Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Gods Do Exist . . .

The ancient Greeks were a truly remarkable people for the simple reason that they looked life in the face, and never, never blinked.

Consider for a moment their universe. The gods descended from heaven and visited on earth little but mayhem and suffering. The only comfort they give to abject humanity is death and with it, oblivion and non-existence. Such grim release was humanity’s only final hope. For the Greeks, the first divine principle was Eris, strife. The second was Eros, desire. From both came thanatos. After these entities came the divine family: Gaia and Ouranos; Chronos and Rhea; Zeus and Hera, Apollo and Artemis, Mars and Aphrodite – and all the other gods, even those that went unnamed.

For the most part, they are socio-paths, behaving as serial rapists, sexual predators, vindictive criminals, and adulterers surrounded by children wrought of suffering - Bacchus, Asculapius, Perseus, Herakles, and others.

Semele, Danae, Koronis, and various other mortals - all suffer as a result of this need for gratification and the stroking of frail egos. Compassion for Apollo was tearing the child out of Koronis’ womb when she was on the pyre after he slew her. Bacchus is not recognized by Pentheus and his flesh rendered in a exquisite sparagmos by his mother. It’s a macrocosm of humanity’s microcosm - of Paris and Helen, Phaedra and Hippolytus, Medea and Jason whereby desire means death.

And this is the world – a world of pure lamentation - which the Greeks faced each morning when they emerged from their hard beds of wood, straw, and lice. A kosmos of toil between the anvil of barren rock and the hammer of fiery sun.

Proof that these gods exist is ubiquitous. Consider for a moment Ares. Does he not run rampant today in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Congo, and particularly in America, where he visits fever upon our land? Consider mighty Aphrodite, how she can bedazzle us with her spell. Consider Eros, how sharp his dart is. Consider Bacchus, how powerful the grip of his vine and their succulent tendrils.

These powers have no ethics, no morality – in a perverse type of Zen, they simply “are” and behave as they will. But they are mightier, more tangible, more ubiquitous, and lay by the heel other religious systems. And here I think in particular of the three great religions, with their vital, important, and sadly futile emphasis on ethics and justice. Noble intentions - but no match for the sword of Ares, the kiss of Arphrodite, the intoxication of Bacchus.

How real they are, Eris and Eros, origin of the gods.

Not to accept them is to blink.



Anonymous Gus. said...

Well, give me one more "free pass" to namedrop a little Polybius and quote 6.56.12-13.

"I think, not that the ancients acted rashly and at haphazard in introducing among the people notions concerning the gods and beliefs in the terrors of hell, but that the moderns are most rash and foolish in banishing such beliefs."

That's it, I promise. No more Polybius.

6:20 AM  

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