Minions and Ant People

Minions and Ant People

Pentecost 49

Tomorrow we will delve into the efforts of Cyrus, a leader who believed and had been encouraged by an ancient Greek myth, retold by Homer in the epic poem, “Iliad”. One of the central figures of the “Iliad” and Trojan War, Achilles was a warrior said to be protected by the gods and goddesses. The child of a nymph and the king of the Ant People, Achilles was said to have only one spot of weakness on his body, his heel. There are, as one might expect, differing stories as to how Achilles came to be so strong. Some believed ambrosia was spread all over his body and set afire. The one weak spot on his heel resulted from this process being interrupted. The more popular story is that his mother dipped him in the River Styx and held him by the heel, thus the only body part not to be protected.

Tomorrow we will explore more about Achilles but today, let’s go back to his father, Peleus. Read that last paragraph again and you will catch that, yes, I did say he was the king of the Ant People. The Myrmidons were a culture dating back to 2000 BCE. They lived on Aegina, one of the Saronic Islands of Greece, located about seventeen miles from Athens. Two thirds of the island is taken up by a large volcano but the island was very important in Greek trade with Asia Minor.   However, two generations before Achilles the island culture suffered a great plague with most of its residents killed. King Aeacus, the grandfather of Achilles, supposed pleaded with Zeus the once again populate his island. As recorded in Ovid’s text “Metamorphoses”, Zeus agreed to the request stating that the Myrmidons would once again “number as ants on his sacred oak” and from the ants would spring the Myrmidons.

The Myrmidons were great rivals of the Athenians and became known for their skill in battle and fierce loyalty to their leaders. Achilles himself is described as the bravest of warriors and his men follow his orders without question in the “Iliad”. The name became synonymous with someone who was a faithful, able-bodied servant in pre-industrial Europe. It later was a term used to describe a hired fighter and is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a loyal follower, especially one who executes orders without question, protest, or pity – unquestioning followers.”

Today some would describe followers of various radical cults and religious zealots in similar terms. Others might claim the difference was that the Myrmidons fought to protect the homeland and commerce. As we have discussed in earlier posts, perspective is often the lens through which one might see black and another white.

You might be wondering what a Greek mythological hero has to do with a movie that was released in the United Kingdom a month ago and in the United States last night. “The Minions” is a film about minions which are described as being small, yellow creatures that look like talking pharmaceutical capsules. They are said to have evolved since the beginning of time from single-cells organisms to their present state, the purpose of which is to serve as hired fighters, as Myrmidons from which the name minion evolved.

IN the movie the minions exist to serve the world’s most despicable bosses (Yes, this movie is a prequel to the movie released several years ago, “Despicable Me”). The minions is our movie have faithfully served a dominating Tyrannosaurus Rex, a belligerent caveman, an Egyptian pharaoh, the mythological vampire Dracula, and the real-life French dictator Napoleon. However, our movie minions are a bit too good at their job and end up executing all their masters. They decide to retreat to Antarctica but are soon hired by a female villain known as Scarlet Hill who is after the crown and monarchy of England.

I won’t spoil the myth of our modern-day minions for you and I do realize that few attending the film will realize how it evolved from a mythological character known as Achilles. I am fairly certain that when imagining his poem, Homer never envisioned his army becoming yellow, talking capsules found on t-shirts, notebooks, and on the big screen.

Ideas are often like ants, and they can scurry about and become larger than life. The importance of directing our thoughts for good is easily seen. The minions in this movie began as minor characters in another flick but took on a life of their own and now are the stars of their own. Whatever we do today, we must be sure that it has purpose and consequences of good.

The ants we know today are the result of over one hundred and thirty million years of evolution. They live in social communities and can carry up to five thousand times their body weight. Interestingly enough, ants do not carry any diseases, although germs live on them just as they do on humans. While it may not sound too complimentary, to be called Ant People was really a good thing. With over ten thousand different species of ants, the Myrmidons were guaranteed success in continuing and protecting their culture.

