There is one Greek, however, passed down to us in myth, who is undeniably a worker and whose job is described to us in detail. Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to spend all eternity pushing a heavy stone up the side of a mountain only to have it roll back down again each time he reached the summit. Starting over again each time from the base of that peak, Sisyphus, with his endless, weary, hopeless task, has provided philosophers down through the ages with a symbol of despair for mankind.
A worker placing himself in Sisyphus’s shoes will despair, too – but after a little while he will begin to concern himself with the job at hand. I wonder about Sisyphus. Does he, abandoning for a moment the wisdom that previous failed attempts have given him, take heart a bit at discovering on the rock a rough spot that he can really shove? Is there a stick of wood around handy that he can grab and throw under the rock to chock it so that he can pause long enough to catch his breath? In short, what does he have to work with? I know what his human condition is, but what are his working conditions? What is the weather like? Is it cold? Is he getting rained on? How old is he? I know he does not have any gloves. When does he eat? Most likely at noon. Here, I know that Sisyphus and I have suddenly bridged the gap between us with a common question. What has the wife packed us for lunch?
How to Tell When You’re Tired: A Brief Examination of Work (Reg Theriault, 1995)