Friday, April 15, 2005


Case Study #1 Bored God: POSEIDON FREAKS OUT

Long ago Poseidon was a powerful and important god. Intelligent people built huge temples in his honor. Talented artists painted and sculpted images of him. Festivals were had in his honor, at which diligent church ladies made sure everyone got enough casserole. He had a whole army of priests who spoke on his behalf. The righeous prayed to him, especially when they were planning sea-going voyages or building expensive shorefront property.

This god was taken seriously. Check your Homer (THE ODYSSEY) if you don't believe me. If you were to ask Homer if Poseidon was a myth, he'd look at you ... (wait a minute, he was blind) ... he'd regard you with the same shocked expression that you might expect from Dobson if you told him Yahweh is a myth.

Established. Poseidon was an important god. He ruled the oceans, the rivers, and the itty bitty springs. The Romans called him Neptune.

Along comes the Big Guy and his followers, and they marginalize old Poseidon. Only one god at a time for the followers of the Big Guy. And as these followers grow in number, they take over Poseidon's temples and shove around his statues until the statues crumble. Poseidon takes his pink slip, files for unemployment compensation, and retreats to Atlantis.

Fast forward a couple millennia. Poseidon's been sitting down in Atlantis, bored out of his gourd. Since no one worships him anymore, no new souls come to Atlantis (well, maybe a few here and there, but not enough to increase the overall population). Poseidon knows everyone in Atlantis way too well. He may even be feeling a little bit sorry for himself, although gods rarely fall prey to self-pity (there are a few notable exceptions to this rule).

One day shortly before Christmas, Poseidon decides to take a stroll amongst the mortals. It's been awhile. He finds himself in posh Westport, Connecticut, at the Westport Country Day School. There the 9th graders are receiving their test scores for Social Studies Examination #3: Ancient Greek and Roman Myths and Mythical Figures.

Courtney Elizabeth Roth-Knepper sits at her desk. She takes one look at her test grade and bursts into tears. "Oh my God!" she says.

The epithet gets Poseidon's attention. "Can I help you?" he asks.

She can't hear him. He's a myth, remember? The tears flow as her sympathetic friends rally around. "Oh, God," she reiterates. "My parents said I couldn't go skiing with Biff and his family if I didn't get at least a 'B' on this test! And look at this! How could I know SPELLING would count? Who can spell 'Poseidon,' anyway? And why do we have to learn such MEANINGLESS stuff and get tested on it? Who cares about ancient gods?"

Well, Courtney's not a bad egg after all. She wouldn't consciously hurt Poseidon's feelings. But she's cut him to the quick. He floats back to Atlantis in a blue funk.

As I said, gods aren't known for self-pity. When confronted, they tend to get angry, to send Horsemen, or locusts, or at the very least an unusual darkening of the sky, just to burn off the anger. So Poseidon goes home, and he gets angrier and angrier. He's tired of being a myth! He wants his old job back! He did it just as well as the new guy, maybe better sometimes, maybe worse sometimes, but the difference was not statistically significant. Why should he sit down in Atlantis, being disrespected by teenagers?

Poseidon starts beating up on the furniture, the rocks outside his palace, the vent in the ocean where all that lava pours out. He's so mad he whips up a whopper of an underwater earthquake.

A giant tsunami forms and rages across the land, far and wide. Sweet babies get ripped from their mothers' arms and hurled into the flood. Whole families die as they're swept out to sea. Countries that always totter on the verge of economic ruin are cast into the real thing as the damage spreads. The casualties are astonishing.

The Big Guy's missionaries rush in to help out. Some people, it doesn't matter what god you hand them to work with, they're going to do the right thing. Those who can't board a plane or adopt an orphan send money. But that won't restore the dead babies or the sweet little kids who just couldn't get away from the water.

People unaffected by the tragedy shake their heads, utter a "tsk tsk" and call the tragedy an "Act of God."

Does anyone think, "Gee, Poseidon might be angry about being neglected?" Does anyone erect an altar and make an offering to Neptune? Alas, no. All that fuss and bluster came to naught. Poseidon's still a myth.

I said a prayer to Poseidon. I asked him not to do that again, because some of us believe in Atlantis.

I take these bored, neglected gods seriously. Why? Because folks, while you bicker about putting the Ten Commandments in courtrooms and order your science teachers to call evolution an "unproven theory," another bored god is becoming just a tad miffed. While you spew greenhouse gases into the air with your "Honk If You Love Jesus" SUVs, while you encourage poor people to have big, big families and spread over this rock we share like kudzu run amok, a certain bored god is getting ... just a tad miffed. The clock is ticking on this bored god's fuse.

Even the Big Guy will tremble when the charge hits the powder keg.

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