Today we are all minions of one kind or another. Hopefully, you will protect the innocent and fight for the dignity of all. May your ideas evolve into joy and I hope the day brings you laughter and smiles. Revisit the work of Homer and reread the story of Achilles; he is our coming attraction for tomorrow.

A New Day; A New Story

A New Day; A New Story

Pentecost 48

Today history will be written. New myths will be created. Today we will not spend time in rehashing old living. Today is for living the here and now. It is, after all, the only door to the future.

Bold words, huh? Perhaps they are also a little bit scary. Tomorrow we will return to the legends the Greeks told but today, today is for the legend of you, the story that you yourself will write.

The Greeks lived with their gods and goddesses. They did not keep them on some high mountain, objects to be worshipped only. Their deities often posed as humans or animals. They interacted with mankind and mankind interacted with them. Their names became common words, not whispered only in hallowed halls. This interaction gave them life and gave their stories heartbeats that continue to be heard today, pulses that keep the myths alive.

Today is a blank canvass. Your story is yours to write. Interact with the world and live. Be the hero or heroine of your own wonderful, magical myth, the story of you today. How do you start? Share a smile. Give a hug. Hold the door open for someone, not just the elderly or the infirmed. “One of the secrets in life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” Lewis Carroll knew that each day we fall down the rabbit hole called life. He became the legend known as the author of many poems and the children’s classic, “Alice in Wonderland”. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, famously penned: “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” The he was Charles Dodgson; now he was Lewis Carroll.

“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.” Ralph Waldo Emerson knew the value of the individual.

Today write your own story. Maybe one day we will read it; maybe not. What matters is that you live the life you want. This is your day to become what you desire. Today’s myth is the story of you.

Purpose and Porpoise

Purpose and Porpoise

Pentecost 47

Many of us would consider a walk along a sandy beach at sunset to be something close to a perfect setting. One year on my birthday I had spent the day visiting with family. We found ourselves walking along the ocean’s edge, the setting sun a beautiful backdrop as the day neared its end. Looking out on the ocean we realized there were animals swimming close to the kids who were splashing about less than three feet from the shoreline. Getting to within two feet of the kids, mimicking their movements, was a school of dolphins. Or were they porpoises? After all, for most of us, they are the same thing, right?

Much of what we know about Greek mythology is the result of one man’s writings. The poet Homer believed that man held his fate in his own hands. Man was not simply a creature to whom life happened, according to Homer. Man had the ability to make a life, to act and not just react. Homer used the myths of his ancestry to create a foundation of excellence for which one should strive. Because of Homer, the Greeks developed a culture for and of excellence and were possibly the first ancient culture to think outside the box of simply living to get by, to attempt to achieve lasting greatness.

Greek gods and goddesses looked amazingly like humans. Made in the image of mankind, these deities often masqueraded as humans. Think about the psychological undertones of this. The Greeks were satisfied with themselves so they had no need of creating deities that were better looking. Unlike the Judeo-Christian God who is said to have made man in His image, the Greeks made their gods in their image. Of course, being gods and goddesses, they could do more than mortals. The Greeks built temples for the worship of their deities but the deities came to them, not the other way around.

Ancient man first conceived the concept of a deity, a god, in the form of a woman. The greatest power early man had was that of reproduction. It was in fact the only part of any creation that man knew anything about and could replicate. A mere mortal could do nothing to create a flower except take care of the flower in its current generation. Mortals did nothing to cause the sunlight or the rain and they had no idea at all where the air they breathed originated or how it continued to be present. They only knew, slowly, that these things were necessary. Human reproduction was the only thing over which they seemed to have any control and so, it was something they could not only understand but also worship with clarity. Human reproduction was also the only way that the species known as mortals could continue and so, reproduction was considered sacred. The first deities were, in fact, of the female variety since women were vessels necessary to the creation of mankind.

