Posts Tagged "vain"

Venus, Cassiopeia, Orion, and Unhealthy Vanity

Dear Kid,

If you happen to live in this hemisphere, and if you happen to be awake early enough in the morning that it is still dark, and if you happen to be outside, and if it happens to be reasonably cloudless, take a moment to look up.

Right now, Venus is shining so brightly it hurts. You can tell it’s Venus because it is far too bright to be a star and it’s not moving particularly quickly (you might think it’s an airplane, but it’s Venus).

I love the constellations this time of year. Cassiopeia is one of my favorites. This is probably my favorite time of year for stars. I love seeing Orion and Cassiopeia (she’s the one that looks like a W [unless it’s an M]) in the sky. They are larger than life this time of year and wonderful fall constants.

I’m guessing you don’t know the story of Cassiopeia. So, being the kind of mom I am, I shall tell it to you.

Queen Cassiopeia was the wife of King Cepheus. She was beautiful and vain (you know that when you add Queen plus Mythology plus Vain the story is not going to have a happy ending for the queen).

Cassiopeia boasted that both she (Cassiopeia) and her daughter (Andromeda) were more beautiful than all the Nereids, the nymph daughters of one of the lesser sea gods. Again, if you think you’re more beautiful than a god’s daughters, if you ARE more beautiful than a god’s daughter – perhaps especially if you are – keep your silly mouth shut about it. Look beautiful, be humble, live long.

Not so much for Cassiopeia.

She made her views on her beauty perfectly clear. And Poseidon (head god of the sea) got royally annoyed.

An angry sea god is not a trifling matter, what with him being in charge of floods, earthquakes, and sea monsters all of which can severely damage the infrastructure of a country and the inhabitants therein.

So Cepheus (the king) and Cassiopeia (the queen) decided to consult an oracle to find out What To Do. And once one (or in this case two) has consulted an oracle, one had best do what one is told because otherwise why did you ask?

The oracle said to sacrifice Andromeda. “Oh, the waste of such beauty,” said Cassiopeia, “but at least it’s not me.” So they chained Andromeda to a rock at the edge of the sea where she could look beautiful and await a sea monster.

Fortunately for Andromeda, Perseus happened to be flying by with his borrowed winged shoes (he’d just killed Medusa), and being a Hero kind of guy he rescued her and eventually married her.

To recap, everyone was now happy except Poseidon who thought that Cassiopeia had just weaseled her way out of a red card. So he tied her to a chair and stuck her in the sky in such a way that she is right side up half the time and upside down the rest of the time.

No word on whether Cassiopeia likes rollercoasters or gets sea sick when she’s upside down.

Enjoy the fall stars. And Venus.

Love, Mom

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Echo and Narcissus Interpreted and Explained

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, there was a god named Zeus. The only thing Zeus liked better than hurling the occasional thunderbolt was cheating on his wife (Hera). Hera did not generally (and by “generally” I mean “ever”) take these extramarital bouts with grace and dignity.

In this case upon a time, there was a lovely young mountain nymph named Echo. Echo was a sweet young thing and by “sweet young thing” I mean Echo loved to talk—and to hear herself talk. (You are too young to remember the doll called Chatty Cathy, but it may be a toned-down version of Echo.) There was nothing Echo felt compelled to keep quiet about. Echo was often amusing and entertaining and on the day of this part of the story she was amusing and entertaining Hera.

Zeus loved having Hera amused and entertained and therefore not paying attention to his every move. So he put those moves on the other mountain nymphs. No one said Zeus was brilliant—just randy.

Hera jumped directly to the (incorrect) conclusion that Echo was amusing and entertaining her (Hera) so Zeus could get away with his shenanigans. Which shows the dangers of circumstantial evidence. It also shows the danger of hanging out in the vicinity of the gods, because Hera punished Echo even though her only crime was being in love with her own voice (and therefore being something of a twit).

As punishment, Hera took away Echo’s voice and gave her (Echo) only the ability to repeat words someone else said. This did not improve Echo’s twitness.

Meanwhile, there was a boy (the son of a nymph and a river god) named Narcissus. Narcissus was a good looking dude. From the time he was a wee tot, he made the annual Top Ten Good Looking Dudes list and from the time he was 10 he owned the number one slot. People fell all over themselves falling madly in love with Narcissus, but Narcissus was the most vain individual on the planet (measured by the Bloomberg Vanity Score) and showed no interest in women, men, or goats.

Echo, in her voiceless nymph body, also fell madly in love with Narcissus. Like a love-sick puppy, she followed him around, saying (of course) nothing.

Narcissus; Echo and Narcissus; DearKidLoveMom.comOne day during all this following aroundness, Narcissus thought he heard someone. “Yo! Who’s there?” asked Narcissus. “Yo! Who’s there?” repeated Echo (since all she could do was repeat his words). Narcissus was unimpressed by this dialog. “I said ‘Who’s there’” challenged Narcissus. “I said ‘Who’s there?’” Echo echoed. After this had gone on for a while, Echo leaped out from behind the tree where she’d been hiding and threw her arms around Narcissus.

Much to her amazement, Narcissus did not thereupon declare his undying love for her. Rather, he declared his undying assessment that she belonged in a looney bin. Devastated, Echo wandered off, wasting away until only her voice was left.

Narcissus continued to shun all who adored him. At some point (the timing is sketchy) someone (the gender is sketchy) fell in love with Narcissus and, being scorned, called on Artemis (goddess of the hunt, the moon, and falling in love) to do something about Narcissus and his vanity. Artemis was big on revenge and decided to punish Narcissus.

It’s amazing what deities could get away with in those days.

It so happened then that Narcissus found a pond and wished to take a drink. It was a beautiful pond full of beautiful, clear water that reflected like a mirror. When Narcissus leaned over to take a drink, he saw the most gorgeous creature he’d ever laid eyes on.

Yep, he’d fallen head over heels with his own reflection. And because of Artemis’ intervention, there was no escape.

Narcissus sat at the edge of the pool gazing at the reflection of his beautiful self until either he faded away or killed himself out of desperation (the details in the autopsy report are sketchy). What is clear is that where he died a flower grew. Its blossom leaned out over the water to watch itself. And the nymphs called it narcissus.

Lessons for the day: Do not piss off the gods. Be humble in thy mirror.

Love, Mom

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