Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Odysseus Talked Sh*t Too

When I started this project nearly a year ago, it was shortly after I read Homer's "The Odyssey" for about the 50th time, and I was little obsessed with the idea of the hero's quest.

really wanted one.

I don't know what exactly this says about me, but the idea of battling both man and beast, being lost at sea, and being tossed from one adventure to the next by the whims of mischievous and vengeful Gods is one that inspires me.

The parts of Odysseus's story that I love the most are when he acts so damn human. Homer calls him by all sorts of different name throughout the book-- god-like odysseus, the man of twists and turns, the master of many exploits. But I love Odysseus the most not when he is conquering troy, or blinding the cyclops, or slaying six-headed snake monsters. I love him when he is acting like a total ass. 

Like when he narrowly escapes being captured and killed by the freshly blinded Cyclops, and is pulling the boat away from the shore, sneaking away without revealing his identity, but he just can't help himself. It's too easy. Odysseus gloats at his own cleverness and yells, "Haha, you dumb monster! If anyone ever asks you who messed you up so bad, you tell them that it was Odysseus, from the line of Zeus!" Basically like a serial killer leaving his calling card on the scene. Except that Odysseus, being from time to time exceptionally stupid, forgot to consider that the Cyclops was the son of a vengeful Sea God, and how that might not be the best person to piss off when you're leaving on a cruise. 

Come on, it's hilarious. I do that kind of stuff all the time. You know, poke the bear. 

And so when Odysseus does things that are prideful, and selfish-- when he lets his ego get in the way of getting back to Ithica, I can really relate. It reminds me that both ancient and modern day heroes are very human. You can surround a man with luxurious things, and dress him fancy clothes, call him a King, or a president, or a millionaire, or a movie star, and all of a sudden he will have this aura of importance around him that wasn't there before.

Guess what. 

It's not real. 

In the last six months, I've started pushing myself to be more understanding, more forgiving. When I stopped indulging gratuitously in catty or judgmental talk about others, the thoughts themselves started disappearing. If I've been wronged, I imagine me at my worst do something similar (which usually isn't a stretch of the imagination) and I think about all the insecurity and bewilderment and pain I go through every time I inflict pain on someone else. Or if I'm just mentally pigeon-holing someone, I imagine the times that I've excitedly tried to look or come off a certain way, and I remember sinking feeling I got when I realized that I had failed. When you put yourself in another's shoes like that, talking shit isn't so fun any more. 

I really challenge you to try this at home, kids. It's not easy, but it's awesome. You'll learn a lot about yourself and about the people around you. Maybe you will realize that some of your relationships will grow and others will diminish. You might run out of things to say quickly when you aren't bagging on other people or indulging in drama. Maybe you'll have similar results to me, and nearly every time you think a judgmental thing about anyone, it won't be something to laugh at. You'll just feel kind of sheepish. You'll laugh at your childishness. You'll start to immediately ask yourself, "Why am I separating myself from this person?" And maybe you will have a really hard time disliking anyone, no matter how they treat you. 

I'm lucky enough to have a few close friends who also refuse to engage in negative talk. Being very chatty and working as a cocktail waitress makes it hard to avoid gossip. Talking about other people is how most people (especially waiters/waitresses) fill most the hours of their day, and I, too, have gotten really good at it. I used to be downright mean. I mean, really mean. I used to write down gossip and pass it back and forth in a notebook with my friends during Jr. High. I used to write sonnets about how offensive people's outfits were. 

The thing is, when I stopped wanting to engage in negative talk, all the negative self-talk in my head started to quiet down too. I started liking everyone more, and seeing the best in them. I started liking myself. I stopped looking at myself so critically, and beating myself up when I didn't do everything perfect. I stopped worry what other people thought. And then it all crashed in on my head at once: that any difference between me and anyone else is all in my head. We are all from the same creator/explosion/alien implantation (call it whatever you want, we all came from the same place), and no one has more of a right to be here and to be happy than anyone else. 
It's too bad that the misconception that some people are more or less deserving than others isn't something that our parents try to beat out of us when we are little kids. Imagine if, as a toddler, you were taught that believing people were somehow essentially different from you was actually an immature way of being.  Maybe it's something that all 7-year olds should know. Maybe we need to learn this lesson on the same day we learn to share our toys. Can you imagine how different our world we be?

I don't want it to seem that by writing this that I have transcended being a snotty brat, because I haven't. I still catch myself thinking unkind things, or thinking of myself as more deserving than another person. But I'm trying, and it's getting easier every day. I try to be gentle with myself and those around me, and to remind myself that Odysseus was a pompous ass too, and he made it back to Greece. So maybe, just maybe, if I don't let my head get too big, I'll find my way to New York.

(here's my shameless self-promotion. please help me get there http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/anna-runs-america--2/x/5016817

No comments:

Post a Comment