Incompleteness / Mythology / Philosophy / Ways

Proteus

File:Abstract Green Red.jpg

The world always has more to it than we can capture by means of our knowledge. Odysseus thought Poseidon had kept him away from home, but it was Proteus.

Odysseus:

Another shore! When will I finally reach?

Proteus:

Are you not Odysseus of the many ways? You mortals only have one way, so if you have many, your way must be long.

Odysseus:

But how will I finally reach Ithaka?

Proteus:

Are you not Odysseus of the many ways? You will find another one.

Odysseus:

But why are you pursuing me? Is this still the wrath and hatred of Poseidon, your father?

Proteus:

That Poseidon is my father is only one of my countless shapes. I existed before the Olympians. If Poseidon hates you, that has nothing to do with me.

Odysseus:

But are you not bound by the laws of the Zeus and Poseidon?

Proteus:

The Olympians think so. They don’t know that their law does not reach everywhere. They are blind to what they don’t control. They could defeat the Titans because the Titans took a definite shape. But look at the sea. Does the sea have a definite shape?

Odysseus:

I once thought so. They called me the master mariner. The sea was gentle and the waves where regular. But then the sea changed and I did not recognize it again. Our ship was tossed high up, the waves were like mountains and then we clashed down into the valley of water again. My comrades all drowned.

Proteus:

The sea always has another way. It is full of surprise for you mortals. You never know enough. So it happens to the Olympians. They rule by laws, the think they know everything. They think they are in control. This might be their downfall. But the sea can always go another way. The winds and streams can bring you to Ithaka, but they can also lead you somewhere else again.

Odysseus:

And if I offer a sacrifice to you?

Proteus:

You can offer a sacrifice to the Olympians. If you offer a sacrifice to me, I will take on another shape. You cannot force me into one shape. You cannot force my actions into one defined shape, by sacrifice or anything else. If you try to define me, I will change. That is why there is no temple for me and no cult.

Odysseus:

But you know the future.

Proteus:

In a sense, but if you ask me, I will assume another shape.

Odysseus:

So you will not reveal what my future is?

Proteus:

I am your future. The future does not have a defined shape. Only when you are dead, your future has a defined shape. Being alive means being surprised. The world does not have a defined shape. If you think you know everything, it will change its shape. You cannot foretell the future; you can only live into it. But since the future is taking many shapes, you must take many shapes too. You must be of many ways, of twists and turns, because your future is like that too. If you knew everything in advance, you would not need eyes. You would not need your wit. Your future is to be surprised.

Odysseus:

But people say we have a fate. What is my fate?

Proteus:

Fate only exists in hindsight. The way is not fixed. The way that can be described is not the real way.

Odysseus:

But will I finally reach Ithaka?

Proteus:

Your trip was long and twisted, so you expect not to arrive? You may be surprised. A way can be many miles long or just one step.

(The picture is from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abstract_Green_Red.jpg. The form of this piece is inspired by Cesare Pavese’s book “Dialogues with Leuco”.)

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