Tag Archives: Mythology

I Didn’t Know How Empty Was My Soul Until it Was Filled

I’ve been fighting a very, very nasty sinus infection for nearly two weeks.

Today, though, I feel what could be the beginnings of  relief. I won’t jinx it by saying it’s gone, but I haven’t experienced any pain today so far.

Whenever I feel a sinus issue start to break, I reach a tipping point where I realize how much pain I was experiencing because, in the absence of it, I can feel the contrast. In some ways, my body suppresses pain in a way such that I’m not aware of how much pain there was until it’s gone.

To characterize this sense of not realizing what you feel until after the pain is going, I’ve often quoted a wonderful scene from the film “Excalibur”. Once Percival has successfully retrieved the Grail, he brings it to the withering and wasting Arthur. After Arthur drinks, he remarks “I didn’t know how empty was my soul until it was filled”. And then, the revitalized King rides forth to battle with his knights across a withering and wasting land that is reborn and rejuvenated by his passing. The whole time, Orff’s “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana is playing. By the way, this scene is one of the reasons I maintain that “Excalibur” is an incredibly pagan film.

I loved that scene when I saw the film as a pre-teen. And it’s one of those scenes I come back to time and again to watch.

Interestingly, last night, I was thinking about how I was feeling and how there’s an affinity to the idea of the Fisher King (which is the myth that underpins the Arthurian Grail story). I was thinking of this quite independent of “Excalibur”. Specifically, I’d been thinking about the affinity between the infertility and impotence of the Fisher King and its contrast with and blocking of creativity, eros (in the Greek sense of erotic energy infusing all of life) and levity and how I have felt at times these past few months.

In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, here’s the clip in question. And if you’ll excuse me, I have a blooming apple grove to go riding through.

Hubris (ὕβρις)

Today’s word meditation is on hubris. Often translated as “pride” hubris has a slightly different sense to it than pride as we understand the term through Judeo-Christian colorings.

Hubris is a critical concept behind ancient Greek myths and tragedy. It is best known, and most clearly seen, in the myth of Icarus, who took his gift of flight and ignored warnings not to go too close to the sun and so fell to earth.

There is this sense of overreach, of failing to respect the natural order of the world, and, typically, a sense of humans attempting to play god.

You can see how modern humans are increasingly suffering from hubris in today’s news. At one and the same time we have word of a species of rhino that is currently alive, and threatened with extinction by humans and a story about a species of plant that has been extinct for 30,000 years that scientists are reviving.

Humans reshaping the earth to suit their needs by killing things that live and reviving things that are dead.

Of course, that may be nothing compared to the new human-made “super flu” that we’re hearing about.

THAT my friends is hubris. Real hubris.

Or put another way, you can recognize hubris after the fact when you say “just because you could doesn’t mean you should have”.

Not even the gods will help us with this I fear.