The mind of a human being is a mind that evolves and is, in itself, a magnificent storytelling machine. We operate based upon identification and comparison. The first thought when we see something is “Do I have a point of reference for this?” Our mind identifies a bed because of the shape and assumed function. That is why a bed looks like a bed and a box of similar proportions as the bed looks like a box and not a bed. The Greeks were able to have a polytheistic culture because their gods and goddesses were created in their image and therefore had points of reference that could be easily understood.

Like a story that expands with each telling, the forms and powers of the Greek deities began to go beyond the physical image of mankind. A prominent female deity in the Greek culture was the Sphinx. With the head of a woman, the Sphinx had the body of a lion and the wings of an eagle. She posed a question to those seeking to enter the city of Thebes and, in keeping with Greek mythology, punished the visitor if she received a wrong answer. “What being in one lifetime goes on four legs, at another time on two, and yet when it is old, goes on three?” Legend states the any travelers not knowing the correct response would find themselves crushed in the lion paws of the Sphinx, strangled and asphyxiated.

The name Sphinx is from the Greek word “sphingo”, meaning to bind tightly. Perched high upon the rocks, the Sphinx posed her question which led to the inevitable death of all travelers on the road. Oedipus was the only one to correctly answer the Sphinx’s question. Arguing with a companion over who should go first, Oedipus kills the companion and then proceeds to give the Sphinx a one-word answer – man. He explains that as an infant, humans crawl around on four appendages; as adults, they walk upright on two legs; as older people, men and women often employed the use of a stick or cane, thus going about with three limbs to hold them upright. Upon receiving the correct answer, the Sphinx hurls herself down the roads to her death and Oedipus is made king of Thebes.

The Greeks used their stories to explain how life could be shaped by man. Just as the Romans would later appropriate their deities, the Greeks used those of older cultures. The Sphinx is one such example. The Egyptian Sphinx is much older although it was renamed with the Greek named due to the similarities in description – another example of relating to what is known. The Sphinx itself is both a Greek deity and an Egyptian one. The Egyptian Sphinx was a male deity of more ancient times than the Greek one and resided outside the city of Giza. It was forgotten by the world until it was rediscovered by the armies of Napoleon in 1798. Other Sphinx statues have been erected all over the world and can be found today in Paris, Russia, Scotland, and even in the USA in Las Vegas.

The Greeks used mythology to illustrate what could and did happen to mankind in daily living. They compared to what was known in order to dream about the unknown, make assumptions, and then proceed to discover new things. They were not so concerned with what happened after one’s death, as in older cultures, but in what happened in the here and now. That had no point of reference for the unknown after life but they could easily relate to daily living that we all conduct.

Standing on the shores of the ocean that day, I was at peace with the here and now. Watching the sea animals mimic the human children was delightful. After all, dolphins are known to be gentle creatures and very friendly. It’s not like they were swimming with whales, a more threatening creature due to its own legends. The playful dolphins or porpoises (Who can tell them apart?) seemed to be the perfect addition to a beautiful scene. Thing is, though, I did not know whether they were dolphins or porpoises and porpoises…well, they aren’t the same as dolphins. They are not the same species. Porpoises are, in fact, whales.

It is important that we examine and explore that which we hold in reverence. Not every person in a cult or radical group is fully aware of the intentions of their leaders. Blindly following because it is fashionable can lead to one’s own destruction as well as the deaths of many. Religion get a bad rap not because worship is wrong but because of how we do it, or how we don’t think about what we are doing. We need to make certain what we are, in fact, worshipping. We need to know whether we have a purpose or are simply following a case of mistaken identity, like the porpoise. We need to make sure that which we revere is worth the journey of our life.

It’s All in Your Mind

It’s All in Your Mind

Pentecost 46

The Greeks used their mythologies not only as an explanation for what they saw but also for what they experienced. Like most cultures with a strong oral tradition, these stories changed with each telling. However, the Greeks scribed their stories, assigning people to write them down. Thus, there were basic commonalities with their stories. Nevertheless, mankind being composed of humans, even with their mythologies recorded for posterity, there were variations. In other words, people gossiped about their deities.

There is a great deal of science involved in the basic act of gossip. People tend to join with others who believe the same version of gossip and some prefer not to associate with groups that disbelieve a certain aspect of gossip. For instance, those who call themselves pagans are included to tell stories about the deities of nature and feel they live a very basic and simple lifestyle that honors the very core of the essence of life. Others call such people witches and feel no shame in spreading stories about them. At one point, people thought to be witches were killed, simply based upon perception with little or no real evidence to justify their deaths.

First we should explore exactly what gossip is and quite honestly, that is not an easy thing to do. Gossip can be as innocent as casual conversation and as harmful as malicious rumors. Oddly enough, the word “gossip” comes from an ancient English word meaning Godparent or sponsor and is a combination of two words which meant God and sibling or relative. It’s original meaning warped into meaning a casual acquaintance and then in the nineteenth century to meaning idle talk.

Gossip was once a learning tool. It was a type of vocal newspaper and helped to unify people. Mankind began as primates who lived in clans and existed by living off the land. The ability to speak allowed for the exchange of ideas and for the growth of the speech centers in our brains that interpret language. Unlike many animals, the human body allows our windpipe to access our thorax and vocal chords. We are able to vocalize and sing with intention, unlike other animals.

It may not seem like it but the accomplishments of a toddler in learning language and how to vocalize and say specific words is actually a minor miracle. By age six, the average child knows almost thirteen thousand words and by age twenty-one, their vocabulary has increased to sixty thousand words. Some psychologists believe this evolution of language encouraged man to develop the ability to master the politics of social living. Not only do we speak to groups of people, we have learned how to interpret their nonverbal language, those signs that are indicative of feelings, emotions, and motives. These skills have allowed human tribes to exist and coexist rather than feel in direct competition and kill each other simply for being alive.

Gossip serves three very important functions in our world today. First it is a type of networking. There are social hierarchies in everyone’s life. Networking gives us a sense of belonging and expanding our community, our tribe. These connections lead to improved health, great wealth, and overall happiness. Gossip also becomes a key element in the world of influence, both in a negative sense and a positive sense. Political candidates utilize gossip to officially not say what they what known. Lastly, gossip creates social alliances as mentioned earlier. People will congregate with those who believe the same thing they do.

Gossip becomes an uncertain tool because societies are ever-changing. They are not stagnant but evolve daily. The problem is in defining exactly what gossip is and in determining whether or not you believe it to be true. In our world today of instant global access to words spoken sixty second after they are uttered, it might seem like everything would be truth. That would be wrong. There often is a huge difference between what gossip is and what fact is. Gossip may begin as fact but, like the mythologies of ancient times, the facts somehow get told and then retold with subtle variations that, after a time, can become the opposite of the truth. Some psychologists believe the intention for telling the story determines whether it is fact or gossip. Sometimes, though, life is just not that simple.

Psyche was a Greek goddess who was engaged in some casual conversation with her sisters. They asked her to describe her husband and when she admitted she had never actually seen him, they began telling her he was a monster. Psyche had never actually seen her husband, having once been a mortal princess and began to believe her sisters’ stories. That night she hid a knife and candle so as to see his face and be ready to kill him if he indeed was a monster. This is not the end of her story but really just the beginning for Psyche. Although she allowed her sisters’ gossip to sway her mind and influence her actions, she does eventually reconcile with her husband, the god of love known as Eros or Cupid.

The story of Psyche is said to be an allegory, a story with a deeper meaning that just the basic story. Her name in Greek means both butterfly and soul. Regardless of what is said about us, we can continue to live and transform our lives and explore our soul. Eleanor Roosevelt stated: “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” Live according to your beliefs, not idle gossip.

