Humbly Dedicated to:
All ancient Greek Gods
Neil deGrasse Tyson (who quoted Horace Mann in one of his interviews)
You all probably know the story from ancient Greek mythology how Zeus punished the titan called Prometheus for stealing the fire and giving it to humans. Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock where an eagle would come every day and eat Prometheus’ liver. The trick was the liver would grow back every time for the eagle to come again and have another bite. Which, to be honest, wasn’t too healthy for eagle’s diet. Imagine eating liver for eternity.
Prometheus was sentenced to this punishment for eternity until a guy you all know, Hercules came and set Prometheus free.
This story is about what would’ve happened if Zeus decided to punish Prometheus in a bit less “cruel” way.
“So you finally did it, eh? You finally did the one thing I asked you not to do; you stole the fire and gave it to those humans.” Zeus was yelling at the young titan who seemed to be very nonchalant about it.
“Well yes, I did. I’m not really sure what the big fuss is. I just gave them fire so they could finally cook their meat. Do you know how unhealthy it is to eat that thing raw? You might be a god and it’s all great for you, but humans and raw meat just don’t go together. It gives them a stroke in a matter of years.” Prometheus answered with a grin that never left his lips. “It’s not like you still don’t have the fire, it’s just humans have it now as well.”
“You crazy titan! Do you know how long it took for Vulcan to make that thing for me? I was supposed to be the cool thunder god with fire; now I’m just a thunder god with something even humans have. How do you suppose I’ll be able to seduce Hera now? Thunder tricks at parties can bring you only so far you know.” You could almost see thunder in Zeus’ eyes as he was saying this.
“Well, have you maybe tried to ask her how her day was or something? You know, have a normal conversation with her.”
“SILENCE! Zeus doesn’t care how a woman’s day was!!! I’m not like that silly god of love, how is he called? Eros?” The author would like you to notice how every time someone talks about themselves in the third person, you know their ego is huge.
“Yes, actually, he’s pretty good with female gods, you should take lessons from him.” Prometheus answered in his usual easy-going and mocking way. “I would also stop and wonder where Hera is at this moment if I were you.”
“Wh… What do you mean where is Hera? She’s in my chambers of course; waiting for me to come back home so she can make sweet love with the god of all gods. Me!”
“I don’t know, just today I saw her happily skipping towards that cloud over there. She looked like the happiest young bird you’ve ever seen.” Although Prometheus knew mocking the Lord of Olympus isn’t exactly the best option, especially after you’ve stolen his precious fire, he just couldn’t help himself.
“That’s it! You’ve done it now titan! It’s time for your punishment. I’m sentencing you to…”
“Hold on, hold on! Can’t you take a joke? Even the supreme ruler of Olympus should at least have some sense of humor. I was kidding. Look, I’m sorry for what I did. I promise next time you come up with something to charm all the ladies in the Olympus I won’t steal nor your fire or thunder… Haha, get it. Steal your fire and thunder.” Prometheus’ humor was simply stronger than his rational thinking.
“No, I’m sentencing you to an eternity of eating your favorite cheese cake! Every day you’ll wake up in your room and every day you’ll have to eat the cake you so enjoy. Not a day will pass without your tongue feasting on the delicious cheese cake. Now and for eternity!!!”
“No, you’re crazy, you don’t know what you’re doing… wait… What??!! My punishment for stealing the godly fire is the eternal enjoyment of cake eating? Even more so, my favorite kind of cake?! Aren’t you supposed to chain me to a rock and feed my liver to an eagle or something?” For the first time, Prometheus didn’t know what to say.
“Well, to be honest, that entire eagle-liver thing has gotten a bit old. Also, the rock is too crowded; there are no vacant spots at the moment for you. So yeah, every day you’ll eat cake.” Zeus laughed.
“Really?! Isn’t there something else that’s equally painful and cruel? Just now at least 3 things came to my mind. Like dipping me into the fire while I’m chained by my feet or sending me to Hades so my flesh gets ripped by the condemned souls. Anything really, but cake??!! You’re really bad at your job you know.”
“Silence, my word is final!!! You’ll be imprisoned in your room eating cake for eternity!!!”
“Well alright. If you say so all powerful Zeus.”
Now my dear reader. You might be thinking to yourself: “Really? What kind of punishment is that? Eating cake for eternity. Does Zeus really suck at his job or does this writer suffer from a serious writer’s block?”
But take a moment to think about it. Imagine yourself being condemned to eating cake… Actually, just think of one activity you simply love doing and imagine yourself doing only that one thing for eternity; nothing else. Sure, the first day it would be terrific, so would the next one, and the next week, probably even next month.
But remember, this is an eternity we’re talking about, you can’t die. No matter how much you love doing something, you could never stop the wheel turning. Every day you’d be forced to eat this delicious cake. Even after 1000 years have passed, you’d still be stuck with eating cake or whatever your favorite activity is. No other activities, just this one.
This brings us to the conclusion and the moral of this story. It doesn’t matter if it’s you eating a cake or if it’s an eagle eating your liver. If it lasts forever it’s equally horrifying. It doesn’t even have to be a single activity. We are all scared of dying. In fact, we’re so scared we never stop to think about the horror of living forever. Just like the cake, it would be awesome for the first few years, even decades.
But again my dear reader, imagine yourself living forever. You’re 20,000 years old, what are you supposed to do? You’ve learned everything there is to learn, you’ve met every single person in this world, and you’ve experienced everything there is to experience. Yet, you can’t finish the story; you’re condemned to living forever until you come to a point where it no longer matters if it’s pain or pleasure, as long as you can feel something. Until the pain of getting your liver eaten and the pleasure of eating a cake become the same thing.
What are you supposed to do except to go crazy? So all the jokes aside, isn’t the fact we constantly feel both pleasure and pain what makes you feel alive?
1. Could humans really cope with immortality/eternity?
2. Isn’t the fact we know our lives will end one day the drive that makes us create a better life?
3. What if you were immortal? Would you still have the urge to become a better human being?
4. Finally, by giving meaning to our life, aren’t we giving meaning to our death?