The Mashal of Dionysus

You know the story of Dionysus — that he was burnt to ashes — died essentially — but the goddess Wisdom rescued his heart. And this is true in our lives, we are constantly dying, but there is a heart or crumb of who is really us who gets rescued by wisdom — or perhaps wisdom counts as the ability to rescue our heart when we die. And start again.

Klaus was the family exchange student from Germany and he said a strange thing at my father’s birthday party. After the old man blew out the candles he said “Do you really believe in George Washington?’ “I do, but…what? And why do you bring him up now Klaus?”

Klaus: Americans believe that George Washington visits the birthday of every American in his spirit form but one must blow out candles or he will be burned.

Me: Americans don’t believe that. Where did you get that idea, Klaus?

And Klaus reveals that his father gave him mimeographed sheets about American culture including the George Washington idea as well as

Why American womens are quiet when they orgasm: they believe the sound of an orgasm feeds bear spirits who will return to kill their children

Why Americans carve a face into a squash on Halloween: the face is the face they will have at their moment of death, and a frightening one will repel Hell demons

Why American food is so bad: to propitiate their Balloon Deity, Ruzmatuzz

and similar falsehoods. “Ah.” said Klaus “My father deliberately lied to me to test his Theory of Exoticism.” Klaus’s father, Herr Professor Oberstein, had a theory of how countries misunderstood other countries by bringing their own fantasies to the table. So Germany had misunderstood the Jews, so Russia had misunderstood Finland, so the Greeks the Persians, and the Cro Magnon the Neanderthal back to beginningless time.

FWOOSH! That life with Klaus burned up, but I was able, like Athena with Dionysus, to pluck from it its heart: its heart for wisdom.

What is the fake tour book we bring with us when we go as tourists or exchange students in another person’s soul, so we never see what is really there, but only what the guidebook says will be there?

And when we visit our own?


7 thoughts on “The Mashal of Dionysus

    • And maybe stop relying on guidebooks once you’ve arrived at your destination?

      Reminds me of my epic Death Valley trip a dozen years ago. I had several books and plotted and planned how my friends and I could see it all. Then, once we’d arrived , we narrowed the list down to a few key locations so we’d have timeto explore and appreciate the beauty that *is* uniquely Death Valley.

      You even gesture in the general direction of Death Valley and I will take that as an invitation to road trip. I’ll leave the books at home, which frees up the soul and helps you see beyond the sand and sweat.

      • I think it’s mandatory to almost come to grief (that’s such a remarkable saying used too infrequently these days) in Death Valley, down in the valley, in the desert, or in the middle of…not much more than land and sky. It’s part of the whole experience. I never made it to Eureka Valley and the dunes (it was on the list!), but I remain hopeful to get there someday.

        I would love a story about how you — forgive me for being repetitive — almost came to grief there. (I’m going to be working that phrase into as many conversations as possible until others start using it again.)

        Thanks for always sparking something in my brain, Eric. It’s so helpful after feeling brain throttled this past year

  1. I went hiking from the valley one over and only took a gallon of water. I slept in eureka valley and I got disoriented so when I came back when I crossed the ridge and expected to see my home valley instead I just saw another empty desert valley. I didn’t realize it but I had come to an area where the ridge was made of a lot of smaller up and down ridges so I had to keep going up and down and exhausting myself. I got scared that I was going to die. But I didn’t. I essentially ran out of of water, although I kept a tiny bit left in my gallon jug. I was retching from dehydration. When I finally saw the patch of green where I lived I was pretty happy you can believe.

    • That would be frightening in every way imaginable to me. Maybe more so before I was diagnosed as diabetic and couldn’t make it 15 minutes without water.

      I am so glad you had the presence of mind to ration water, rest, & prevail!

      Next time, take a walk/hike buddy. Or tell someone where you’re going, when you’re leaving, & that you’ll let them know when you’re back home. (I was a very good Girl Scout…for a very short period of time.)

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