This happy morning, I give thanks as the smell of baking turkey drifts through our home and wait anxiously for Santa Claus to appear at the Macy Day Parade. This happy morning; this twilight moment between what was and what will be, I finished the final session of The Ancient Greek Hero in Twenty Four Hours.
In this session we studied among other things the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus. It begins with the god apparently looking for a ride standing on “a jutting headland by the shore of the fruitless sea…his rich, dark hair was waving about him, and on his strong shoulders he wore a purple robe.” Back then only the wealthy could afford purple fabric. Conveniently, a crew of pirates came upon him and “they thought that he was the son of a line of kings nurtured by the sky god.” They snatch the young god up in hopes of a great ransom.
Immediately the helmsman yells out “What kind of daemon possesses you all! What kind of god is this that you seized and tried to tie up…? Elsewhere, I pondered the helmsman’s second sight. I wondered if his hand on the rudder could sense the weight of the god affecting the boat. Professor Nagy says of the helmsman’s clarity and vision; “…you have to have the mentality to get this. And if you have the right mentality, then you're saved.” The rest of the crew clearly doesn’t have the helmsman’s pious perspective. The skipper over rules his arguments and tells him to keep to his work. Immediately weird things started happening. Dionysus turns into a lion, grapevines start growing up the mast and line, a bear appears on deck and the “fruitless sea” turns to wine, hence Homer’s wine-dark sea. Naturally, “The men, terrified, were fleeing toward the stern of the ship, crowding around the steersman.” Apparently, a bear on deck was the final straw and the crew leaped over board. Dionysus turned them into the first dolphins. The helmsman at his post till the end was about to follow them into the deep when the god saved him from doing so. Dionysus said “Have courage, you radiant man, reached by a force that works from far away. You have achieved beauty and pleasure for my heart.” As Nagy explains in the textbook at 24.16 “Since Dionysus caused it to happen that the steersman ‘became the most blessed of all men’, I interpret this divine action as the transforming of a man into a cult hero.”
I had a different perspective this time while reading the textbook, studying the source material and listening to the lectures. You see the federal government “furloughed” me. Consequently, I was working at a local cannery located upon “a jutting headland by the shore of the fruitless sea”. My comrades were not a crew of pirates but neither were they sons “of a line of kings nurtured by the sky god.” That is to say they did not live in the “rarified air” they believed I did. One day while we trimmed fillets of salmon, we got some good news about our progress.
“Praise God!” I shouted. “Oh, are you religious?” one of the guys asked innocently. In the federal government if I began discussing my faith, the boss would have yelled at me and told me to keep to my work. My cheeks blushed as though I’d drank too much red-wine. I hesitantly answered, yes. My comrades showered me with questions about my faith and church. Then the conversation passed on to other things.
At break my comrades would stand on the dock at the back overlooking the water. That day as the afternoon break wound down and our comrades leapt back to work, one of them fled toward the stern of the cannery where I stood and crowded up to me. He had a question about lying. Being experienced in dialogue from this class and familiar with Odysseus I helped him work through the ethics of a bummed cigarette. As we returned to work he seemed satisfied with the conclusion we’d drawn, as though he had “achieved beauty and pleasure for (his) heart.”
This concludes my current adventure with version CB22.1x of The Ancient Greek Hero in Twenty Four Hours. I have” turned the post” as we say. But the race goes on forever. After the holidays I will race with other graduates in “Hour 25” and God willing, I and my winged steads will race with others during version CB22.3x during the Summer of 2014.