Growth and Power
Edited by Miriam Zeghlache
The astronomical hamartia: the wisdom of immortality
From the garden of Eden to modern crafts, humanity has battled through time; persistent, yet insatiable for triumph. Where there is a will, there is a way, I say; though everything is just written in the stars, is it not? Quite literally too, seeing as how each constellation has its own story to tell. Example: the eighth largest in the cosmic hemisphere, Draco (the Dragon) is said to have been Ladon, guardian of the golden apples in the garden of Hesperides. Initially a matrimonial offering to the Empress of the Olympian Gods, Hera, she scattered his image into the skies, a portrait of commemoration upon his death by Hercules (Alexander, 2021) It is indeed worth noting that, in this tale, two divine deities are the ones with authority; Hercules, a demi-god, was the one with control over Ladon’s end, and Hera, over the remnants of his aftermath, demonstrating that death is not something we can control.
Initially, it may appear as though the deity had limited influence on Ladon’s death, since Hera (Queen of the Gods) hadn’t interfered in Hercules’ conquest – it can be said that Ladon was but a pawn in the fulfilment of Hercules’ eleventh labour, which required for him to slay the Dragon and take the guarded apples. As a demi-god (and the son of Zeus, himself), it was most probable that Hercules (Bowden et al., 2005) was predestined to finish this conquest, leaving Ladon as a puppet in the tasks of a superior being.
Irrespective of the different times and civilisations that have lived before us, alleged religious history illustrates mankind as experiments, where the divine intervene. A viable explanation for this could be the consequence of man deliberately being created imperfectly. Currently, the world’s leading faith belongs to Christianity; an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion, alongside Islam and Judaism. Christianity depicts the story of the father of mankind to be one of great ambition and materialism. Eve, seduced by the shrewd serpent, shared the fruit with Adam, forcing awareness of their nudity. This invoked emotions of shame and humility to both, reinforcing the separation between humanity and the creator. Dissecting the implications of acquiring the knowledge of their state, it is disputable whether the psychological connotations implied were to remind man of his susceptibilities, two of which were: malleability and narcissism. For generations to come, the daughters of Eve would be cursed with childbirth and obedience to their husbands, while the sons of Adam were reprimanded with hard labour in exchange for vegetation and mortality for mankind.
For dust we are, and to dust we shall return. (Genesis 3.19).
Although our demise is inevitable, it is nonetheless irrefutable that we struggle with this realism and consciously approach the end with an optimistic, if not idealistic narrative. Regardless of our individual perspective of the last day, the question of our purpose plagues us.
If, in death, I shall find reason, then why do I exist?
Gifted with curiosity, we work to bridge the gap between the absence of tangible data proving the existence of the omnipotent. Among us are those who believe in a higher power; through conviction, we gain a share of an eternal, heavenly afterlife; a step closer to him. And then there are those who question; perhaps through rejection, we gain victory over him. There is simply too little left answered.
I am a Pisces, a fish out of water, searching for a way back home.
The original sin illustrates man as an opportunist, hunting for ways to bridge the gap between the ‘creator’ and the ‘creation’. Abrahamic, monotheistic faiths explicitly forbid practices that nurture dependence on a deity other than the one “true God”. Alternatively, polytheistic faiths such as Wicca embrace such rituals as part of revering nature, which increases our energy flow. Examples incorporate rites that permit practitioners to either attract or repel physical and psychological transformation since everything has a ‘soul’. The lunar cycle is among the many offerings of nature employed to perform ‘magic’. Rituals linked to the moon are known as ‘moon magic’. By charging objects (such as water) from the moon’s magical currents, Wiccans can then boost their momentum through these fluxes to achieve quantifiable value on material gains/losses through spiritual connections.
It can be said that the “soul” acts as a gateway between the immortal divine and mortal man. As part of our “punishment” for the original sin, our flesh will decay upon death, leaving the soul vulnerable for judgement. The concept of the spirit can be associated with our desire for immortality (potentially as a coping mechanism) for it is the “soul” that remains after death.
During the 4th and 5th centuries in ancient Greece, Protagoras, a relativist, known for “man was the measure of all things” hypothesised that perception cannot be measured in a feasible straight or curved line. He theorised that each one person holds a unique perception of the world, denoting the ultimate truth was unattainable due to each mind perceiving the world inversely.
How do we quantify the truth in one’s perception when the whole truth itself is inaccessible?
A democracy does not determine the ‘truth’, but rather, the concept of what is. This becomes the truth, hence an illusion society has decreed to be fact. Each individual’s observations are as essential as the other for the world to exist in “harmony”. Ideally, we ought to be able to both fear death, while recognising our restrictions in evading it, which would assist in providing a “healthy” balance to how we perceive death as a civilisation.
This dichotomy within mankind can also be explored utilising scales. If we allocate the notion of radical control to one end of the scale and the opposite equivalent of extreme subservience to the other end, it may become easier to appreciate the narrow-minded views of man. Instead of acknowledging our perception of life as a ladder, we subconsciously picture survival through a monochromatic lens; anything but power repeatedly indicates obedience, signifying “weakness” in a world where we survive through adaptation. If we become powerless, we become undesirable, hence isolated from the world. We associate solitude with decay and the horrors of death because we enter and leave this world alone.
Similarly, the extreme opposite, control, can encourage psychological lonesomeness due to the lack of “equality” between us and all entities around us. As the top of the food chain, we may succumb to the narcissistic tendencies demonstrated by our ancestors in the original sin (verifying we occasionally overestimate ourselves), which perceptibly lead to our disgrace.
It is debatable whether this contradiction can be used to explain why we crave perpetuity; although we are palpably mortal, we crave an immortal “soul” to balance our existence and this in turn delivers solidity. Alternatively, perhaps it is not a balance in stability we yearn for, but in its place, the permanency we obtain through absolute control, which if supplied to man, could yield annihilation. As social animals, humans rely on each other to demonstrate the extent of power we have. Regardless of whether we have control, we feel self-conscious; with influence, we fear duplicity and the loss of such authority and without power, we fear for our own survival.
Instead of observing our end as just that, we build narratives and religious convictions to alleviate our disappointments over the unknown; of what we have no control over - death. Perhaps it is the idea of disappearing without glory or fulfilment; if we die fighting for a “greater good”, our compensation shall be a share of the amenities we associate with the omnipotent. Without any long-term benefits to carry over onto the “next life”, we would need to accept that we live a meaningless life, which also diminishes the value of everything we struggle to attain.
Moreover, we wilfully recognise the premeditated patterns of the universe, when deciphering our position in God's play - with our origins and death being one of our most debated topics. It is possible that tales, such as the original sin exist for us to learn from, an attempt to prevent us from replicating the same mistakes as our ancestors (deceiving ourselves into believing that we can overcome the creator). Still, we utilise resources provided by the omniscient in an attempt to overcome death, all while being aware that we cannot. Moreover, it is feasible that we were designed to subconsciously compete against anything we consider to be superior; which might be the only way to frequently humble us; by reminding us of the differences between us and God.
I am my own demise.
James, K. and Beeman, D., 1979. The book of genesis. The Holy Bible, pp.1-78.
Alexander, D., Serpent in the Stars: Draco.
Bowden, H. and Rawlings, L. eds., 2005. Herakles and Hercules: exploring a Graeco-Roman divinity. ISD LLC.