Forget Allah, Buddha, Christ, etc. Two minor Greek mythological deities excavated by Freud in his theory of what makes us humans tick have been ruling the world forever. Eros, the god or drive for love and Thanatos, that of death. Of course, any number of cultures follows the established pattern of duality. Be it yin and yang or the light versus darkness of my Zoroastrian ancestors, these warring forces live inside all of us. Looking at the state of the world, one would have to wonder if, for several decades now, more than explaining humanity, they aren’t actually splitting it in two
Populations with a pea-sized brain (and I’m being generous here) in countries or communities prey to religious superstition and/or battleground to sectarian or other conflicts, tribalism, warlordism, illegal occupation, and/or crushed under brutal regimes—take your pick—have every reason to believe in Thanatos’s supremacy. That is what they see all around day in and day out. You can preach all you want about peace and love and the brotherhood of man, they would sooner drive a sharp dagger through your lying heart than listen to more pieties. Death is all there is and you are responsible for this, they will assert time and again, you caused this war and the one before that. You brought to power that tyrant. You stole our ressources, you victimized us, and now you insult our prophets. You deserve death, I will kill you and die myself rather than live to see another day.
There you go. Thanatos once more spreading his dark wings, grabbing his scythe. What can you do against imbeciles whose most powerful emotion is hatred, who will always destroy rather than build, who will hold the most asinine beliefs and defend them to the death?
Also powerful believers in Thanatos are the vicious regimes which we, to our shame, pretend are no better and no worse than any other, whose repulsive heads we invite at our tables, with whose governments we sign juicy contracts, whose terrible crimes we pretend not to see. Did our administration voice even a modest protest over the 47 executions in Saudi Arabia last Saturday? Is decapitation horrendous only when performed by ISIS? Is crucifixion bad when putting Christ to death but okay to get rid of pesky teenagers who send out one tweet too many? Yet, even that kingdom built on sand has executed only 150 people in 2015. Our real best buddy since the signing of the doomed-to-crumble nuclear agreement is Iran where nearly one thousand people have been executed during the year that just ended. (Hurray for Iran, they’re getting there, though still far from our own United States where this past year 33,000 of our citizens died through gun violence—thirty-three THOUSAND?—and where cops killed almost 1200 people, mostly from minorities and often unarmed. All this to much cheering from the half-wits who refuse gun control and police accountability.)
We can’t confront Thanatos, his hold is too strong on fanatics and deranged individuals (for whom we continue to voice excuses and understanding.) That shouldn’t prevent us from recognizing his cult as the big divide between civilized discourse and mayhem. Or from picking Eros.
We should take a step back from our sad little lives (and they’re all sad little lives in these sad little times). Maybe more than a step, actually 311 billion miles away all the way to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenkohas. That is where, on November 12, the European Space Agency landed the probe Philae that separated from its mother ship, Rosetta. That distance, and the ten years it took the ship to travel that far, aren’t the only mind-boggling numbers, but then numbers are always amazing when it comes to reestablishing the supremacy of the universe as compared to our own blue planet, the one that we are so busy destroying along with its occupants. More numbers? The comet, itself 6 billion years old, is streaking through space at 41,000 mph. That Rosetta put itself in orbit last August and is moving alongside it is a feat of unimaginable proportion. That Philae actually landed,(albeit bumpily and for now remaining in shadows that prevent it from getting enough energy from the sun) is another. If all goes well, it should help us find out much more about the origin of the solar system and perhaps the ultimate destiny of life.
We are lucky enough to be living in this vast and glorious universe that scientists and philosophers have never stopped celebrating. Yet here we are, moaning and whining about sleepless nights and aches and pains and prescription pills and diets, complaining about rude cashiers, noisy neighbors and obnoxious relatives, worrying about college education rates and losing our jobs and our lack of savings. If we ever lift our heads from the contemplation of our own miseries, we see failing economies and high unemployment rates, boats loaded with immigrants sinking along prosperous shores, poverty, hunger and disease killing thousands, stranded polar bears, new hordes of barbarians putting Attila to shame, democracies where self-serving politicians court votes (forget about public service,) countries in the rest of the world where monsters loot government coffers while silencing and hanging or cutting to pieces those who dare protest. Our sad little lives continue as we meet every setback, every piece of good or bad news not concerning us directly with a bored meh and have already forgotten about Philae that landed only two days ago.