Friday, August 22, 2008

Hubris, Sheep, and Salmon

hubris > Origin Greek, denoting presumption towards or defiance of the gods

A friend recently pointed out that I demonstrate this quality in abundance. I was flattered that he would think so.

Hubris was not smiled upon by the gods of mythology. Those mere mortals who displayed it— Prometheus, Naiobi, Arachnae, Oedipus, Cassandra, among others—suffered mightily for doing so. I’m sure I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with the gods.

Our God isn’t wild about hubris, either, which is why He and I long ago reached what I hope is an amicable parting of the ways. I never presumed to be godlike, other than in the creation of the worlds and characters within my books, but I most certainly do defy the right of anyone to tell me how to live my life.

Our government, which too often looks upon itself as godlike, definitely does not like hubris. When it comes right down to it, I cannot think of any form of authority who/which does not consider any questioning of its authority to be hubris. To question is to challenge, to challenge is to be in effect a traitor. You’re with us or you’re against us. Period. There is no middle ground. It is the ultimate irony that mankind has never made a single inch of progress without questioning some authority or other, and yet those who initially ask the questions generally do so at their peril.

Actually, I look on hubris as something of a badge of honor. Anyone who presumes to tell me what I should do, or how I should do it, or attempts to make my decisions for me had damned well better have a good reason for it..

Life is filled with choices, and hubris divides the world into salmon and sheep. To display hubris is to be a salmon swimming upstream, and fighting the currents is never easy. To never defy anything is to be a sheep, and there are far too many sheep in the world. Sheep, without a moment’s thought or question, go in whatever direction they are pointed…which is all too frequently to the slaughterhouse. Being a sheep is fine, if it is a conscious choice. But most sheep are sheep by default, simply because it never occurs to them to be anything else.

Hubris stems from independent thought, and independent thought is admittedly inconvenient. It often calls unwanted attention to the thinker, rather like watching the Rockettes and seeing one dancer not in sync with the others. It is axiomatic that most people assume that if someone says something must be done a certain way, or must be believed unquestioningly, they have a very good reason for it, and it is far safer not to make waves than to be swamped by them.

Children personify hubris. To them, the world is one vast “Why?” To answer a child’s question with “Because”, as is so often the case, does them a great disservice and merely serves, over time, to erode any desire to question. Still, many children refuse to accept “Because” as a logical answer, and it is they who continue to question and defy authority. It is they who go on to become salmon. I’m happy to say I was one of them.

It’s never too late to become a salmon.

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