Given our constant exposure to chaos and confusion, one would have thought, that we, humans would be masters of the game by now, totally at ease with the great role that these dual concepts play in our lives. Yet, when we look at the newspaper headlines and see what is happening in the world, in our country, in our city and even in our own lives and that of our loved ones, we still find ourselves groaning, “What’s happening? Why is this happening? It makes no sense.” We feel sad and angry, and even cheated that life refuses to present itself to us, gift wrapped, in neat little orderly boxes!
As children, chaos is not introduced to us, as the powerful lifelong companion that it is. There is no training to embrace it for the powerful ally it has the potential to be. We are taught to fear chaos. As for confusion, instead of being seen as a powerful motivator to seek the unknown, it is looked upon with disdain and we quickly learn to hide our confusion, developing complicated and devious thought systems that pretend to either have all the answers, or simply ridicule the questions that will not be answered.
No wonder then, as adults, we are constantly trying to get our lives in order, desperately clinging on to the belief that after this particular bit of outer chaos has been contained, after our latest inner confusion has been swept under the carpet, we will live happily ever after. Life however has other plans, and gleefully tosses the next level of challenge, ‘come on’, it says ‘work with this, grow!’ and we groan again.
Chaos: According to Greek mythology, all creation, elements, Gods mortals, animals, monsters, nymphs…, all were born out of an enormous shapeless darkness called Chaos. There is no explanation given as to how Chaos was born, however we are told that Chaos gave birth to five children: Gaia – the earth, Tartarus – the underworld, Erebus – the gloom of the underworld, Eros – the force of love, and Nyx- the power of darkness. And the worlds were created from these children. It seems then, that all creation has Chaos present at its very source, in fact it seems to be the very thing that brought forth creation, our very existence. Yet we continue to deny its expression in our lives.
Confusion: There is a lot of confusion in Greek mythology, with regards to the birth stories, parentage, realms of power, names and even physical attributes of the various Gods.
For example, Aphrodite, the Goddess of love has two birth stories. We are told that the stories may point to the same Goddess or two different Goddesses. According to one story Aphrodite is the daughter of Uranus (father of Kronus, who in turn is the father of Zeus). According to this story, Aphrodite is a half-sister to Kronus and an aunt to Zeus. According to another story Aphrodite is the daughter of Zeus and a nymph called Dione. So we have the first level of confusion, is Aphrodite an aunt or a daughter to Zeus?
Now, let’s continue with the birth stories of Eros. According to the first myth, he and Chaos are the parents of all creation. This story makes him a venerated ancestor of Zeus. According to a second myth he is one of the sons of Chaos, whereby, he is pushed down by a generation but still remains a venerated ancestor of Zeus. The third myth places him as the son of Aphrodite. If we combine this with first birth story of Aphrodite, Eros is a cousin of Zeus. In the forth and the last combination, where we combine Eros’ birth with the story that says Aphrodite is the daughter of Zeus, Eros becomes a grandchild of Zeus! So who was Eros a venerated elder to Zeus? His cousin or his grandchild? Confusion enough? But wait there is more.
Over the years, not only was Eros downgraded generationally Vis a Vis Zeus, but mythology attributed different appearances to him as well. He started as a full grown handsome man, subsequently he was reduced to a less dignified character with wings and cute arrows. Later under the Romans, he was turned into the cherubic Cupid! Many of the Gods and Goddesses had similar confusing stories attributed to them.
Similarly, there is a lot of overlap and confusion in the jurisdiction and realm of power between the various Gods and Goddesses. Gaia, Rhea, Demeter were all considered Goddesses of fertility, often leaving the inexperienced reader at a loss! Were they the same? Or were they separate? Confusions galore.
Logically speaking, most of the chaos and confusion is attributed to the turbulent and stormy early history of the Mediterranean region. Greek mythology itself grew out of many traditions, added to this, were the myths and belief systems of the various invaders, reshaping and changing the earlier myths of the conquered civilization.
However, if we are willing to look beyond the constrictions that logic places on us, and move deeper into the wisdom hidden in myths, we can draw, important life lessons from these, that can guide us in our modern life as well as they guided the ancient Greek. Listening to these myths deeply, can help us accept that chaos and confusion are a natural and positive part of our lives. And acceptance is an important step, if we want to navigate our lives through our chaotic and confusing times.
It is a reminder that life will not unfold in the linear and predictable way that we hope it will. Life’s offerings are chaotic and messy, and often we find ourselves confused with no rational explanation as to why things turn out the way they do. In these times, mythology comes to our rescue, reminding us that it’s always been like this. And when we are ready to embrace this reality, we too can keep birthing our new selves, Godlike in the midst of chaos and confusion.