I think I was about ten years old when Greek and Roman mythology first caught my attention. I’ve always enjoyed good stories, and when you set those stories in distant lands a long time ago and add in a dose of supernatural powers, I’m likely to get sucked in. Heck, that formula worked pretty darn well with Star Wars (and no, I don’t intend to keep referencing Skywalker and Friends in nearly every post – this is the last one for a while, I promise).
I was reflecting on the story of Cassandra today. In Greek mythology, Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy, that hip and cool town a short paddle across the Aegean Sea from Greece. As you may recall, the Greeks decided to pay a visit with their armies and gigantic wooden horse after Paris, a Trojan, took a fancy to Helen, a Greek. Stuff goes down and Troy ends up burning, and there you have my summary of the Iliad. I think Homer would approve.
Cassandra had this nifty talent of seeing the future, with a less-nifty problem: no one ever believed her prophecies. She warned the Trojans against all that would befall them, but each warning went unheeded, making her a classic example of a Greek tragic figure.
Taken figuratively, I believe that Cassandra represents those people who speak a truth that a significant portion of society would rather not believe. In this category, I think we can safely add Martin Luther King Jr. for his leadership in civil rights and Winston Churchill for his opposition to Nazi Germany. I believe we can also include Rachel Carson and other early environmental leaders. They teach us to not dismiss the warnings of people who challenge our comfortable ways of life in the name of truth, justice, and freedom.
It is in this context that I was struck by the following quote from Pope Francis, found in Paragraph 59 of Laudato Si (emphasis in bold is my own):
“As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.”
These are weighty words. I do not repeat them accusatorily, for I myself am a part of our excessively consumerist culture. Rather, I repeat them in the hope that we might all heed their warning and work to be more content with less, and in doing so help foster a healthier world.
I’ll be back next week with further reflections from my reading of Laudato Si. Cheers friends!