In an effort to expand my horizons, I’ve recently been re-reading a bit of mythology — Norse, Greco-Roman, The Art of the Deal — and trying (trying…) to listen to some opera. It strikes me how closely some of my own life experiences have mirrored these sweeping and fantastical tales. A few examples:
Brunhilde: A princess who, feeling betrayed by her former lover, arranged to have him murdered. Overcome by grief and regret, she flung herself on the flames of his funeral pyre. This story was recounted in Wagner’s famous “Ring Cycle” of operas.
- At my 25th high school reunion, I chatted up my senior prom date for a solid fifteen minutes before introducing this old flame to my wife. Feeling betrayed, Carol flung her wedding ring at me. The mood for the rest of the evening was funereal. I regret my actions that evening, and will probably still get grief for recounting it here.
Tosca: She killed her lover’s tormentor. In order to avoid imminent arrest as commanded by a corrupt leader, she leaped to her death from the heights of an opulent edifice.
- I know a lot of people who made a leap of faith and voted for Donald Trump, and now the result of that decision is tormenting them, and killing the rest of us, while our leader spends his weekends in a variety of opulent edifices. Depending on what kinds of corruption the Special Counsel uncovers, arrests may be imminent.
Mimi: She famously telegraphs her impending death by coughing shortly after the beginning of La Boheme.
- Shortly after the beginning of the musical Rent, I experienced a coughing fit. I thought the rest of the audience was going to kill me.
Prometheus: As punishment for misplaced loyalties, he was chained to a rock and had his liver eaten by an eagle, day after day.
- Growing up, my mother made me eat liver. She would watch me, eagle-eyed, as I sat chained to my dining room chair and choked down each punishing bite. I’d beg my mother to never serve it again, but my faith in her loyalty to me was misplaced — she continued to prepare it for dinner throughout my childhood, week after week.
Aida: She was forever entombed with her lover.
- Carol and I were stuck in an elevator once, for nearly an hour. It felt like forever.
Sisyphus: Due to his deceitfulness, he was forced to endlessly push a huge boulder up a steep mountain.
- Thinking there was only the one, I offered to take a huge basket of laundry up the steep stairway to our bedroom as long as I was going that way. When I came back downstairs I found out I’d been deceived — there was another, and another, and another…
Tantalus: After stealing, he was forced to live the rest of his life by grabbing at food and drink that were just out of his reach. This situation illustrates what it means to be “tantalized.”
- I stole away to the kitchen during the second quarter of last week’s Pats game to grab a piece of leftover chicken and a cold beer — only to find there was none. This situation illustrates what it means to be “infantilized.”
Arachne: A talented weaver of fabric, she surprised and humiliated the goddess Athena in a contest of skill. As a result, she was transformed into an enormous spider.
- I was surprised by finding an enormous spider in our bed when I pulled back the sheets. As a result, I was humiliated when I soiled the fabric of my boxer shorts.
Perhaps it would be better for me to expand my horizons by seeing what’s new on Netflix.
You have certainly put new meaning to some ancient stories, John. And I’m not just referring to your being caught between stories in that infernal elevator!
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The ridiculous part (and we really were stuck on an elevator) is that we were on the first floor.
Enjoyed the piece. Good stuff.