Nike

Standard

Nike stands vigil on the Cordova Street median at Thurlow in downtown Vancouver. Daughter of the Titan Pallas and the goddess Styx, she comes from a distant past. Sister to Kratos (Strength), Bia (Force), and Zelus (Zeal), she represents Victory.  Endowed with speed and agility, she took her place as the divine charioteer, rewarding the victors of battle with glory and fame. Her name has endured over the centuries, along with her companions Zeus and Athena.

Nike

Nike came to Vancouver, a gift from the Greek city of Olympia in honor of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games hosted by our fair city.  Designed by Pavlos Angelos Kougioumtzis, who lives and works in Athens and Delphi, there is a remarkable strength embodied in Nike’s abstract beauty and elegant lines.  Bronze, four-metre-tall and placed atop a 2.5-metre base, Nike presides over a busy city intersection, a profound reminder that ancient ways are embedded in our modern societies.

We are defined by our mythologies. In turn, our mythologies keep us focused on universal themes that have been embraced and handed down through the generations of human history.

Nike

The Beginning of Always

Standard
Ancient Egypt

The Pyramids of Giza

“Remember tonight… for it is the beginning of always”

Dante Alighieri

I love beginnings, a fresh start, a new adventure with promises of open roads and opportunities.   Energy, anticipation and hope are all wrapped up in “firsts.”  As a whole, we understand what is required in the early stages:  set up a plan, identity a goal, make a list, share the list.  Oh, the rush of adrenaline as we race into the future.  There will be an end, of course.  And what a glorious feeling it will be when we come to the end of our journey, knowing that we have given our best.

Beginnings and endings are the bookends of our existence.  Two points of time that frame the experiences, both good and the not so good, that nuance our lives.

And then there is always…forever.

Ancient Eqypt

The Great Sphinx

Forever is a very long time.  We may say that we will love forever and remember forever, even though we are not here forever.   Since the beginning of time, however, we have been pursuing the concept of “always” with a boundless passion.  Ancient Egyptians believed that death was only a temporary interlude before rebirth and a new journey.  The ancient Etruscans envisioned sea horses and dolphins transporting souls to Elysium, the Islands of the Blessed.  Ancient Greeks crossed the river Styx on a boat, steered by Charon.

Are we so different from the ancients? William Shakespeare, in his play Hamlet, called death: “The undiscovered country from whose bourn, No traveler returns.”   This thought is echoed by Chancellor Gorkon, in Star Trek VI, The Undiscovered Country. (You may recall that Chancellor Gorkon stated that Shakespeare could only be perfectly experienced in the “the original Klingon.”)

Ancient Egypt

The Pyramids of Giza

We recognize and embrace forever for it seems to be in our DNA to press forward, to take “a next step.”  Here’s a thought:  what if “forever” was in the moment?  That every breath we take (the average person takes between 17,280 – 23,040 per day) the possibility of always is before us.  As Emily Dickinson once wrote:

 “Forever is composed of nows.”

Rivers of Creative Fantasy

Standard

Water

Carl Jung once wrote, “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.” Over the centuries, rivers have taken a vital position in our stories, artwork and mythologies.  Rivers are a symbol of fertility, giving water to the soil so that it brings forth life and nourishment.  Yet, the water is in constant movement, forging a pathway through harsh landscapes marked by boulders to exultantly merge with the ocean, the waters of creation.   Rivers represent life and the passage of time; a beginning and end.

The Greeks embraced a magnificent mythology that included five main rivers, representing the emotions associated with the journey of transition.  The famed Styx, named after the goddess Styx, is said to have circled the underworld seven times, outlining the border between earth and the underworld.   Achilles, as an infant, was dipped into the dark waters by his mother who wanted to ensure his immortality.  Alas, she held him by the heel, the one spot that left him vulnerable to poisoned arrow of Paris, during the Trojan war.

The Acheron is known as the river of pain. According to Euripides, Charon, the Ferryman waits patiently to transport the dead across the river to Hades.  The Lethe River is connected to Lethe, the goddess of forgetfulness and oblivion.  It is said that it flowed around the cave of Hypnos and through the underworld.  Woe betide any who drank from its waters for they would lose all memory.   However, ancient Greeks who believed in reincarnation said it was to erase all memory of a previous life so as to begin anew.

According to Plato, the Phlegethon known as the river of fire, led to the depths of Tartarus, thought to be as far below Hades as the earth is below the sky. And the last is Cocytus or the river of wailing, that flows into the river Acheron.

These five rivers are evidence that the ancient Greeks had a belief that our journey continued beyond our mortal existence.  They were the symbols used “to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.”

 “All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy.  What right have we then to depreciate imagination.”

Carl Jung