Interpretation of “The pain of Heracles” by Labis Xylouris
For today’s entry, I have picked music from the island of Crete. It seems to me that the Cretans have some special connection with the Muses. More so the Xylouris family whose members appear to all be talented musicians (e.g see my Interpretation of “Tiger” by Psarantonis).
The song is titled The pain of Heracles (Ο πόνος του Ηρακλή) with music and lyrics by Labis Xylouris (Λάμπης Ξυλούρης): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihgAP5dAKEc.
Below are the lyrics, my translation of them, and some further philosophical comments.
Ο πόνος του Ηρακλή
Αν είναι πέτρα τηνε σπώ
Σίδερο το λυγίζω
Μα την παντέρμη αμοναξιά
δεν τηνε νταγιαντίζω
The pain of Heracles
If it is stone I break it
Iron I bend it
But the ever-solitary loneliness
I cannot endure
Heracles (Ηρακλής) is the indomitable hero of myth who is known for his peerless strength and self-discipline. Heracles is a demigod, endowed with talents that no human possesses. Yet the poet reminds us that even a being of such a sort is still not a god. Therein lies the insight that the seemingly invincible Heracles is, in fact, movable, fragile, breakable, human.
Our greatest weakness is our own narrative of selfhood. We sometimes make the mistake of believing in our own story, taking it too seriously, and confirming in our mind how we are, indeed, special.
[ Read/watch: On selfhood ]
One is healthy, energetic, and enjoys a life of plenty. Those comforts create the illusion of permanence, of safety everlasting. This, however, is the human who has deluded themselves into thinking they have transcended the boundaries of being human. None of those comforts are inherent to the human condition. They can all be taken away, leaving the being in its true state: exposed.
Heracles is breakable because all humans are. Even a half-god cannot escape from this reality. He can employ his strength to do unthinkable deeds, yet he cannot be immovable in the way the mountains in the video’s background are. Only the mountain does not flinch in the face of hardship. Humans can only work towards becoming less weak, less prone to self-deception. They shall never undo their humanity.
In my correspondence with people, I often use phrases such as “no worries” and “take it easy”. These are no mere figures of speech. I mean those words. Perhaps I should be more direct: “remember you are human”. Do not pretend to be tough. You are not. Do not pretend to be immovable. You are not.
Just stop pretending about your nature. Though not because I have some weird penchant for honesty. No. We are too nice and pretentious towards each other—I know how it works as I have done it countless times myself: masking my weakness, hiding behind a facade of happiness, saying that it is alright when it isn’t.
Don’t bother telling me the truth of your actuality. I know how to read people, anyway. A fraud can figure out another fraud given sufficient information.
Simply stop telling lies to yourself. Keep your self grounded in your reality. Whatever you think you have is not yours. Perhaps, then, you will be less fragile.
Now close your eyes and let the Muse take you to those mountaintops.