Let’s flashback to your high school years when pimples were regularly popped and homework assignments were regularly turned in late. Everyone took an English class and I bet in that English class some sort of Greek Mythology was studied. I remember reading Greek poems in those huge textbooks and being assigned questions that went something like this, “Who are the main characters?…What did the God Apollo represent?…Why is this particular passage so boring?” I dreaded these questions and usually wrote BS answers with lists of adjectives to satisfy the teacher, “Apollo represents endurance, stamina, longevity, and perseverance.”
Fast forward to today and I am reading one of the most celebrated pieces of Greek Mythology of all time – the Iliad by Homer. The Iliad is a poem that doesn’t rhyme and takes up over 550 pages of text – it is the furthest thing from Dr. Seuss or a Haiku. I cringed when I saw that I had to read this classic and I really only had one happy memory from when I read similar poems in the past – recalling a sexy illustration of Aphrodite with a healthy amount of nakedness. This time around there were no juicy pictures but I did finally grasp the importance of this 2700-year-old text.
The Iliad is set in the 10th year of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans – Achilles is the great fighter for the Greeks and Hector is the great fighter for the Trojans. The gods – Zeus, Hera, Hermes, Apollo, Aphrodite, Athena, Ares, Poseidon, etc. – choose sides and constantly interfere with the happenings of the mortals. The main point of the plot is the journey of Achilles in his search for glory and his eventual victory over Hector – which is necessary for the final destruction of Troy.
Achilles is really a jerk throughout the book; similar to a big man-child who is mad about not getting his way – refusing to fight with his fellow soldiers because of pride. There are many symbolic points to this poem but the most pronounced involve the role of “rage;” rage controls the mortals and immortals – sometimes facilitating and sometimes handicapping. Achilles more than anyone wields rage like one of those dancing air guys at a car dealership – you never know which direction he’ll swing next. In the end, he loses his best friend, Patroclus, to Hector’s spear because of his rage – and subsequently wields its force to destroy Troy.
The question is, does rage hurt or hinder the greatest fighter? He looses Patroclus but gains all the glory for bringing down the great Troy. I think rage in our own lives, just like Achilles, is a force to be weary of. I know I have raged in the pursuit of being “right” to gain glory; that glory is important at the moment but what do we sacrifice – relationships, friendships, precious time? Pride, glory, and respect are a three-headed god which feeds on our selfish desires. Sure Achilles is remembered…but his rage and selfishness taint our view of his victories – his ultimate glory permanently smeared.
Being Valentine’s Day this Tuesday, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. What would best represent love on Valentine’s Day? Flowers? Chocolates? Cards? Sex? Butterfly kisses? Snuggles? Deep conversations? Hate? That last one seems out of place but hear me out. Can hate and love exist together at the same time? Do hate and love secretly have a twisted marriage together? Can love exist without hate? I find it interesting that our culture is so fond of using the word love but strays away from the word hate. A conversation may go something like this.
-“I love Katy Perry, she is the best singer in the world!”
-“I hate Katy Perry, she wants to kiss a girl and I don’t like it!”
-“You don’t even know her how can you ‘hate’ her?”
-“Alright…I extremely dislike Katy Perry and her stupid eyelash commercials.”
“Hate” is such a strong word but “love” isn’t? It makes sense that we shy away from hate because from a young age we are taught examples of nasty people that embody the word like Hitler, John Wayne Gacy, and Mark Cuban. With age came a deeper understanding of the word and its usage expanded. Saying, “I hate the fur industry,” or “I hate McDonald’s” became a normal conversation piece. But there still existed that taboo of associating hatred with a specific person. I think there is a major problem with this. Does our vernacular keep us from truly understanding love? Let me put it another way. Does avoiding the “hate” word keep us from the “love” word?
