Feb 16, 2011

Seeking Hades

When we were children, my Mom used to read us all kinds of books for bedtime. Of course, after we learned to read, my Mom decided not to read to us anymore in Spanish, but only in Hungarian. Tales morphed into novels where we had a chapter or two per night, depending on how tired she was and how much brother and I managed to plead. Among the books read to us, was one of Greek Mythology, most of which has obscured since in my memory. Definitively need to revisit the old books. In this book there was the description of Hades, the realm of the death, past the Styx river. (You can also find other references where the river that takes you to Hades is not vene a river, but a lake known as the Akherousian lake, or that there are riverS, the Styx, the Kokytos and the Pyriphlegethon.) I remember a description of a dark, murky place of eternal suffering, where fruits grew on trees, water flowed around, yet souls suffered of thirst and hunger for when they tried to reach these, the fruit and the water would pull away from them, always out of reach. Indeed what could be more horrific than trying to reach for something that you'll never reach? Like the story of king Sisyphus - also from Greek mythology - condemned to roll a huge rock or boulder up the hill only to have it roll off when reached the top, and have to start all over again.

It gives you a sense of unsatisfaction, of no closure, no purpose to your actions, no result to your efforts.

Centuries later, it is intriguing - to call it in a beautiful way -  if not downright abhorrent - to call it my way - how the Hadesian way is the way sought in life for those self-proclaimed "successful". Words like "enough" are seen as a sign of weakness, a flaw of character, and a pseudo-philosophy abundantly supported by baseless self-help and guru-books keeps preeching the discourse of always wanting more. The idea is sold to people that they should basically never be satisfied with what they have, that finding a point of satisfaction, being sated equals stagnating, and this stagnation is bad. I can't help smiling as I remember my lessons on classical philosophy, where the great classical philosophers considered motion proper of imperfect bodies, while still bodies, or bodies in a routine movement were perfect. And I could get that: if they are in a perfect state, where should or could they go that would improve their state?

Modern positions feed on the shortcomings of people, most of them product of the instant-gratification culture that leaves no room and no time to get things properly done. The patterns of consume have changed into buying not what you need - really need - but the things imposed to you as needed for you to get accepted. If you need transportation, do not choose the public transportation, buy a car, but not any car, buy a top nocht car, of the year, from the brand dealer. If you have a car, you can't have the same car all your life, you must upgrade it! You don't need one pair of shoes, even if you have one pair of feet, you need hundreds of pairs of shoes! Whatever you do, wherever you go, you must buy, buy, buy. There's no enough in the whole equation, it's just a matter of more and more and more. And when you need to get rid of the stuff cluttering your space, you must buy the things and hire the people to do so.

In a world of no second thoughts, no time to think things over - because "the successful take important decisions in seconds" - of endless processes that bring you nowhere, the gurus - the new oracles of the masses - urge the people towards dissatisfaction in order to attain the one thing they are trying to reach: satisfaction.

Burn bridges, cast away everything that makes you comfortable, leave the company and start your own business - give a damn about the risk - follow dreams regardless of their potential to be realized, but follow them by ripping away the safety net - that holds you down -  and jump into the void, into the empty, into the unseen, into Hades because that's the way sucessful people do it. Never say never, always set a higher and higher goal to reach and beware of the day you feel you've achieved everything you wanted, because that's the day you lose, you become stagnant and die.

Through history many crass mistakes have been commited, many false ideas promulgated and loads of damage have been dealt. Aristoteles considered slavery natural and said there where people who where born slaves by nature. In the Middle Ages it was said that no Heaven or salvation could be attained without copious suffering and denial in life. Today we are told that there's no success without the constant denial of satisfaction.

Like a hamster in a wheel, you can be successful, but where's your success when you must keep running the mill, pushing and pushing all the way into the grave. When are you allowed to enjoy? To feel sated? If you can't ever be satisfied with what you have or else you'll be considered a failure, can you be satisfied with your family? Are the achievements of your kids good enough for you or must you push them endlessly in order to avoid stagnating them? Is your espouse enough for you or does your need for success force you to replace him or her by a newer model or a richer model or a piece with more political pull? Is sex as you have it enough for you or your need to avoid failure requieres your do drown in more and more bizare combinations? Or is it that the only satisfaction you can aspire to lies at the end of your arm and you must feel guilty everytime you try it?

Society has indeed a sick tendency towards steering people always to self-punishing paths, where all happiness is systematically denied and demonized, derailed and rottened into exagerated ways that show it as the root of evil and distress. Like denying the goodness of fruit by presenting them as inevitably rotten. Kept in ignorance, condemning the search of knowledge, locking things under the padlocks of taboo, people are stripped to a shivering, frightened herd, told they are lambs and need a master, a pastor to keep them from the wolf. The stray human, like the free thinking woman in the times of the Saint Inquisition, are labeled as witch, as warlock, as wolf and set as an example of failure, of evil, or consequece of falling off the path of sacrifice and suffering chosen for the flock.

Now we are not presumed to mix beverages and entone encantations and spells, we are called stagnant and losers. These are the new witches: the "retrogrades", the ones that sit and savour their "first victory" and feel satisfied with it. The ones that are not visionaries.

In 35 years of living so far, I have seen these visionaries trample over the "settling" over the "limited" who picked the less glamorous path, picked a feasable goal, followed it and got it, I have seen them mock them, call them names, telling jokes like "do you think $10,000 is a lot of money? Because if you do that means you'll never have them"*, not getting the point of standing of the settler. Years later they have gone to Hades and back, rigged, aged, worn, used, with swinging principles, moral values that change more than stocks during the economical crisis.

Some have turned around - not facing their earlier statements - and want what we failures have, and call us lucky bastards who certainly have the friends to pull such positions. Others stay in denial. Have never met one of these visionaires that would have turned into the next Bill Gates, or at least Bernie Madoff.

I can't say many of us "failures" didn't have a push in the right direction by the right people, but we represent a "school of thinking" - so to call it -  that states, that things come in their right time, you gara learn to walk before you run, but above all, you must set yourself a goal you can reach, have the plan or map to reach it and work for it. And when you get it, you know what? Enjoy it. Be happy. If you would like to follow another goal, go ahead, but staying and enjoying your goal - if it can be permanently enjoyed - if it truly fulfills you is not a crime, it's the price for your effort.

* Once upon a time a lover I had asked me if I thought $10,000 were a lot of money or nor. I didn't know the catch then, but I answered "it depends, what's the context?". Annoyed because I didn't give him an answer he could process for this diagnosis, he repeated the question. I refused to answer telling him that it depended if it was the price of something, if it was an income and what for. He had no choice than explaining me the point of it, and when he asked me again, I replied "it depends". 

It's not the first psyche-game I fuck up. I also fucked the half empty-half full thing. This time with a psychologue. She filled a glass to the half and asked me to tell her the state of the glass. I said "it's to the half". She asked me if I meant half empty or half full. I said both and then she said something encouraging like I was a very creative person who would always have problems of communication with others because I refuse to fall in line with the rest. Oh goodie. BTW, "very creative" in psychologue language doesn't mean you are very creative, it means you are a problem because you dared to come up with an answer they haven't previously considered and now you will force them to actually work.

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