone, I suggest making time to be alone in a bathroom to yourself so there is no fear of someone walking in and embarrassing you. If you don't have space to be alone at home, go into a bathroom stall or storage room at work. If you can't do it at work, park your car somewhere deserted on the way home and do it. There's always a way.


Some ideas:

Touch can take place as simply as clasping your hands together and praying.

You can give yourself temple massages on your head while waiting in lines, sitting at red lights, or watching a movie.

When you shower or bathe, explore your body with your hands. Put your mind into a loving and accepting spirit to do this. If that seems difficult at first, vow simply to not be critical of yourself. Feel and experience as a casual, detached observer. Know yourself.

When you take off your shoes, rub your feet. Separate your toes, massage and 'play' with them.

Take up yoga. You can find beginner tapes that are for every type of novice (I could only do about 4 minutes worth of yoga --on a beginner's tape!--when I began. Now, with time and practice, I can do over an hour. This is the perfect way to learn relaxation, connection to body, discipline, and flexibility no matter your physical limitations. It can even help with weight loss and other health matters.)

Hug your friends when you see them, as you are comfortable. (Not everyone hugs; you have to respect that. If you are one of those people, at least consider opening yourself up to it.)

Shake hands whenever possible. Even during flu season.

Place a hand on the shoulder of someone going through a rough time, if that feels natural. It could be the connection to the world that changes a day. It's a simple, supportive gesture that is not too forward in most situations. Bold and risky, yes. But giving touch is as important as receiving it.

Give yourself a hug. A pat on the head. A pat on the back. A playful slap on the face. Your opinion of you counts more than anyone else's; learn to be the giver of things you need. It may feel awkward at first, since we are conditioned to be self-conscious and not stand out, but it will make a world of difference.

Instead of obsessing about not being the recipient of another human's love, get a pet. They crave attention and love, and respond to it beautifully. (Did I mention not getting a cat?) Doctors have shown that those who have an animal companion and take part in petting, being close, receiving licks, etc. are more vibrant and light-hearted. If you cannot care for a pet, walk dogs for a neighbor. Volunteer at the Humane Society. Help at a local vet. There's always a way.

Get a professional massage.

Have a friend (with whom you feel comfortable) give a shoulder rub. Many people have a taboo associated with any sort of massage because of sexual connotations. That's unfortunate, because a light, gentle working of shoulder muscles can release a lot of tensions. (Do not let someone play doctor and try and do deep tissue rubs or anything that doesn't feel good! If they are not trained, stick to gentle fingertip work or flats of hands! As always, if it doesn't feel good or right, you have the right to say 'No!' or "Stop!") And for all touch exercises involving another person, you should have a 'safe' word that definitively tells them to stop.

Visit kids. Kids are not yet trained to be scared of expressing affection. They touch your face and inspect the hairs on your arms and ask questions and acknowledge you. They hug without hesitation (well, on a good day!) and show warmth and interest. They kiss you on the cheek and playfully slap and hit you. It is a welcome change from grown folks calculating how close to sit/not sit, whether or not to hug, worrying about your weight, withholding affections, hesitating to look directly at you, recoiling, etc.

Volunteer at the nursing homes in your area. Touring these facilities is hard, sure; think how hard it would be to stay there without a visitor. Going through the lineup of people sitting outside their rooms, you will find an inordinate amount of willing souls to grab hold of your hand.

Go to clubs, meetings, events, church, and other gatherings where--at least during the services--people are very welcoming and friendly. Perhaps a group where hand-shaking or hugs are a part of the regular mix. Everyone deserves the chance to be made secure and loved.

Work out with a partner, or hire a trainer. Exercise is another great stress reliever, especially for people dealing with depression.

Join an activity that involves physical contact. Even softball and running (with a group or team) involve coming into contact with other people. Increasing your involvement around other people opens up the possibilities for more hugs, handshakes, pats on the back than sitting at home.

If you are homebound, look into getting a physical therapist, caregiver, masseur, etc. who will do foot massage and other light activities. Ask a doctor to help you with this.

Join a group therapy program with people who are involved in the same issues. There are support groups and training programs in some larger cities to help people overcome shyness and other blocks from getting physical needs met. They work on such things as trust-building exercises, feeling the energy exchange between hands held, and more.

Feel free to offer your ideas on how to incorporate healing touch into a day!

Why We Need To Creatively Visualize

When attempting to change lifelong patterns, we can forget how embedded those old thoughts are. (Sometimes, we are so accustomed to thinking, acting, and responding in the only way we know how, that we are oblivious to how out-of-sync we are...until circumstances dictates a wake-up call.)

