Motivations, Suicide and the Myth of Sisyphus: Existential Social Entrepreneurship

By Alexandre Carvalho

176-jesterlute.bmpThe Jester. Weird and fascinating invention of Middle Age courts: a tradition that in some places lasted as late as the 19th century, and with some incredible stories behind it. For instance, there are references indicating that Queen Elizabeth I reprimanded her official court jester for not being severe enough with her on his ridicule. Jesters were irreverent and did not spare anyone in their jokes and crass. Even though the role had no credibility for “serious matters”, there are accounts of court jesters that were advisers to the monarchs in affairs of state – after all, no euphemisms, omissions, silence or half truths were necessary.


       The jester was in a privileged position: due to his discredit and lack of reputation, he was the only one in the court who could freely speak truth to power and don’t be beheaded in the process. To this day in power circles or wherever there is substantial accumulation of power, the presence of an official or natural jester is not uncommonly noted. Someone has to cry out that the king is nude.


       But ‘what the j’ has to do with Social Entrepreneurship, motivations, or whatever else that was up there in the title? Well, lots. First, sometimes he appears randomly in society and inappropriately writes about things uncalled for, in a manner that is also uncalled for; so the buffoon kind of asked this humble writer to give out the disclaimer. On his words, “give this son of Dionysus a break, for freaksake!”.


 Second, the jokester said that it has nothing to do with the individual that impersonates the fool: he is poetically taken by the zeitgeist and has to write out stuff under strict disorders of Puck. Yeah, Puck – our building mascot (Puck is a jester too, by the way: make a prayer-joke when entering 295 Lafayette). 177-PuckCover.jpg


       Ok. Now that a ridiculous sound case was made for starting this essay talking about jesters, let’s move to what moves you. Why we do what we do? Why we say we want to change the world and obsessively chase after dreams, sometimes at the cost of our health, romantic relationships, and even lives? Who do you serve? yourself or others (or a blended value of both)? What do you seek? fame, glory, recognition? did vanity or ambition took the best of you or is it perfectly human to have them inside? what you search in the night is purpose, meaning, significance?… – is it about legacy, a footprint that enables you to feel special? you know, so later you have the legitimacy and authenticity to tell your children that you indeed lived the ideals that you now preach them?


       The question is sharp as a blunt knife. Why do you do the things you do? Moving beyond motivations, why do the things we do if in the end death takes you into dissolution? It feels as if life is about pushing a huge rock high up a steep mountain so to see it roll back again (and again) to the valley. 178-481_sisyphus-297x300.jpg


       Albert Camus, the French existentialist writer, wrote and discoursed about this human condition on a book called “The Myth of Sisyphus” where he asks if suicide was a logical answer to this trickster riddle (and the Jester is back). To this humble non-depressed/non-famous writer, suicide is not a logical option. Though everything is apparently meaningless, each time we push the rock we change and change everything and everyone around us in the process.

       Change is the giver of sense. Change is possible and happens at every breath. It hurts but if your social entrepreneurial project received a deathblow or had a huge setback taking you to the startup line, remember: when you forced that boulder uphill, you may have influenced a whole lot of people and definitely changed zillions of chaotic initial conditions that will reverberate. So dear jester, change is what gives meaning to life – social change then, even better.



 “The struggle itself… is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” 

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