Horns

How long can a lovely walk, some holiday spirit, a great book (which I hope to finish tomorrow or the next day- since it’s suppose to snow.  A LOT.), some Doctor Who and a fun national football game (sorry about that Ticats.  Maybe next year.  Thanks for coming out, anyway) sustain a little bit of good cheer?

This is not a rhetorical question.  I’m going to provide the answer.

About as long as it takes for the work week to begin again, it would seem.

Dilemmas.

I wrote about a comparable situation a while back, so I’ve pretty much exhausted the mythological connections that dilemmas call to mind.

There has been a definite- and unfortunate- pattern present in my posts of late.  I say ‘unfortunate’ because, while I strongly feel that such things HAVE to be said, and discussed, and generally put out there so that individually and collectively we can work to figure out something better, I reallyreally hate negativity.  With a passion.  Yet I can’t seem to completely overcome that particular frame of mind at the moment.

This is largely due to the continuing systemic violations of ethics and commonsensical good manners and proper behaviours that we should be able to expect in an educated, well-reasoned society.

I’m not even going to go into the latest antics of the town’s ‘chief magistrate’, except to note that he, once again, displayed his true colours, this time on that paragon of responsible journalism, Fox News, and even THEY didn’t seem to know what to make of him.

Oh, and Canadian media?  Can I please ask that you stop with the headlines shouting about things like the ‘return to the gravy train‘ that he has claimed has happened since his powers were stripped (a little over a week ago)?  Please?  While the articles do, in fact, go on to explain that the tax hike is required because of things like the useless extension of the Scarborough subway line (one of his personal pet projects), chances are there aren’t many remaining members of his Nation that will read more than the headline.  Might strain their beleaguered brains (I no longer have the energy to be pulling any punches with those who continue to support this madness.  If you STILL think that he is defensible as a public servant, I really have nothing left to say to you).  Thanks bunches.

And the continued denial of complicity in scandals and pay-offs/pay-backs by our federal leader?  Yeah.  The fatigue on that score has also maxed itself out for the time being.

Further to my post suggesting that we are losing the ability to sustain anything like civilized dialogue, it is gratifying to see that I’m not completely alone in my concerns about the complete lack of politesse that seems to be accepted as normative these days.  Gotta admit, I smiled a whole lot when I read this story, and the impetus behind it.  Words have the power we give them, and we seem to be imbuing profanity- for its own sake- with a whole load of power lately.  Very nice to see a Carleton University student who is willing to question the ubiquitous nature of certain words- and point out how ridiculous they sound in most contexts.

The personal stuff?  All job-related, of course.  And all about standing up for myself in the face of bullying as I attempt to retain my principles and ethical grounding in the face of increasing pressures to ‘toe the line’ in order to keep my job.  I may not be able to affect the larger society in any real way, shape or form, but I am very much unwilling to participate in actions that violate my sense of right and wrong in my own life.

Regardless of how badly I might need the paycheque.

‘Faced with two equally undesirable alternatives.’ 

Horns.  Of a dilemma.  Seemingly stuck well and good in the region of my derrière.

That picture up there ^^^ is a stock photo of the reconstructed ‘Horns of Consecration’ at Knossos, that represent the sacred bull- ubiquitous in the culture and landscape of the Minoans, centred on the island of Crete.

Those Minoans were pretty impressive people.  They were highly organized merchants- engaged in trade with surrounding nations- and their language and culture influenced their neighbours in many ways from the 27th century BCE until the volcanic eruption on neighbouring Thera (Santorini) sometime around 1500 BCE created a ripple effect that destroyed key Minoan cities and might have been a factor in leaving them open to the conquering Mycenean armies.  (The volcanic eruption on Thera is considered by many to be the source of myths of Atlantis.  LOVE myths of Atlantis… but that’s for another day…).

Minoan religion focused on female deities- and female religious officiants were the norm.  The civilization seemed to have boasted a pretty egalitarian society.  Artwork and statuary presents both men and women participating in cult activities- such as bull-leaping- and their sophisticated agricultural and governmental systems were not restricted to men.

In Greek mythology, Daedalus (the most celebrated artificer of the day- he also made a pair of wings, which his kid ended up (mis)using) designed and built a little thing called a labyrinth for King Minos at Knossos.  It was a necessary architectural feature, since the king had a problematic foster child who was half man/half bull (due to a minor indiscretion on the part of the king’s wife and a lovely-looking bull- that should have been sacrificed to Poseidon).

