De-myth-ify: Sisyphus (Part One)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, a story from Homer’s Iliad of a man immortalised after his death, today. This is part one of a two-part series on Sisyphus.

For the previous series of posts on Perseus and Medusa in the De-myth-ify series, click here.

Today’s story is quite different from the ones we have discussed before. For one, this isn’t the story of a hero, of a good, brave guy just trying to exist without offending the gods, having a prophecy made about him or getting into other greek trouble. It’s someone who is quite literally the opposite, a man who lived to scorn the gods, did not care and just, wasn’t a great guy. His story is also quite different as in the most important part(and what he is known or) came after his death, after his story concluded. So, without further ado, let’s get into the story of the man who was in Homer’s words, “The most cunning of all men”, Sisyphus.

Sisyphus was the sly, deceitful and ruthless (and if you didn’t figure it out, very Slytherin) king of Corinth. He was super extravagant, lived in general disdain of and did not care about the wrath of the Greek gods (Which is almost I daresay, refreshing). To prove himself an iron-fisted ruler, he would often kill the guests and travellers that came to Corinth. (What else would you do?) This was a big no-no in Ancient Greece and a direct violation of Xenia, the concept of generosity and hospitality shown to guests. The patron of Xenia was Zeus(who you know, isn’t that great himself), who obviously was really angry with Sisyphus and wanted to punish him. Zeus ordered the God of Death, Thanatos to chain him up in Tartarus, the deep abyss in the Underworld, for all eternity. (Punishment fitting the crime indeed)

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Zeus de Smyrne discovered in Smyrna in 1680.

When Thanatos came for him, genius trickster as he was, he asked Thanatos to demonstrate to him how the chains worked, trapped him in them and escaped. (Say what you will, but that is smooth) Since the literal personification of death was chained up, people stopped dying. You could be chopped up to bits and still make it to dinner. The gods were mortified and finally, Ares, the God of War went and freed Thanatos because with no one dying, his wars had become boring. (Great reasoning) So now, our protagonist has literally cheated death and effectively levelled up. Would you believe that he will cheat death one more time? (You’d think they’d learn, right?)

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Thanatos sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, c. 325–300 BC

The second time around, Sisyphus instructed his wife, Merope to not perform the proper burial ceremonies for him after his death and throw his naked body in the middle of a public square as a test of her love( Seems a bit extra, but okay) Due to this, when he reached the Underworld, he manipulated the Queen Persephone into letting him go back to scold Merope and ensuring that the proper rites occur. She lets him go because she is great and then once back, he shows no signs of coming back to the land of the Dead. Thanatos is understandably too terrified of the man and thus refuses to go to bring him back and Sisyphus ends up living to a ripe old age. (I know he’s a murderer and stuff but what an icon)

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Statue of Persephone. Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete

When he finally died, the gods knew they weren’t going to let him go this time. Now, we get to the most famous part of the story, the part you knew, if nothing else about Sisyphus. He was eternally punished to push a boulder up a hill, futilely because as soon as he would reach near the top, the boulder would roll back down and he would have to start over from the bottom of the hill. (Not sure if the crime fits the punishment here exactly but we’ll get into that later) So, as the legend goes, Sisyphus is still at his hill in the Underworld, pushing a boulder up a hill, doing an arduous task that is doomed to fail. And on that, laboured(Ha!) note, we come to the end of the story of the very grey character that was Sisyphus.

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Do you think Sisyphus deserved his punishment? Why/Why not? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

A Changing Sense of Time During Lockdown.