Same Yet Different

Same yet Different

Pentecost 45

In 1973 a prominent American church decided to begin ordaining women as ministers within their denomination. In 2006 this same denomination elected a woman to be the primary acting director. I refrain from calling her the “head” or “boss” since churches of this faith claim God is their leader and the teachings and gospels of the Bible their business plan. At any rate, both decisions caused great reaction within their own communities and internationally. Discussions about what is appropriate to each gender, biases towards the genders and even understanding might very well have a home in the Greek mythologies.

It is said that Zeus and Hera once argued over who derived the most pleasure from the act of love-making or sexual intercourse. Each claimed the other’s gender enjoyed it more. You might be a bit puzzled at this point, since both deities seemed to indulge in such encounters. Why, one might ask, did they do so if they did not derive great pleasure from it? Perhaps they each felt they were such great lovers that their partners had to be in ecstasy. Perhaps it was but one of hundreds of traps they laid for each other. It is important to remember that gods and goddesses did not engage in such acts in order to propagate. Hera gave birth to one of her children, according to legend, by slapping her hand on a table.

Because they could not reach agreement, Zeus and Hera turned to a seer to resolve their argument regarding which gender most enjoyed the physical act of bodies joining in a physical coming together. They wisely chose the soothsayer, known for his wisdom, Tiresias. Tiresias was from Thebes and said to be the son of one of the goddess Athena’s favorites, a nymph known as Chariclo.

Tiresias was a curious lad, especially about nature. One day he is out playing and exploring, according to Greek mythology, when he comes upon two snakes coupling and whether by design or mistake, wounds the female snake. Having lived over a decade as a male, Tiresias is suddenly, upon the injuring of the female snake, turned into a woman. For seven years Tiresias lives as a woman. He then returns to the very same spot, again sees two snakes, said to be the same reptiles as before, coupling and this time injures the male snake. He again undergoes transformation, this turn returning to life as a male.

Tiresias as a character in the Greek mythologies was often used by poets such as Sophocles, Euripides, Pindar, and Ovid. In his home of Thebes, he is said to have played a major role in the tragedies involving Laius, the king of Thebes, and his son Oedipus. The myths disagree on the span of Tiresias life, same claiming seven generation and others nine but he is said to have died after what is known as the ”Seven Against Thebes”, seven brave champions who died defending their hometown of Thebes.

In resolving the argument between Zeus and Hera, Tiresias agrees with Zeus that women enjoy the act of physical intercourse more than men. In some legends it is at that point that Hera strikes Tiresias and renders him blind. More stories, however, have him losing his blindness upon his transition back into being a male. There is yet another group of myths that tell of Tiresias seeing the goddess Athena bathing and, unhappy he saw her naked body, she takes away his eyesight. His father appeals to the goddess for help and so, she does not retain Tiresias’ ability to see but gives him the gift of seeing the future. His own future becomes that of a favorite seer. Homer has Tiresias retaining this gift in his epic “The Odyssey”, retaining this ability even after death. It is in the underworld that Odysseus consults with Tiresias. Tiresias is also a character in later literature, in a play by surrealist writer Guillaume Apollinaire and in the twentieth century work of T. S. Eliot, “the Waste Land”.

One might wonder why, if physical actions were so important and enjoyed and women supposedly got the better end of the deal, why Tiresias wanted to return to life as a male rather than remain a female. Men and women have disagreed over which was the better sex for almost all of time and each has laid a great deal of blame for the world’s conditions on the other since the beginning of time. The early Creation authors of the Jewish and Christian faiths laid the blame for living in an imperfect world at the feet of Eve. Rejecting the belief that Adam could have made his own choices, the writers of these stories make Eve the villain in that myth. Some claim this is the start of gender bias but these Greek mythologies might suggest otherwise.

