Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 44 – The Enemy Within
I had found the Lion in the window of a charity shop. It was a combination scarf, handbag and, now, hat…
“I’m assuming that’s a lion you’re wearing?” asked John, when I sat down with my coffee and two butter knives.
“Sorry about that,” I replied. “Best I could do – found it in a charity shop and it needed a bit of TLC and a good wash!”
“Washed the stuffing out of it?”
“More of less. I fear its debut will be its swan song, but, heh, it was worth the pound it cost me, just for the look on your face…”
We both sipped our coffees, each looking at the other warily. I liked that–liked that he could no longer predict all my moves. Just to keep him on his toes, I took the knives and crossed them over each other in the middle of the table, so they were shaped like a St Andrew’s cross.
“We’re having hot cross buns?” he asked, knowing we weren’t, but little else.
“Do we usually have hot cross buns?” I asked, unreasonably.
“A very confined fencing match, then?”
I chuckled. “To the death then…” It was the only sense I could make of the myth – that it was a fight to the death, only one of them could win… Heracles or the lion.
He looked exasperated. Oh good, I thought.
Not wanting to give more away without him having to work for it, I kicked him a snippet. “A fight to the death, then…”
John looked up from reading the back of his coffee cup. “Ah, a fight… so we are doing the Nemean Lion?”
I didn’t mean to gush at that point but the sheer frustration of trying to fathom the myth had got to me. “Yes, we are… and it’s a sod!”
“I’ll grant you it’s not obvious…” he said, looking like he really did want to help. I’ll give him that – his youthful propensity to sulk, remembered from my teens, had diminished with age.
“It’s less than obvious–its despicable,” I said. “A fearsome lion terrorises a region of the county, Heracles is told he must kill it. He discards all the weapons he’s been given, except the club he made himself. Finally, he corners it in a cave – but the cave has two entrances so the lion keeps escaping. To reduce his chances to zero he lays down even his club and enters the cave with no weapons, strangling it with his bare hands… job done.”
“Are we getting a little frustrated with Heracles on this one?”
I was tense, he was right. I could find no meaningful start point for decoding this myth.
“Want a clue?” he persisted.
I nodded, then breathed out, noisily, and sipped my coffee. Rose appeared and John signalled we might need two more.
“Saviours were often described as being born in caves…” John said.
“Saviours…” I mused. “But isn’t Heracles the Saviour?”
“Well, yes, of course,” he said. “But is Heracles singular.”
“Of course,” I said, engaging mouth before brain. “There’s just one of…” and then I saw it – saw that Heracles was, of course all such figures; all aspirants on this path. I looked up to see John smiling, warmly, at me. “Born in a cave…” I whispered. “Like you know who..”
“Like many such you know whos.” he said.
“But he wasn’t born in that cave, he just went in after the Lion – after lighting a fire at the other end to block it!”
It was obvious I had lost my ‘edge’ with this one. Nothing was connecting as it had before the previous visit.
“And in how many ways are people said to be ‘born’?” He smiled and took the new coffees from Rose.
I sat up, catching the edge of the meaning he was trying to convey. “So, something happened in the cave; something that Heracles had to do in the ‘darkness of an interior?”
John winced at hot coffee taken too soon. “Now you’re getting somewhere!”
“But why fight a lion – apart from the obvious?”
“I think you need to go and look up lions,” he said. “Or I’ll end up telling you the whole thing and spoiling it…”
I nodded at this wisdom. For once, we drank and laughed and exchanged small talk.
“Bring Leo back with you next week,” he said as he kissed me on the paw…
Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.
All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2016.