Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ending a Cycle

The Greeks have a myth which says the Sky, Ouranos, would descend upon the Earth, Gaia (his own mother), to rape her. He despised the children bore through these sessions, so he stuck them in the Deep Place, Tartarus, which caused Gaia great pain. She fashioned a sickle which she offered to her children to use as a weapon against their father. The youngest among them, Kronos, took it and castrated his father.

Kronos didn’t let everyone out, though. He kept some of his brothers and sisters deep within Tartarus, for he found them to be monstrous. Gaia was upset that he was turning out to be no different than his father. She cursed him with the promise that his own son would overthrow him as he had his father before.

When Kronos’ wife had children, he did not put them in Tartarus; he consumed them. He devoured five of his children before the sixth was saved by his wife, Rhea. She wrapped a rock in blankets and gave this decoy to Kronos to eat when he came looking for the child. This youngest child she named Zeus, and he was cared for and fed by a goat named Amalthea.

This myth is a metaphorical story of the power struggle and psychology of humanity: the young hero must overcome a tyrant, only to grow into the role of the oppressor and give birth to the adversary who will one day defeat him. Beyond the individual implications, it can also be extrapolated on a cultural level, whereby one culture grows and becomes dominant, only to spawn a subculture which will one day overtake it.

I feel this is the great problem facing us today. We live in a post-Freudian world where the Oedipus Complex is common knowledge. The story of Oedipus has the king send his newborn son to a field to die. What if the Oedipus Complex is unjust to Oedipus? It was, after all, his father who struck first.

However, what of the Kronos Complex? I find the Greek creation myth to be far more to the point: it is not about sleeping with your mother or wanting to kill your father. Rather, it is about a father’s sins, the need for his son to right his wrongs, and the subsequent repetition of error which dooms the liberator to a fate of oppressor. To show the power of this myth, I find visuals are very important:

These are “Saturn [Romanized Kronos] Devouring His Son,” the first by Peter Paul Rubens (1636) and the second by Fransisco de Goya (~1820).

I find these to be powerful images, and ones which clearly illustrate the pragmatic, almost mechanical cruelty in the Rubens, and a crazed paranoia in the Goya. These two aspects of the paternal oppressor are both very relevant in the human experience.

Another aspect of the myth is the exile of the Gigantes (Giants), Hecatonchires (100-handed ones), and all the Cyclopes. Zeus freed them all after his overthrow of Kronos, and even though the Gigantes joined with the Titans to attack him later, Zeus was able to repel the onslaught with the help of the monsters rejected by his foes. Zeus attains superiority by having the bigger tent.

I find this myth to be far more interesting and beneficial than a story which seeks to ingrain within us the idea that we want what we shouldn’t have, and that knowledge is evil.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If your comment is too long, break it into multiple comments and post them all.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...