Let’s talk about the concept of time during the COVID19 pandemic today.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

The opening lines of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities really capture how I feel about the lockdown during the current coronavirus pandemic. The reasons to dislike it are obvious and many; I can’t go outside, can’t meet my friends, can’t go to college, the economy is being ruined, so many livelihoods are affected and obviously, so many people are getting ill and dying, the aforementioned worst of times. I have been privileged enough to, however, find some nice things about it too; a whole lot of gratitude for what I had taken for granted before, all this time to spend doing things I love, how I have been able to work on my blog and have a transformed outlook on living every day to the fullest, not the best but very special times. (As of today, I am still very much in the thick of the pandemic, so the day I get back out there is a bit far for now)

I have talked about the coronavirus pandemic, its impact on the world and most majorly, its impact on my world in two of my posts before, which you can find here and here. In both of these posts, I talked more of the immediate reaction to suddenly finding myself in the middle of this pandemic and stuck at home, than the effects of being on lockdown for what is now the majority of 2020 and the contemplations that come with it. In this post, I’m getting into that aspect of life through a pandemic. (And I admit that this is through my undoubtedly privileged lens)

One thing I have noticed and have actually discussed with a few people is that time seems to be standing still and whizzing ahead at the same time. Like, how I for one feel like I have just been living the same day over and over and have not registered the passing of the months after March. (How is it literally almost August?) But also, there is the fact is that somehow 4 almost 5 months have passed and my 21st-year in life and 4th(and last) year in University are just passing me by, without me having registered it.

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This realisation that time stops for no one, not even a crippling,world-stopping pandemic, is not a new one. We choose not to think of it but even so, we do sometimes realise this in regular life too, as we look back and think, “Oh, I was just in school!”, “I just became a teenager!”, “Didn’t I just get my driver’s license?” and many more such quips, but never as acutely as now. This has been bothering me since at least May when I realised my third year of college was effectively over, abrupt as it was. This worry has only grown since and thus, obviously, I have done a lot of (over)thinking about it.

All this thinking has brought me to conclude that we, as a society, as human beings, measure the passage of time through milestones, through events, through watching the world around us change. Being stuck at home means that the big occasions; the birthdays, weddings, graduations look quite different or are cancelled. Not getting to go outside means that we don’t get to watch the seasons change, through the trees and the sky, not properly, so we miss out on nature’s signs that time has passed. We tend to make plans for the next few months and countdown to them and in such uncertainty, all plans have been thrown for a wrench. We can no longer plan vacations, parties or even, going to college far from home. With nothing to look forward to, we don’t quite feel the months as they pass us by.

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As depressing as that sounds, I also came to realise that the best way to handle lockdown is to live one day at a time, even if it is the same day over and over, try to find something new to do every day, to do things that make you happy, to socially distance but not emotionally distance and to use this crazy time to come out better at the end of it. With that thought, before I go, I’d love to wish you good luck for the rest of the year and take this opportunity to say that I really hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe. Please take care!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you felt like time is going by too fast during the lockdown or do you think it is going too slow? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

What I Wanted to be Growing Up

Let’s talk about all the jobs I have wanted to have today.

When I was 5 years old and anyone asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always said, without skipping a beat, “A pilot!” I’d promise to take them around the world on the aeroplanes I flew, I was absolutely certain and I just knew I had made my decision. Then, one day, I watched a movie with my family in which, a plane crashed and the pilot died. The next morning, I knew only one thing: I did not want to become a pilot.k-125-m-356

When I was 7 years old and I was asked, “What is your dream job?” I said, without a  thought, “A teacher!” I loved all my teachers, I loved pretending to teach all my stuffed toys(and my then, 2-year-old sister) and I just thought, this would be so fun. Soon I realised, however, how difficult it really is and how little respect is afforded to teachers(The biggest tragedy of our time, really) Thus, I drifted away from this dream of mine.kisspng-drawing-royalty-free-illustration-a-little-teacher-who-lectures-5a9ad6afc716a8.4707962715200969438155

When I was 9 years old and someone asked, “What do you want to be when you’re an adult?” I answered, quite excitedly, “A scientist!” Science was my favourite subject in school(Apart from English, of course) and if you ask my parents, I was born far too curious and with the need to know everything there is to know about the world, which made this seem like the job for me.320-3202517_little-girl-scientist-clipart-scrappin-doodles-clipart-science

