In Appreciation of the Moment

perseus
Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini

“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear…”

What an interesting time to be alive! The world has seemingly gone mad, kind of like a little child whose very important something is down there in the basement.

Cue creaking basement door. The light switch, of course, doesn’t work.

It’s down there somewhere in all that dark. Sure it is.

Oh geez! Looks like we have a call to adventure on our hands!

“No way,” says our not so intrepid hero. “I’ll just go back to bed and curl up into a ball under the covers.”

And there’s the refusal of the call. Happens every time.

But we all know how the story will go. That very important something will eat at the little lad (And it is a little lad. That’s important as we’ll soon see.) until he girds his loins, dons the plastic armor and helmet he got for Halloween, takes up his plastic shield and sword and VENTURES FORTH. But until then he’s going to be a tangled up little neurotic. Psychotic if he puts it off long enough.

Poor lil guy. How he will suffer.

Let’s call him… Donnie. There are other names, sure. Mitch. Paul. Jeff. Lindsey. (Wait. Lindsey? isn’t that a… Oh never mind.) And Donnie will either hold fast to the known and comfortable until he outgrows the armor and lives the life of hollow men worldwide, or he does the loin girding thing and confronts his fear.

Fast forward and, sure enough, psychosis everywhere. And here the simile ends.

So right now a whole lot of people, unfortunately with a whole lot of money and power, are so afraid of the deep, dark future that they’re working hammer and tongs to hide us all in the 1950’s, but without the tax rates. Pluralism and globalism and gender equality! Oh my! And these guys, and, yes, women with an acute case of Stockholm Syndrome, all utter the same war cry: Save Western Civilization!

Now that’s really an interesting war cry when you think about it. I mean, back in the 18th Century, some clever men of their time worked pretty hard and bled a lot of very real blood lopping off their connection to that “Western Civilization” with its divine right of kings and queens and a centuries long religious fanaticism that put the “dark” in the Middle Ages. Enter the age of democracy and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!  And my how we’ve evolved since then! To this point. To this moment right here. Right now.

The other day I posted the following on Facebook:

The “Western Civilization” the right is so worried about saving is the one conquered by an Eastern religion in the 4th Century.

Prior to that, “Western Civilization” gave us democracy and the republic, didn’t really care what god or gods you worshipped, what your skin color was, or if you were gay.

Both, alas, were misogynist as hell.

Isn’t that interesting?

So the Founders, and this was very hip at the time, went all retro by hopscotching the Christian Middle Ages and dusting off some ancient, but very good, ideas. (Kudos to the Renaissance for birthing the Enlightenment.) Now this isn’t a matter of bashing Christianity. Not at all. The Founders were, or what passed for at the time, “good Christians.” (No, they wouldn’t pass for “good Christians” today. Except John Adams, maybe. Not Jefferson. And certainly not Tom Paine, omg.)

But the fact is, Christianity brought a kind of really intolerant tribalism to Europe. It didn’t mean to. In fact it went all kinds of opposite day because certain people really did mean to. (See Theodosius, Constantine and others for details.) And that’s the Western Civilization rich, white men want to save today.

But, as Arlo says, that’s not what I came to tell you about.

We all know the tale of the guy in the image up top. (If you don’t, you should. Here. Read it now.) The tale of Perseus and Medusa, a classic hero’s adventure, is one of the oldest stories in the Greco-Roman tradition, going back around 3,000 years. It can be interpreted in any number of ways, except literally. (Alas that I have to even add that, but in a time when the likes of Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson are running wild best to say so. Kind of like warning labels on plastic bags. )

But let’s run with it, as Joe Campbell tells us, as myth as cultural, collective dream:

Professor Hammond assigns the historical King Perseus of Mycenae to a date c. 1290 B.C., as the founder of a dynasty; and Robert Graves — whose two volumes on The Greek Myths are particularly noteworthy for their suggestive historical applications — proposes that the legend of Perseus beheading Medusa means, specifically, that “the Hellenes overran the goddess’s chief shrines” and “stripped her priestesses of their Gorgon masks…” That is to say, there occurred in the early thirteenth century B.C. an actual historic rupture, a sort of sociological trauma, which has been registered in this myth, much as what Freud terms the latent content of a neurosis is registered in the manifest content of a dream: registered yet hidden, registered in the unconscious yet unknown or misconstrued by the conscious mind. And in every such screening myth — in every such mythology… — there inheres an essential duplicity, the consequences of which cannot be disregarded or suppressed. Mother Nature, Mother Eve, Mother Mistress-of-the-World is there to be dealt with all the time, and the more sternly she is cut down, the more frightening will her Gorgoneum be. This may cause her matricidal son to achieve a lot of extremely spectacular escape work, and he may end by becoming master of the surface of the earth… (from Masks of God: Occidental Mythology by Joseph Campbell, Arkana Publishing, 1991. pg. 152)

In other words, the image of Perseus and Medusa is a snapshot of a moment when the feminine divine was actively suppressed and demonized by an invading, patriarchal society. This occured in the European Basin at the same time the patriarchal, semitic tribes were doing the same thing in the Nuclear Near East. In Greece we got Medusa. In Palestine we got Eve. In both, the feminine became subordinate and women, for centuries, little better than slaves.

But subordinate to this very day.

And this is the moment, right now, today, that our cultural evolution, with democracy as its center of gravity, has brought us to. This is the moment when the feminine regains its place and status. The classical images of the goddess are always associated with the serpent, the symbol of the ever renewing cycle of life. If you’ve ever watched a snake shed its skin, you know it struggles. It isn’t easy. Being born is hard work.

Compare the following image, which showed up on the Joseph Campbell Foundation Mythic Salon Facebook page a few months ago, with the one above. It then reappeared recently within the context of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings, in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a brave woman who gritted her teeth and walked down those stairs into the dark, and dared to challenge a patriarchy desperate to save itself from the  frightening Gorgoneum with the sword.

I would expect, just as with any powerful, mythic imagery, it might elicit a visceral response. A bit uncomfortable, boys? It is jarring. It throws the world off kilter.

Good.

It’s been 3,000 years. Ladies, you’ve waited long enough.

Medusa
If anyone knows the artist’s name, please let me know!

 

It’s rather cool to be here. Of all the times we could have been, this is the time we are, when we do cross that threshold, journey down the stairs to find it’s not so dark after all.

“The fates lead him who will; him who won’t they drag.”~ Seneca

Cheers,

Clemsy

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