Friday, July 18, 2008

Half empty or half full?

I've always considered that the famous case of a glass containing only half its total capacity is a symbol of situations that reoccur constantly in our daily existence. Halfway along the road to a goal, some people think that they're so far away from the desired result that they should abandon their pursuit, whereas others, at a similar point, consider that the end of the tunnel is in sight and that they should strive to reach it. Personally, I tend to give up easily, because I'm plagued continually by the idea that all is vanity, and I say to myself that nothing whatsoever in the Cosmos is finally worth striving for. But I'm not at all certain that I really believe what I say to myself on such occasions. There is, in me, an undeniable and profound Sisyphean streak.

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.

What a splendid expression, this translation by Justin O'Brien of the superb French prose of Albert Camus: "la fidélité supérieure qui nie les dieux et soulève les rochers". So many mysteries—not superficially religious—are subsumed under that vague but marvelous notion of a "higher fidelity". Fidelity, above all, indeed exclusively, with respect to our fundamental and absurd human nature as godless creatures born to be rock raisers.

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 towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

It's the Tour de France that puts me in this pensive mood. Half the commentators are crying out that the glass is almost empty. Dope has taken over; it's time to burn down what remains of this cycling extravaganza and get involved in some less obnoxious pursuit. The other half point out with enthusiasm that the news about busting doped cyclists is obviously good news, which means that successful means for catching cheaters are being invented and implemented.

For once, I myself fall unequivocally on the half-full side. Instead of despairing, we are driven to optimism by our higher fidelity to an archaic, magic and mythical phenomenon: the Tour de France.

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