When I was a kid, my grandma would often take us to the library. One of my favorite books to get was the D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. I checked out this book over and over because it was so interesting.
My cousins and I once made a play for my mom about the story of the peacock. Hera is jealous of Zeus. Zeus turns his lover into a cow, and Hera sets her hundred-eyed watchman Argus to guard said cow. Hermes was able to get the cow away and Hera turned Argus into the peacock.
I remember we taped a bunch of paper eyes on my little brother to appear as Argus.
While I was in Greece I was super excited to visit places like the Psychro Cave which was the mythical birthplace of Zeus.
But I learned a lot from the stories of this book. The story of Icarus and Daedalus taught me it’s wise to follow the directions of those who know better. From the story of King Midas, I learned how to keep my priorities. There were plenty of stories that warned against pride and tales of trickery.
One of the stories that always got to me was that of Sisyphus.
Sisyphus was the king of what later became Corinth. Time after time, he would trick the gods. He was able to get a freshwater spring from the river god Asopus by ratting out Zeus while Zeus was hooking up with Asopus’ daughter. Zeus, angered, sent Hades from the underworld to teach him a lesson. Sisyphus chained up Hades, and no one was able to die.
He was able to cheat death twice with his wily ways.
When he finally died of old age, he was sentenced to roll a boulder up a hill, and when near the top, the boulder would roll back to the bottom. For eternity!
And you might know the one about Prometheus. In the myths, he created man from clay and in these myths, fire was only for the gods. Prometheus saw his creations cold and miserable, so he stole fire from Olympus to warm them.
For his crime, Prometheus was sentenced to being chained to a rock, and every day, an eagle would come to eat his liver. Every day, it would grow back only to be eaten again.
Now, what is interesting about both of these stories is that the ultimate punishment that could be meted out was the punishment of futility. Sisyphus had to roll his rock eternally, and Prometheus, though much more painful, grew a liver back daily only to lose it again.
Futility! When your actions have no meaning. When what you do is useless.
In all the jobs I have had, even selling movie tickets or picture frames as a teenager, I have been lucky enough (maybe deluded enough) to believe I had a purpose. My parents moved a few towns over before my senior year, and I had to have a car and insurance to continue going to finish at the same high school. There was always the alternative of not working and walking to the high school right down the street.
Later on, my purpose was to provide for my family. Through the years that has made commutes seem less, helped me to get along with coworkers easier, and made me more excited about the work I do in general.
When we sold our house and lived in Hawai’i, my boss told me that it would get old looking at a beach. That people need a purpose. He was wrong about the beach getting old; he was correct that I needed something that was fulfilling in my life. That I would be working toward a worthwhile goal.
While on Kaua’i, we were without a car. I would take our car to Safeway to refill our water jugs and take two buses to Walmart or Costco for other groceries. It was always great to be out and about on the island, and though I was providing for my family and loved doing it, I knew it wasn’t a real purpose.
And really, a hundred years after you die will anything you created be around? In five hundred years will anyone remember your name? Your purpose might be meaningless in the span of time. But it might mean everything at the moment to those around you.
So it’s all about your perspective.
Everyone should find some reason and meaning for their life. Indeed, not everyone will find the same thing as fulfilling as someone else will. Finding a purpose or inspiring others to find a purpose in what they do is a part of truly finding enjoyment in one’s life.