The Story of Atlas

In Greek mythology, Atlas was a Titan who suffered an untoward fate after his comrades were defeated in battle. Zeus condemned him to stand at the western end of the earth and bear the sky upon his shoulders. Today an "atlas" is anyone who shoulders a very great burden.

The figure of Atlas might symbolize the struggle of many to find meaning and purpose in a world that offers as many impediments, cruelties, injustices, and setbacks as rewards and compensations. The sky upon one's shoulders might be racism or sexism or a mediocre society or the temptation to settle lethargically into a feckless middle-class existence. It could be of a graver, more psychic kind: the incipient sense that there's no real point to living, that one is, as Hesse put it, "a beast astray who finds neither home nor joy nor nourishment in a world that is strange and incomprehensible to him."