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“Greek Myths And Tragic Heroes” – Focusing On The Issue Of Responsibility

“Greek Myths and Tragic Heroes” – Focusing on the issue of Responsibility

22nd International Focusing Conference
5 – 9 May 2010 Pforzheim, Germany

INTRODUCTION
Let me first of all thank you for your presence here.
It is really a pleasure for us to have drawn your attention!
As we mentioned in our short abstract, it is our belief that the archetypes of Greek myths are still relevant nowadays, as they demonstrate, among other things, human potential and boundaries…
Apparently, the central issues in this context are free will and free choice, which are closely related to responsibility, the theme of our Conference.
To be responsible in a conflict, a crisis, a dilemma is to be inevitable in life.
After all, to live actually means to take Responsibility… And this leads to choices and consequences, which are not necessarily easy but very often difficult, painful, devastating…
Every myth we have chosen highlights a different aspect of this thematic complex, a different facet of the concept of Responsibility, and thus a different attitude towards life…
In our understanding, the essence of Greek myths can be employed by the modern man as a guide in his quest for being acquainted with himself…
Finally, let us point out that the center of attention in myths is the experiencing… This is what matters, not the plot… Thus the myths may facilitate in a way our experiencing process… they give meaning to our experience… they actually emphasize their relevance to the Focusing experiential process.
Under this premise, we had the idea of conducting a workshop with our trainees, who participate in this International. We asked them to choose a character from a Greek myth and study it, by focusing to the specific character’s handling of Responsibility… We had a very positive feedback, which led us to proceed with this Experiential Workshop.
Thank you!

Note: In the pamphlet we have handed out it is outlined the schedule of the whole workshop process, in details.

PERSEPHONE
Persephone, the youngest and prettiest daughter of Demeter, Goddess of the Earth-Mother and Fertility, and Zeus, King of Gods, was violently abducted by Hades, God of the Underworld, who was captured by her beauty and fell in love with her. Demeter was in such anger and pain, that she caused dryness of the Earth, so nothing could come to fruition. Humanity was facing death and catastrophe. In that prospect Zeus decided to send Hermes to his brother Hades and order him to let Persephone return to her mother. Hades agreed, but before he let Persephone go, he offered her some pomegranate seeds. And there, Persephone faced a dilemma:

I feel so happy I can finally return to my mother, but at the same time I know deep within me, I am not the same person I was before I came down here. And that hurts. There’s a part of me which would like to forget all about the violence and the pain I have faced in the darkness of the underworld, all the grief I have felt when separated from my mother against my will. I am not the innocent girl I used to be, and I will never be again. My innocence was violently stolen. So what am I going to do? Accept the seeds my husband offers me, accept the life I had with him, accept that part of myself and always carry it with me, being a lighthouse where there’s darkness and despair, or just leave it all behind as if it never occurred, because it hurts so much?

PROMETHEUS
Prometheus because of his wisdom and knowledge he overcame his mortal nature and became half God. Then, Zeus asked him to accomplish a very important mission: to share the Gifts, such as physical strength, speed and other abilities, to all living creatures of the planet. His brother, Epimitheus, was offered to help him and Prometheus accepted it. Epimitheus though wasted all the gifts and when Prometheus was ready to share them with the people, he discovered there were no more Gifts remained. The human generation was contemned…
Without any hesitation, Prometheus broke into Hephaestus’ laboratory, stole the Fire and buried it inside a giant fennel, to restore it for the human beings.
Zeus punished him with the greatest punishment ever given by Gods. To be eternally bounded on the mountain of Caucasus and every day an eagle to eat his liver which at night would grow back, until the next day that the eagle would come and eat it again.

I’m stuck here! Alone, abandoned, confused… I feel like time has stopped! This place is dry and lifeless, rocks and stones everywhere. The only thing that reminds me I’m alive is this pain! Sometimes I’m lucky enough to see some birds… and the sky. Yes…! I guess I’m so lucky, I can see the sky!
I’m thinking about my life, recall the days of my glory… I was happy those days… I remember the endless days I was travelling to reach Olympus…How much pain and suffering, but what a relief that I made it.
Now, every single day looks the same with the previous one.
Some moments I only suffer pain and others I’m mad at Zeus’ decision. There are other moments though that bring almost a divine clarity and everything seems so bright and clear!
There is a place here in my heart, which endures all the pain and believes that I did the right thing. This part feels love and compassion for every living creature on this planet. This part tells me that I must go on, it trusts me, tells me that this world needs me! “Sometimes, you have to make the choice about the side you defend”. I didn’t want to be a partner in crime!

