The Norman Transcript

January 10, 2013

‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts’

By Elizabeth Cowan
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — It would behoove us to amend the quote to read, “Beware of Greek gods bearing gifts.” The gods were sneaky, manipulative and loved disguises. Since they lied more often than not, they cannot be trusted — no matter what they promise.

However, we should be thankful to a second generation Titan of Greek mythology, Prometheus. He is the one who defied Zeus (the control-freak head god) by stealing fire from the gods and giving it to man. Unlike Zeus, who was all about himself and his power, Prometheus was fond of mankind. After all, he was commissioned by Zeus to fashion man from water and earth (aka clay). Then, things got out of hand. Man gained fire and knowledge, and Zeus was ticked.

For his trouble, Zeus commanded Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire and metalwork, to chain Prometheus to Mount Caucasus, where an eagle/vulture would eat his liver. Then the liver would regenerate and the munch fest would begin all over again.

This tale is a bit gross but more believable than picturing Og the Caveman accidentally knocking some rocks together and discovering fire. Perhaps Prometheus made it happen and Og got the credit.

In either case, fire gave light and heat, and folks did not have to gnaw on raw meat any longer, unless they were from the Land of Lotus Eaters and liked sushi or steak tartare.

Over the centuries, man encapsulated “fire” into bulbs of all shapes and sizes, which made it possible to move out of the drafty, unsanitary caves and build houses with lighting fixtures. In time, they developed stoves, allowing more flexibility in cooking than fireplaces or fire pits did.

With lighting and heating keeping the darkness at bay, man moved on to bigger and better things. Naturally, there were exceptions, like children and some adults who are afraid of the dark and need a nightlight to keep the monsters in the closets and under the beds from coming out.

Silly people, believing in monsters. However, the gods of old were not exactly warm and fuzzy either, and people believed in them as well. Although, sometimes the gods’ indiscriminate choices of mating partners produced some really ugly children — the Hydra, Cyclops, Cerberus and other charmingly twisted brats/minor deities. Granted, children tend to act out sometimes, but these kids were in a class by themselves. Can you imagine a high school filled with such twisted, divine offspring? The stuff of nightmares, to be sure.

Moving away from the dark side into the light, don’t you think lights make everything seem a bit more festive?

For example, afternoon rush-hour traffic during the winter months looks so much more pleasant than it does in daylight. Instead of an endless line of cars chomping at the bit to jump one car ahead of you, we see a bright serpent of light winding its way along the highway. It’s a bit like celebrating the Chinese Year of the Dragon every night.

Lights outline buildings, decorate trees and houses, particularly during the holidays. At night, the world looks like a fairyland where only beauty exists. The daytime appearance of all those cords and wires is a less-appealing sight.

There is one type of light that is bright and visible day or night. At first glance, it reminds us of scene in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in which the lights produce music, a form of communication between the extraterrestrials and men.

This earthborn light also dances merrily, moving to a music we would prefer not to hear. They are the lights on top of a squad car and the cacophonic sounds of the sirens. Unlike the Sirens of mythology, the sounds are jarring and make our stomachs clench with the knowledge that we made a mistake and got caught.

As you accept the ticket, remember this is the dark side of the gift from Prometheus.

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and author. Check out her novel The Dionysus Connection on Amazon. Visit her website, www.elizabethcowan.com.

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.