Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Watercress of Immortality...

"Grace" is a word whose meaning has eluded me, not having ever looked it up or asked what it means. I've generally taken it to mean "charm" or "elegance" that hints at divinity. Amazing Grace. Grace Kelly. Grace Jones. Graceland.

Sure enough, Webster's first definition is: n. unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification. That makes sense. When people talk about "the grace of God" it's like a plea for us awkward, trouble-bound humans to become unstuck by reflecting on the staggering poise of the universe. Calgon take me away... But there's even more.

I have recently come to learn that in nearly all mythologies, "grace" is something more tangible: a miraculous energy substance possessed by gods. In fact, the gods are only special because they viciously hoard their grace (by one account it is something they got with great effort only after their arch rivals, the titans, had acquired a superpower of their own: the power to revive the dead). Grace comes in many forms but it always gives eternal life and unique superpowers to its owners, so of course it is the envy of every mortal (typically, the place where grace is stored is the ultimate destination of the hero's quest - the fountain of youth, the holy grail, the elixir of life, Amrita - the butter of eternal life churned from the Milky Ocean, Gilgamesh's search for the Watercress of Immortality, etc). Grace is quite adaptable: It is Zeus' thunderbolts, Cupid's arrows, Buddha's mindsword, God's wrath, and even Jesus' miracles. When humans get ahold of grace by nefarious means, or with delusions of grandeur, the results are never pretty. Think of King Midas who greedily turned all to gold including the only thing he loved, his daughter.

It is not man's possession of grace that makes him great, but his desire to understand it and go looking for it in some pretty sketchy neighborhoods. As he searches, he soon learns that individual manifestations of grace are illusory. With each dragon slayed and every material treasure shrugged off, the hero summons the grace of higher and higher forms of divinity in the cosmos. One day he looks down and sees the gods squabbling beneath him over their petty powers. He looks up and sees... this


Anonymous Hank said...

So what you're saying is that elvis = watercress?

4:03 PM  
Blogger Pablo Gazpachot said...

Exactly! Thank gods someones paying attention around here...

5:57 PM  

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