Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gods and Heroes

"... black-winged night,
into the bosom of Erebus dark and deepLaid a wind-born egg, and as the season rolledForth sprang Love, the longed-for, shinning with
wings of gold."

The Birds, Aristophanes (circa 446-386 B.C.E.)

The wind is blowing fiercely outside and the temperature has dipped into the 30's. I decided to stay home and warm up with a cup of coffee and a book I recently took out from the library. The book, Mythology by Edith Hamilton (1867-1963), was one of my favorite books growing up in the balmy Caribbean. Even though my island was thousands of miles away from the Aegean Sea I could see war clad heroes and immortal gods roaming about the rugged acantilados (sea cliffs) of Borinquen (PuertoRico).

I was a sick child. Bedridden by asthma I took to reading from an early age in order to placate my anxiety. My father lost his first child in Spain due to a very negligent medical system. He was overcautious about any of his children's health issues. I perceived his deep anxiety every time he saw me gasping for air and crying in fear that I might die. Asthma was an existential affair to me. At only six or seven years old I could feel the mayhem I was causing in my home. I was the center of attention because I had to be taken care of and monitored. I vividly remember my father injecting Adrenaline into my arm at 3 o'clock in the morning. My lips had a purplish undertone due to the lack of oxygen. Back then, the 60's, there was limited knowledge on the condition. My Catalonian grandmother, Abita, would sit next to my bed giving me chest rubs with alcoholado (bay rum) filled with eucalyptus leaves. She would pray to the Holy Infant of Prague for my survival. Those prayers still inhabit my soul. They were tender, heartfelt prayers. In moments of fear and panic in my life I go deep inside and connect with the deep vibrating sounds of Abita's husky voice.

One day my father brought me three gigantic books with very colorful illustrations. One of the books was the The Iliad. I was captivated by the stories in that book. I saw myself in them on account that my name is Hector like the Trojan warrior prince. I read about the capricious gods and combatant mortals. From my bed I imagined the real world to be a n heroic saga. These stories whetted my appetite for creativity and critical thinking. The Greek myths are, simply put, lessons in human ethics. A child that learns about the gifts of antiquity in the form of literature and art is a child that realizes that he or she is a vital cultural descendant of those marvelous people that gave us civilization. Zeus, Dionysus, Demeter, Odysseus, the Muses and Medusa the Gorgon stand for the complexity and meaning of our innermost human traits. Love, triumph, defeat, betrayal, happiness and sorrow among them. In our present world we have forgotten our past. We are very much disconnected from the glory and richness of the Ancient World.

This stormy day I feel fragile and a bit distant from the insane speed of our society and the bumpy roads of modernity. I feel reduced to a number (read NUMBer). This is contrary to my spirit. Those readings about gods and heroes give me strength for I know I am the son of their triumphs. I am not longer isolated from my humanity. I am of a race (Human race) that emerged from vicissitude and need. Metaphors are necessary for this voyage. Symbols are important roadsigns. They keep you guided. Symbols clarify the reasons for our longings and infuse our understanding with the vibrancy of life itself. Let the wind blow so I may take refuge in an otherworldly Theban cave where the lyre merrily sings Sapphic poetry of Love and courageous heroes set aside their glimmering helmets for the luminosity of the glowing fire of our human adventure.