October 7th, 2008

Sisyphus with 10,000 Pieces

When I was in high school, I had a crazy Czechoslovakian French teacher. The man was legendary for his rages, often reducing timid freshmen to tears and this was late in his career when the administration had finally persuaded him that dumping over students’ desks was probably not the best educational protocol. I loved him. His rage sprang from what he described as “slop,” or the kind of stupid mistakes his students were too smart to make. All that yelling was designed to get it through our skulls that we needed to treat ourselves with enough respect not to quit, not to stop at what was good enough for most teachers, but to press on to the excellent.

Interestingly enough, as a result of this, I learned the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was mentioned in one of the books we were laboriously reading and, being an ignorant teenager, I asked about him. Let me say here that no one else in my class knew about him either, but I was the only one who opened my mouth to inquire. The reward for this was, you guessed it, to go and find out. (This has ruined my life because I have to go and find out all kinds of things now that I was content to leave mysterious before.) When I reported back that Sisyphus was sentenced to rolling a rock up a hill for all eternity, our class spent the period in discussing. We eventually recognized, as our fearless leader knew all along, that if Sisyphus came to like rolling rocks, this would no longer be a punishment. Somehow I think he identified with Sisyphus.

I thought of both my French teacher and Sisyphus yesterday because I was sorting Legos. In my fantasy life, T.R. has a room tidy enough for me to walk across with impunity. Ten thousand Legos are scattered between me and this goal. From time to time, I put on my Mean Mom hat and summarily bundle them into the numerous Lego bins and plug my ears as T.R. explains at length and at high volume exactly how I have just ruined everything and how life cannot possibly continue until he knows where some specific piece has gone. Then the bins all spill their contents out again and I’m back where I started. I try to enjoy the short period while the Legos are in the bins.

My good ideas, apparently, are much better when Rick suggests them. Long ago when I had this same exact problem with Syd, I sorted those Legos into bins so that the very extra special teeny tiny gem would not be obscured under all those plain old ordinary bricks. All those Legos now live at Rick’s house, having been passed along to T. in the way of all toys. They are no longer sorted, of course, but the idea remains. T. said that Rick suggested this sort and it seemed like a possible way to keep us both more or less happy. What he didn’t say was that he had no interest in doing the sorting himself. I pretty much knew that anyway.

So I have been sorting Legos. It’s going to take me a long time. I end up in philosophical debates with myself over the criteria for the broad categories. Lego guys was an obvious one, but it needed to include hats, capes, weapons, chicken legs, cups, and books. Also horses because I was too lazy to disconnect all the knights from their faithful steeds.

And at some point, all the Legos are going to be mixed up on the floor again. Good thing I somewhat enjoy rolling rocks.