Gender bias is the differential treatment of a person based solely upon their gender. Such treatment discounts their abilities, their skin color, their eye shape, the length of their nose or the color of their hair, the number of working hands and feet they possess, or even their ability to think, reason, breathe, sing, dance, or render aid. It includes those actions which originate based completely on the presence of one type of organs and the absence of another. Gender bias has existed in one form or another in every culture and in many mythologies worldwide.

What the American church discovered when they began ordaining women as ministers to carry out certain responsibilities within their places of worship and communities was that it did not matter if the hands offering the blessed sacraments were male or female. Whether the voices speaking their hallowed words were male or female did not silence the message nor defile it in any way. The wine and communion bread being blessed did not instantly turn to ashes when the blessing was said by a female rather than a male as it had been done for centuries.

The American church discovered that it was not the male or female acting as an ordained minister that made the difference. What gave their actions and words meaning was the listener, the participant, each individual person. That audience, whether male or female had the very same opportunities to hear and receive then act accordingly in an appropriate manner. The gender made absolutely no difference at all.

A great many people today will pass each other on the street or in cars and glance at their neighbor. Because they have brains, instant observations and thought processes will follow their vision. Perhaps in order to accurately see and go forward in the future, we need to be blinded to our differences and instead, see our oneness. When we sweep away the clutter, we gain much better vision, more accurate perceptions that are not hindered by preconceived ideas or bias.

Imagine yourself trapped in a burning building. Whether the hand helping to pull us out of a burning building is male or female most likely is not important. Their offering aid and the chance to live is paramount. The fact that the surgeon performing emergency surgery to save a child’s life is female or male is not what saves the life but rather their training and expertise. It doesn’t matter when one is awaiting an organ for transplant if that heart or lung or kidney is from a male or female; it just has to be match physically. The person providing a bowl of hot soup to a hungry child or homeless person can be a male, a female, or a male who was once a female or vice versa.

The point is that we all matter and we all have much to offer. Whether one person likes packing lunches for children to take home to have food to eat or another likes running a marathon to earn money for medical research, we all can contribute to the family of man. We are all uniquely created, different with our own personalities and talents and abilities. Yet, we are also all the same at the core of our being, the literal and figurative heart of our soul. Bias cures nothing. Discrimination feeds only negativity. Prejudice offers only limited life.

American Indians have a saying “You must walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before knowing his path.” In 1964 Raymond Wiley Miller wrote in his “Conservative Looks at Cooperatives” about the Muslim proverb: “To understand a man, you’ve got to walk a mile in his shoes, whether they fit or not.” Similar to the “love thy neighbor as thyself” in the Jewish and Christian religions, other spiritualties have corresponding adages.  American writer Harper Lee sums it up best when her character Atticus Finch says in her acclaimed novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Mountain of Potential

Mountain of Potential

Pentecost 33

For most of us, the abodes of the super powerful beings that inhabit the mythologies and stories of folk lore live in imaginary places: the ice castle-like setting to which Superman returns; the deep dark and technologically equipped cave of Batman; even the time traveling telephone booth of Dr. Who. These places stir our creative juices and light the fire of our imaginations. None look like what we see outside out windows. Most are able to be visited only in theme parks that attempt to create them to encourage visitors and continue the myths.

Mount Olympus may very well be proof of the old adage: If you can dream it, it can become real. It is unknown who first wove the original tale of Gaia emerging from the Chaos. Known as Mother Earth, Gaia is given credit for giving birth to the rest of the world and its features. Other Greek myths give that place to Eurynome, often portrayed in the form of a dove. What we do know is that Greek mythology speaks of Ourea as being the mountains, a child of the earliest deities.

But there are many mountains so how were the stories to account for this? In true storytelling format, the one birthing of the Mountain deity Ourea became ten. Known as some of the primordial gods and goddesses, these original spirits were called “ourea” and named Aitna, Athos, Helikon, Kithairon, Nysos, Olympus 1, Olympus 2, Oreios, Parnes, and Tmolus. Timolus, like Uranus and Pontus were considered parthenogenetic children of Gaia. It may seem unlikely that one female could alone give birth but there is scientific basis for such which is actually rather common in lower vertebrates and some plants.

