Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A night at the symposium

Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his disciples the night before his death. The gods drank in Enlil Elish before deciding whether to give in to Marduk's demands. And Plato's talks of love center around a table laden with drink. Any guesses to why one mythological figure is prevalent in all of these cases? And who is he? What is the binding that ties these very different stories together?

The Father/Son Conflict

Oedipus curses Polyneices. Creon's contempt for Haemon. The father/son conflict is one of mass interest and even greater tragedy. Death is the only outcome to be hoped for. There is some power struggle that a father and son must go through seemingly from the moment the son learns to talk. The son seeks the father's approval, while the father seeks to make his son into a man, often forgetting he must be a child first. Out of duty, Haemon sides with his father at first, but we all know where his heart truly lies. It is that need for the approval that steers Haemon's first words to his father, "I am yours, Father. You set me straight, Give me good advice, and I will follow it: (28) Of course Haemon is lying to not only his father but to himself as well. Haemon then sets out to persuade his father to change his mind about Antigone's punishment. When that doesn't succeed, we see the first foreshadowing of the lover's tragedy, "Not me. Never. No matter what you think. She is not going to die while I am near her" (34) And yet, at the end of the play, a sure model for the Romeo and Juliet to come, Haemon and Antigone lie dead in each other's arms. Creon was so driven to be proved in the right, he lost all sight of what really mattered. He made an enemy of his son, his wife, and his niece/future daughter-in-law. I suppose this is what happens when a man refuses in, Creon's mind at least, to have any qualities of a woman. Hmm.

The Sister Conflict

In the Hymn to Demeter, the focused relationship was that of a mother and her daughter. But in, Antigone, the complicated dynamics of two sisters are the enigma of the play. The weaker sister, Ismene, would never go against the grain. She is one who colored inside the lines as a child and always played it safe. Her softer demeanor would have her follow the laws, even if they go against what her heart says to be true. Note that even as Ismene wishes to die with her sister, and shoulder the blame, she herself never broke the city laws. Antigone, on the other hand, is the rebel. She was born in the wrong time when women didn't have the power or the rights to do what she was born to do. She is strong hearted and bold, determined to stand by what she thinks is right. These qualities would have made her a fine leader had the times permitted her to do so. It is this conflict between the two polar opposite sisters that Steiner has overlooked. He places familiar conflict under the age vs. youth column, focusing most of his time and attention on Haemon vs. Creon. But what about two sisters who are opposed? And then brought back together in their shared family curse? This is great drama!

Hermes Comes to America

In class, we discussed how Stewie from Family Guy could easily be a modern day Hermes. But it is interesting how Hermes has embodied the American dream since before Manifest Destiny. The cunning trickster is really what capitalism is all about. Step one: Be inventive. Hermes very slyly invents the lyre and then from step two: Use such inventions to get ahead. Hermes uses the lyre to give to Apollo in order to get his support to join the ranks of the gods. And finally my favorite, step three: if you can't afford it, steal it. Hermes is a well known thief, but from the time of cattle rustlers to corrupt bankers, America has harbored a den of thieves. So really, it doesn't matter what form Hermes takes or what name, such as Stewie. He will always be around in the good ol' U.S. of A.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The mother/daughter mystery

There is no greater mystery than the relationship between a mother and her daughter. The inside jokes, the secretive gesticulations, and the oh so subtle glances that say far more than what's on the surface. Movies attempt to copy it, and books and music delve into to define it, but the very first story, the story of Demeter and Persephone says it far better than any modern day retelling. Orpheus's love brought Eurydice back for a moment, but Demeter's grief, the grief of a mother who has lost her child, wilts the plants and leaves the ground bare and unusable, and brings her daughter back from the Underworld far longer. This higher love sends the gods into a panic, until arrangements are made to bring her Persephone of the beautiful ankles back to her, her little flower-faced girl. However, much has changed since Persephone's abduction. Her innocence has been lost in the mean time with the eating of the forbidden fruit. Now she must split her loyalties between her mother and her new husband. This is a tale of the human condition. Where nothing is simple and not everything is beautiful, but man, what a story.

Persephone by Third Eye Blind

She's barely moving now,
Warming in the sun,
warming in the sunI left her colder now,
Than almost anyone.
Warming in the sun,
warming in the sun
And the light she finds is golden,
And I can't take my eyes away.
But I'm no longer welcome,
And this is not my place to stay.
Cigarettes fill my lungs
One by one by one.
And I wish spring would come
Warming in the sun
And I play these songs without you,
In an empty space,
With the guitar that you brought me,
I pulled from a velvet case.
Persephone, Persephone
Can you help me?Can you help me?
Can you stop the moment bleeding?
Persephone. Can you?
Did I hear you scream,
While I was singing in a dream?
Naked by your side,
The only place I never lied.
And all that I can give you
Is an open door,
All in all, it swings too lightly
You won't beam through there anymore.
Persephone, Persephone.
Can you help me?Can you help me?
Did you pass this way?
Maybe not today
Persephone, can you help me?
I pushed away a summer breeze.
I want the promise of a real spring,
Free and born again.
Help me
Old emotions are coming back to me...
Old emotions are coming back to me...
I sit by myself,
Memories all I want
In the last light of the sun.