When I was 11 years old and anyone asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I said, as someone who had recently come to that decision, “An astronaut!” We had recently learnt about space and the universe in school. Traversing galaxies and planets, seemed like an upgrade from being a scientist, so astronaut it was. ee7734dd87fef70eb1e639c3f43f33a3

When I was 13 years old and I was asked, “What is your dream job?” I answered, a bit nervously, “An author!” I had always been someone who used words and writing to deal with situations but this was when I was realising that people thought my words were good and wanted to read them. As someone who read a lot myself, I saw nothing better to do. And then, I grew up.depositphotos_61857307-stock-video-little-girl-typing-on-a

When I was 16 years old and someone asked, “What do you wish to be when you’re an adult?” I said, as someone who had discovered something to be passionate about after years, “A blogger!” I had recently made this blog and I had been quite successful from the get-go thanks to the wonderful community here. It had saved me from the abyss I seemed to be falling into, with the last two years of high school being probably the toughest years of my admittedly, very short and barely lived life. And then, I grew up some more.preview

When I was 18 years old and everyone asked, “What do you plan to be in the future?” I said, in a resigned tone,” I don’t know.” I was finally the adult who all these plans had been made for, over the years, but when I actually got there, I couldn’t see any of them materialising, for they were too imaginative, too frivolous, too idealistic and just, too impossible.4XTFNGL

Today, I am 21 years old and I still do not have the fixed, permanent answer to what I want to be when I grow up. Not in the way 5-year old I had it.As far as where I am? I am going to be a Computer Science engineer next year, in what I hope, will be a post COVID world, emerging after facing unprecedented circumstances.

I am at a place where I find myself going back to many of my dreams, like how I’m really interested in research, so being a scientist sounds great. Being a teacher, or more specifically, a college lecturer is something that I can be along with being a scientist so that interests me too. If someone gives me a chance to go to space, I promise you that there is no way I’m saying no. It is still one of my biggest dreams and a major item on my bucket list, to write a book and get it published. As far as being a blogger is concerned, it’s quite simple really, I’ve been doing writing on this blog for the last 4 years, which means I already am a blogger. (I just don’t make money off it, which I am okay with)

There are so many possibilities, so much I can do, just so much I want to be and I don’t want to limit myself to just the one I decide on. Pardon me because while I may have become more practical compared to my childhood self, I am still far more imaginative than the average adult so I can now, somewhat naively, find some pride in my answer of “I don’t know” because honestly, isn’t it just lovely, there’s just so many places I could go!

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Yes, that was a Dr.Seuss reference, very much in line with this post’s theme of growing up.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What all did you want to be when you grow up? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Visiting World Wonders: Vatican City

Let’s talk about Vatican City today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

Hello everyone! Today’s world wonder is quite different from the ‘wonders’ we have discussed till now in that it not exactly a singular ‘wonder’ but more of an amalgamation of many ‘wonders’ if you will. It comprises of many important UNESCO world heritage sites and is one that I’m so excited for because I absolutely enjoyed my visit there and I really just want to geek out about it. (Also I might as well warn you right now because there will be lots of geeking out and fact spouting, so you know, proceed with caution) Without further ado, let’s get on with talking about the world’s smallest sovereign state, home to the Pope(and some of the most culturally significant art and architecture in the world), the Vatican city-state, within the city of Rome, Italy.

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Vatican city comprises of many important sites like the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Since we have so much to cover, I’ve decided to go about this post a bit differently. I will be walking you through the city exactly as I did, in that order, one Wednesday morning in June 2017. I remember it being a Wednesday because that had turned out to be not a very ideal day to visit. We were unaware that it was the day the Pope addressed the state, every week, so it was a bit of a crowded day with many things blocked off and chairs laid out all over the centre of the city.