We also do not know which came first – the legend or the naming. Most believe the mountain we now today as Mount Olympus was named after the stories. It makes sense. Olympus is the tallest mountain in all of Greece. The most concise stories of the Greek gods and goddesses are found in the writing of Homer. His early epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, give no exact location for Mount Olympus and several mountain ranges actually are named such.

It makes sense, however, that Mount Olympus we visit today is the one of which Homer wrote. The highest peak, Mytikas, is at a height of 9750 feet or 2918 meters. Visible above the cloud line, Homer described it as being free from storms. Second tallest of the Balkan Mountains, the rocks of Olympus are relatively new in terms of earth’s geographical history and today is a World Biosphere Reserve.

The Mount Olympus in Greece is not the only Mount Olympus, though. Washington State, in the United States of America, also boasts a Mount Olympus, one with an international history. For centuries, the American Indians of the area, the Quileute tribe, called the mountain something sounding like “o-Sky”. Some speculate they were saying “Oh-El-Ski”; others believe it to perhaps be “Oh-Sky”. The name has never been translated and the similarity to the mountain rising up to the sky, an English word, is merely coincidence most likely.

In 1774 a Spaniard named Juan Perez saw the mountain in Washington from aboard his ship in the Pacific Ocean. He named the mountain El Cerro de la Santa Rosalia after a Spanish saint who lived in the mountains alone. Perez would have been unable to know just how isolated his “Peak of Santa Rosalia” actually was but his name fit. Alas, it only stood as the name for four years.

On July 4th, 1778, a British explorer saw the same mountain aboard another ship in the area. This explorer, John Meares, called the mountain Mount Olympus and remarked that it looked like a home to the gods.   In 1792 Captain George Vancouver officially named the mountain on an official map. Attempts in the ensuing years to rename the mountain have failed and the name stands today.

The Olympus of the Greeks boasts fifty-two gorges, and dozens of smooth peaks. Once lions roamed its lands but today even the deer have mostly disappeared. Thirty-two species of mammals have been documented on Olympus with twenty-two species of reptiles. Over 1700 types of flora call Olympus home and, although it is known as the home of the gods, few really were said to live there.

The Greeks used their mythologies to idealize aspects of mankind and their worship was to emphasize, explain, and enlighten various features and characteristics of mankind. The website sacredsite.com explains: “The deities believed to have dwelled upon the mythic mount were Zeus, the king of the gods; his wife Hera; his brothers Poseidon and Hades; his sisters Demeter and Hestia; and his children, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Athena, Hermes and Hephaestus. It is interesting to note that these Olympian gods and goddesses were understood in ancient times as archetypes representing idealized aspects of the multi-faceted human psyche. Worship of the deities was a method of invoking and amplifying those aspects in the behavior and personality of the human worshipper. Zeus was the god of mind and the intellect, and a protector of strangers and the sanctity of oaths; Hera was a goddess of fertility, the stages of a woman’s life and marriage; Apollo represented law and order, and the principles of moderation in moral, social and intellectual matters; Aphrodite was a goddess of love and the overwhelming passions that drove humans to irrational behavior; Hermes was the god of travellers, of sleep and dreams and prophecy; Athena was spiritual wisdom incarnate; Hephaestus was the god of the arts and fire; and Ares represented the dark, bloodthirsty aspect of human nature.”

The word dwell is often used in discussing these Greek deities but it should be noted that where they dwelled was not exactly their home. Much like many in today’s busy world spend more time at the office than in their own abodes, the gods and goddesses used Olympus as an office rather than a place of comfort and relaxation. Mount Olympus was more of a metaphor for the power of the mountain and perhaps the power of home to all of us.