ARTEMIS
Artemis was Goddess of the Hunt and of the Moon. Artemis was the first-born twin sister of Apollo, God of the Sun. Their mother, Leto, was a nature deity; their father was Zeus, chief God of Olympus. Leto gave birth to her children on the barren island of Delos, hounded by the vindictive wrath of Hera, the lawful wife of Zeus. Artemis was the first to be born. As soon as she was born, Artemis aided Leto during the prolonged labor and difficult delivery of Apollo. Artemis, having been a midwife to her mother, was thus considered goddess and protector of childbirth. When Artemis was three years old, her mother brought her to Olympus, to meet Zeus and her divine relatives. Artemis asked for bow and arrows, a pack of hounds to hunt with, nymphs to accompany her, a tunic short enough to run in, mountains and wilderness as her special places, and eternal chastity – all of which her father granted, plus the privilege of making the selection herself.

I am Artemis the Hunter, the Archer, the virgin Goddess, protector of childbirth. ‘Responsibility’ was the first concept I came across as soon as I was born. I took responsibility of myself, as well as of my mother, as soon as I was born. When it was time to choose my life and my domain I was just an infant. ‘Choice’ was the next thing to come to know. These brought me forward and I became Artemis the Hunter with eye-on-target clarity of focus which is one of the two modes of ‘seeing’ associated with me. By hunting in the night I gained trust and intuition and not to rely on my physical sight, but on my inner one. As Archer I aim for any target, either near or far away, and could know that my arrows would unerringly reach their marks. As virgin goddess I have chosen the intactness, the one-in-myselfness, the attitude of ‘I-can-take-care-of-myself’ that allows me to function on my own with self-confidence and an independent spirit. But where are my infancy, my childhood, where is partnership, a home, to be loved, and motherhood? It is not only ‘responsibility’ and ‘choice’ that I have taken, but also ‘sacrifice’.

AGAMEMNON
Mycenae was once a mighty kingdom of Ancient Greece, and its ruler, Agamemnon, was considered one of the greatest. When his brother’s, Menelaos, beautiful wife, Helen, was abducted by the Trojan prince Paris, the history of Greece was to come into one of its most famous phases: The Trojan War. Agamemnon offended the goddess Artemis and she punished him by stopping the wind and impeding the advance of the whole Greek Army.To restore the wind Artemis requested the sacrifice of Iphigenia, Agamemnon’s daughter. And that is how, by pretending that she was to be married to Achilles, Iphigenia was invited to Aulis, where the army camp was. Agamemnon had to face the hardest decision of his life. He had to choose between the life of his daughter and the loyalty to his kingdom.

I feel devastated. My heart is divided between the love a father feels for his children and the love a king feels for his people.
All of my highest values are, now, in conflict and seem contradictory. My deepest beliefs do not help me now. I wish someone could spare the pain of taking such a decision! But no one can. It is my duty, I am the King and Iphigenia is my daughter.

My heart aches, my soul is in pain, my body feels sick. My whole self is straggling to find out what is the best thing to do.
How can the goddess Artemis ask me to sacrifice my own daughter? My own flesh! What kind of vindictive and evil divinity would require such an act? Should I worship and honour a goddess in this way?
As a king, I am more than happy to give my life for my country’s and my soldiers’ sake. But, how could she ask me to end the life of my beloved youngest daughter? My poor Iphigenia has been the sweetest creature on earth, the joy of my life … the dearest treasure of my heart …

But now I see the eyes of my soldiers staring at me. They want to fight; they want to fulfil their duty and return home. I see they understand my pain. They are good men. They are ready to die for their values and their country. And so do I. That’s my duty and I am a man of honour.
I am a king. Suddenly I feel frozen and extremely sad. But I am calm. It is like something unknown, a hidden source coming from my inner self shows me the right way. I know what to do now and I feel in peace with myself.

