The Death of Sisyphus (Part 2)

by hyphology

We had previously arrived at King Midas as the ultimate existential hero. Meaning is impossible to produce ex nihilo and by attempting this we only find ourselves lost in a meaningless world. Yet, is there a place to go after this? Is it true that—as we previously concluded—any existentialism necessarily ends in anxiety and despair? Indeed, it would appear that the conclusion was premature. King Midas does not exist in a vacuum, but is only part of a more complex continuum. Closely related, but on the opposite side, one finds Hermes. It is somewhere between the perilous Midatic-Hermetic chasm that we may find an answer to Camus’ fundamental question.

Unlike primitive aesthetic assessments (e.g. Apollonian-Dionysian), the Midatic-Hermetic is grafted onto a parabola. The inflection point signifies a tectonic shift from absolute meaninglessness to equivocal encryptions of meaning. At this point, which is, itself, always already an origin splitting apart from itself (attempting to generate what-it-is by becoming-what-it-is-not), one finds the precarious scaffolding for a theory of meaning. Scaffolding, to be sure, is of terminological importance. Whereas previous theories have failed at the very beginning by attempting to locate a foundation (arche), the aporias of meaning have suggested that any theory of meaning will be without foundation (an-arche). Thus, the indeterminacy of this inflection point cannot be under-determined.


Meaning dissolves. It does this in one of two ways. Either the value never latches onto another discursive machine (translation via Hermes). It dissipates before it could be understood while new values are taken up relentlessly; some have called this differance. Or the value congeals into a homogeneous singularity (Midas’ gold). The value proliferates and multiplies until it becomes the value par excellence. Soon the value, artificially removed from a system of differences, becomes valueless. In both cases, meaning is constantly dissolving. The Midatic-Hermetic parabola rocks back and forth like a carnival ride. Philosophers have always tried to get off the ride or stop it, but this has only reproduced genetically mutated strands of dissolved values. The trick is, has always been, to feel out the resonances of the ride itself and swing along with it.

For this very reason any new theory of meaning must accompany meaning’s dissolution. It will close its eyes and feel the wind in its hair as the ride goes on. Sometimes the whirl and lights will cause our theory to vomit; other times it will stare defiantly at the stars. Among these ambiguities, one thing is certain: the theory itself will dissolve. In this sense, it would not be right to even call it a “theory.” Really, we seek a game of meaning. We desire to play with values. This is not one universal, eternal game, but a multiplicity of games with divergent rules and strategies.

We will call this an existential game. Meaning is not produced, only the game is. Meaning comes about through taking advantageous tactical positions and breaking various thresholds in the game itself. As the Speculative Realists are so fond of saying: the rules are necessary, but contingently so. The existential game cannot be a return to the problem of meaning, but only a peripheral consideration of it. Each game itself will dissolve over time (it would be impossible to not encounter new problematics in an expanding world). The more games one produces, the more potential one has for rubbing against values. The existential game seems to escape the problem of meaning’s dissolution because it effectively displaces the machinery of meaning-production. Where other philosophers have built factories of meaning, existential game theorists ran around placing bombs. The theological conception of meaning cannot be reconciled with human reality, but game creation is completely within our grasp.

Existentialists are sometimes accused of being too abstract. We, however, grew up in the Life or Death tradition of Camus and read Sartre a little too closely. Examples of the existential game can be found everywhere from politics to illegal street racing. What is important is that an individual determines the boundary conditions of the game; this cannot be done by anyone else! The game also ends when the individual decides to move on. In this way, politics and illegal street racing may be the worst examples, or the best, depending on your relation to them. In the last instance, one should be aware of the extent to which this theory is also a game.