Sisyphus, a mythological resident of ancient Corinth, a Greek city-state, was one of the brightest men of his time. He confidently overcame death twice and returned to the surface of the earth. This boldness enraged Zeus, the most powerful of the gods. At that time, divine anger was synonymous with divine punishment.
Sisyphus pushed a huge stone up a mountain. But near the top, the stone rolled back to the base. Sisyphus returned to the painful climb, then and forever to see his exertion succumbing down the hill.
There is a parallel between the fate of the city and its prisoner. Corinth was famous for erecting columns out of huge stones to reconstruct the noisy monuments that sooner or later kept falling and being rebuilt.
However, Zeus signed another Eternal Scourge, this time paid for by Titan Prometheus. The convict taught people how to control fire, thus subtracting a privilege from the gods. In response to the transgression, the Olympic leader ordered that Prometheus be tied to a cliff so that an eagle would eat a piece of its liver every day. While the gland is regenerating, the bird always has something to eat on the Titan.
What would be the ruse of the very creative person who makes it aware of his finiteness to develop devices against death? But how can we not punish those who corrupt the entire natural order? Between the poles of innocence and guilt we find the myth of Sisyphus. Prometheus also slips into ambivalence and approaches Sisyphus because, by transferring control of fire to man, he incited independence and created science. The hero defied dogmas and coercion and started people against superstition and fear.
Prometheus did not fight against his punishment, so he accepted it. As a result, he was at the mercy of vanity and envy, and yet he strengthened his belief in Zeus and denied reason.
The eagle that eats the liver is a metaphor for Prometheus’ suffering. Grief grew out of the overbearing human self-esteem that arose when men had the transformative energy at hand that was previously reserved for immortals. But the illusion of invincibility is short and even randomly dissolves.
Sisyphus and Prometheus are myths that enter into dialogue with our time. We are Sisyphus when we protect ourselves from disease but occasionally lower our guard and expose ourselves to it. Or when we are healed, we resume our addiction. We are promised that if we challenge we will make it, but we are limited.
At the worst moment of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic, family members and groups of friends come together because they have fraternized at other times and nothing serious has happened. It doesn’t matter that ICU vacancies have become scarce or worse, they no longer exist. Many people will continue to leave the house every day because there are no options for them, and their fears will likely renew themselves over the course of nights and days.
The growing number of new cases is filling hospitals. Once a bed is unoccupied and a sick person takes it, it brings with it fear, fear of healing, and possibly blame for a failure against prevention, possibly imaginary. In many places, visits are improvised as the vacancy in the intensive care unit is a godsend for a few in the midst of such a disaster. Health professionals work to prevent death from recurring.
But there is light. We recognized the infection, deciphered the genetic material of the virus, developed, tested and marketed vaccines against Covid-19 in record time. Science is the basis for all of these achievements, and yet it is defeated. By increasing the weight of the facts, those who defend deceptive axioms are curtailed.
Once the pandemic is controlled, many of the survivors will follow their routines made up of exhausting, endless tasks that may be meaningless. But I want you to learn how to celebrate victories, including ephemeral ones.
A hug to colleagues Fernando Machado, Gladys Prado, doctors who follow so many dramas closely.
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