Let me posit a philosophical question. Can two perfect people love each other in a perfect world? Let’s first define what love truly represents. Love is not a feeling but is an action. One can feel emotion as a result of love but love does not propagate out of thin air. For example, if I give flowers to Christina it is an “act” of love; she subsequently feels happy emotions but those emotions are not love – solely the result of love. So let’s go back to my question about the perfect people in the perfect world. One perfect dude gives perfect flowers to his perfect wife. Is this an “act” of love? If the woman feels happy as a result of the flowers how does she differentiate that feeling from any other feeling – since she is perfect in a perfect world? Would she feel anything different than her normal perfect state? It is an interesting scenario that is obviously impossible. My point is to make you think about contrast. Without actions that are opposite in nature there is no discernible difference in various stimuli. Imagine staring at a blue sky with blue clouds – there is no recognition of either.
This brings me to my point. Without hate there is no love. Without the opposite of love, we cannot understand what love truly represents. The exchange of flowers only means something because we subconsciously understand that hate exists; think instead that I handed Christina a bouquet of snakes that immediately bite her. Can I truly love Christina without hating her? I think the answer is no. We must hate to love. What better example of this then a couple who has been married for 20 years. They know each other’s quirks, pet peeves, and trigger points. They have fought, disagreed, and bickered thousands of times. They both have things that they can’t stand about each other. Those things or events are times of hatred; it may be a mini hatred but it is hatred nonetheless. Without those fun-size hates there would never be the meaningful acts of love: a soft hug after a tearful fight, a difficult compliment that kills pride, a somber admittance of wrong doing. We hate the ones we love. I appreciate Christina because of all her imperfections that drive me crazy. So why is this important to recognize? Because so many times in life we want everything perfect. We always want our relationship to be perfect. We want to live in a romantic comedy. We are afraid of the bad. But do not fret. Those times of despair, hate, and discontent are the times that make our love the strongest. Appreciate the hate because it is the fuel for the fire of love on this Valentine’s Day.
Have you ever been called a “Worry Wart?” I have on several occasions and throughout my life my worries have grown. As an adult there are a million things to contend with which can induce worries: paying the bills, keeping up with health, climbing the social ladder, maintenance of relationships, etc. Then there are the irrational worries that are usually propagated from movies or news: flesh eating diseases, serial rapists hiding in the bushes, razor blades in candy, movie theater shootings, sex-slave kidnappings etc. And to my luck, I live in Flint, so now I get to worry about consuming toxic water whenever I turn the tap on. So suffice to say, we must grapple with our worrisome thoughts everyday. How can we let go of our worries? To be truthful I don’t completely know but there are a few key things that help me get through storms of mental despair.
- Prayer: Release your worries to God because He has your back. Talking to the big man upstairs is not only therapeutic but strengthens your spiritual relationship. I know this the Sunday School answer but it really will lift a weight off your chest. You don’t have to formally pray or say anything at all-just clear your head and notice God’s presence. You’re not alone. We didn’t worry nearly as much when we were children; be a child in God’s presence and know He understands the big picture.
- Yoga: I’m a huge fan of Yoga because it forces you to be mindful of the present. Yoga is not meant to be some ab-shaping-calorie-scorching workout, it’s meant to bring you more in tune with your inner self. My favorite instructor is Tommy Rosen and he focuses on breathing throughout all the movements. When you learn how to breath you learn how to listen to yourself. Your true self is constantly being bombarded by outside influences that many times create negativity and anxiety. That may sound like a bunch of hippy crap but I promise if you practice mindful meditation/yoga you will make it priority in your daily life.
- Watch a TV series: I love well made TV shows: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Deadwood, The Wire, Mr. Robot, etc. There are so many great series on TV right now that you can find the perfect show that fits your personality. Why would a TV series reduce worries? One word-Flow. When you get into a show you forget your worries and enter into the emotions of the characters. For a short moment you aren’t focused on your worries but rather the story unfolding in front of you. Of course, any flow experience is good but I like series for reducing worries because my problems are nominal compared to my beloved fictional characters. Walter White’s worries of selling meth to pay for his cancer treatment trumps my worries of not having pooped in the last two days.
These are three tangible things that you can practice in your life that will help reduce your worries. I love this quote…
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Let us let go of our worries by seeking God, being more mindful of the present, and realizing that our worries really aren’t that big of a deal in respects to the big picture. Your thoughts can make your life like heaven or hell. It’s all up to you, your thoughts are your own-what will you choose?
Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.
Psalm 50:15 NLT