If someone had told Sisyphus that he was no longer required to push a large boulder up a mountainside for all eternity . . . would he have carried on anyway? According to a 2010 paper in the journal Psychological Science, he might well have.
“Our research suggests that Sisyphus was better off with his punishment than he would have been with a punishment of an eternity of doing nothing, and that he might have chosen rolling a rock over idleness if he had been given a slight reason for doing it.”
The research team speculate(d) that :
“[…] most people today no longer expend much energy on basic survival needs, so they have excessive energy, which they like to release through action.”
And so, due to idleness aversion, prefer fighting each other, making money, or writing scientific papers. The authors offer some practical advice regarding their discoveries :
“For example, homeowners may increase the happiness of their idle housekeepers by letting in some mice and prompting the housekeepers to clean up. Governments may increase the happiness of idle citizens by having them build bridges that are actually useless.”
See: Idleness Aversion and the Need for Justifiable Busyness Psychological Science. 21(7):926-30. A free copy of which may be found here
Illustration source Wikipedia