ONE word frees us from the weight and pain of life: that word is love. WORDS are things. For believers it started with God Himself, who created everything we see today, in seven short days, by word of mouth. Then we earthlings took over.
Our thoughts have elicited both positive and negative responses from the Earth, the only planet where human existence is possible across the entire Cosmos. Note: In spite of all the chest-thumbing about scientific advances and self-flirtations of an ‘agricultural revolution’ man can neither create nor produce.
When a sower puts seed to soil, for instance, a process called ‘photosynthesis’ takes over, for which no human action can take the prize for the ‘germination’ of that seed. My old Swedish friend Bo Lundgren says the term food production was probably coined by economists out to attract public attention about their own relevance in society.
But we digress. Right now our attention is glued to a terrific, yet rather idiotic communication device we call the mobile phone. These useful toys are however so ‘gluesome’ that if they were to be cast into a single tapestry, you would see a huge mug-photo of people caught facedown and stretching across the globe, texting and chatting on charming yet non-human platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram et al.
We need some sanity, and for a share of my own dose this week, we go back in time 6,000 to a man whose quote we cite above: Sophocles (c.496–406 BC), a Greek playwright. His seven surviving plays are notable for their complexity of plot and depth of characterisation, and for their examination of the relationship between mortals and the divine order.
Notable plays: Antigone and Oedipus Rex (also called Oedipus Tyrannus). IN the play Antigone two brothers leading opposite sides died fighting each other in a civil vying for a throne in the republic of Thebes.. Creon, the new ruler of Thebes, decides that Etiocles will be honoured and Polyneces will be in public shame.
The rebel brother’s body will not be sanctified by holy rites and will lie unburied on the battlefield, prey for carrion animals like worms and vultures, the harshest punishment at the time. Antigone and Ismene are the sisters of the dead Polyneices and Eteocles. In the opening of the play, Antigone brings Ismene outside the palace gates late at night for a secret meeting: Antigone wants to bury Polyneices’ body, in defiance of Creon’s edict.
Ismene refuses to help her, not believing that it will actually be possible to bury their brother, who is under guard, but she is unable to stop Antigone from going to bury her brother herself. Creon enters, along with the Chorus of Theban Elders. He seeks their support in the days to come and in particular, wants them to back his edict regarding the disposal of Polyneices’ body. The Leader of the Chorus pledges his support out of deference to Creon.
A Sentry enters, fearfully reporting that the body has been given funeral rites and a symbolic burial with a thin covering of earth, though no one saw who had actually committed the crime. Creon, furious, orders the Sentry to find the culprit or face death himself.
The Sentry leaves, and the Chorus sings about honouring the gods, but after a short absence, he returns, bringing Antigone with him. The Sentry explains that the watchmen uncovered Polyneices’ body and then caught Antigone as she did the funeral rituals.
Creon questions her after sending the Sentry away, and she does not deny what she has done. She argues unflinchingly with Creon about the morality of the edict and the morality of her actions.
Creon Zoom back from antiquity: The man Jesus Christ whose birth (over 2000 years ago) we’re celebrating next Monday, has done away with all the oracles and the likes of the blind prophet Tiresias becomes furious, and, thinking Ismene must have known of Antigone’s plan, seeing her upset, summons the girl. Ismene tries to confess falsely to the crime, wishing to die alongside her sister, but Antigone will not have it. Creon orders that the two women be temporarily imprisoned.
Haemon, Creon’s son, enters to pledge allegiance to his father, even though he is engaged to Antigone. He initially seems willing to forsake Antigone, but when he (Haemon) gently tries to persuade his father to spare Antigone, claiming that ‘under cover of darkness the city mourns for the girl’, the discussion deteriorates, and the two men are soon bitterly insulting each other.
When Creon threatens to execute Antigone in front of his son, Haemon leaves, vowing never to see Creon again. Creon decides to bury Antigone alive in a cave. She is brought out of the house, and this time, she expresses her regrets at not having married and dying for following the laws of the gods. She is taken away to her living tomb.
When Creon arrives at Antigone’s cave, he finds Haemon lamenting over Antigone, who had hanged herself. After unsuccessfully attempting to stab his father (Creon), Haemon stabs himself instead – prophesy delivered.
After Creon condemns himself, the Leader of the Chorus closes by saying that although the gods punish the proud, punishment brings wisdom. Zoom back from antiquity: The man Jesus Christ whose birth (over 2000 years ago) we’re celebrating next Monday, has done away with all the oracles and the likes of the blind prophet Tiresias.
Enjoy – because we’re celebrating the birth of a man who believers call “the light, the way … and the life.” In the meantime, JPM has spoken forgiveness – and there are ripples of joy across the nation. But this is a story for another day. May you see the light. Seasons greetings folks … everyone!