ULYSSES
Ulysses’ voyage to Ithaca, after the end of the Trojan War, was adventurous. All his mates died, but he himself managed to arrive to the island of Calypso. Calypso was a kind and beautiful nymph, and the island where she lived was a paradise on earth. She fell in love with Ulysses and told him she would offer him immortality and a serene life, provided that he would live with her for ever. Ulysses stayed with her for seven years but he was always suffering by the following dilemma:

“What should I do? I cannot find peace for my soul. If I stay on this island with Calypso I will become immortal and I will enjoy a peaceful life I have always dreamed of. Till now I have suffered a lot… Yes, there is something inside me that it is hurting… something like dizziness, which is getting more and more intense… I get the image of my lungs. They look like thin pipes that are getting thinner and thinner. There is not enough space for the air to come in… I see my mates, who have followed me all these years, and now they are gone… They are gone because of me, and that hurts a lot. I am so lonely… And then comes the image of Calypso and takes away all the dizziness, the sickness and the lack of air. Finally, I can breathe again! Her image softens everything… She is so beautiful, loving and understanding. Being with her I will not have to worry about anything anymore… Everything feels so calm and encouraged… I have suffered a lot, I deserve this calmness… But it does not last for long. There is something more coming up. My wife and my son! The image is so vivid and intense! How can I forget my family? How can I forget my people? Will I ever be able to see them again? Or will I die in despair? And what if they have forgotten me after all these years? It is easy to stay in paradise, but I have a responsibility towards my family and my people! What should I do?”

ICARUS
Icarus’ father, Daedalus, a talented and remarkable Athenian craftsman, attempted to escape from his exile in the place of Crete, where he and his son were imprisoned by King Minos, for whom he had built the Labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur (half man, half bull monster). Daedalus, the superior craftsman, was exiled because he gave Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, a clew of string in order to help Theseus, the enemy of Minos, survive the Labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur.
Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son. Before they took off from the island, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, or too close to the sea. Overcome by the giddiness that flying lent him, Icarus soared through the sky curiously, but in the process he came too close to the sun, which melted the wax. Icarus kept flapping his wings but soon realized that he had no feathers left and that he was only flapping his bare arms. And so, Icarus fell into the sea in the area which bears his name, the Icarian Sea. His body washed ashore on an island southwest of Samos named Icaria after him, where Heracles found and buried it.
When the name of Icarus is put in the breath area, an image appears:
Immense space – blue, openness, clarity, inner wisdom and peace, and it is like my heart – open as ever – reflects light. Then it feels I know; not what I want or where I go, but that all are one, united, without beginning nor end, without solidity, unfading and unchanged. And there’s a thrill reaching my throat and eyes, which becomes a sigh and open arms.

I am the teenager wearing wings, flying higher and higher and even higher. And somewhere below me, very afar… a dot: another man – my father: creator and teacher. And we fly. I play with the air; rise and fall, do swirls and somersaults – I go in a cloud, hide behind it – thinking of nothing, I am happy, I am free; I feel neither limits nor obstacles.

I am present with all my senses. I feel there is more life – bigger than the one I received – different. I want to be responsible for my existence. I must transcend limits – my boundaries. And I can only do that alone! There is no other way! I must go beyond my own mortality!
It is then when I cross the line between life and death, go over to where boundaries are surpassed, where time and space are one, united and infinite.

The youth has not perished, just crossed to another dimension, eternal and unbroken, blazing and equivalent.

– I live in another reality, bigger than the one I left behind…!

PHAETHON
Phaethon, son of the Sun God Helios and Clymene, made his father promise that he would fulfill his wish to drive the sun chariot. But as the sun chariot was pulled by powerful horses’ everyday from Dawn to Sunset, Sun God Helios tries to prevent his choice explaining that chariot horses’ have exceptional powers and therefore the control of it requires skills and experience.
Phaethon, distinguished charioteer, obsessed by the challenge, insists and he finally gains the leadership of the sun chariot. By the time he reaches mid-heaven, though, he loses consciousness instantly, and the horses sensed that his control is looser and they started galloping without direction.
As the sun chariot approaches the earth lakes dry up and land turns into desert, while as it is getting away of the earth, seas turn to ice, and the cold desolates the nature. Zeus decides to interfere. He pulls down the sun chariot; ceases the disaster and leads Phaethon to death.