But changing life habits is very hard. Often even painful, as attempting change can bring up emotions and hurts that we have not faced in years. These are the things that happened in life to shape us; nothing happens in a vacuum. We get impatient and defensive if our efforts don't bear immediate fruit.

People often joke by closing their eyes, saying "I'm visualizing bags of money, so when I open my eyes, I expect to see them!" But the humor represents the inherent disbelief in having control over our lives.

The truth is that we don't have much control over anything except how we choose to deal with what happens in the world. But we are not helpless prisoners of chance. And here's the part where people say "Yes, but if you knew what my specific circumstances and burdens are, you'd understand."

Everyone feels that way. What is 'nothing' to one person may seem insurmountable to the next. Most people are quite adept at hiding their pain and real issues. I'll be focusing on the similar, not the dissimilar. No one's pain is 'nothing.' But feeling it doesn't mean we have to be sentenced to it for eternity. Suffering does not have to be a lifestyle choice.

An old dog can learn new tricks. It just takes time and practice. (According to the book "The Outliers," it is generally accepted that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at something for an individual to master it.)

That's probably how long most of us have spent in a lifetime assuming the worst, expecting rejection, criticizing others, beating ourselves up, dwelling on the past, getting wasted, accepting other people's limitations of us, giving up, not expressing love...all the things that destroy us.
Isn't it worth a few weeks to give 'the alternative' a shot?

Creative Visualization

The idea that the mind can alter reality is nothing new. There is still much resistance
to such a simple technique, however.

We are of a world where the physical, the immediate, the seen, and the majority are all prevalent. All else is dismissed out of hand. There is also a tendency to focus on the negative.
We are bombarded with negative imagery, talk, ideas, and people all day long.

Without proper guidance, motivation, or example, the negative seeming course of events can shape our minds. To dwell on the negative. To expect the negative. To focus on the negative at the expense of the positive. Even to interpret reality AS negative.

There is merely life; everything else, I bring to it.

One of the most damaging practices I see is to put emphasis on the road to salvation lying outside of one's self. Our betterment being dependent on the potential mercies of some supernatural existence. Salvation lies within.

Yes, there are forces and energies and things greater than us at work in the Universe. We have the ability--the choice--for those forces working either for us or against us. It isn't magic or voodoo; it's retraining the mind and emotions. We have to be open to possibility.

Every aspect of our live must undergo an overhaul. The thoughts we keep in our heads, the words we use with ourselves and others, the way we go about our day. The ideals we subscribe to, what we prioritize our energies for, the people we surround ourselves with.

Through changing my perspective on the matters at hand, the matter at hand is changed.

A death of a loved one is not an abandonment. It isn't something that 'happened' to you. It isn't part of a predetermined series of tragedies that is interfering with your life. It's the natural turn of the world; it happens. Devoid of any personal meaning.

A friendship ending is not a condemnation of your value as a person. It isn't the end of all future friendships. It doesn't make that friend a monster, or horribly wrong. It's just how things go; sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't.

The lack of permanence or consistency in life can scare us, since we've gotten so far away from embracing the natural flow of the world. We have the power to change our minds. We already alter the course of a day or events by maintaining negative, harsh, controlling, emotional stances. What could it possibly hurt to try talking to yourself without all the assumed pity, anger, resentment, criticism, and dread?

(see additional posts for specific ideas on changing patterns)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you

I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on Silver Girl,
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine
If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind


"Father, forgive ME

for expecting in the human

that which is found

only in the divine."

-Eric Butterworth

"Let it Be" by Paul McCartney










"One Day" lyrics by Matisyahu

Sometimes I lay
Under the moon
And thank god I'm breathin'
Then I pray
Don't take me soon
'Cause I am here for a reason

Sometimes in my tears I drown
But I never let it get me down
So when negativity surrounds
I know some day it'll all turn around

All my life I've been waiting for
I've been praying for
For the people to say
That we don't wanna fight no more
There'll be no more wars
And our children will play

One day...

It's not about
Win or lose
'Cause we all lose
When they feed on
The souls of the innocent
Blood drenched pavement

Keep on moving though the waters stay ragin'
In this maze you can lose your way (your way)
Might drive you crazy
But don't let it faze you no way (no way)

Sometimes in my tears I drown
But I never let it get me down
So when negativity surrounds
I know some day it'll all turn around

All my life I've been waiting for
I've been praying for
For the people to say
That we don't wanna fight no more
There'll be no more wars
And our children will play

One day...

