Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Friday, January 18, 2013

3 Years and 10 Months Later: Hippolytus by Euripides

There is much in this ancient Greek tragedy which resonates with me on this anniversary month.

First, some background of the story:  Handsome, strong, athletic, virile Hippolytus whole-heartedly worships Artemis, virgin Goddess of the Hunt.  He has absolutely no romantic interest in women and has gone so far as to call Aphrodite the "vilest of the Gods in Heaven."  Because of this, the vain Goddess of Love determines to punish Hippolytus by causing his step-mother, Phaedra to fall hopelessly in love with him.  In keeping these incestuous feelings a secret, Phaedra suffers mightily; becoming depressed and suicidal.

Phaedra speaks of the power of shame:
Then there is shame that thwarts us.  Shame is of two kinds.  The one is harmless, but the other a plague.
This "plague" fills her body and mind, leading her thoughts towards death.
Then I believed that I could conquer love,
conquer it with discretion and good sense.
And when that too failed me, I resolved to die.
And death is the best plan of them all.  Let none of you
dispute that. 
A haunting description of Phaedra's suicidal ideation:
For she would willingly bring her life to anchor
at the end of its voyage - the gloomy harbor of death. 
When the awful deed is done, the chorus says:
Woman unhappy, tortured,
your suffering, your death,
has shaken this house to its foundations. 
You were daring, you who died in violence and guilt.
Here was a wrestling: your own hand against your life. 
Who can have cast a shadow on your life? 
Her husband Theseus' words echo perfectly what I felt 46 months ago, on that horrible, unspeakable day.  (My edits are in parenthesis).
O city, city! Bitterness of sorrow!
Extremest sorrow that a [mother] can suffer!
Fate, you have ground me and my house to dust,
fate in the form of some ineffable
pollution, some grim spirit of revenge.
The file has whittled away my life until
it is a life no more.
I am like a swimmer that falls into a great sea:
I cannot cross this towering wave I see before me. 
My [son]!  I cannot think
of anything said or done to drive you to this horrible death.
You are like bird that has vanished out of my hand.
You have made a quick leap out of my arms
into the land of Death.
I have no doubt that "pre-Josh", these gut-wrenching words of sorrow and woe would have gone in one ear and out the other, bouncing off my naive heart.  Instead, they have pierced and penetrated my death-initiated soul with arrows of truth.

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