Not Grateful: The Modern-Day Sisyphus

When was the last time you had a conversation about gratitude? Yesterday, the Malaysian government announced the latest lockdown, and I find myself once again stuck at home. Truth be told, there’s little to be grateful about this season.

Gratefulness has been something I’ve been pondering about this season. Not only in terms of the pandemic, but also as I step into world of adulting.

There’s a tyranny of things that I want right now and a small number of things that have. As I observe my mental state, my mind is preoccupied with the things that I want vs the things that I have. Case in point, the result of the Hedonistic Treadmill.

For me, in this past week, these were the foremost thoughts in my mind: Taking a holiday, reading a new book, and earning more money.

Yet, it did not come across to my mind to be thankful about my health, my possessions, and my relationships. If we were to compare the number of thoughts between of our “wants” and our “haves”, the difference would be as vast as the ocean. No wonder gratitude is so fleeting.

The Scarcity of Gratitude

There is a scarcity of gratitude today compared to the past. The rise of capitalism has turned humans into consumers. We are always looking for the thing that brings us the most delight.

Just look at the way we use the internet, we can now connect with everyone. We are no longer limited by social class, income barriers and geographical difficulties. Yet we gravitate to the most premier of personalities.

Those with the highest standard of wealth and beauty dominate our attention in our social feeds exclusively.

One can’t help but feel inadequate to the expectations set by those gifted or born with the exceptional. We all have a “splurge” bias. We want to devour the most lavish and extravagant of stories. However, in doing so, we become dissatisfied of the normal. Yet, we are normal.

The Modern-Day Sisyphus

Sisyphus, King of Ephrya pushing the boulder up the hill.
Titian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Having ingratitude is like being a modern-day Sisyphus.

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the King of Ephrya that managed to escape the clutches of death not once, but twice. For his punishment, he was tasked to push up a large boulder up a steep hill. Hades enchanted the boulder so that whenever it was nearing the top of the hill, the boulder would roll back down.

This resulted in the eternal torment Sisyphus. An eternity of wasted efforts and endless frustration as he kept on trying to push that enchanted boulder.

The myth of Sisyphus is the parable of being cursed with ingratitude. We push our boulders to the highest point, we slave to it until the point of exhaustion, and pursue it endlessly in hopes of finding fulfillment. Only to realize that we must do it all over again if we want to feel better.

We are cursed to do it all over again, and at the end we become Sisyphus. A lifetime of wasted effort and endless frustration that leads to nowhere.

Ingratitude is the enchanted boulder that keeps rolling down.

Ingratitude is the enchanted boulder that keeps rolling down.

This guy on the internet.

Final Thoughts

If I am ungrateful now, what would it take me to be grateful with what I have? I started imagining my dream income. Would that ever make me grateful. No. I imagined it a bit higher now. Would that help? No. It occurred to me that If I’m never grateful for what I have now, I’ll never be grateful for what I have in the future.

The only possible scenario where I’m grateful is when I’m earning more than everybody else. Frankly, that’s impossible.


So, here’s the kicker: Gratitude is not tied to the things you have. It exists independently of your net worth. It’s not a state by which you can achieve it through external means. But only through internal means.

It’s about walking away from the enchanted boulder.

It’s about walking away from the enchanted boulder.

This guy on the internet

It’s both a blessing and a curse. A curse being that if you don’t have gratitude now, you won’t have it in the future. A blessing being that no matter in what state we are in, we can always be grateful for what we have.

Will you choose to push the enchanted boulder or not?

2 thoughts on “Not Grateful: The Modern-Day Sisyphus

  1. PC

    Being grateful only really begins when we realized we were doomed for God’s wrath but He saved us (though we are a piece of work 😓) and gave us this life that we can now have. We owe Him EVERYTHING!
    Start thinking there… we will be eternally grateful and gladly live this life wholly for Him 😍

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Coffee Convo: Dealing with our Inner Demons - Joel's Blog

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