-- it rolls. Down, down, down, crushing the dead earth in its path until it finally settles at the bottom of the steep mountain.
He feels defeated, crushed. Somewhere, the gods are mocking him and he knows it. His life has really come down to this. But what is this, but a duty assigned specifically to him? Perhaps it is of some cosmic importance, or at least he tries to think it is.
He trudges down the side of the mountain, stopping when he reaches the boulder at the bottom. It is a large sphere of solid rock, nearly six times his size. As he puts his palms against its cold surface, he wonders idly if this time will be the last.
With a deep breath, he begins to roll it, up, up, up the mountainside, over the flattened, lifeless grass and the sticks and the stones. Halfway up the slope, he stops, his muscles screaming in pain from over-exertion. He wants to give up. He wants to rest.
But this is his responsibility. This is his calling. Some would call it his burden, but no-- it isn't a burden, it can't be. Despite the pain and suffering, he knows this is his rock. This is his fate, and his only, to create. He chooses to push this heavy weight up the mountain because he wants to, because it is what he was meant to do. He tells himself these things as he keeps rolling it up, past the rough patches of land until he gets to the very top.
It is done. Finally, he has brought it to the mountain's peak. He leaves it there and brushes the sweat from his forehead. His legs give out and he falls to the ground, panting. His entire body aches, but he smiles all the same. He has succeeded.
But just then, the earth quakes under him. The boulder moves, ever so slightly. Deep down inside, he knows what is coming. There is a rumble as the rock falls out of place. Perhaps it is his own madness, but he imagines he can hear the gods laughing somewhere far above.
Exhausted, he can only sit still and watch helplessly as--
(hint: go back to the very beginning and read it over... and over... and over again)
The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus, is my favorite philosophical essay. You can read it here: http://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/hell/camus.html The basic idea is this: Sisyphus has been condemned by the gods to roll a rock up a mountain and watch it roll down again, then repeating the process for all of eternity. It is probably the worst existence imaginable. But the remarkable thing about it is that he tells himself he is in CONTROL of this fate, that he is doing this because he WANTS to, and that is the key thing that leads to his happiness -- absurdly enough, "One must imagine Sisyphus happy," because despite this terrible life he lives, he makes it his own.
I find this story incredibly inspiring. I am also fascinated by infinite loops. That's why I wrote this little story about Sisyphus, which I hope you will read again and again so that you can share Sisyphus' pain and joy and everything in between. :)