Friday, December 15, 2006

Now tell me about your parents...

Today is the Consualia, a festival honoring Consus, the god of counsel, who protects the harvest while it's being stored. Mules, horses, and donkeys were exempt from all labor and were garlanded and led through Rome, and there were chariot races in the Circus Maximus, which I guess doesn't count as work. They even had mules race chariots.



Well, I'm at home. Today was a flurry of packing broken by a Mythology test. The room looked weird and stripped without it's usual junk. I also discovered large collections of dirt under the fridge, under my desk, under where Loquatia puts her shoes... Ugh. I need to wash that floor.

Five trips down the stairs later, Daddy brought me home. I've been here for less than four hours and I've already settled my fish in, eaten dinner (, wrapped several Christmas presents, put in a load of laundry and cleaned my bedroom. And I watched Dr. Who with my dad. I feel empowered. But mostly tired.

And I got my work schedule from TJ Maxx today. I'm not working Sunday or Monday, which gives me time to clean the house for my sainted mother who can't tell her boss that she's sorry, she can't help them with yet another software glitch, since she won't get credit for it and she has a project due at the end of the month, and she was sort of intending to celebrate Christmas at some point, thank you very much (My mother has a history of overworking, but this is pretty bad even for her, so I promised I'd get the house clean for the holidays and subsequent neat-freak-grandmother visits if she'd pay me for it).

Tuesday and Friday I work from 11:00 to 8:00, so I don't have to wake up at a decent hour (yay!) but I still get home at one. Wednesday and Thursday it's 10:00 to 7:00, so I should be able to cook dinner for my mother as well (yes, we eat that late sometimes) if she's too busy. Then Saturday I work from 3:00 to 11:15 at night, because I told them I could work "any hours" and I'm guessing most of their employees have those "social life" things that I keep hearing about, which presumably occur on Saturday nights. Maybe you can buy those at TJ Maxx. I'm hoping for a discount.

Speaking of social lives, the Brother certainly has one- he's on a date AGAIN, like EVERY Friday night. He's pretty lucky that his girlfriend drives, or he'd never be able to afford the gas.


Anyway, I aced my Chem final (yeah, I was shocked too- and after all that worrying!). Like, 103 out of 105. Which means, not factoring in the 80 I got in lab, I have an A in the course. This is exciting.

And my mythology exam- I think I did tolerably on it despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I was shaking out and massaging my hand by the time it was over. It was three essays in two hours. The first was on Theseus and why is he a hero, and that was fairly easy because I'd studied Theseus and I knew his legend fairly well anyway. Then there was a question comparing the female characters in Euripides' Medea, The Bacchae, and Alcestis, as well as the women of the Iliad and the female characters in Peter Schaffer's Equus. That was a little harder, as I could only remember one of the women in Equus and I hadn't known we had to study Alcestis or The Bacchae. Oops.

Final questions talked about the male heros in the Iliad and how they all caved in to peer pressure, or something. Then we had to scan WB Yeats' "Leda and the Swan." If you haven't read that poem, you should:

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By his dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
How can anybody, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins, engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Okay, first of all, amazing imagery. Second of all, it's a poem about a woman having sex... with a bird...

This story is more popular than almost any other story in Greek mythology centering around a woman and a divine or unusual lover. It's more popular than that of Tyro, and Tyro's life was a whirlwind of love, lust, revenge, and politics. Yet it's pretty simple- just a footnote to the life of Helen of Troy and the Dioscuri (the Gemini, Castor and Pollux), who were produced from this liaison. Zeus came to Leda and raped or seduced her in the shape of a swan, and that's why Helen is so beautiful... But yet, incredibly popular in poetry, literature, and art.

I think it's because humans are naturally drawn to the perverted. We don't want to experience it ourselves, of course, but that doesn't mean we don't want to read about it, or imagine it. Why does every news magazine have an article about those poor kids locked up in cages by their parents? Because it's newsworthy. Because we want to hear about it. Humans fly to disturbing images and stories like moths. Trust me, I'm guilty of it too. It's why I know so much about serial killer psychology (thank you Wikipedia).

But... why? Why are we fascinated by the strange and taboo? Pretty much everything in human nature can be traced back to some fundamental reason; if everyone does it (in some way or another) there's usually a reason why we want to. In our ancient history, was there some advantage to learning about things that disgusted and frightened us? Maybe it's some sort of reconnaissance, like learning more about your enemy. Or maybe it's a way of making ourselves feel better (I'm not a bad parent, I mean, look at them!).

I don't know. I think we're jealous. Not of the action itself, god no. Instead, we're jealous of the fact that they aren't bound by our laws. Maybe we don't want to break the same social taboos that they did, but we still wish we could break some taboo- have the courage or the insanity to defy a tenet so crucial to our society's structure. Leda was seduced by a swan- bestiality. It wasn't her fault, unless you live in one of "those" nations, but still- she defied a huge taboo (two, actually, she also cheated on her husband). It's like the combination of a perversion fixation and a rape fantasy- the sense of doing something dirty and wrong, but it's not your fault, no one will blame you, there's nothing you can do.

I think Leda's story is a mirror into the human psyche, like much of mythology. She got to experience what we all fantasize about- a chance to ignore the laws of morality but not face the consequences. We like to hear about the crime, not the punishment, because the punishment reminds us that even those who break the laws are still bound to them. Leda was raped, so those laws don't apply. And that, I believe, is what fascinates us.

And if anyone asks if I want to screw a swan, I swear I will kill them. That's not the point. I'm not excusing my own actions, I seriously think most people do this. Of course, I could be as wrong as Freud and the Oedipus crap...

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