I've taken to sitting outside my front door and reading in the morning. I can't read much though before I find myself staring at the grey wall with my matching mailbox hanging on it with an opened book in my right hand and a cup of hazelnut coffee growing colder in my left.
It seems that it don't take too much to pluck my vision from this world and send me off on a journey through the mists in search of explanations. My searches have been driven recently by the need to know two things: the meaning of Medusa and why the movie The Joker was even made.
The first came about because my oldest daughter mentioned something about using Medusa in some project that she is working on. Right way something instinctively warned me that such myths are not meant to be used and to give her fair warning. They exist only to explain things and trying to twist them to our own uses is a fruitless endeavor.
Nietzsche, who probably understood the ancient Greek mindset as well as any modern man, warned against such twisting as well as the effort to to try and make ancient myth and tragedy fit into a modern explanation. There is, however, a great deal of current feminist literature that deals with themes offered up by the myth of the Gorgon.
I've been stuck on the issue of why the great goddess Athena sought to punish Medusa for the crime of being raped in the temple. It is that issue, and its correlation with modern forms of patriarchal justice that enrages many feminist writers and helps them to justify and glorify the power of Medusa to turn men into stone.
In doing so, however, it becomes necessary to dismiss the role of Athena in the story. Afterall, she is not only the powerful and important Goddess of Wisdom, but it is she who also guides and abets Perseus and is the person to whom Perseus later offers up the head. The grisly relic is then placed upon her own her shield as a permanent warning to those who seek to use the mystery of wisdom for their own nefarious ends.
There are other interpretations which state that the crime that Medusa actually committed which enraged Athena was in allowing the mysteries to be profaned. The myth is said to have originated from the temple masks worn by female guardians in order to frighten off people who were unworthy to enter the temple of Athena, people incapable of grasping the significance of the mysteries contained therein.
The rape signifies that the mysteries fell into the wrong hands and were profaned or, at least, an attempt was made to utilize them for the purposes other than the way that the Goddess intended, maybe even an effort to use them in support of a political message? Afterall, what is more profane than the politics of the human race?
It was also Nietzsche who helped me to understand, in some ways, why the movie The Joker was created. The great philosopher designated tragedy as belonging to the sphere of the chthonic god Dionysus. The goat was the god's symbol, and word for tragedy literally means the "goat's song". By placing Drama into the realm of Dionysus, Nietzsche explains that it represents the loss of the individual ego in the face of the inevitable flux of death and annihilation. In Nietzsche's view, this recognition of the underlying forces of dissolution gives them a sacred meaning.
He, however, also throws in elements of the worship of Apollo with all its emphasis on forms, shapes and structures, and which in Nietzsche's view, explains the juxtaposition of the two deities by taking the underlying forces of unrelenting nature, placing them into the form and structures of poetry and dramatic theater, and, however temporarily, turning them into something beautiful that somewhat assuages our human fear of certain death.
Nietzsche offers up the idea that tragic myth lent the Greeks a positive fatalism and not the nihilistic outlook that many modern scholars claim.
And therefore lies my problem with the modern use of myth for our own purposes. The efforts by many modern feminists to enlist Medusa into their struggle to obtain equal justice, have taken one part of the myth and often jettisoned anything that doesn't fit that narrative.
Athena's active participation in what some perceive as the crimes of Perseus and therefore of all men, offers a fairly large clue as there is something more afoot here, and that the solutions they are seeking will never be found in the parsing of the story like the modernists are often prone to do.
And as regards the creation of The Joker; there can be no argument that the movie is presented as a modern take on Tragedy. Yet, the Greeks, and later Shakespeare, told these stories using beautiful poetry in order, as Nietzsche said, to take the never ending threat of death and dissolution to a transcendent level where it becomes art and therefore offers up some kind of meaning and comfort in the face of ultimate terror.
I find it somewhat ironic that those who insist on preaching to us about the virtues of Darwin and of evolution also laugh at the idea of mankind's spiritual evolution and completely fail to even notice how the Greek's success in turning the bleakness of human existence unto the path of a positive fatalism played a huge role into our development and understanding of an even greater mythic outlook, one that has not only given us an even longer lasting and greater appreciation of existence, but offers us hope as well.
The Joker, on the other hand, fails to give us even a small trace of a counteracting beauty and therefore becomes just another act of profaning the great mystery of life in the search of profit and glory, and becomes therefore worthy of Athena's curse.