Friday, September 2, 2011

What a fool this mortal's been: Part 4.

How I Fell in Love with Gods.

As far back as I can remember, I've been reading voraciously.  I read science books, mysteries, horror, fantasy, science fiction, anything I could get my hands on.  Very early on, I ended up hooked on books about "real" ghost stories, or monsters like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.  I didn't read them to the exclusion of other stuff, but if I found a pseudoscience or supernatural book, I absorbed it.  I was already familiar with wizards and what not, both as good guys and bad guys, but this stuff was marginally better because it was real, or so the books said.  So I learned about Atlantis, and Yetis, and UFOs and the ghosts of the Tower of London and the Winchester mansion and on and on and on.  Hey, they were in the non-fiction section of the library.  The librarians wouldn't get that wrong, the were the keepers of the books!  Knowledge came from books, they knew where the books were, therefore the librarians were the masters of all knowledge.

So I absorbed all this stuff and internalized it.  It appealed to me in the same way the fiction I was reading did, but it was better because it was real.  Sure, other people told me that Bigfoot and UFOs didn't exist, but had they read the books I had?  Of course not, so they were easy to ignore.

Fast forward a few years to sixth grade.  In sixth grade I found Edith Hamilton's Mythologyand thus was I introduced in earnest to paganism.  Now, I didn't believe in these gods yet, I still put them in a class with Jesus, who I didn't agree with, but man, they were so much more entertaining.  They had great stories, not the boring stuff like in the Bible.  Real heroes, huge monsters, epic wars, and I even found out that some of the heroes I already knew about like Hercules were related to them.  Thor was even in there, I thought he was just a comic book character.  This was more like it.

I distinctly remember having a conversation with my dad, who didn't yet know that I had already given up on Catholicism, why we didn't learn about the Greek gods.  I was willing to let God-God be in charge, but I was arguing that we should let the Greek gods in too, maybe have them work for God.  Their stories were just so much more interesting.  He said we couldn't do that because the Greek gods weren't real.  This didn't really take, for the obvious reason.

In the second half of sixth grade we moved to Cincinatti, Ohio for a year and half, returning the summer before eight grade started for me.  Ohio was nice because I got to enjoy real winter again, and it wasn't so hot all the time.  It was also great because not only did I still have the Edith Hamilton book, which I read and reread until it fell apart, in seventh grade we actually got to study Greek history and mythology in social studies, spending what seems in memory to be about half of the year on it, although I don't trust that.  I do know that I got to learn about Sparta and Athens, the Battle of Thermopylae and the war against Persia.  I learned about the foundation of direct democracy and that the Greeks were really honest about rulers who didn't let people vote.  Even the guy who seized power called himself a tyrant, and wasn't that bad a guy.

As cool as all that was, the best part, by far, was the mythology, especially the Trojan War.  The Odyssey was ok, but the War was the best.  I was already familiar with it from Hamilton, but we got to draw pictures and do projects and all kinds of cool stuff.  The coolest part about the Trojan War is that the gods and goddesses of the Greeks did not fuck around.  Ares strode out onto the battlefield to fight for the Trojans and Athena showed up and called bullshit on him.  Hermes was all over the place like a UPS guy on meth.  If you pissed off Zeus, he upped and smacked you with a lightning bolt, and did pretty well with the ladies too, which was a good thing, because otherwise where would all the heroes come from?

The Greek gods didn't pussyfoot around with bullshit like burning bushes or visions, they'd roll up and say hi, although usually as a prelude to messing up your day, although they could also give you a bunch of gifts in exchange for favors, like when Athena hooked up with Perseus to put a hit on Medusa.  They were there, they were more like superheroes, and I couldn't find any instances of utter dick moves like when God wanted Abraham to kill his kid.  They punished people, sure, but only people who deserved it, and they rewarded loyalty with favors.  These gods I could get behind.  I didn't believe in them yet, but between my newly discovered love for them and my predilection for pseudoscience and pop myths, the two things would converge in a few years.

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