In many an ancient legend, forgetfulness of any kind was equivalent to death.
Within the volumes Greek lore, it follows that those who perish (with few exceptions) are ushered to Hades, the underworld. Its dead inhabitants, ruled by the god Pluto, found little solace in those dismal, grey, shadowy caves. Their respite from the darkness depended on the memories of those on the surface.
Those remembered by the denizens above, mostly heroes and notable figures, were given access to a region of Hades whose pastures endured the warm embrace of the sun. Those tragically cursed or forgotten were sent to the lower confines of Tartarus, a place of unspeakable darkness and decay.
In other legends, the Sirens, whose undulant choruses drew men to forget their true course, soothed many a sailor to their slumber, raking their devoured bones clean across those ancient hypnotic shores.
Narcotics and tropical pleasures gave loss to memories, forgetfulness of home and family, and dissolution of character. Tradition cautions us to forego dinner with the Lotus-eaters or nights on lusty islands.
If forgetting breeds synonyms with physical and psychological death, the act of remembrance provides a certain antidote. During a meeting with my local men’s group (Prometheus Men’s Group), we began recalling our earliest memories and discussed the importance of memory in masculinity. Here’s what we compiled:
- Men who forget themselves in relationships typically dissolve into codependent, people-pleasers. They live for the “other,” usually their intimate partner, children, or work. Hence, they embark on a slow or rapid descent to some kind of death.
- Forgetting our path digresses into the pursuit of money, sex, and possessions. Should a man give his power to others, he will consequently seek to exert power and control over the other to the same degree he has lost himself.
- Men must face criticism to grow. Should they forget that they are a soul in progress, and that Earth is a factory of experience unconcerned with failures or gains, then these criticisms can cripple. Forgetting the larger picture, the cycle of breakdown and growth, sends us to early body or soul graves.
- Remembering includes our instincts. Instinctual masculinity has oft been oppressed, and we have forgotten healthy anger, virile attractive libido, and the ability to share sadness, grief, and defeat.
- Men who forget their childlike nature often surrender their zest for living.
As all Greek myths and legends serve as analogies to external worldly life, they also serve as parable to mental/psychic processes. They remind us to constantly seek our own remembrance. Summarily, heroes are not only remembered by others, they remember who they are, where they came from, and where to get information about where they are going. Heroes…
- Remember that they must step into the unknown, into places they have never been before, and interact with things that are foreign. They also remember whence they came, and return from their adventures proud of their accomplishment yet grateful for those who supported their journey. They also remember to share their bounty.
- Reclaim, on a regular basis, the idea that their divine nature exists, independent of religion, and that our gifts come from another place. Forgetting that we are much more than a body that likes to please its senses, avoid pain, and retain satisfaction constitutes a tremendous problem in the world today. Let us not forget that aside from our work, families, dreams, goals, religious obligations, aspirations, partnerships, interests, etc., we are here to expand our capacity to love ourselves and our experiences with increasing amplitude and compassion.
- Remember their defects, how terribly they might have treated this or that person, animal, or most importantly themselves; that in the spiral nature of life’s experiences, when they return to a similar encounter, they will choose love more skillfully, embracing the betterment of all beings.
- Recall that our opinions and dreams are worth standing erect for. Each time we forget to stand firm in our intuitions, a little shard of our soul departs to the land of the dead, only to return when we remember it once more. The pillars that support the earth are never flaccid. Although the world may test them, heroes are virile. Even if later they are proven wrong, heroes know it was their truth in that particular moment, admit their folly, and stand by their current truth like strong oaks cling to the hillside during a tempest.
- Honor the memory of their ancestors, acknowledging that they are not an entire pie unto themselves, but a piece among a larger whole, a node amongst a webbed lineage, carrying the torch for the past, present, and future members. Remembering where they come from eliminates egocentricity. We aren’t islands of heroism or defeat, we are simply doing the best with what we have, and making things better by remembering….
- … the past, childhood, pleasant experiences, and, especially, victories and hard-fought triumphs. The cumulative effect of this anamnesis retrieves soul power, reminds heroes that we are more than the wounds we have been dealt, and that we are capable of becoming better than we are, despite loss of hope in outward appearance.
- Purposely forget who they are from time to time. Whether it is by virtue of will, or a passing cloud, heroes consciously allow this forgetting to arise. When their horizons are familiar, heroes allow their minds to begin experiencing life, people, work, and their imagination for the first time, even if they are physically going through the same motions.
- Remember to ask for help.
How will you be remembered? How do you remember yourself?