Thursday, May 13, 2010

Orpheus and The Lyre

Poor Orpheus. I feel for this man, this musician, this poet, the greatest there ever was of Greek Myth. He played the most beautiful music, a kind no one could resist, not a human, animal, or even a thing. Now, imagine that. That he was able to entice, attract and lure everyone and everything.

And since all greek myths are tragic, Orpheus' story is no exception. When his wife Eurydice dies from the bite of a poisonous snake, Orpheus is determined to save her from the Underworld and bring her back with him. He plays so beautifully, so convincingly that even Hades, the god of the world below could not but fulfill his one wish, his one true desire. But Hades has one condition Orpheus must meet, just one tiny insignificant request--that when Hades performs the act of bringing Eurydice to the world above, Orpheus is not to look back.

So, what does Orpheus do just when he and Eurydice are so close to reaching the surface? Just when he's so close to tasting the fruition of wish? Of presence? He looks back. And what was that thing that made him look back? Or was it a lack of some thing?

He had a moment of doubt, a doubt so strong, even Hades had to forewarn him. But, it was of no use to Orpheus. When he glances back, Eurydice is pulled down into the Underworld again, lost to the upper world...forever. Now, Orpheus is lost, truly lost. Any feelings associated with the first loss of his wife cannot come close to the bitterness and grief associated with his second loss. And why? Because he could taste freedom, he could sense union, he could see the promise of Mercy's mercy but he failed due to weakness, due to a lack of faith.

He refuses consolation from anyone. One day, while sitting under a tree singing, a group of jealous Dionysian devotees--Ciconian Maenads--who are close by, decide to attack him by throwing rocks, stones, branches, among other things, at him. But because the rocks and branches are mesmerized and moved by the music too, they, the objects refuse to strike him. Beautiful.

But how does envy move now? How does the low react? These Ciconian Maenads take matters into their own hands by tearing Orpheus to pieces. And there Orpheus' head goes down the river...still singing. His music--both a blessing and a curse.


Anonymous said...

i always learn something new from your posts... this post makes me feel like i should go out and get that nick cave album, again.

hope you and j are well!

Anonymous said...

er, not to say that the thing i learned was that i should get the nick cave album. but in addition to learning something, i'm also reminded of that particular n.c. album.