Monday, September 29, 2014

Suffering in Tartarus

A million needles rain down on me as I sit still, trying to put what I feel into words.
Is there a way to describe pain without using the word itself?

The problem is that I can't explain what it feels like to be in pain. Pain is well, painful. (The idea that words are simply incapable of describing pain, or any feeling for that matter, shows how important emotions are to us humans.) Emotions can never be described; they can only be felt.

I'm not out to write about what pain is like, but what pain is. What is pain?

Pain is acceptance of failure, it's a sign of past mistakes. Pain is a symbol of humanity.

My first experience of pain and suffering in words comes from Greek Myths about the underworld - my grandma used to whisper them into my ears as a kid; she said that they put me to sleep (what, I ask you, would become of a girl whose bedtime stories were ghastly descriptions of ancient punishments?).

Staked to the ground, and lying face up, Tityos the giant ended up in this position in the underworld when he apparently assaulted the gorgeous Leto, the mother Athena and Apollon. Vultures circled around his once magnificent form, plucking at his guts. His hands can't beat away the birds fast enough as the remains of his liver gradually disappear. Every night, his liver grows back and he lays there healing while still dreading the next day. The one who gets mangled everyday but still puts himself out there to get mangled again.

Nothing is known of Sisyphus' crime; it is irrelevant anyway. I mean, if the only way you are remembered is in your death, you're life was probably pretty boring (I wonder what he did to deserve his fate; that must have been one highlight of his dull life...). He is the one who famously had to push a heavy rock up an incline. Every time he reached the top, the rock rolled back. The one who's perpetually trying and never succeeding.

Ixion, another one of those men who were foolishly attracted to Zeus' wife Hera (why? why would anyone like Hera; despite all the stories of her beauty, I've always thought of her as a spiteful old cat), was thrown into the underworld when he flirted with Hera at Zeus' table in front of Zeus. He was fixed to a spinning wheel of fire that kept burning day and night. The one whose passion and lust burnt on despite all the clout and powers of the world holding him down.

I'm afraid my grandma didn't have the intended effect of fear on me; I quite admired these men. It was their integrity, I think. The world of Greek Mythology was corrupt - very beautiful, but corrupt; all the power belonged to the very human Gods (Zeus with his little thunder bolt was the most human of them all). Evil kissasses went unpunished while the honest who just happened to stumbled into any of the Gods' wrath were sentences to the eternal hellfire.
         Tityos, Sisyphus, and Ixion were all honest men who made human mistakes. Their only problem was that they offended the Gods on high. If they'd done what they'd done to any average Jane or Joe, they wouldn't have had to get away with it because it wouldn't even have been a sin. Even so, they took their punishments like the noblemen that they were, not falling to pieces and losing their sanity, but enduring the torture and responding to it forever. The idea that these men were the only ones who were punished for crimes that weren't really crimes but things that offended those in power, is one of martyrs more than of criminals.

The bravest thing to do is accept your suffering as a result of your weakness. I think accepting is the first step to recovery (this has nothing to do with those residents of Tartarus of course.. just a thought)