One day this all will change
Treat people the same
Stop with the violence
Down with the hate
One day we'll all be free
And proud to be
Under the same sun
Singing songs of freedom like...

One day...

All my life I've been waiting for
I've been praying for
For the people to say
That we don't wanna fight no more
There'll be no more wars
And our children will play

One day......

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Introduction, An Explanation

My intention with doing a site about coping with manic-depressive illness (Bi-polar disorder) was to be sure not to allow it to degenerate into hand-wringing and recounting of miseries.

The best means of accomplishing that is to dub the site something inspiring, magical, upward-thinking. To better explain my choice, what follows is from philosopher Albert Camus' essay on redefining the mythological hero of Sisyphus. It does, after all, always come down to perspective. Realizing that we who are sick my not be in the best position to comprehend the world around us is a first step.

The reading can be a bit dense, but it's worthwhile. Skim it, consider it, come back to it later. Give it a chance. I know patience is ever a principle I must seek.



The Myth Of Sisyphus

The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. If one believes Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of mortals. According to another tradition, however, he was disposed to practice the profession of highwayman. I see no contradiction in this. Opinions differ as to the reasons why he became the futile laborer of the underworld.

To begin with, he is accused of a certain levity in regard to the gods. He stole their secrets. Egina, the daughter of Esopus, was carried off by Jupiter. The father was shocked by that disappearance and complained to Sisyphus. He, who knew of the abduction, offered to tell about it on condition that Esopus would give water to the citadel of Corinth. To the celestial thunderbolts he preferred the benediction of water. He was punished for this in the underworld. Homer tells us also that Sisyphus had put Death in chains. Pluto could not endure the sight of his deserted, silent empire. He dispatched the god of war, who liberated Death from the hands of her conqueror.

It is said that Sisyphus, being near to death, rashly wanted to test his wife's love. He ordered her to cast his unburied body into the middle of the public square. Sisyphus woke up in the underworld. And there, annoyed by an obedience so contrary to human love, he obtained from Pluto permission to return to earth in order to chastise his wife. But when he had seen again the face of this world, enjoyed water and sun, warm stones and the sea, he no longer wanted to go back to the infernal darkness. Recalls, signs of anger, warnings were of no avail. Many years more he lived facing the curve of the gulf, the sparkling sea, and the smiles of earth. A decree of the gods was necessary. Mercury came and seized the impudent man by the collar and, snatching him from his joys, lead him forcibly back to the underworld, where his rock was ready for him.

You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurd hero. He is, as much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of this earth. Nothing is told us about Sisyphus in the underworld. Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them. As for this myth, one sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it, and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands. At the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain.

It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock.

If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works everyday in his life at the same tasks, and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that can not be surmounted by scorn.

If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also take place in joy. This word is not too much. Again I fancy Sisyphus returning toward his rock, and the sorrow was in the beginning. When the images of earth cling too tightly to memory, when the call of happiness becomes too insistent, it happens that melancholy arises in man's heart: this is the rock's victory, this is the rock itself. The boundless grief is too heavy to bear. These are our nights of Gethsemane. But crushing truths perish from being acknowledged. Thus, Edipus at the outset obeys fate without knowing it. But from the moment he knows, his tragedy begins. Yet at the same moment, blind and desperate, he realizes that the only bond linking him to the world is the cool hand of a girl. Then a tremendous remark rings out: "Despite so many ordeals, my advanced age and the nobility of my soul make me conclude that all is well." Sophocles' Edipus, like Dostoevsky's Kirilov, thus gives the recipe for the absurd victory. Ancient wisdom confirms modern heroism.

One does not discover the absurd without being tempted to write a manual of happiness. "What!---by such narrow ways--?" There is but one world, however. Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable. It would be a mistake to say that happiness necessarily springs from the absurd. discovery. It happens as well that the felling of the absurd springs from happiness. "I conclude that all is well," says Edipus, and that remark is sacred. It echoes in the wild and limited universe of man. It teaches that all is not, has not been, exhausted. It drives out of this world a god who had come into it with dissatisfaction and a preference for futile suffering. It makes of fate a human matter, which must be settled among men.

All Sisyphus' silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is a thing Likewise, the absurd man, when he contemplates his torment, silences all the idols. In the universe suddenly restored to its silence, the myriad wondering little voices of the earth rise up. Unconscious, secret calls, invitations from all the faces, they are the necessary reverse and price of victory. There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night. The absurd man says yes and his efforts will henceforth be unceasing. If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is, but one which he concludes is inevitable and despicable. For the rest, he knows himself to be the master of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which become his fate, created by him, combined under his memory's eye and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

---Albert Camus