As a kid, I read a lot of Greek and Roman Mythology. I learned some great lessons from the fates, the fabled battles, and the historical interweaving with the fictional. One of the lessons keeps recircling, “Those whom the gods would destroy first they make proud.” Except, the gods/God do not make men proud; men choose pride, then comes vanity, all feeding ego, until that penultimate moment when “Hubris Ante Nemesis” occurs and the bottom is pulled out from under you.
The fates are three goddesses by the name of Clotho (the spinner), Lachesis (the allotter), and Atropos (the inflexible), possibly the children of Ananke (Necessity); these fates spun out the woven lives of men and women on the tapestry of a grand design. Out of necessity, the fates weave, and what is woven cannot be undone. I can understand the mental comfort people might take from thinking that these weavers hold men’s destiny; thus, all success or failure is the fault of the weavers of fate.
Hubris, in Greek Mythology, is the god of arrogance. Full of wanton violence, insolence, arrogance, and who actively chooses never to exercise restraint. Hubris remains a classic example of extremes. Nemesis is the goddess of fate and revenge. Roughly translating Latin Hubris brings Nemesis to balance the scales. Nemesis is the humbler of men who Hubris have enticed into taking their lives to extremes.
In Judaism, the saying goes, “Pride goeth before the fall.” Or put another way, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” In all cultures of men, this same semaphore is flashing across the minds of philosophers and religious leaders, beware the tides of extremes, choose humility, and caution against arrogance, pride, sloth, vanity, lust, gluttony, and ego. When did we stop heeding this call? Why have these calls been classified as religious and minimized in all societies?
Consider the political leaders of the day, those who think they are beyond the reach of law merely because they think they are the keystone in a democracy and deserve to live better than those who elected them to power. Recent examples of this pride are witnessed in Speaker Pelosi’s husband making stock choices when the company is about to get a massive windfall from the US Government. Al Gore compared climate deniers to the police in the Uvalde, Texas school shooting while jet-setting around the globe. He is preaching moderation and reduced lifestyles while he lives in excess. The list is never-ending, where extreme lifestyles are flashed wantonly, and suffering continues to expand exponentially.
Marie Antoinette was made famous for the starving and suffering by losing her head after supposedly claiming, “Let them eat cake.” Hubris snuffed out by Nemesis in a well-deserved act of humiliation. Yet, one of the things that set Greek and Roman mythology apart from Judaism and Christianity was the ability to repent, achieve forgiveness, and change one’s life being in the hands of the individual, not the destiny of the Fate’s.
Being called to repentance is primarily the realm of religious leaders, and I would not want anyone to think I am making a call for others to repent. Not my job, no authority, no power. Merely, I hope to help raise the perception of those suffering from the hubris of others. I also want to improve how I live. I am not the example to hold up to anyone, except as a warning, but I strive to improve. The poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley rings ever truer, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Our world, right now, is suffering greatly. Crime is skyrocketing; theft is out of control; violence, aggression, murder, rape, and so much more are occurring at levels not ever recorded and growing. Yet, Thomas S. Monson authored a book based on a concept of power, “The future is only as bright as your faith.” Consider this for a moment; we can have hope and happiness in whatever circumstances we face as a choice reflecting our personal religious beliefs. Yes, the consequences of crime hurt physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, etc., but the hubris of others can be healed. Victor E. Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” signals the same semaphore, your choices can heal the hubristic consequences suffered, and the future is bright!
Those who have indulged in hubristic actions can find peace, joy, happiness, and forgiveness. Those hurt by the hubris of others do not have to stay hurt, or hurt others, to find the same joy, peace, happiness, and forgiveness. Want to know an exciting thought? I am not preaching religion! Your religious choices are your own, and I respect your religious preferences, provided they do not infringe upon anyone else’s rights to freedom of religion.
I am talking about living without extremes, not religion. How big of a house do you need? Due to my violent sleeping and crazy sleep patterns, my wife and I sleep in different rooms. Because I am a proud person who, after cleaning latrines and heads for the US Army and Navy, hates cleaning bathrooms, we also have separate bathrooms. As a married couple, these changes to the “traditional” style of a man living with a woman have led us to live in a slightly larger home, but this fits our needs. Please note that my bathroom is not a filthy mess, but it is not the surgical clean of a military bathroom either. Nor is my bathroom one step higher in cleanliness above the military than my spouse’s.
