Sunday, April 20, 2014

Philosophizing The Walking Dead S2E5 Chupacabra, Daryl and the Myth of Sisyphus

Welcome to our journey into the guts of The Walking Dead. What kind of journey? A philosophical, psychoanalytical and political kind. What I would like to do over the next couple months is dig thought the Walking Dead episode by episode to see what it can teach us. Thank you for following me on this journey. I look forward to reading your comments. Be forewarned: There are spoilers everywhere. Don’t forget to check out my previous article in the Philosophizing TWD series: Philosophizing The Walking Dead S2E4 Cherokee Rose and Zombie Dating

Sisyphus thought he was a slick dude. He thought he could play one God against another. Cleverly manipuating information to meet his ends. Zeus, realizing his mistake, ordered Thanatos to chain Sisyphus in Tartarus. Sisyphus then manipulated Thanatos to let him see the magical chains which helped Thanatos regulate Death. With Thanatos chained human could not die. This irked Ares because his war games lost their entertainment value. The gods joined forces, chained Sisyphus to a giant rock and compelled him to push this rock up a hill only to have the rock roll back down the hill when he neared the top.

The existentialist Albert Camus argued in his Essay The Myth of Sisyphus that the value in this myth is at the moment where after the rock has crushed his progress he returns to his project pushing the rock up the hill. Always the absurdist, Camus argued that because life has no intrinsic meaning. Our greatest sense of significance comes from when we are firmly positioned in the abyss of meaning, and makes our minds to push towards freedom. Like an artist, the meaning in our lives comes from the vibrant creation that spites oblivion. In Man's Search for Meaning Dr. Viktor Frankl stated:
I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, “homeostasis,” i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him. (Frankl, 2006)
In Chupacabra, Daryl plays a parallel to Sisyphus in his hubris that despite all evidence to the contrary he will find Sophia. Stealing a horse from Hershel he journeys on his own through the woods. When the horse is confronted by a snake it freaks out tossing Daryl down into the valley. Tumbling down an arrow pierces though his abdomen. Shaking the fall off Daryl binds the arrow in place with strips of fabric ripped from his shirt. After finding his crossbow in the pond, he ventures painfully up the hill. When Daryl nearly reaches the top of the hill the ground gives way and he tumbles back down. Unconscious, Daryl is awoken by psychosis. Merle is standing over Daryl's body, taunting him.
Merle: Why don't cha' pull that arrow out dummy?
What follows is Merle's plea that in order for Daryl to survive beyond the day he needs to refocus his priorities. Daryl had begun to see the girl’s life as more important than his own, and perpetually shown to others his commitment to this priority. What Merle sees that Daryl doesn't is Daryl's is that his overestimation of his own capacities is harming his ability personal survival. In essence, Merle is challenging Daryl to refocus his hubris towards his own survival rather than finding Sophia. When Daryl pulls out the arrow it is like if Sisyphus detached the chain that tied him to the rock that represented his capacity to accomplish tasks large then his capacity. Free from the idea that misrepresents his capacities, he able to see the world as it is and able to accomplish new goals for new reasons. Daryl's new found inspiration is, of course, undermined by Andrea shooting Daryl when he returned to camp, and ultimately reinforced the absurd root which meaning sprouts from. No matter how hard to you try, or how deeply you feel about the meaning attributed to someone or a deed. At base the meaning creation process is fictitious in its own origination, but necessary for the struggle that makes life worth living.

Check out the next post in this series: Philosophizing The Walking Dead S2E6 Secrets And Lies That Make Truth Possible

References:

Frankl, Viktor E. (2006-06-01). Man's Search for Meaning (p. 105). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.

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