(You Won’t) Believe What You Can Do

I was reading Roger Lancelyn Green’s Tales of the Greek Heroes not that long ago and came across a quote that really struck me as both strange and wonderful:

“This I tell you, and you know that my words are true: no Immortal can slay a Giant, but a Man can slay them, if he be strong and brave enough.”

-Prometheus to Zeus

When I think of gods, I think of impressive beings who can do everything, and if there’s anything they can’t do, then it surely can’t be done at all. That’s the point of being a god, isn’t it? So why, then, is there something that a god can’t do?

If you look at it with a strictly practical and mundane point of view, myth was written by mortal humans who were looking for an explanation for the way the world works, and probably for entertainment purposes too. Humans made up the gods and their powers, and thus were able to decide all of the things that they couldn’t do. So the idea that the gods were powerless to defeat the Giants, whereas mortals were the only ones who could, would suggest that it was just humans trying to feel and even necessary to the gods’ survival. If you look at it with such a reasonable explanation, the quote isn’t really all that remarkable.

But I think that when it comes to myths, and religion in general, there has to be a certain level of belief for you to get the full message. Even if you don’t believe in the Greek gods, I think that if you read the myths as if every word were true, you can really appreciate what they’re trying to say. So if you read the above quote as if there really was a time when the gods needed the help of mortal men, you can see that it was quite remarkable indeed that such powerful beings were for a while so powerless.

So what does that mean for us, mortal humans? What does it mean that we were more capable than gods?

I think it means that there’s something in the human soul that makes us capable of heroism, even when we aren’t the most capable.

In the Immortals-to-Mortals comparison, it’s obvious that the gods are the mightier ones. They have immortal life, strength, and even beauty, whereas everything in a mortal fades with time. But maybe it’s because of that inevitable fading that makes humans into heroes. Maybe it’s because we know that life is temporary that encourages us to fight for what we have, knowing it will be our only chance.

Maybe the fact that we know we have such a small opportunity to make a lasting mark on the world is what allows us to defeat the Giants. The gods have all the time in the world to solve their problems, or even rebuild the world if it should come to that. But boy, there’s something to be said for human desperation.

Whether or not you believe Greek myth to be true, I hope that you can still appreciate its message. You as an individual might not be the smartest, strongest, or bravest person you know. You might not consider yourself capable of being heroic. But I’ll ask you to believe that, at some time, all of the smartest, strongest, and bravest people will encounter Giants that they can’t defeat. They’ll need you, as weak as you might think you are, to challenge the Giants and overcome them with your own special talent–whether it be passion, experience, or just plain old desperation.

You might not be a god. You might not be the best. But you’re the only Giant-slayer the world has got. We need you to be our hero.

How would you defeat a Giant?

May you face all Giants in your path not with the best weapons, but with the only weapons that will work.

-Alex

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2 thoughts on “(You Won’t) Believe What You Can Do

    • Thank you! Yeah, I love reading stories like that. It also seems like the gods’ problems are on a much larger scale than mortal problems, and that makes it pretty exciting.

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