Posts Tagged ‘Greek hero’

Hercules wrestling with the Nemean lion

Is this you? (cr. Zubaran via Wikipedia Commons)

Random hazards seeking to control your life abound today. Not all are pharmaceutical, technological, nor psychiatric: one of them has been around since before Julius Caesar hit the marble streets. This ancient beast has a modern incarnation.  He’s out there, prowling,  and he wants you…in fact, he likely has you in his claws already.  The question is, gentle reader, will you stay there?

A famous random hazard of the ancient world was the Nemean Lion.   One day for no clear reason,  a monster of galactic proportions showed up in the pastoral Greek province of Arcadia and began ravaging the countryside.   The creature’s  pelt was not fur, but shards of bronze.  This cat was supernaturally large, had teeth like silver sabres, and sported bronze claws that tore through armor,  as Arcadian soldiers learned to their eternal regret.   The creature rampaged and fear reigned across the formerly peaceful province.  The area depended on its shepherding and farming for sustenance; the monster destroyed Arcadia’s livestock in two days.   Horrified citizens stayed indoors while crops rotted in the fields beside carcasses of half-eaten sheep.

A plea for aid to the ruler of the region, King Eurystheus in Mycenae, went unanswered. The King cared little for a distant, dusty farm territory.  Resolving to take action on their own behalf, the Arcadian citizens worked to protect themselves with walls, spiked pits, boiling oil… but the  Lion’s traffic pattern was unpredictable and nothing stopped him.  The Lion remained in control of their existence despite the populace’s noble efforts at self-preservation.  Times were grim. The Lion prowled Arcadia unchallenged, having vanquished all conventional means of defense.   He was a super-sized guarantor of utter destruction, havoc on four enormous paws.

As many seekers of advice did in ancient days,  Arcadian officials consulted their friendly neighborhood oracle.  The oracle revealed that the Lion had been sent by the goddess Hera as retribution for Arcadia’s slack worship of her.  Making matters worse, the oracle added that  Hera had ensured that the Lion “could be killed by no mortal weapon”.

The Arcadian council slouched home to contemplate living underground.  The Arcadian province was paralyzed with dread.  Death and destruction continued unabated as the Lion roamed the countryside.  His Olympian sponsor was pleased.

Meanwhile, in the Mycenean court of King Eurystheus, a fearsome stranger arrived with word of a mission from the Oracle of Apollo: he was to serve the King for twelve years.  This ungodly foreigner was larger than any man Eurystheus had seen, and so musclebound that the cowardly king was afraid to have him in court.  (Gentle reader, do you recognize this man? He was Hercules.)  Recalling the frantic dispatch from Arcadia where its citizens appealed for help against some bizarre invader, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to the distant province, and hoped he would not return.

see filename

Image via Wikipedia

As luck would have it, the Lion was prowling the Arcadian road from Mycenae when the would-be hero arrived.  Even Hercules felt startled at the size, ferocity, and seeming indestructibility of the monster.  Hercules threw his ever-effective club at the Lion, but it merely bounced off of the creature’s impenetrable fur.  Hercules’ spear did the same.  Rather than being wounded, the Lion became enraged, and was preparing to pounce.

As the Lion’s volcanic roar assaulted his eardrums, Hercules realized his dilemma: his trusty bludgeon was of no use against the Lion, nor was his spear. He was not, however, out of options.

Confident in his own abilities, the hero confronted the Lion and began wrestling with the beast.  Amazed at this battle (humans always fled before him in terror, what botheration was this?)  the Lion succumbed to the pressure of Hercules’ hands around his throat… and was no more.  Hercules went on to complete many more heroic labors, to the dismay of King Eurystheus;  meanwhile, the Arcadian population regrouped and life bloomed without the Lion.

Now, gentle reader, to the present day.  Although he no longer pads across the Arcadian high country seeking cattle and sheep to kill, the Nemean Lion is with us. As he did in ancient Greece,  the modern monster is creating terror.  The twenty-first century Nemean Lion is omnipresent, is seemingly indestructible, and comes at the populace from a Power with an agenda.

He is now digital, a beast of  data, images, currency, and HTML code; his eyes are flickering video screens, his fur is a glittering mass of microchips, his mane a tangle of fiber-optic cable.  He prowls the corridors of Wall Street as confidently as he stalks the plains of Kansas.   The Power behind him has sent The Lion with one mission only.  That mission is, “Fear sells”.

The Power that created our modern Lion is what author Jon Katz calls “the Fear Machine”.  Katz has often observed that  the cable news networks, pharmaceutical companies,  and health insurance megaliths (among many others)  have a profound financial interest in convincing the public that we are in imminent, irrevocable danger unless we subscribe to their service, take their pills, buy their policies and take their tests.  Do as they say, or else: the Lion is out there, they warn,  and he will prevail.

The modern Lion wreaks dread and despair in the population, to the benefit of his sponsors.   Katz describes our fear-based society this way in his blog post of September 23, 2011:

Thoreau believed in free thought and choice, but in our culture people seem to be losing the instinct and habit of thinking for themselves, prodded instead by what marketers in the Fear Machine want them to think.  We are taught there is one way to do things…. This, I think, is what sheep do, not what individual and free wills do.

The idea of awakening for me, I think, came when I began to realize how much I was living in fear, how many choices in life were driven by fear. As I stopped living in fear, I began to awaken. To listen to my voice. To hear it and to trust. To make my own choices. 

Katz reminds us all that,  like Hercules, we are not out of options.  We have the choice of listening to the Fear Machine, or not.  We can  believe the negative news, buy into the fear-based sales pitches, allow the Lion into our homes, or decline.  We have the prerogative of living on our own terms.

The modern Nemean Lion  can indeed be destroyed by our own two hands.  Are we confident in our abilities, as Hercules was?  Or will we allow the Lion to sink his virtual claws into us,  draining our lives of joy?  I agree with Jon Katz: the future is not a thing to be dreaded and I refuse the Fear Machine’s recipe for survival.

Confront this Lion, he who is unused to being confronted, and see how quickly he disappears.  Using your own two hands, reach for the remote control or the radio dial.  Turn off the news for three days and see if you agree with me.



Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: