Orpheus Got Stuck
Orpheus was a singer. He wandered around ancient Greece and sang songs. Lions would stop chasing wildebeests, the crow would stop forking with the fox, the birds would shut up and listen. People followed him around, and they listened carefully to what he had to say. Because Orpheus sang with truth--and that's beautiful.
So was his wife, Eurydice. He sang about her a lot.
She died, bitten by a snake in the grass.
Orpheus followed the teachings of the ruling powers--the church-state of ancient Greece--and buried his Eurydice with a coin under her tongue so that she could pay the ferryman at the River Styx once she went into the ground.
It's easy to get trapped: to get trapped by fears, as some psychologists might say; to get trapped by the flesh, as some religions today might say; to get trapped by the world, as some myths might say.
Fear is the root. Fear of death and dying, some might say. That's usually the root fear in most things. And so you stuff yourself with the pleasures of the world, you distract your mind with egocentric thoughts (the mind is as much the flesh as anything else--ask most scientists these days and that's what they'll tell you).
Fear of death. Orpheus loved his wife, Eurydice, and when she died he went down to Hades to fetch her back. Lord Death said no, you shan't take her back. But Lady Death saw the devastated look in Orpheus's eyes and he sang his songs so beautifully, so romantically and tragically, that she finally sighed and said, "Okay, fine, take this girl. Take this girl who has died and has been in the earth. Take this girl, this dead girl--take her with you to the surface.
"She'll follow you up," said Lady Death. "We'll tell the dead girl to follow you up."
And Lady Death smiled. "But if you turn around, if you look at her, you can be assured, the dead girl will lay back down in the earth."
Orpheus touched his instrument and looked at Lady Death and Lord Death.
It's church story from ancient Athens, Greece: a Lord God--and also a Lady Goddess (we don't think of God as a Goddess much anymore)--saying: trust me, this is how it is when you die. You come and sit at the feet of a lovely woman and a stern man. That's what death is. Trust us. This is the way the world and the universe works.
Orpheus didn't trust them. He turned around. If something follows you through dark and spooky caves you're going to turn around and look after awhile. And Orpheus did.
According to old legends, Orpheus's wife looked at him sadly and returned to under the earth.
What really happened was this: a man living back in the ancient days, who played an instrument, looked straight into his lover's dead face. Romantic? Sure. Tragic? You bet. But I'm sure Orpheus had no desire to cup that dead face in his hands and kiss it sweetly.
Now back in those days, the state ran the church. They were all tied up together back in the olden days. (We certainly don't tie up religion and politics anymore, do we?)
Orpheus looked into the face of what he used to love and he saw it for what it had truly become. His turning around was a question, and his looking long into that face was his seeking to understand.
The ones in control shouldn't define reality for you. In those days, the church-slash-state informs the masses: When you die, you go down to the River Styx with a coin held under your tongue, and you use the coin to pay the ferryman for passage across to the land of Hades, Lord of the Dead and his fair queen, Persephone the Destroyer. And there you shall pass your days.
Orpheus, desperate to get his Eurydice back, digs his wife out of the ground. And he sees what death really looks like. Perhaps he even takes the coin from her mouth and holds it in his hand before returning it, and her, back into the earth.
And then what did he do? He returned out of the earth as one reborn, and he taught what he knew to any who would listen--with story and with song.
And then a bunch crazy women tore him to pieces and ate him--except his head. It floated downstream, singing songs.
That or Zeus, Lord God of the Sky, got pissed at him for telling the truth about gods and death and killed him with his thunderbolt. All except for the head, which floated downstream singing songs.
Perhaps this was the song that Orpheus would have sung, trying to just tell people the truth: It's easy to stay half-asleep and floating warm--even when you know the river's been poisoned. It's easy to get stuck in the mind, stuck in a place, stuck in fear. And waking up means opening your eyes and seeing things for what they really are.
It starts here:
(tap heart. play "Stuck in a Moment" by U2)
Love to you all.
The Ninth Circle