December 14, 2015
In the modern world a “myth” is seen as something untrue that people believe in error or out of foolishness. Yet, genuine myths are stories that appear false on the outside; but reveal truths on the inside, when seen in a deeper way. In Greek myths Prometheus steals fire from the gods and gives it to people, thereby bringing warmth and light to human culture. Pro-metheus means “to see ahead, to have foresight.” Thus, Prometheus can represent the inherent human capacity for genuine foresight as well as deep insight. These are critical capacities whenever the world turns dark and dangerous again and something is needed to light the way.
Of course, Prometheus had a brother named Epimetheus who was not as well known or as insightful. Epi-metheus means “one who lacks foresight, only able to see the results after the fact.” He was the short-sighted brother who was easily blinded by foolish self-interest. He played a role in causing Pandora’s Box to be opened, creating pandemonium by releasing all possible ills and fears upon the world. Epimetheus represents the darker, blinder side of human nature that can only add to the fears and tragedies of life.
His given name would seem to predict that he might play a role on the main stage of culture; that he might even “trump” all his rivals and rise to the very top. Yet, his blind self-interest, short-sighted posturing and lack of genuine insights place him squarely in the role of the foolish brother who only adds to the ills and the bitterness in the world.
The word “trump” comes from old card games where a person could win by playing a card that upstages and wipes out all others; thus a “trump card.” Of course, Mr. Trump is no stranger to casinos and gaming houses or to personally gambling on becoming a ‘huge’ winner. He builds towers that rise above other buildings as if literally trying to “trump” his rivals and lord it above everyone.
The phenomenon goes further as the name Donald is a variation of Scottish and Irish words meaning “world-mighty or ruler of the world.” When he brags about his world-class operations, claims he is wealthier and more powerful than others, and promises that he will trump all opponents, “the Donald” may be unconsciously acting out the names and titles and inflated sense of privilege he received at birth. Being willing to play the “race card” repeatedly and try to invent new trump cards like the “religion card” certainly shows Trump to be a world class bigot and bully.
For the moment, he may represent the anger and resentment of those who feel tricked or mistreated. Yet they will only be tricked again as the Donald embodies the old French word tromper which means “to mock and demean;” but also “to fabricate, deceive and cheat.”
Right now, he may seem to hold the trump card; eventually, most of the Donald’s claims will turn out to be arrogant, short-sighted and simply trumped up. In the long run he will mostly be forgotten, like old Epimetheus who could not hold a candle to the foresight of his brother. In the meantime, he will use mis-information, false bravado and reckless posturing to appear like a winner while adding blindness, bigotry and pain to a world already burdened with uncertainty, darkness and fear.
Myths are not part of the past; but a way to see universal truths playing out in the present. Myths are the inside story that make meaning of the outside world. For instance, Donald Trump desperately wants people to believe he is a modern Prometheus; not just a would-be king, but a culture hero for these dark times.
© 2018 Mosaic Multicultural Foundation