So I had exams today, and what better time to dive again in existential anxiety and metaphysical crisis?
As the clock was ticking, I kept thinking about one of my traumas as a child. I hated the game Cliffhangers, from the price is right (le tyrolien, for the french peeps around). I distinctly remember running to my room or hiding under the table every time it was announced. Later on, support groups on the early versions of facebook (where people were doing groups for no reason at all) even told me that I wasn’t the only one.
Brief reminder. In this game, contestants had to guess prices, and a little yodle guy would climb a mountain. The more wrong the contestant, the higher the yodle guy went. Little by little, approaching the peak, happily yodeling. Should he go over it, impending doom was awaiting on the other side under the form of a bottomless pit.
As years passed, I realized that it was the perfect embodiment of tragedy, in the purest greek theater form. The very essence of tragedy. No unnecessary extras. Everybody knows where this is going. There is only one way. There is no stopping it.
Unbearable tension builds up as the little guy approaches the climax and its likely death. Could he even be oblivious to his deathly fate? Little pawn to the will of merciless gods pushing him further and further up towards his death. The whole public joins in a cry of terror and agony, confronted to the reality of their own futile existence. All around the world, audiences joining in on this collective existential crisis. And in that moment, we were all the little yodle guy, the symbol of human life that has only one possible end that we watched, powerless, unfurl in front of our trembling eyes.
There is something deeply disturbing about this little guy singing cheerily as he marches towards his death. Is he oblivious or kidding himself? Is this the only way to cope? Aren’t we all the same way, going about our little meaningless daily lives? (isn’t it somewhat ironic that the quintessential materialistic capitalist society would kill this little guy faster than curiosity killed the cat? All of this suffering for futile consumerist purposes? God this game is deep)
So that’s all well and good, but it’s fairly straightforward and obvious and doesn’t teach us much. What does is another yodling fellow named Sisyphus, condemned by the gods to push a huge boulder up a mountain only to see it roll down and start over and over and over again. This will all be much clearer when you’ve played the game version of it. Or seen this cat:
Sisyphus is the symbol of the meaningless repetitive task. So what does it have to do with anything? Well. they both climb mountains… I mean… isn’t that enough?
Sisyphus isn’t facing an imminent death but an eternity of meaningless suffering. That’s still pretty bad. In the footsteps of Albert Camus, we could see in this symbol a representation of the absurdity of human life. Since this is the internet, a quote is always better with a picture, isn’t it:
Faced with the unbearable absurdity of our yodle-like existence, we have no choice but to run away and think of something else. Perhaps diving entirely into this menial task is the only escape for Sisyphus. The only thing to keep his eyes from the abyss of his condition. His Pascalian diversion. Perhaps our daily life and our made up society is our boulder, meaningless, but that we keep pushing relentlessly because the alternative is simply too horrible to behold. Perhaps we need this boulder more than anything to be able to happily yodle our way to the immutable pit of doom. And always look on the bright side of death…