Monday, June 23, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Invidia and Nemesis - The Goddesses of Envy

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...
Envy Plucking the Wings of Fame, Francois-Guillaume Menageot, 1806
Have you ever been jealous of another? Of course you have, but it's tough to admit, isn't it?

In our world today, there are more and more opportunities for jealousy to rear its proverbial ugly head. We have the internet and modern media to thank for that. 

In days of old, we could look across the neighbor's fence and covet their garden, their herd of cattle, their wife. We could be envious of the King if we were a serf. But we could always head in another direction and focus on something else, not staring at the object of envy all day. Today, with so many screens in our lives, it is very difficult to get away from it. Television, laptops, smart phones, and movie screens bring unceasing images that entertain us and educate us. But these same screens can often deliver messages that make us feel that we are not smart enough, beautiful enough, popular enough, healthy enough, rich enough...the list is endless.

In ancient Greece, the goddess of Envy was known as Nemesis. She personified the resentment humans felt towards others who had an abundance of good fortune and her energy was directed towards maintaining equilibrium. Her name means she who distributes or to "give what is due" and the term is often used to describe one's worst enemy.
Nemesis and Tyche, Red Figure Vase, ca. 430 B.C. 
In Roman times the goddess was referred to as Invidia. 
Invidia, by Jacques Caillot
She is seen as one who looks upon others with a sense of jealousy and her name is rooted in the word invidere, "to look against, to look at in a hostile manner." Associated with the evil eye, people would wear an amulet to protect against her spells. In ancient times this was called a fascinus, and in modern Greece, people still use such amulets in the form of a blue eye. Another way to ward off the evil eye is to faux spit on someone you wish to protect.

With the internet, we had blogs at first, then came other social networks, such as My Space, then Facebook happened. Then Twitter, then Pinterest, then Google Plus...you name it. We now have a full battalion of places where we can go and enjoy fascinating peeks into other people's lives -- and in doing so we have choices: we can be joyous and celebrate the wonderful things they share with us, or be moved by their difficulties, feel compassion....or oftentimes, we can feel jealous. 
Ovid's Metamorphosis Looking at Envy
It's like junior high all over again. People clamor for more readers, for more followers, for more...you name it. With envy, it's never enough - it's like having a stomach that never fills, an appetite that is never satiated: no matter how much it consumes, it is still empty. We eat junk food, we show the results. We consume junk culture, the results also show. 

This is not meant to be a diatribe against social media. I enjoy blogging - I've met some incredible people and have made friendships that have transcended the silver screen between us. Like anything, it can be used for positive or negative purposes. A car can take us to visit our grandmother, or it can be used by a homicidal maniac to drive through a storefront window. A glass of wine is a pleasure with dinner, drinking the whole bottle because you need to numb yourself is another thing. 

As E. M. Forster said, "Only connect." Social media allows us to do that, only even on a larger scale and more instantaneously than ever before. As long as it remains a enjoyable thing, I will continue to use it. But we would do well to keep a careful eye on how it affects us emotionally, and remember to not compare ourselves to others. Often we present not our true selves through social media, but our masks - how we want ourselves to be seen by others. It is becoming harder and harder to be who we really are, and stay true to ourselves. In the 18th century, Ralph Waldo Emerson captured how difficult it is to be who we are without always looking towards others to compare ourselves:

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. 

and e.e. cummings' quote is even more true today:

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight: and never stop fighting.

17 comments:

  1. Well said. The last quote is perfect. May we always strive to be ourselves - and nothing more. Have a wonderful week, Amanda.

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    1. If we can strive to be ourselves and nothing more, that is everything.

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  2. An unspeakably timely post, my dear, respected friend.

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    1. Thank you Suze - I'm curious as to why you say it is timely? Do you also feel our world is becoming a more difficult place to navigate because of the media?

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  3. A very important post, Amanda. Two words whose depth and meaning I have been discovering: "No" and "Enough." We have enough; in fact, I have way too much — especially when it comes to books, professional books, most of which I will not use again. We have a nice house, two blocks form our grandchildren, complete with a small yard, and a nest of Robins in the vines. Etc. As to "No," I am getting far more particular about those things to which I commit my time, my life.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

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    1. This is quite profound, Rob. Those two words are quite underrated in our society. I know people who can't say "No" to anything and feel they have to join organizations and volunteer for everything. They wear themselves out and wonder why they feel tired and sometimes depressed.

      My dad used to say "How much money do you really need?" His words made me see that there is a mechanism in our society that forces people to mindlessly need and want more of everything, even if they don't really need it to survive.

      There is tremendous wisdom in knowing how much of anything we need, and more to the point - how much we don't need. Thank you for your wise words.

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  4. I am jealous of your way with words. Write on!

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  5. Jealousy, in my mind, is the worst possible state of being. I do wonder where society is heading in the new tech age.

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    1. I agree, Donna. Our media makes money off these mind states by surrounding us with opportunities to engage in this or others equally distasteful, such as fear, because they work. They sell.

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  6. A very good post, Amanda. I agree with what you say — we can use things in good ways, or in bad ways, and it's up to us to select, to differentiate, to judge, to balance.

    As for taking on too much, and never saying 'no' — I'll never forget visiting my mum in her final year of Alzheimer's in a care home. There was another visitor there I used to see who came every day — first to see her own parent, then her husband's parent (the husband never came), and she just looked completely worn out and 20 years older than she was. All she could do was complain to me and be unhappy. She did not look after herself; she seemed to feel her duty was to extinguish herself for the 'supposed' good of others. Tragic, but we have to learn from this that we must look after and respect ourselves too, and that fact alone will actually benefit the lives of our loved ones. Balance, yet again.

    Not sure how relevant all this is to your above post, but I seemed to be moved to say it!

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    1. Robert, your story about the woman taking care of her parents but not herself is a powerful one. It reminds me of what flight attendants say before you take off, something from which I have derived a deeper meaning:
      "please make sure your own oxygen mask is on before you assist others."

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  7. The connection between envy and nemesis is fascinating. I've been playing around with that theme in my WIP, without knowing that there was a root in antiquity. I've heard that FB makes people less happy because people only share the best stuff. I feel like the connection through blogging is deeper because you think more about what you want to say and dig for emotional honesty. Your post is a fine example.

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    1. Sarah, That's my sense as well. I'm not on Facebook, but I feel I've been able to share with others through blogging in a unexpectedly profound way.

      I will look forward to reading your WIP when it's published!

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  8. there is a part of such a godess in every women I know and surely in me also:)

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    1. Those ancient Greek goddesses did exemplify the very human characteristics in all of us, which I guess it what makes them so relatable!

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  9. Oh...what wise words....what a post! I confess though, to being on FB...mostly because I have several good, true friends who live in Europe....and it is easier (and less expensive) to keep in touch. I miss the Blogging Community we once had.. but the true people I met then, I STILL AM IN TOUCH WITH... (I KNOW I have been remiss these past few months....but when a healing mode, it isn't as easy as before.....and I KNOW you know this!

    Love to you, always...and to Mia! (We *met* an Airedale in Santa Fe and I had to explain to Chris that she was a *Mia Dog*!)

    Your *Twin*,

    ♥ Robin ♥

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