How the Myth of Sisyphus Helps Us in our Own Dark Night of the Soul with Phil Cousineau

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Phil Cousineau was once told by master teacher and psychologist, the late Rollo May that the myth of Sisyphus is an antidote to the modern myth of progress. Myths can and do reveal perennial truths about human nature and culture. Mythographers are fond of saying that myths are stories that never happened but are always happening. The Greek myth of Sisyphus is a tale that unveils our valiant and irrepressible desire to create something unique out of our lives despite our despair and our defeats. This deep conversation plunges the depths and fullness of this misunderstood myth with master Greekophile Phil Cousineau. He reveals how, in the depths of the pandemic, he was inspired to turn the Sisyphus myth around. Just as Sisyphus had to fight against Zeus and his dominating ways, condemning this great hero [Sisyphus] to life in the underworld is a parable for the modern world and our fight against authoritarianism… We are all in hell during the pandemic. And I would argue that if our legends, fairytales, myths, our dreams, our novels, our output of Art cannot address the dark night of the soul, ‘It ain't Art’.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms) 


Phil Cousineau is a freelance writer, filmmaker, photographer, art and literary tour leader, teacher of creativity, mythographer, storyteller, and an all-around Renaissance man. He's published over 40 books and has over 25 documentary film writing credits. He is also host and co-writer of "Global Spirit," a nationally broadcast television series. 

Phil Cousineau’s books include: 

  • Wordcatcher (Viva Editions, Cleis Press 2010)
  • Beyond Forgiveness: Reflections On Atonement (Jossey-Bass 2011)
  • Stoking The Creative Fires (Red Wheel/Wiser 2008)
  • Burning the Midnight Oil: Illuminating Words For the Long Night's Journey Into Day (Viva Editions 2014)
  • The Book of Roads: Travel Stories from Michigan to Marrakech (Viva Editions 2015)
  • The Art of Pilgrimage revised (Conari Press 2021)
  • The Lost Notes of Sisyphus (Sisyphus Press 2021) 

To learn more about the work of Phil Cousineau go to

Topics explored in this dialogue include:

  • How Cousineau’s imagination was stimulated by the myth of Sisyphus
  • How to look for the story behind the story
  • How Camus said our legends and mythic material needs someone in every era to breathe new life into them
  • What did Camus, the French philosopher, have to say about Sisyphus
  • How Cousineau was reminded during the pandemic that we need to make our own meaning
  • How a great story gets into your bloodstream and dreamstream
  • How ultimately this is a story of triumph over sorrow
  • Why this myth has particular significance for our time
  • At the heart of the story is the participation with joy in the sorrows of the world
  • Why we must to love our struggles, not romanticizing or trivializing them
  • Why he gave Sisyphus a pen and parchment to write down his thoughts is to remind us that the act of writing can take us to the depths of a problem and find meaning
  • How the Sisyphus story reflects our own inward life and hopes against hope for a moment of release
  • What is the significance of Hades weeping black tears 

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 11/17/2021   Program Number: 3745

Music Playlist

From Album: Seven Serenades for Scalloped Fretboard Guitar
Artist: Matthew Montfort
2008 Ancient Future #AF 2008

Opening Essay: Track 01 Gauri the Golden
Music Break 1: Track 02 Sangria
Music Break 2: Track 02 Sangria (reprise)
Music Break 3: Track 02 Sangria (2nd reprise)