I hear that the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is being compared to the sinking of the Titanic. Just before the explosion, executives of BP were aboard the rig toasting its safety record....

Reading the news, I was reminded of the story of the Titans: giant inflations that became so unruly that Zeus and the Olympians had to lock them up at the bottom of the ocean just to be rid of them. One of them, Prometheus, decided to serve Olympus, but even he got into trouble, as did his brother Epimetheus, whose name means "hindsight." 

Watching BP's attempt to put a giant box over the oil leak, I thought: Once the demons and ugly things are set loose, it's difficult to get them back into Pandora's box again. One must have the Promethean foresight to invent and innovate in ways that work with the natural world rather than against it. David Orr puts it well in his book EARTH IN MIND:

"What went wrong with contemporary culture and education? We can find insight in literature, including Christopher Marlowe’s portrayal of Faust who trades his soul for knowledge and power, Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein who refuses to take responsibility for his creation, and Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab who says “All my means are sane, my motive and my object mad.” In these characters we encounter the essence of the modern drive to dominate nature."

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  • A DELEGATION OF POETS TO THE GULF - I wanted to post this Psalm to the World Oceans that I received today, written by a Marin County ocean advocate, in honor of World Ocean Day 2010.

    "Today is World Ocean Day. Proposed and observed since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and designated in 2009 by the United Nations to celebrate the ocean. But given the disaster currently expanding into the Gulf of Mexico, it is hard to find celebratory words.

    I spent last week presenting at a conference of poets and storytellers convened by Robert Bly in Maine. Sometimes we are called to show up for events without really knowing why; and then as the event unfolds it becomes clear.

    In this case the first day of the conference coincided with the failure of the BP “Top Kill” strategy to stem the flow of oil into the Sea. From this it appears as though the earliest that the eruption can be stopped will be in August.

    It became apparent that I was at the conference to convey the unimaginable magnitude of the Gulf disaster to the poets - who are uniquely equipped to translate the unimaginable into imaginal terms that non-poets can grasp.

    Through this I understood why earlier civilizations considered the poets as one of the pillars of society: They help us frame the larger consequences of our enterprise. In many instances all that is left of these historic civilizations is their poetry.

    We are now looking at sending a delegation of poets to the Gulf – along with Prince William Sound fishermen who became victims of the Exxon Valdez spill 20 years ago.

    This delegation could help frame the Gulf disaster in terms that will help fishing families and communities figure out what to do at the dead end of their careers, and help oil workers deal with the anger and shame – theirs, and what is directed toward them for the biblical-scale disruption of their communities.

    It is hard to know why we were all asked to show up now, in these times. Perhaps the invitation will become clear as we understand the need to change our relationship to the Sea.

    What better day to consider this than World Ocean Day?

    Michael Stocker, Director Ocean Conservation Research
    • What an amazing idea to send poets to the Gulf. Thanks for sharing this. It really gives me hope! Since the soul--and maybe especially the World Soul in this case--speaks through poetry, hopefully having a mythopoetic focus there will reveal deeper truths and allow strength and insight to come through on the path to healing....
  • Thanks, Craig. Who are the Titans now, I wonder? (Don't we all collude in our celebrity worshipping culture). And who keeps them in check if the Gods have fled to their respective planets? Just today NASA announced that Jupiter had lost it's southernmost belt. Perhaps Zeus is getting read to raise the Hammer or hurl the Bolt? NASA Science News for May 20, 2010:
    In a surprising development that has transformed the appearance of the solar system's largest planet, one of Jupiter's two main cloud belts has completely disappeared.

    And that "jet black oily shadow" that Bonnie described is creating a massive dead zone. It seems that this dead zone created by the massive oil bleed has yet to impact our awareness - but maybe Pandora's box has been opened and those creatures who thrive in no or low oxygen will come to rule the earth, the new furies of the sea, and prevent further ocean going commerce by cleaving to the hulls of shipping barges and navy cruisers like the Remora Fish, a small round white sucker fish, that attached itself en masse to the war ships of Marc Antony such that the ships were delayed and lead to defeat. Sorry, I guess this is my wishful alchemical thinking. But once the seabed has been so disturbed, who knows what chain of effects have been unleashed?

    For a good look at the motive and madness of conquering nature for profit, Curtis White's book "the Barbaric Heart: Faith, Money and the Crisis of Nature" points to the vital need for the lyrical (aka depth psychology and depth methods that celebrate the intuitive, soma, the instictiual and the tragic) to balance the behemoth of the Market God gone astray- our culture's faith in ratiocination and the abstraction that money is. He talks about raising the hammer and philosophizing with it, a la Nietsczhe, and smashing the 'Moloch of abstraction" if it does not reveal any of it's claimed virtues of a civlized world...

    At any rate, BP has gone "beyond petroleum" in it's greening campaign to talk the world into the necessity of tar sand extraction, years ago. (White, p. 105). Now I wonder if they will amp this up again.

    We can sign petitions that demand banning of off shore drilling, but....what will turn the tide of extraction now? You are right, it will take Promethean foresight to innovate ways to work with the natural world in a caring manner. and a Passiphaessan will (far-shining) to see it through.
  • Craig: I so appreciate your take on the Titans being involved here. I remember Glen Slater, author and professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute, stating that where hubris is involved, the Titans will always be there--they are the epitome of hubris. It is ironic that in mythology that the Titans are actually Gaia's children, but unaware, wayward and insolent, they are like emotionally-undeveloped adolescents intent on testing boundaries and finding narcissistic fulfillment.

    Jung, in 1945 said, "Everything possible has been done for the outside world: science has been refined to an unimaginable extent, technical achievement has reached an almost uncanny degree of perfection. But what of man, who is expected to administer all these blessings in a reasonable way? He has simply been taken for granted. No one has stopped to consider that neither morally nor psychologically is he in any way adapted to such changes. As blithely as any child of nature he sets about enjoying these dangerous playthings, completely oblivious of the shadow lurking behind him, ready to seize them in its greedy grasp and turn them against a still infantile and unconscious humanity. . ." (Civilization in Transition, CW 1970, para 442

    Whether it is Faust, Frankenstein, Ahab, or the execs at BP, the shadow is as prolific and present as the depth and breadth of the jet black oily shadow now permeating the Gulf, washing up onto wetlands, and making its way toward open ocean....
    • While I can't see a direct mythic correlate, there is a titanic awareness coming forth from those depths: our civilizations concept of invincibility. Watching the response, and the slow unfolding of cultural outrage skirts around an assumption of American modernity - We can fix It. We will win. In reality, failing responses show that our cleverness and scientific prowess might have limits. We might have to live with consequence, and we might lose.

      I don't know what titanic metaphor this would embody, but there is certainly an inflation in our midst.
      • Yes, I made the comment in the Ecopsych group (but I'll repeat it here) that an initial mythic image that came to my mind was that of heroic Hercules. Hercules (who, by the way, killed his own children in a mad frenzy) took on the task of killing the mighty underwater hydra with many heads. For each head he struck off with his sword, however, two more grew in its place. (BP's failure today to staunch the flow yet again, anyone?)

        It is rather ironic that in the myth, though he did finally succeed in killing the hydra, Hercules (after replacing Atlas to hold the weight of the world on his shoulders for a short time and then quickly passing it back) does eventually die from the "poison" of the hydra.
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