This Minotaur– a compound of Minos and tauros, or ‘bull of Minos’ (his name was actually Asterion, but no one really remembers that)- was first reared by the king’s wife (her name was Pasiphaë, but not many really remember that, either), but he eventually became unmanageable as his beastly and unnatural side came to the fore.

When Asterion became too much for his mother to handle, the Oracle at Delphi advised Minos to seek help from that gifted craftsman, Daedalus.  He created such an elaborate and cunning maze that even he had trouble getting back out once construction was complete.

The labyrinth became the home and prison of the Minotaur- where he was kept appeased by the sacrifice of seven youths and seven maidens (collected from amongst their arch-enemies in Athens) until he was killed by the Athenian hero Theseus (who was able to escape the maze of the labyrinth with help from Ariadne, Minos’ daughter,  and her skein of thread- which provided the clew (‘that which points the way’- the origin of our English word clue) he needed to get back out after slaying Asterion.  See how much fun word origins can be?).

The word labyrinth is derived from the word labyrs– a double-headed axe that was both a religious symbol and associated with the power of the royal house in Minoan tradition.

Still, other ancient labyrinths have been attested- and found- in places like Egypt and India.  Postulated purposes vary- they are thought to have served as traps for nasty spirits and/or as paths used as cheat sheets, of a kind, in ritual dances (ancient versions of the footprints on the floors at Arthur Murray schools of dance- how’s that for an antiquated cultural reference?!?).

By the Medieval period, Christians were including them in their places of worship- meant to represent pilgrimage paths or simply foci for meditation and/or prayer, and they came to symbolize a path to god- with one entrance and one twisting and turning path to the centre.

Metaphorically, a labyrinth can be a situation that poses some issues of extrication.

Very much aware of that particular sense of the word at the moment.

These days, there has been something of a resurgence of interest in labyrinths.  Parks and common spaces feature labyrinths as part of their landscape designs.

Toronto’s labyrinth, located right beside the Eaton Centre, the Church of the Holy Trinity, and in spitting distance (not that it’s remotely polite to spit) from both Old and New City Halls, is meant to be a place of quiet reflection in the heart of the city.

A few years ago I led walking tours (as part of the ROM Walks– at our wonderful  Royal Ontario Museum) of the area, that ended at the labyrinth.  Visitors to the city were always amazed to find such a place of quietude surrounded by the summertime hustle and bustle of the culture of consumerism and municipal politics.

This evening, intensely frustrated by the events of the day (and of yesterday, but I’m consciously forgetting that THAT day existed at all), I paid a visit to Trinity Square, hoping that its meditative properties and foundation in the history and wisdom of the ages would provide a bit of a respite from the direction and intensity of my thoughts.  Sadly, it was no match for the labyrinthine tracings of my current thoughts and anxieties.

Horns?  Still present and pissing me off.

So… in the way that everything is connected (at least in my way of looking at the world)…

Solution: Second attempt

Some Bowie, Muppets, and feel-good holiday fare (this is another film I associate with the holiday season, for some reason) all wrapped up in one package may well return me to a reasonably human state of mind.  Hopefully it will be enough to last the week…

In this song- pivotal to the action of the film, Bowie’s Goblin King, Jareth, weaves an illusion around Sarah, attempting to win her love and distracting her from the time limit that he set for her to find her baby brother, Toby.  While his promises seem attractive at first, they are soon revealed to be superficial and wrong– and Sarah realizes that she must return to her path on the labyrinth.

So, taking my guidance- and my clues, if you will- where I can find them, I’ll be heading back into the labyrinth tomorrow.  Trying to retain the hope that the Ludos and Sir Didymus’ will balance the machinations of the Jareths of this world.

PS- seems to be a glitch in the WordPress world (or my computer.  Or the universe.) this evening- I can’t seem to link past posts.  Please feel free to browse the back catalogue for those posts I referenced, but was unable to link, should you feel the urge.

Moving On

Every once in a while I take a weekend and unplug completely.  This past week was pretty much the epitome of ‘working for the weekend’ (ah, Loverboy.  Where would we be without that particular concept?) and I honestly couldn’t watch anymore as the grief of the citizens of Lac Mégantic was broadcast across all news outlets while the owner of the train company not only refused to take responsiblity, he sounded like an arrogant sociopath once he finally deigned to comment on the situation.

As of Friday evening at 5pm, I turned off and tuned out for the duration.

Nice to have the break, but I missed a whole whack o’ news- little of it good:

The Zimmerman verdict down there in the States represents yet another violation of anything resembling justice.

