El Cabrero has gone for a pretty long time at this blog without a big jag on Greek mythology. I think it's been since last autumn.
Having said that, I feel my self control starting to wane. Maybe it's because I've recently resolved to read or re-read all existing Greek tragedies. Some of them I revisit fairly regularly, like Sophocles' Oedipus plays or the Orestia of Aeschylus. But there are a bunch that I've either missed altogether or haven't looked at in a long time.
My first stop was Euripides' Bacchae, which I always thought would make a good movie or at least an extended old-school Twilight Zone episode. It's about the less-than-friendly welcome the god Dionysus received on visiting his mother's home town of Thebes. Take home message: if a god comes, roll out the red carpet--or else.
But first, here's a little cheery nugget from my old pal Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy. One of his main ideas in the book is that the ancient Greeks had a deep pessimistic streak but managed to say yes to life in spite of it, thanks in part to the help of art. Here goes:
"There is an ancient story that King Midas hunted in the forest a long time for the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus, without capturing him. When Silenus at last fell into his hands, the king asked what was best and most desirable of all things for man. Fixed and immovable, the demigod said not a word, till at last, urged by the king, he gave a shrill laugh and broke out into these words: 'Oh, wretched ephemeral race, children of chance and misery, why do you compel me to tell you what it would be most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. Bet the second best for you is--to die soon."
Gee, I feel better already.
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