Oedipus, arguable the most famous ancient Greek character, features in three of Sophocles plays. Sophocles perhaps the greatest of all play writes of the day, competed in thirty competitions and won twenty-four and was never judged lower than second place.
It is a classic “Greek” Tragedies – a father, the king, to avoid a prophecy coming true, leaves his son, Oedipus, to die in a field. Rather than die, he is taken in by another family and raised. While with this family, Oedipus is told, by an Oracle, that he will murder his father and sleep with his mother. Despite his best efforts to prevent this from happening, he does both things. At the end of the story, after the truth finally comes to light, Jocasta, his mother, queen, and wife, hangs herself while Oedipus horrified at his patricide and incest, proceeds to gouge out his own eyes in despair.
It is pretty full-on.
As a follow-up from last week, we complete our Three Tragedies and a Laugh. Four stories and ideas to reflect on. Three serious & One to laugh at ourselves. Here are the final two.
Don’t Do An Oedipus
It was just after the first lockdown – May 2020. Australia was heading into winter and flu season and ultimately would batten down the hatches again. Europe and the northern hemisphere would still be a summer away from a deeper lockdown. I was venturing out for a dental appointment and found myself in a petrol station for the first time in months.
I had stopped to get some fuel and a bit to eat. Given we were discouraged from being indoors, I was standing outside in the late autumn sun just enjoying being out. I was waved at from one of the cars in the customer service car park. It was some old friends of mine doing the same. Keen for some new company I was glad for some conversation. Dave and Leanne, I have known from my teenage and church years. I got to know Dave when I was studying for the ministry. I left the course as I wanted a different life and the freedom to think my thoughts. Dave and most of my colleagues continued and became some exceptionally fine ministers.
I have seen Dave conduct one of the most challenging services that anyone can ask – the funeral service for a youth suicide. The church was packed with hundreds of grieving mourners and a devastated family. He showed great compassion, empathy, love and courage. Courage, someone must stand up and help the family and friends say goodbye. That was ten years ago. I think of that time every time I see them both. Today was no exception.
I had not seen Dave for over a year. He did not look well. It turned out he had a serious brain problem, had to stop work, was no longer able to drive, memory issues, and no doctors seem to have any answers.
Based on my health and the various modalities that I have used over the years to improve and recover my health I started to make some suggestions, only to see the vale of disinterest descending across their faces.
It is not that they are not interested in getting better; some of the solutions or possible support came from a world view that was unacceptable to them. It confronted the very foundations of their life.
I have been there; I grew up with the same fundamental beliefs. That certain things are “of the devil or evil”. The western science knows all there is know on a given subject and no other world view has anything to offer- whether that be supportive or in fact a cure.
I can empathise I have walked in the same shoes. I’m sure that same look often registered on my face by friends and practitioners alike, and at times probably still does. The underlying emotion is often fear.
One of the most important things I realised is that our world view and emotions stop us from exploring all the options to improve our lives. We blind ourselves to better opportunities or solutions more often than not because of fear. Fear venturing into the unknown, and that perhaps what we have built our life around may be shifting sand.
We blind ourselves to better opportunities or solutions.
Fear is a great emotion; it can save our lives. When false beliefs and attitudes determine it, it can kill the very life it is designed to preserve. By acknowledging that we are influenced by fear, it can minimise its action, and in turn, we make exploratory steps into other possibilities. It can also save us from going too far. Greater awareness is the key.
I am amazed how often we think we have all the tools to handle a particular serious life event, one we have never faced before.
In preparing to write this article only yesterday, I was at my hairdresser’s and discovered she had recently separated from her husband. It was not going well with court orders and the like. I asked what support she was receiving. She listed off the standard friends and family – which are great – but often are only part of the solution. More often than not, they have the same world view and solutions that we know already.
But what happens if the real solutions or a path that may make life easier and less painful lies elsewhere? Again, I suggested seeing someone professionally, to at least explore what could be on offer, only to see the vale descend again.
We all do this, and it is not uncommon. See how you feel when you read some of the suggestions I made in My Daily Ten. Let us not be too critical of each other.
Why do we do this to ourselves? We are happy to explore solutions within the world we know, but not the undiscovered country. Yet often the wisdom and solutions, for more extensive wealth, happiness, and health, we seek, lie outside the known.
Let us not be Oedipus and blind ourselves to what solutions lie around us. Let us surround ourselves with people who encourage us to explore life. Let us take up activities that promote greater awareness.
I must confess this story is not original to me, But it is well worth the telling. I must thank the Graham Norton Show as the following is one of their classic Red Chair Stories. If you’re not familiar with Graham Norton, he is an English talk show host. He gives members of the audience a chance to tell their stories, and if they are unsuccessful, meaning he and his guests think it is s story that shouldn’t be told – they get flip. The chair gets tossed backwards, dumping them on the floor. Its all in good fun and to be fair, some of the stories are absolute rubbish. This story is not one of them.
Two good friends have a habit of running every morning. This morning is no exception. They set off at a steady pace on what usually is a long run. Remember this is the morning, and we all know what we do in the morning. Or at the very least want to do in the morning. I know there is a whole pleather of products that support this movement. All the hope of getting it, and us, going.
Today was no exception. One of our runners felt the urgent need to go. It was probably all the moving and shaking that just got too much for him to hang on. So ….
We have all been here. The desperation starts to set in, the focus is no longer on the run but what facilities are close – we are talking number twos here. Off in the distance is a park, and there appears to be the required toilet block on the far side. With an eagerness that is not typical of the morning run, one of our runners set off at an exaggerated pace. First, he tries the door with the little man on it. But alas – it is locked. We all know that feeling. Next, he is not shy and desperate because, as you know, the closer the opportunity to go comes the need to intensify, he tries the lady’s toilet. Again, and to his disappointment – it’s locked.
The pressure and the need to go were extreme and desperate times calls for frantic action. Any feelings of shame, social morays, all go out the window – the deed must be done.
So off to the nearby bushes. Our runner drops his shorts and proceeds. To his dismay, around the corner of the path trots an enormous German Shepard heading for his bushes. Not wanting to be confronted he hurriedly finishes his business and whips up his shorts and dashes away. Just in time as behind the dog appears his owner, who is coming round the bend in the path. The dog has done what dogs to, had felt the need to check out the business.
The owner arriving on the scene finds the dog and the business and exclaims “Roy, my goodness me, you’ve done a big one – good boy Roy”. Pulls out a plastic bag, picks up the business and tires it to her belt. And our runners witness Roy, leaping about, and his owner wandering off into the distance, with a swing bag of their Poo, neatly hanging off her belt.
Moral of the story: make sure the only shit you pick up is your shit, and do not get stuck with someone’s else’s shit. Get the whole story. Awareness is the key.
“You may not be able to do all you find out, but make sure you find out all you can do.”Jim Rohn
Till next time.
The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win – Maria Konnikova.