A young Canadian actor was found dead in his hotel room from a (likely) drug overdose.

The waste of youth, talent and potential in both cases is tragic- if for different reasons.

Both will prompt all kinds of discussion in the coming days. On Moyers and Company Lauren Feeney and Eric Boehlert discussed the media frenzy around the trial, how the story went from being about the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin to the ‘Zimmerman Show’- and the conservative ‘news’ groups that viewed him as some kind of persecuted innocent (!).

I imagine that greater minds than mine with more knowledge of the American system of (in)justice will try to make some sense of the travesty.  I can do little more than add my dismayed voice, in whatever small way, and shake my head at the ‘one step forward, two back’ social reality evinced by the US over the past month.

I admit that I watched the first season of Glee.  There was an energy to it that was attractive- and the flashback song selections were pretty fun.  Sort of lost the plot as it went on- and as we started to see less of Sue (who was awesome)- but I appreciated the talents of the actors/singers on the show.  In comparison to the endless selection of ‘talent’ competitions, Glee offered some real musical theatre in an entertaining one-hour format, and Finn was at the heart of the whole shebang.

Not being all that tapped into much infotainment, I wasn’t aware that Cory Monteith struggled with addiction.  31 is too young to exit this world- especially for someone of talent and support.  Sad.

All this waited to be discovered when I turned the computer/tv back on this afternoon.

But before I did so… as part of my hiatus, I went for a good long walk yesterday.  It was a glorious weekend- especially after the, um, extreme weather we had last week.  We took the storm- and the clean-up and aftermath- in relative stride.

The Indy was in town- always interesting for the crowds it brings to the downtown core.  And there were the usual festivals, community parties and special events that make Toronto such an awesome place in which to hang out in the summertime.  LOVE this place in the summer.

Anyhoo.  While out for my walk, the Shuffle Daemon was at it again.  This time it seemed to be anticipating the fact that I’d need a reminder that sometimes the bad stuff- even when it’s really really bad- has to be put behind us and we just need to keep on keeping on.

Perhaps the iPod was tapped into the fact that I had just been thinking about story and song, and Papa Nez, because the first song to come up was a country/southern-rock classic:

That song never ceases to put a smile on my face.  The idea of just rolling with things and moving on as the spirit takes you… something that I find so very hard to do.

Then:

Running on Empty.

Same type of message, but Jackson Browne describes one of the key things I try to keep in mind in my life:  “Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive- trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive.”

The frenetic pace that he describes in the song reminds us that we need to both keep moving on and stop every once in awhile and appreciate those things that are most important.

Further good advice from Billy Joel came next:

Working/worrying oneself into heart attack (ack ack ack ack ack)- so not worth it.  It’s all about priorities and perspective.

This one hurt my heart:

Although it was in keeping with the whole keep on moving theme that the Daemon had going, and despite the fact that INXS remains one of my fave bands, the tragic death of Michael Hutchence (also too young) always casts a bit of a cloud over their fantastic songs.

Still, Just Keep Walking, from their first album, when they were (ridiculously) young and hopeful, frequently reminds me to keep my head down and move forward regardless of the difficulties thrown in my path.

U2 always seems to weigh in:

Walk On is about Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the more than 20 years she spent under house arrest as a result of her fight for her country’s freedom.  On a universal level, it talks about leaving behind baggage while taking only what is most important as the fight requires a change in locale or perspective.

And, because the Shuffle Daemon has a sense of humour (and because I have rather strange eclectic taste in music):

Who better than Kermit and Fozzie to demonstrate that moving it along is about adventure and companionship- and those we might chance to meet on the way.

Sometimes you just have to let things go and shift gears/change scenery/take a break from the known and breathe in the new.

These six story songs illustrate the concept wonderfully.  Although we can, and should, get caught up in the dailies and the important issues of the world, sometimes we have to shake it off and go in a different direction.

It is important to be aware of and engaged with the terrible stories that happen with way too much frequency.  Our access to communication requires that we not ignore the injustices and atrocities.  The stories- well-examined and evaluated- must spur us into action to counter the wrongs that we find contained within them.

Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to move on.  Becoming mired in the negative leads to anomie and apathy.  Being bombarded by the bad, it is hard to find the good.

And there is very good to be found.  Our stories continue- regardless of how some might try to silence the inspirational voices among us.

Malala knows- and our songwriting storytellers remind us (through the medium of ‘possessed’ iPods)- that the status quo is always subject to change.

A hopeful note on which to start a new week.