Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's Greek to me

I flutter from obsession to obsession.
Today, as in the picture of a few days ago, a butterfly landed on me. (Coco was jealous, but he does understand – luckily – that I am more capable of holding still and that, lately, I dress in brighter shades of gray and black than he does.)
This reminded me again of one of the many loose bits of knowledge I have. It’s something I’ve been thinking about since we visited the Met and it’s Greek statuary exhibit on the same day as a butterfly landed on me.
Apparently, the Greek word Psyche means breath and soul and all those related things. It also, in old Greek (as far I vaguely remember from a muddled source), means butterfly. And in the myth about Cupid and Psyche, he (the god of love, remember) gets careless and cuts himself on one of his own arrows while doing some task (not remembered, sorry) involving Psyche. He falls in love with her (spelled out, the god of love falls in love with the human soul) and finagles that she be granted immortality. Hence also the relation to the butterfly: fluttery, airy, and a visible manifestation of the concept of transformation.
So now I’m reading The Viking Portable Greek Reader which I purchased a long time ago because I was so impressed by the editor--who happens to be W.H. Auden--’s introduction.
(On this a note to all you published authors out there: Don’t slack on ANYTHING you put out there, you never know what bit of writing happens to be a reader’s introduction to the world of your mind. - I’d like to say that this was my introduction to Auden, but I’d heard of him before and then – the shame – checked out more of his writing after seeing Four Weddings and a Funeral.)
Anyway, my odd literary thoughts don’t stop here. In the past (not for a class), had also started Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but had given up because too many of the stories were about gods falling in lust with some human and the ensuing jealous rages of mortals and immortals.
Now. The other day I got to thinking how it’s cute that in their world gods and humans are in such jealous proximity of each other. Much different from other conceptions of a single god and mortals – or, even, of more primary Greek gods, Zeus’ et al.’s progenitors, and humans. These squabbles and jealousies are like high school, where the most animosity is between proximal grades, while the extremes hardly acknowledge one another.
And then, through some fortuitous leap, I thought of the world of Jane Austen and how the social stratifications. Not that Colin Firth – I mean Fitzwilliam Darcy – is Cupid, but there is that aspect of the sacred commingling with the profane for each other’s mutual benefit.
Discuss in 750 words or less. Use footnotes.

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