I Now Pronounce You

My First Guest Post

Posted in Uncategorized by inowpronounceyou on February 5, 2008

My first Guest Post comes to you today, courtesy of Jess from What the Curtains. I love, love LOVE the way Jess writes, and here’s a good example of why…

When Mystery is More Important Than Knowledge

A few Fridays back, I watched the play Argonautika at the Shakespeare Theater. It’s a re-telling of the myth of Jason, his Argonauts and the Golden Fleece. The story is a hero’s journey set in motion because of a goddess’ rage. Hera, Zeus’ wife, doesn’t much like that King Pelius honors all the other gods but her. Pelius happens to be the uncle usurping what should rightly be Jason’s throne. So after a test of Jason’s heroic qualities (if the guy is willing to carry an old lady – Hera in disguise – across a river in a raging storm, he must be mythic material), Hera chooses him to unravel Pelius. She nudges Jason to travel to Pelius’ palace to claim his throne. The king, no fool, sends him to find the much-guarded Golden Fleece to prove his royal worth. Jason knows it’s an impossible mission designed to defeat him. But the possibility of success gives him visions of immortality.

The story echoes other ancient ones. Secondary heroes like Hercules join Jason. The Argo ship (built by Athena) wanders ashore on strange lands. Enemies are made and vanquished. Women are tempting and distracting. Men are lost along the way. When Jason finally lands in Colchis, where the Fleece is hidden, he needs the gods to help him steal it. So Athena and Hera convince Aphrodite to send her son, Eros, to shoot love’s arrow through Medea. The goddesses know such a shot will make Medea, the daughter of the king who claims the Fleece, so blind in love with Jason that she’ll do anything to help him. Medea uses her powers as a witch to kill her brother, conquer her father, and solve the obstacles that hide the Fleece so Jason can be more myth than man.

But there’s a problem. Jason didn’t get shot with the arrow, only Medea. His love isn’t constant or bound. When he later needs to claim a throne to get power, he divorces the ever-helpful Medea to marry a younger princess. But Medea doesn’t go quietly. She gives the princess a bridal gift of a poisoned veil that kills the girl. She murders the two sons she shares with Jason. She then flees and marries a king who protects her in a distant place. And it’s only when she dies and goes to Hades that she finally gets to marry the only man she actually chose to love. It’s Achilles, and their afterlife is more bliss for her than her un-chosen one was above the ground. Jason, whom the gods now ignore, ages with his sad fate wrapped around his ephemeral victories.

I recently read a book called The Paradox of Choice. It’s about how we now have so much to choose from in life in all areas that no selection seems better than the others and after we do choose we second-guess because all these other options are still available. Think of big-screen TVs, Mac gadgetry, cereal aisles and the people you date or don’t date. The reason why no decision ever seems final or fulfilling is because most people now have more power over the courses of their lives than they ever had. And instead of making us happier, the infinity of options make us wonder about the bliss that could be in the what-ifs that were once only our imagination’s figments.

The play and the book intertwine because they differentiate the way our lives once were and the way we live now. The myth makes something of Jason, not by his will but of his fate, set like a stone in motion by the whims of an emotional goddess. The myth makes a morality tale out of Medea for the way a god chose to bind her with a blind love that twists her life into possessiveness and madness. The arrow is hers to bear without knowing or wanting to be hit. The journey is Jason’s to follow without suspecting its predestined consequences will leave him loveless, childless, and ultimately crushed under the wreck of his own ship.

This is the difference between then and now. In ancient times, life was the whim and blame of the gods. Now we hold in our own hands the black, white and gray of the picture into which our days will develop. To take or steer from less-limited roads, to guess or second-guess, and to find meaning in the before or the after of decisions. To sample so much in a succession to shape the stories we become.

It’s like life is a magic trick of our own making. As J.J. Abrams talks about in this video, life and the people we meet in it are a lot like the mystery box his grandfather inspired him to buy as a kid. It’s just a simple box. But it’s taped shut. There’s no way to know what is inside. And because of the way time moves and the way we are initially secrets to one another, what someone or our days will become is as much a surprise as a fastened box. I suppose it is a choice to think there is adventure or failure inside there. The ancient story suggests there are always both. But it seems to me there’s wisdom when Abrams says that mystery in many ways is more important than knowledge.

Because mystery makes us face all the things that we must tangle with to evolve. At the edge of mystery are vulnerability, fear, and uncertainty. And inside the box could be love, wisdom or some other kind of light. The thing that gives me pause is that this journey is something so ancient. So stories like Jason’s and Medea’s survive because we mimic them still despite our less-divine freedom. And though the choice is more ours, the potential for transcendence is still here as then. The unknowns we hold in our hands still could be the happy beginning of Jason or the graceful ending for Medea.

At the play’s conclusion, each main character is revealed to be immortalized in the constellations we still learn in the night sky. It reminded me of hearing a late-night concert in London when the lights were dimmed and tea candles were set about the church in clusters. It looked as if the night sky had been tipped upside down with all those pinpoints of star-like light. And maybe the point of all these mimicked journeys through time is to repeat a pattern that makes us a bit more divine. To steal heaven when we touch qualities or make choices we associate with the height and distance of stars. This reach toward a riddle we may be instead of what we are known to be. And in those adventures toward love, wisdom or some other kind of light, we shimmer for a moment in time and outside of time, entangled and made one with all that was once before.


5 Responses to 'My First Guest Post'

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  1. skip said,

    wow. Good Stuff!

  2. Jo said,

    Man, I didn’t realize how much I missed Jess’ blog till now… wonderful!

  3. Lemmonex said,

    “Now we hold in our own hands the black, white and gray of the picture into which our days will develop.” Love that.

  4. aww sugarpie…. i like the idea of the “riddle we may be instead of what we are known to be” ….as a business person, a woman, and a blond…constantly proving that the possibilities are so much more than the expectations…well.. can be exhausting and exciting at the same time…
    and as always..soo well done.. thank you

  5. College Grad said,

    So much happening… so I’ll just say one quick thing… I really liked the mystery box analogy. When you start out each person, because of how unique they are and how unique our experiences in life are is a mystery to all those around them. There’s no way to guess even our own experiences, so it’s amazing how some people try to predict others as well. A great guest post!

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