Now standing at the depths of Hades, for an eternity, a devastating dilemma arises. If I could imagine of the massive disaster I could cause, I would never have decided to drive the sun chariot.
Burned up forests… Frozen Lakes… My heart is burning, facing the consequences of my decision.
Who wouldn’t have taken the right decision, if one was aware of this tragedy?
But feeling the desire of my heart, the intoxication of power and the joy of guiding the sun chariot, without having forecasting the actual size of this catastrophe, I caused my own death.
Nevertheless, I still wonder: How poor is the man who does not listen to his own heart! How could I have denied this challenge? And since Zeus has intervened and stopped my destructive course, I cannot give a proper answer to this dilemma…

HERCULES
Hercules is probably the most well known figure of Greek mythology; due to his physical strength, almost a semi-god. He was called to walk his life from his human to his godly side. On another perspective he represents the eternal student, the potential hero in every one of us, who is struggling daily, not being fully aware of his inner strength. It is not by chance that the tasks he undertook are called labors and not achievements. Every time he accomplished one, he went through the same process, healing humanity from a wound and bringing it to higher level of consciousness. He is the one who transforms the silent watcher in life to become an aware and active participant. Labor by labor, step by step, the seeker of truth, the eternal student of life faced the same dilemma:

Gods have endowed me with special gifts, which will make my mission easier. I decide to put them aside and walk this journey without them, having with me only my wooden glob, like every other human being. This is going to be my ordeal.
But why am I doing this? What purpose for? What will I gain personally from this? Do I wish to gain fame and glory; do I seek atonement for the crimes I have committed? In every labor I gain personal awareness, I learn to master my destiny becoming an adult taking full responsibility of my actions, baring the consequences…
Am I to share though this wisdom by being humble and showing respect, acknowledging that I am part of a larger community?
In conclusion, what is the quality of every call? Is it personal or collective?

ANTIGONE
I am Antigone, daughter of Oedipus and Iokaste, sister of Eteocles, Polynices and Ismene. The tragic story of my family is well known. Once I was the daughter of the savior of the polis and then I became the daughter of a sinner, of the one who unwittingly married his own mother….

But now I have to put this suffering aside. There is a new devastation that burns my whole existence, which is tearing me apart. My brother, my brother, my beloved brother, Polynices, has been laid down dead. Dead, dead, not only dead but dead by the hand of his own brother. Although this alone is unbearable, I feel that I could have stood it if this was the will of the Gods, and I would have been free to mourn my brother’s death. But there is something greater that doesn’t let me feel my pain, because my pain is covered up by anger. There is anger on the surface, pain in the background and something else there, my sense of responsibility towards my brother and the Gods. My uncle and king of Thebes, Creon, accused Polynices as a traitor of his own polis, and therefore had issued a law against the burial of my brother. If I set aside my feelings towards my brother, I feel Creon is right, and I also feel that my other brother, Eteocles, turned against his own brother out of love for the safety of our polis. But leave him unburied? Let him be pray of vultures? Leave him wandering around the door of Hades like a shadow? Let him go without any proper lament?

How do I feel about this, how do I feel? He has issued a law. Law, law, law. The law of a king. But burial is not a matter of human beings, it doesn’t have to do with human law, and it never did. Burying is the will of the Gods, and it always was. How does it feel, how is it for me, what is my duty, my responsibility towards this crisis? Am I answerable to the law of the king, or to the law of the Gods?

I feel fear, I am afraid. But if I see myself obeying the rule of Creon, gloominess surrounds me. If I go for the will of the Gods there is a sense of elevation of my soul. I am afraid but I am going to do it, I’m going to bury my brother. Me alone, a woman. I’m going to disobey just for my brother’s sake. If this regarded my husband, if I had any, I might have succumbed to the law of humans because I could have married another husband. But since my parents are both dead, I will never have the chance for another brother. I am afraid but I am going to do it, I’m going to bury my brother. Me alone, a woman.

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