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The Absurd Hero: An Inspiration In Overcoming Challenges

Did you ever lose something that changed you completely? Something that obliterated your expectations, squashed your goals or undermined your existence? Did you ever run out of everything meaningful until you found yourself staring blankly into a void?

This common yet unsettling experience is a disguised blessing that only a few people recognize as such. Why a blessing?

Because it’s only when a slate is wiped clean that you can write on it. It’s only after a bully comes over and shakes your Etch-a-sketch that you start considering what to create next (sorry, 90s kid).

Life is complex, especially in today’s world where we can browse options to the point of paralysis. It’s no wonder that a lot of people find themselves in need of renewal or a serious self-assessment. But, that’s not a moment of failure. It’s a jumping off point for overcoming challenges.

Philosopher Albert Camus uses the Myth of Sisyphus as a metaphor for the human condition. You know Sisyphus, the guy in Greek mythology who was condemned to push a rock up a hill for eternity only to have it roll back down again? Yeah, he’s the one.

Camus refers to Sisyphus as the epitome of an “absurd hero” or a person who experiences, hopes and tries in spite of his undeniable mortality.

A lot of people might think of this “hero” as more of a loser, slaving and living a foolish life in vain. But, that’s a misunderstanding, because a hero has the opportunity to first change himself and then the world. He doesn’t have to be useless or hopeless. Rather, he can grow, learn and thrive against all odds and that makes victory even sweeter.

Sisyphus has a powerful weapon in his arsenal: radical acceptance. The hero understands that he is but a speck in existence with no special significance. He accepts it without a hint of denial and, most importantly, he doesn’t give up after becoming aware of this. He doesn’t give himself away to a “default” life. Simply, he makes the choice to keep himself and all the burdens that come with him.

“The one truly serious philosophical problem is suicide.” – Camus

Sounds morbid? It really isn’t. What it means is that when we’re faced with life-altering events, questions and even despair, that’s when we actually choose life. We suddenly realize what kind of life we want and why. Prior to that, we’re just existing.

So, you might think, “What do all these metaphors really have to do with me?”.

They can serve as a guide in overcoming challenges, handling transitions and going through hardships.

Calling this crazy, rock-pushing fellow Sisyphus a hero shatters every common notion we have about what a hero is. He’s not glamorous, flawless or doing anything remarkable at first glance. He’s not even saving people. So, then why is he (aka. YOU) a hero?

Camus calls him the “Absurd Hero” because of his persistence in the face of absolute struggle. He feels and he doubts, but he continues in spite of the oblivion staring him in the face each day. This concept of a hero is much more realistic than Superman or the Green Lantern.

People aren’t exactly eager to become the Absurd Hero. It’s challenging.

So, when does a plain old person become an “Absurd hero?”.

It could be after a divorce, confusing college years or a long-term job loss. While all are generally unpleasant experiences, all of them have one thing in common- they force you to reassess yourself, your goals and your plan of action. They force you to face major life questions that most people don’t think about often.

It feels something like plunging into a dunk tank after some lucky pitcher finally hits the target. It’s not the asshole target-hitter that you should be focusing on. It’s the plunge.

When everything at the core of you is in question, you find an answer.

I’m talking about moments of total lucidity. That’s when Sisyphus (aka you) is at the top of the hill, pitifully watching his big dumb boulder roll all the way back to the bottom. Feeling helpless and depressed is often unavoidable but contrary to what society tells us, there’s no need to be ashamed of negative feelings. They are catalysts that keep us alive and choosing.

You thought your big dumb boulder (marriage, business, friendship, whatever) meant something. Well, it doesn’t anymore or maybe it never did. Now, you’re dumbfounded.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

No one ever wants to face things like uncertainty, being miserable, or starting over. Yet, these are the exact things that will lead you to clarity because they’ll force you to find it.

Some of us can remember these moments right down to the date they happened while for others, everything just belongs to a blurry time frame. For some, these kinds of moments never happened yet or maybe they never will.

It can be confusing, excruciating, or simply unpleasant. You could spend a moment in it or maybe a few years. Regardless, it ends in choice. Once becoming conscious of a dilemma, some choice is inevitable, even if you choose inaction.

In other words, you have to choose your own rock—your boulder that you’d be willing to push up that giant, eternal hill. This might sound torturous, but it won’t be. Once you’ve found the right thing to push for, you’ll always be fueled.

“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.” – Camus

So, how do you find a reason to live when all of the obvious ones were exhausted, didn’t work out or weren’t fulfilling?

Get back to the basics.

Think of the things that you never tire of. The things that always provide you with inspiration and the things you could see yourself helping others with on a broad scale.

There’s your rock. Now start pushing.

See Also: 5 Key Insights For a Happy Life from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

The post The Absurd Hero: An Inspiration In Overcoming Challenges appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

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About Darren Webb

Hello & Welcome to my blog. My name is Darren Webb and i'm on a magical successful journey and also helping others have a more stress free relaxed life. I truly hope that you find a lot of useful information on my blog and that it helps you through your life. Please feel free to contact me at any time.

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Backpacking and traveling are predominantly arduous, uncomfortable, and anxiety-inducing. When we see those picture perfect Instagram posts of people traveling the world they represent 1% of the story, willfully glossing over the other 99% (such as the fact that blood, sweat and tears were shed to get to the top of that mountain summit – all in the pursuit of a dopamine hit from the proceeding Instagram likes). The chaos of finding yourself in an alien culture, where you’ve been stripped of all familiarity, is at the time nothing other than a test of survival.

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What should you take from this post?

Embrace life’s difficulties. Don’t feel bad for not feeling happy all the time. Reframe your attitude to all those annoying micro tasks that need to be done on a daily basis because they are ultimately contributing to your desired end goals. Your sense of fulfillment and happiness should be viewed from an overview perspective rather than a fleeting snapshot in the here and now. Nobody wants to go to the bank to fill out endless admin forms, but perhaps that act is bringing you 0.001% closer to the person who are aiming to become.

Every single person on this planet is battling inner demons, in one form or another. Empathy and compassion of this fact will go a long way to contributing to your success and well-being. The next time you see that "i have my life together" post on Instagram, take heart from the reality that what you are seeing is a surface reflection of the proverbial iceberg.

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Brian Cronin is the writer behind The Ithaca Diaries – a personal development blog documenting one man’s search for meaning, answers, and a pursuit of the good life.

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