How many cars and vehicles does a person need? I don’t know. I have friends who have four-wheelers, tractors, motorcycles, and a host of other vehicular conveyances. I am not here to tell anyone how much of anything they need. I merely postulate that you can make better choices and exercise less hubris through careful consideration and thoughtful discussion. The same goes for food, clothing, entertainment, and every other vice humans invent to fall into. I am not condemning anyone! I suggest that we can live well without the extremes and expect our political leaders and bureaucrats to do similarly.
How expensive is the government because those who claim to be public servants practice hubris with our tax dollars? How complicated a process does a government become when government becomes a jobs program instead of a government? How big does a government become when hubris is practiced against the citizens?
As free-thinking humans, we do not need to be ruled with a brick stick to make better living choices. We do need a moral code to live by, and how you choose your moral code is your business. The moral code should include things like living within our means, not being violent to others, promoting good where we see it, and disdaining socially what should be kept privately, among other things. I cannot stress this enough choosing what you believe is your business. However, hubris hurts others to make oneself inflated, and that is everyone’s business!
Consider for a moment the store clerk who had to take a life to defend himself in a bodega in NYC. That man will be forever haunted by the violence perpetrated upon him, leading to the perpetrator’s death. The hubris of the attacker led to his humiliation but had consequences for society at large. The thieves in San Francisco, Chicago, and other places do not hurt just the business and local communities, they hurt everyone in American society, and their hubris is morally, ethically, and legally wrong!
The murderer’s hubris affects society just as wholly as the hubris of a political leader who lives in excess; I see no difference between the two. Some may complain that murder and living in excess are two different moral choices, but those hurt do not differentiate the wound, so why should I? Is not a life lost in murder? Is not a life lost when the excesses of others lead them to use the power of government to steal, cheat, and lie in the name of government business?
Consider illegal immigration as the theft it is, and we can see how hubris negatively influences the originating country, pushing the poor out and the host country where the poor want to reside illegally. Does this mean immigration is wrong; absolutely not! Immigration includes assimilation, illegal immigration does not, and those practicing illegal immigration, promoting, and facilitating are all practicing hubris for personal power, wealth, and gain. Are there those in the illegal immigration classes who are the “Sons of Mary;” indeed. But the majority are merely perpetuating hubris with the resulting consequences in increased drug trafficking, sex trafficking, disease spread, and a host of other social ills.
I admit the murders of millions in Nazi Germany under Hitler were terrible, but how is this any different from Mao using government powers to kill millions by withholding food, clothing, and housing from those who disagreed politically, religiously, or personally? Or any different than Xi Jinping doing similarly to the Uyghur populations? What is different between Marie Antoinette and Marx or Stalin? How are these actions any other than what the government has done under the excuse of Covid? Did not millions die while political leaders lived in excess, flaunted their hubris, and stole from those who put them in power?
Under communism in the USSR, the people lived in abject misery, while those who considered themselves elite grew fat and lazy, all in the name of helping, providing, caring, and progress. Communist Cuba and the disaster called Venezuela are additional examples of what occurs when hubris corrupts governments and society is left to suffer while the leaders live lives of excess. America used to be a capitalistic country but is now a mix of socialism and communism under the guise of capitalism. The hubristic lifestyles of those in power, their lackeys, flunkeys, and bureaucrats, are all at the taxpayers’ expense. What is the difference between hubris in the communist USSR and America?
I am not claiming that anyone is doing anything inherently wrong. Our choices to live an extreme lifestyle breed pride, vanity, ego, narcissism, and a host of other social ills; these social ills breed expanses to government, creating red tape, tax increases, and socialism/communism as measures to improve equality. What happens when the hubris grows too big, war, revolutionary governments, and destruction. The mythological Greeks would call this the coming of Nemesis to cull the acts of Hubris. Judaism and Christianity would discuss balancing the scales of justice with mercy. Other religions would discuss balance, choice, and compounding accountability for choices. All truths flashed from an eternal semaphore, where man tries to explain the loss, putting morales to the stories and trying to pass along a truth grasped at, that men make choices, and when those choices include extremes, the consequence is death.
Is the future really as bright as our faith; YES! What we choose to believe in, how we choose to exercise belief, and the need for freedom of religion to keep men on equal grounds, are all pillars to helping man live life without extremes. Extremes breed death; living without extremes creates life; can we at least learn this lesson? I hope so.
© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images. Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.