Understanding Your Daily Focus
Valentine’s day is here, and since I have been playing a lot of “Hades Game” this year, I thought I would talk about love in the context of Greek mythology this week. The classic myths have endured for a reason; they speak to something fundamental within all humans. The stories of love, loss, and adventure still resonate today. Many of the gods and goddesses in ancient Greece personify human traits and accomplishments, such as love, beauty, and music. Many personify nature itself, with Zeus creating thunder, Demeter bringing about the harvest, and Nyx who was the night.
When it comes to love, the ancient Greek’s tell us myriad stories of triumph, loss, and foolishness. More often than not, the lovers are doomed, and things turn out terrible. But, every once and a while, true love prevails.
As with all myths, there are allegories and metaphors tucked into every story. When we are reading about these massive and immortal gods exploring love, or war, or heroics—what we’re really reflecting on is our own human nature, much smaller in might, but just as massive and expansive within us. These myths have been turned over and over, reshaped and molded to fit every generation because every generation shares the same basic human experience. Love, pain, loss, triumph— you don’t need to be a god to feel these things.
In this week’s Daily Focus, we’re going to look at some of my favorite Greek myths and the messages we can take away from them today.
Saturday, February 13
“In every one of Greek Mythology tales there is this: A man chasing a woman, or a woman chasing a man. There is never a meeting in the middle.” –Jesmyn Ward
Desire and conflict are at the heart of every good love story, because it is human nature to want what we can’t have. This is a theme that runs through every great love story. Why is it that we are drawn to conflict? When you tell your own love story, what part do you think is the most exciting? The chase, or the catch?
Sunday, February 14
“When I did see the story of Persephone, I was really drawn to it. Persephone, the goddess of spring, was kept from Olympus by her mother, Demeter, because Demeter was very worried that the gods of Olympus would do something terrible to her.” –Meg Cabot
The myth of Hades and Persephone is one of my favorites. Persephone, goddess of springtime, daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, was always under the thumb of her overprotective mother. This myth is all about coming of age, and the dark, desirous, and erotic world that lies out of reach when we are younger. Valentine’s day often causes us to reflect on our own past and think about our journey through love.
Monday, February 15
“A chasm opened in the earth and out of it coal-black horses sprang, drawing a chariot and driven by one who had a look of dark splendor, majestic and beautiful and terrible. He caught her to him and held her close. The next moment she was being borne away from the radiance of earth in springtime to the world of the dead by the king who rules it.” –Edith Hamilton, Mythology
To me, this is a direct metaphor for puberty and desire. It can feel like falling into another world when we first fall in love: scary, unknown, and dangerous. The beauty of this myth is that when sweet, innocent Persephone falls into the underworld with Hades—she falls in love with him. She likes the underworld, and Hades, loving her as much as she loves him, readily agrees to share her with her mother, allowing her to go above ground for half the year. When she arrives in springtime, the world blooms in happiness. When she leaves her mother’s side in fall, the crops and trees wither in wait. But don’t fear, Persephone is doing just fine on her own. Sometimes we have to trust ourselves, and make our own choices, even if it isn’t what others would want for us.
Tuesday, February 16
“He came to her only at night and fled long before the sun could rise. Despite this, he adored her, and Psyche quickly found herself falling in love with him.” –John Jack George
In the myth of Cupid and Psyche, Cupid convinces Psyche not to look upon his face, only coming to her at night under the guise of a hideous beast. He wants Psyche to fall in love with him for who he is inside, and she does. When she sees his face and he flees, she goes to the ends of the earth to find him again. It works, and Zeus makes her immortal so she can spend eternity with her soulmate. There is a reason Valentine’s day focuses on Cupid. His love story is arguably the greatest. Remember today that good love is worth fighting for.
Wednesday, February 17
“According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.” –Plato
It’s easy to let a holiday like Valentine’s day become about showing off, hitting a certain social marker, or feeling the need to be with someone more deeply than you usually do after seeing all those cute Instagram posts. But true love is not about grabbing whoever is closest to you and forcing it. It is about the journey you take to find your other half.
Thursday, February 18
“I guess darkness serves a purpose: to show us that there is redemption through chaos. I believe in that. I think that’s the basis of Greek mythology.” –Brendan Fraser
These stories are dark, but the fact that they have endured for so long, and remain so true and timeless, is because they are so human. We all have our own darkness, our own chaos. We make mistakes, and we fight to fix them. It’s important to know there is redemption at the end of the road. Take time today to reflect on mistakes you’ve made in love of all forms—friends, family, lovers, and ask yourself if that truly is the end of the road.
Friday, February 19
“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” –Herclitus
As I said earlier, conflict and desire are at the heart of these stories because they are at the heart of humanity as well. We read these stories of people dying for love, transforming for love, or defying every odd for love, and it reminds us that there is something great within all of us. An innate ability to feel so deeply that these most basic tales of love will endure forever. Take the time to show your appreciation for those you love, and if you’re willing to, theoretically, climb to the top of Olympus for them, let them know.
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