Hathos, Pathos, Bathos, Apotheosis

This has been on my mind for a while. I have always been an insomniac.  I don’t really get along well with the so-called ‘lark’. When my mechanic asks me to bring the car in at 8 AM, I sometimes ask him if he’d like to do business at 1 (don’t you just hate the caps lock button location?) AM because that’s when I’m awake.  He just looks at me, though I think he understands. The dark is an interesting place. It’s rather large and accommodating. Humankind has traditionally feared what it cannot see; I sometimes think that rather than fear what is ‘out there’, we can fear what is ‘in here’, and we should. (deconstruct that at will). I experience something I have named ‘middle-of-the-night-mind’. It’s a beast. There are also moments when my mind is suspended in a conscious dreamlike state; it’s like dreaming while I’m awake and has a similar plasticity. There is also the waking up song. It can be a jingle or a symphony (it doesn’t care), but it hangs around for a couple of the morning hours.

Making up stories is one coping mechanism. I’ve been doing it since puberty (this is one word in the English language that I truly hate). pubescent, pubic, punic, public. Peeeuw. Stories were always the mainstay of my self-medication, self-evaluation, self-management. Figuring that out was a revelation. It seems so obvious now. Elementary. But nobody told me. I truly don’t how many other persons do this. There have been occasions when I’ve mentioned this practice/preoccupation to someone else and I can’t tell if they do not respond because they have no idea what I’m talking about or because they’re embarassed to tell me that I’m so-not-clued-into the joke.

I recently found a bunch of words that I do love, and they’re all greek. These words are central to modern storytelling, to the enterprise of managing our self-images. For each word I will give pertinent examples.

Apotheosis: the act of raising a person to the status of a god; deification.  There is a religion headquartered in Utah, the beehive state, which holds that if you live right (especially in your marriage), that you and your spouse will become gods in some murky version of an afterlife. This idea just makes me snort. Also the Cylons on Battlestar Galactica believe in apotheosis, though for them it seems to imply some sort of meld with humanity. Again, really vague, but it’s an improvement over the preceding. I’m pretty sure that another so-called religion which is widely practiced by some famous movie stars preaches that if a person practices the religion in just the right way, there is an apotheosis under the tree in a ‘life-continuation event’.

I always thought that there is a story-telling device that parallels apotheosis. At first it was whatever thread allowed me to sleep. Mothers the world over use this one. It’s that thought that comforts, reassures, allows the mind to let go in the sure and certain thought of waking again. Lately, I’ve downshifted the notion to that of a twist, a resolution that can move the mind from one place to a better one. The notion of ‘better’ I will revisit when it suits me.

Hathos: Hathos is the attraction to something you really can’t stand; it’s the compulsion of revulsion. (ht Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish here) They made up this word. They usually use it in reference to video that you have a hard time looking at, but can’t pull yourself away from. It’s also used in reference to the occasional person. I think hathos refers to parts of ourselves that we hate, even as these parts are central to who we are. We cannot look away.

Pathos: a quality, as of an experience or a work of art, that arouses feelings of pity, sympathy, tenderness, or sorrow. Dying swans come to mind. This is an old one, so old it’s nastily overused and degenerates into mawkishness. Pagliacci the clown is another good example (esp. on Seinfeld). Pathos done properly is hideously effective, even lethal.

Bathos: an abrupt, often ludicrous change from the lofty to the ordinary or trivial in writing or speech; unintentional anticlimax. I don’t know anything about unintentional anticlimaxes. That would be like purgatory: a state of anticipation coexisting with a burst of fireworks. The best example I have is Monty Python’s ‘Hell’s Grannies’. Terry Gilliam and his animated pasties is a good example. Some of the best humor uses bathos. It’s a word I discovered recently. It’s hard to get a handle on the idea behind it. What it encompasses is contradictory and expansionary. It’s a very ‘word’ word. It’s out there on the frontier of what words do, which is why I like it.

Hathor: the goddess of love, mirth, and joy, usually represented as having the head or ears of a cow; She’s Egyptian, but the Greeks ruled Egypt for centuries (you knew that). I’m firmly in favor of love, mirth and joy. I have mixed feelings about cows, though I like Gene on ‘Fringe’. There is no separate god for revelry, but maybe it’s Dionysus. This god, however, gets into dangerous territory quickly.

Gruntled: This word comes from Old English. (how do you like that bathos?) You’re more familiar with its sibling: disgruntled. Everybody’s disgruntled these days, because they’re looking for that apotheosis thing, and it’s not working.  TTFN.

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