Friday, August 20, 2010

Happy Entrails To You

Commenting on the Sisyphus post on the Eschaton board, Echidne wondered about Prometheus, who spent a long time chained on a rock, his entrails being picked at by birds.

If the act of birds pecking my entrails arises from a good done for others, an act of courage and selflessness, then there's pleasure as well as pain in the sensation, and, at that high pleasure of the best sort, reminder of a life worth living, a choice worth making, in the context of consequences to others as well as to oneself. Maybe it's good to be a god if you can thereby maintain such a view. And, of course, if Hercules, son of man and god, comes by and frees you, recognizing what you've done, that's splendid, though you acted without any expectation that he'd do it.

Got to thinking about the story again, from another angle. The fire Prometheus stole from the gods and gave to humanity is distinctly a mixed blessing: the Greeks well knew that both war and moussaka emerge from it. But that wasn't, I'd suggest, the point. Fire, before the gift, had been jealously hoarded by the Olympians as both power and prerogative consequent to their godhood, reserved exclusively for them. After the gift, humans, too, had it. A striking notion, that: an ancestor of the Olympians punished for an act the very possibility of whose commission blurred the distinction between god and human, and freed by the very strongest of men, a son of both god and human. The gift wasn't fire. It was the new relationship between human, god and universe resulting from it. A focus on the tool, and not on the very possibility of the tool's existence in hand, trivializes and denies the true Promethean gift.


noblejoanie said...

I'm reminded too that fire gives off both heat and light, warms you and scares off the shadows when darkness comes, shows the path.

Happy to see your blog, dear Wombat. The comments at Atrios' place don't allow you anywhere near enough space.

ProfWombat said...

nj: great to see you, here or anywhere