Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Real Gift of Prometheus

Titans were a form of being lesser than gods, but greater than humans. And in the Greek myths the gods were separated by origins and destiny.  The first gods were primal and more about the creative forces of life and the world, the second wave, their children, rebelled against them, and chose to assign powers and domains to the appropriate god, or titan.

Humans were far down the ladder in terms of powers and principalities.  We had no place in the order of the gods.  But Prometheus took pity upon humanity.  His name is associated with forethought, and some place that to mean, ability to plan, and trick the gods.  According to legend, Prometheus molded humans of clay, and he was proud of his creation, while the other gods ignored them.  The humans were cold, without the powers of fire, forever eating bits of food that were hard, gristle and unnourishing. They were ignored by the gods.

To alleviate the struggle first Prometheus tricks Zeus into accepting the parts of animals inedible for humans.  Thus leaving the finer portions for our benefits.  Then he stole fire, so as to allow humans to cook, to warm ourselves, and to change the earth by burning.  Zeus became angered by this.  First he was tricked into giving these humans food.  Then he saw this gift of fire being given away, without cost.  Yes, it would have a cost, but not for the humans.  By now the gods knew that humanity understood fire and could not be punished for having it, without starting entirely over. But Prometheus could be punished.

So Zeus had Prometheus punished, by chaining him to a rock, where he'd be left unable to defend himself, and an eagle or eagles (plural) would come upon him daily and peck upon his flesh, tearing it open.  Thereupon feeding upon his liver, causing his agony.  By night his liver would grow back, as with a titan's great strength and near godly constitution, but by day, the eagles would return. 

Prometheus was the sole mediator at the time for the humans, to live, to grow, to flourish.  Zeus, the leader of the gods, upon Olympus, was to be tricked into good behavior, not trusted to be make good decisions.  Prometheus looked upon his clay figures, turned human, with love.  Zeus wished to punish humans for having fire, and unleashed Pandora, and her box of nightmares.  It was only over time, in the age of heroes that humans begun to draw respect from the gods, particularly Athena, and other gods so clearly good and honorable, and it was only for their titan Prometheus's sacrifice that they could have endured.  When hero child of a god Heracles took it as a challenge to free Prometheus the task was great, but finally, he was freed.

And without our titan, who made us of clay, and gave us fire, and gave us food, where would we be?

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) wrote a short piece on Prometheus, outlining what he saw as his perspective on four aspects of his myth:

According to the first, he was clamped to a rock in the Caucasus for betraying the secrets of the gods to men, and the gods sent eagles to feed on his liver, which was perpetually renewed.

According to the second, Prometheus, goaded by the pain of the tearing beaks, pressed himself deeper and deeper into the rock until he became one with it.

According to the third, his treachery was forgotten in the course of thousands of years, forgotten by the gods, the eagles, forgotten by himself.

According to the fourth, everyone grew weary of the meaningless affair. The gods grew weary, the eagles grew weary, the wound closed wearily.

There remains the inexplicable mass of rock. The legend tried to explain the inexplicable. As it came out of a substratum of truth it had in turn to end in the inexplicable.

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