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For the Vatican, we had a lovely, very bubbly and cheerful tour guide, Letizia, who I for one, definitely bonded with based on my excitement and fact-dropping when I saw in front of me, all the famous art and sculptures I had only heard of till now. We met Letizia at the main doorway to the city, where she began her tour by telling us that in the sculpture right above us, the great artists Raphael and Michaelangelo (On the right and left respectively) were represented, for their many contributions to the beauty and grandeur of the Vatican.

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The doorway with Raphael on the right with a palette in his hand and Michelangelo on the left with a mallet. (I love how that rhymes)
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We walked in and the first thing we saw was the beautiful Vatican gardens with the dome of the St.Peters Basilica peeking above them.

Then, we walked into the first of the Vatican Museums. The museums surprisingly, became one of my favourite parts of the visit, because there was just so many famous paintings, sculptures and frescoes there and I could not stop obsessing over them. We saw many originals, as well as recreations of famous art pieces and even the ceilings, were so gorgeous! (Letizia was just as excited about the art as I was, which was actually the best and made all this much more fun!)

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A recreation of the famous sculpture, Discobolus or the disk thrower.
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The aforementioned ceilings.

Next, we went to St.Peters Basilica, a gorgeous specimen of Baroque and Renaissance architecture. It is the largest church in the world and considered one of the holiest Catholic shrines. It is also home to Michelangelo’s Pietà, a sculpture that depicts Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after his crucifixion. It is also the only sculpture that he ever signed. I am not Catholic but even for me, the church felt so grand, so solemn and so unbelievably beautiful.

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St.Peter’s Basilica
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The Pietà
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The Dome of the church from the inside.

We then walked into the Raphael Stanze or the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican museum which are pretty much exactly what they sound like and are just covered head to toe in Raphael’s most famous paintings and frescoes. For the uninitiated, Raphael was an Italian Renaissance artist, considered one of the best and part of the traditional trinity of the great masters of that period, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo(Who by the way, comes up later.) These rooms were unbelievable, and it was like walking into history, being surrounded by all these gorgeous, really famous pieces of art and I was completely besotten by the beauty of it all.

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Some of Raphael’s most iconic artworks.

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Finally, we got to what you(maybe) and I (definitely) had been waiting for: The Sistine Chapel. This was, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite part of the visit. Seeing Michelangelo’s iconic frescoes through my own eyes was a once in a lifetime experience. Finding the classic god creating man fresco in front of me gave me literal chills. The entire ceiling and every wall is covered in magnificence and I, a mere mortal, was just trying to do the seemingly impossible task of capturing it all and bringing it back with me. It has to be one of the best moments of my life and no words are ever going to be enough. I was lucky enough to see something special, something unbelievable, something from 500 odd years ago. I had only ever seen it in pictures and in my opinion, no picture can capture the grandiose of it all. (Also fun fact courtesy Letizia: Michelangelo saw himself as a sculptor and not a painter and thus took offence at being commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel and rather cheekily painted everyone, god, mortal and whatnot in every fresco, naked. One of his friends came and painted clothes on everyone to save Michelangelo from the church’s wrath. Talk about petty.)

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The ceiling frescoes. Try to find the next picture in there!
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The close-up you were really waiting for.

Then we walked around the centre of the city, where we saw all of the Vatican standing together, all imposing in its grandeur. The buildings, the gardens, the fountains, it is such a  gorgeous place and each and every part is so striking. It was here that I had a wonderful moment with Letizia, that I’ve actually talked about before in my “Hermione Complex” post. She was lovely enough to tell me that I reminded her of her father, who was a great poet and one of her favourite people and that I  was going to grow up to be a very wise person. It is one of my most cherished memories and Letizia if you’re reading, thank you so much, it was very kind. On that warm and fuzzy note, let’s wrap up on our Vatican adventure. I hope I was able to express at least some of the joy and wonder I felt when I visited the place. See you next time!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Vatican City? How was your experience? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!