Olympus today represents potential – potential of the power of stories but also potential of the power of mankind working together with the natural world. Once considered a holy place, today Olympus still offers sanctuary for those who seek its power. What we need to learn is that, for the Greeks and their gods, just like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz”, there really is “no place like home”.

Home should be a human right and today so many have become refugees who must flee their home. Our world is really our Olympus – the earth and the universe. The International Space Station has become the one place where diversity meets science and basic human dignity in the cooperation of nations and mankind. If we can do it in space, we must be able to do it on earth. After all, no one ever reached the summit of Olympus without first taking a step at the bottom. Potential is reached by slowing taking each step as it comes. The journey leads to success and the mountain summit reached in glory.

Chaos, Order, and then more Chaos

Chaos, Order, and then more Chaos

Pentecost 31

It would make sense that Greek mythology would have been a bit clearer than other mythologies. After all, the Greeks did not revere their gods and goddesses in secret. They built temples and statues of them and then displayed them out in the open. There was once a line in a television program called “Designing Women” in which the lead character Julia Sugarbaker played by actress Dixie Carter speaks about a family member that is a bit …unique. “I’m saying this is the South. And we’re proud of our crazy people. We don’t hide them up in the attic. We bring them right down to the living room and show them off.” The Greeks showed off their gods and goddesses – all of them and they were many of them.

Greek mythology not only had answers in their myths about the different ethnicities found within mankind that resulted in different social classes, they gave their gods different classes. In fact, the term gods really did not refer to deities but rather characters. Some had divine attributes but many did not. Greek mythology, some of it, separated the creation of the world and the creation of their gods. In fact, it was not until the creation of the gods and goddesses who lived on Mount Olympus that Greek mythology really has divine gods and goddesses.

Breaking down Greek mythology to its very beginning is something like a science class, not a story or folklore class. In the beginning there was only Chaos. The Greeks viewed Chaos as an elemental force. It was its own definition and was not composed of anything else except itself. It is easy to compare the Greek creation story of Chaos with the scientific version of the big bang theory, a cataclysmic combustion of all within space.

It is also easy to compare the Greek beginning of Chaos with our own identity creation. AS infants we are nothing and everything. Within the first five years of life, the average human learns more than at any other time in their life. They become aware of not only their own presence and body but also those of others, human and natural. Each new life is its own elemental force, awaiting that time in which it bursts through and forms its own identity.

William Shakespeare once penned: “we know what we are but not what we may be.” As newborns, we don’t really know what we are but each new baby feels perfectly justified and insistent in making their needs known. Regretfully, science has had occasion to see what happens when children grow up, both with nurturing and without. Orphans growing up in deplorable conditions can become blind from the lack of stimulus for their eyes with no real disease present. Children who are never held are unable to relate to others. Just as a plant needs sustenance, air, and sunlight, as well as water to thrive, human beings need much the same. We may know we are human but unless the value of each human is recognized, respected, and nurtured, then the potential becomes unrealized and forever unknown. Chaos never gives birth to Order and identity is never found.

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” Oscar Wilde was not speaking of some of his characters but of every man and woman. When we follow the trends and fashion instead of deciding for ourselves what we like or dislike, then we are living someone else’s life.

The Greek gods and goddesses most well-known are those that lived on Mount Olympus who are known as the Olympians. There are twelve famous ones but many others. They originated from the Titans and ruled the world and all of mankind. The Greeks endowed these deities with human characteristics, though. They illustrated human characteristics with both strengths and weaknesses found in mankind. To make them relatable, these Olympians represented every aspect of human nature. The stories of these deities helped Greeks shape their own identities.

In 2005 the late Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech in which he advised: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” The noise of Greek mythology did not drown out the Greeks, it created them. Through the stories of the Titan, the Cyclops, and the Olympians, the Greeks learned to thrive, survive, and come alive.

We write the story of ourselves each and every day. Patrick Rothfuss agreed in “The Name of the Wind”: “It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”  We are the only ones who can take the Chaos of our story and create Order. We are the authors of our own mythology called life.