Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 49 – The Questions of Balance


Heracles with Libra scales

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 49 – The Questions of Balance


“I can see you’re brimming with ideas,” said John, looking at me slyly, over the rim of his coffee cup. “But perhaps you’ve not connected them all?”

He was right. But I sensed an uncertainty in him, too, about the myth of the boar. As though it still held much that he hadn’t been able to fathom.  This made me feel better, so I launched into the well-filled, but unconnected islands of meaning I had been able to glean.

“Well, firstly, the whole myth is to do with balance.”

He nodded. “Safe ground, I think… and Libra is most definitely about balance, justice being a result of seeing things from that state…”

“An inner state – she’s blindfold..” I breathed out some of the tension. It annoyed me when I got screwed up about something so trivial… but was it? Were these things of myth not the very terrain of our inner lives?

“Heracles loses one kind of balance – he gets drunk in Pholus’ cave,” I said. “Intoxicated might be a better word, I’ve no idea why…”

“An abuse… a poisoning of the natural faculties?” John offered. “or an loosing of the ordinary consciousness, and the opening of an inner state? You could justify both but remember that the wine was a gift to the Centaurs from Dionysus…”

I nodded, “And yet certain symbols are repeated in the myths, which suggest a common, inner meaning, possibly depending on the context?”

“Yes, definitely,” he said

Growing in momentum, if not confidence, I continued, “And yet wine–and the vineyards that produce it, are revered as spiritual symbols, too?”

“They are, indeed,” he smiled. “So much so, that the red wine is directly equated with the very blood of Christ by the church…” He paused, reflecting. “…and the inner meaning of wine is a higher form of understanding–higher than stone or water which came lower in its scale, so to speak…”

“But this wine causes him to kill two of his most loyal companions – the Centaurs!”

“Who are?” asked John, leaning  forward as he did when we were narrowing in on something important.

“Who are half men and half horse.”

“And we’ve met horses before, have we not?”

“Oh yes,” I said seeing a chink of light in the cave ahead… or was it an oncoming train…”The wild mares, which Heracles had to tame… symbols of uncontrolled thoughts, as I recall?”

“Yes,” said John. “So we can assume that Centaurs, who we will meet again, have a significance in their upper and lower arrangements?”

“In many ways the perfect outer form,” I whispered. “I often wish I could have the stamina of a horse to carry me around the weary streets of London…”

“And in a sense you do, with your wonderful legal mind – the product of all its training and discipline?”

I thought about that. And the Centaurs were a good force in the land of Heracles, and he had killed them because he had become intoxicated with something he craved – the lower form of wine. I continued to give voice to my thoughts, lost in an internal reverie, “And this wine was meant to be drunk only by the Centaurs, when together, in a form of communion!”

“Which, presumably, lifted them, as good communion does, to a higher place within themselves–and collectively.”

I felt a rush of love for the Centaurs, and looked forward to a future reunion with them. They seemed to be wise beings, perhaps more limited than Heracles in potential, though not in pub behaviour…”

He smiled. “They’ve always had a place in my heart, too.”

“It’s a battle for balance, then,” I said, getting enthusiastic. “fought in two arenas – the place where the wrong wine can intoxicate to the point of killing friends who are the epitome of balance; and the high ground where the only way to catch the unregenerate animal is with artifice – the right use of the mind…”

“And Heracles triumphs?” asked John.

“Well, yes…” I responded, sensing that I had the inner grasp of the thing, if not the right words to describe it. “…by humour as much as anything else. He drives the exhausted animal down the mountain and amuses all below with the spectacle.” I sipped the last of my coffee, lost in my thoughts. “Perhaps he turns it into a parody by making it human-like, while showing that it can never be so…”

“It could even be a visual apology to the Centaurs,” John said, “showing a man atop the wild beast of the boar – a lesson learned?”

He watched me cross the last few feet of my mental process.

“He triumphs by being human, within which, by the grace of something very high, all things are forgiven, once wisdom is grasped…” I fell silent.

“Sometimes, you astonish me…” said John, ordering two celebration coffees from a smiling Rose, who, strangely, was just passing our table.

(Image – composite by author. Underlying monochrome image of Libra figure:


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

3 thoughts on “Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 49 – The Questions of Balance

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