Endlessly rolling a huge boulder up a steep hill must be annoying. A path of pain and sorrow, especially when the boulder rolls all the way back down at the starting point, as soon as the top of the hill is reached. This is the story of Sisyphus, the bravest man of all, who in the Greek mythology was sentenced to this tragic duty for having challenged Zeus.
It’s difficult to imagine how he felt, to understand the depth of his frustration. This would mean to refuse the gods and accept the destiny of sorrow that the life of men means.
But, still, we should think of him as a happy man: that’s what Albert Camus wrote when he got inspired from this figure and wrote the essay titled Le mythe de Sisiphe.
Sisyphus chooses not to flee from his loneliness and in this way he continuously fights the demons of his conscience.
Our Sisyphus is not only a brave one. He is a great democratic and a great European. Once I read the autobiography of one of the founding fathers of the European Union, Altiero Spinelli, I had the clear impression that each little political victory he achieved was followed by a greater and more dramatic defeat, just like for Sisyphus. The words that Spinelli pronounced the day of his last speech at the European Parliament are significant: those words are full of frustration for the realization of a Union that seemed very different from what he had dreamt during his imprisonment in Ventotene. Spinelli chose to be a Sisyphus: after every defeat, the fight goes on.
Why should you choose to be Sisyphus? Why fighting for an idea, for a utopia, even if you know that a tragedy could follow each single small achievement?
Sisyphus, while carrying his stone as a Dante’s sinner, realizes every day the greatest revolution. While sweating, he has to ask himself who is carrying that burden, who is crying and screaming. And by suffering, he recognizes himself.
We should probably reconsider the ancient myth. Only by challenging yourself, only by trying to improve day by day, our society and our democratic principles will stay alive, will recognize itself as the living engine that constitutes the base of our ethical prosperity.
The European project is important as it represents the biggest challenge for our democracy, the biggest push for its improvement. Spinelli’s federalist project is the best example of the attempt to finally make democracy free of nationalism and imperialism. It is a project that aims to unify more than dividing, that proposes the possibility of a forward-looking politics.
Those who choose to fight for such a purpose, after all, are Sisyphus too. Crazy men and women, who choose the most complex path, but brave and authentic people at the same time.
If Sisyphus had decided to stop, to renounce to his burden even for one single instant, he would have lost his dignity as a man, he would have lost the awareness of what he really is.
There is no defeat for who is free up to the point to choose to become Sisyphus.
After all, only who surrenders is defeated.