An ancient Greek myth, which I made up myself, about the creation of evil.


 

Hesiod cursed the day he agreed to be president of the Poets’ Guild. He had assumed his main duties would be drinking wine at poetry contests, writing poetry about wine contests, and naked cavorting – in the name of research – under the perpetual sunrise slash sunset that bathed the idyllic paradise which the gods had created for their followers. No one toiled in the fields, no one labored next to a hot kiln. The bounty of the earth provided for every desire its citizens could imagine, until the poets ran into a Colossus-sized case of collective writers’ block.

 

There was only one thing that could solve the poets’ problem. The Guild membership voted to seek divine intervention. But when it came time for the diplomatic mission to the gods, everyone was suddenly too drunk or too naked to climb up Mount Olympus. So the task fell to Hesiod.

 

When Hesiod knocked on the Olympian door, Hermes answered. “Can it wait? You know how Zeus goes to Earth in an animal form to seduce women? Now he’s plastered on ambrosia and trying to seduce animals.”

 

“My message cannot wait. It’s from the poets.”

 

“Poets, eh? Can you juggle and tell jokes? Anything to distract Zeus from making more centaurs.”

 

“You seem to have poets confused with jesters.”

 

“Whatever. Just distract him.”

 

Zeus’s head popped up from a hay bale. A small laurel wreath crowned his head. A larger laurel wreath served as a poor substitute for pants. “What mortal dares approach the king of gods?”

 

“A message from the poets, sire. While we appreciate the earthly Elysium you created, we feel it is hampering our work. For there cannot be true beauty without ugliness, nor joy without sorrow. And so on.”

 

Zeus’s head tilted like a labrador contemplating infinity. “Are you not pleased with the wine geysers?”

 

“Oh, we enjoy those very much.”

 

“Is the centaur wait staff polite and accommodating?”

 

“Impeccably so. But we’ve run out of poems about how great everything is. We feel we could kick our game to the next level if you threw some despair into the world.”

 

Zeus leaped on a table. ”Would that mean I could smite my subjects? My friends in other pantheons go on and on about the joys of smiting.” He hurled his pants-laurel to the ground and flexed. Hermes rolled his eyes at the alternate pec-popping trick.

 

Hesiod nodded. “In a poetic world, there’s always room for smiting. Who knows, it may even inspire us to greater artistic heights.”

 

“So be it.” A thunderbolt rattled the sky. “Enjoy your sorrow. And if any of you rhyme ‘pain’ with ‘gain’, I’m smiting you with a lightning bolt.”

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