The absurdity of the gym culture hit me only after I was away of it all for a few months. Back when I lifted constantly I was all about the "warrior" discourse, the "Do you even lift?!" memes, the lingo, the mentality.
Going back now, it all seems a bit silly. Was I just part of a cult and did not know it? Did I grow up in the last months and I see this for the puerile movement that it kind of it is? I woudn't go as far...
But one things that I still respect - maybe even more so now - is that the work of a bodybuilder ( and this is what we all are when we go to the gym, we are amateurs bodybuilders ) is so repetitive in nature that is almost monastic and meditative. A serious gym goer, a gymrat?, can be a person to admire from this point of view only. And of course, I think of Camus...
In the famous essay on the myth of Sisyphus, Camus suggests that the faith of the tragic hero has been foolishly misinterpreted. For those of you unfamiliar with the myth, Sisyphus was punished by the gods to roll a rock up a mountain just to see it fall back. Repeat ad infinitum. It's an absurd, mind numbing, will-killing task and the reason we use the term " Sisyphean " to describe similar activities.
But Camus has a different view: that Sys is the quintessential human, because our lives are all Sisyphean and absurd. We all push our boulder up a rock only to see it fall sooner or later, in a way or other. But does this mean, we are all or we should all be depressed and unhappy? Many have argued that this is exactly what it means! Not Camus.
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." says Camus. This is a man who has no hope for anything else, it's utterly tragic and yet, he keeps pushing. Maybe he really has no choice indeed but aren't we all the same? Aren't we all living an ever more tragic life when we do have choice and still chose to push the rock up?
Camus though ends it with an uplifting idea [ that's the kind of guy he was, if you want to stay depressed, read some Soren ].
He sees Sisyphus as he goes down that mountain, fully awake to the absurdity of his condition and in that moment, by accepting his faith, he somehow overcomes it. "All is well" Camus concludes...
"One must imagine Sisyphus happy".
Back to the gym, looking around for all these people lifting every day, same reps, same weight, slight variations, slight improvements only to be able to lift more.
And all for what? Even a muscled body will perish, deteriorate and die like any other body. IT's all pushing a rock up a mountain for shoulder gains that will go to waste anyway. But...BUT! There is a big but..
I'm sort of back in the gym now. The difference is that now I smile as I take my bag and head home. The absurdity of it all is so humane and familiar and there's rarely an environment in which we can see the grit we as humans have when faced with the absurd.
The sweet certitude that tomorrow I will be here again.
I must be happy.