Why You’re Zeus, Athena, and Poseidon All Wrapped into One
In the Summer of 2000, the third single off Vertical Horizon’s hit album, Everything You Want, was released on the radio.
After their second single spent 26 weeks cruising to #1 on the Billboard Charts, the band hoped their third release would send them further up the ladder of stardom. Sadly, the third track petered out at #23. And after that, they all but disappeared from the music scene.
But their third single, “You’re a God,” is the only Vertical Horizon song that eeks out of the ether and plants itself in my mind every so often. The only theory I have for why this happens is due to my fascination with godliness.
A Man of the Cloth
Here’s something you may not know about me: Years before I wanted to be the next Ben Foster, and decades before I changed my life via fitness and became a coach, I thought I was going to be a minister.
The notion of “being a god,” or at least, “being more godly,” has always intrigued me. It possibly explains why I love superheroes as much as I do, and why I’ve always wanted to live on top of a mountain where I could watch the world carry on below me as if I were an Olympian perched atop Mount Olympus.
But I was raised to believe in Judeo-Christian ideals. And the stories of Ancient Greece were just that: stories. Still, there was something visceral about The Olympians. The daily life of the Greek gods read more like a script of The Real World than the stories that involved Jesus preaching or roaming through the desert.
Plus, instead of one god in three forms, the Greeks believed in dozens of gods, each dedicated to their own sphere of expertise. Ares was the god of war; Artemis the goddess of the hunt; Athena the goddess of reason, intelligence, and battle strategy; Dionysus the god of wine and ecstasy (not the drug, but I’m sure he’d love Molly). Presiding over them all, of course, was the king of the gods himself — who in most stories spent his time thrusting his thunderbolt into attractive Greek women — Zeus.
Now: unless you had your head stuck up your ass for all of grade school, I’m going to assume you know who Zeus is. If you don’t, I hate you, and don’t want dumb people reading my site.
But here’s the thing about Zeus: (most of) history has been looking at Zeus in the wrong way. And I only realized there was another, far more interesting way to view Zeus while listening to Dr. Jordan Peterson’s lecture series on The Bible.
Toys for the Gods
In the mind of the Ancient Greeks, human beings were the playthings of the gods. Humanity, to the Hellenes, was beholden to the whims of the spirits that sat atop Mount Olympus. They were wild, unpredictable, and when left to their own devices, caused great suffering.
We know more today about how our world works than our Greek ancestors. But there’s still so much we don’t know of our own world. But what if there is another layer to Greek Mythology? What if you viewed The Olympians through the realm of psychology?
How do these gods change if you view them as an anthropomorphized version of our most basic human emotions?
Dramatized stories have been used since the dawn of time to teach all of humanity important lessons about how to live a good life. Greek Mythology was no different. And if you examine The Olympians as representations of our most basic human emotions, you’ll begin to see that Vertical Horizon was right: you are a god.
As Above, So Below
What’s it like when you lose control of how you feel? Does it feel like you’ve been swept away into a part of you that you can’t control? Do you feel like you’ve “possessed” by a spirit?
Or put another way, how many times have you:
- Been so angry but had no idea why and blacked out, then said or did something you regret?
- Have you ever loved so intensely that it leads you to do really stupid things?
- Or have you ever felt so drunk on an emotion or passion that you lost yourself in pure ecstasy for a moment?
Individually, our emotions (or gods) can cause us to slip back into our most basic animal instincts. At their core, these emotions are savage. And raw emotion is untamed; wild, and unhinged. If left to their own devices, these god-emotions will do the only thing they’re designed to do.
But consciousness forces us to recognize our choices and actions. It demands that we take responsibility. It requires us to look at these god-emotions, determine what the hell they’re freaking out about, and keep them in line so that we can make good decisions about our circumstances.
Our conscious mind operates as the king of the gods; making Zeus, the king of the sky (read: mind) and the keeper of law and order, the representation of our conscious self.
Ride the Lightning
Have you ever been struck by an idea out of nowhere? Like it felt as if a light had gone off in your head? The Ancient Greeks had a word for this: enelysion. It meant, “struck by lightning.” (The word later evolved to “Elysium,” a part of the Underworld—The Elysian Fields—where the souls of the heroic and virtuous spent eternity.)
When you become consciously aware of your thoughts, actions, feelings about a situation, or your emotional state: it’s as if you’ve been blessed by Zeus and struck by lightning with (t)his revelation.
Unconscious behavior, the kind you blame on “unruly spirits,” is you being ruled by your god-emotions. Conscious behavior, on the other hand, is you using your Zeus-mind to maintain law and order over your god-emotions.
Once you become conscious of a problem and bring it to light with Zeus’s lightning bolt, only then do you have the capacity to make your situation better.
But when we let the gods run amuck, we become their playthings. And when one god gets rambunctious in our lives, we (can) bring about discord and disorder:
- Too much spirit, and you become drunk on that which brings you ecstasy. (Dionysus)
- Too much love and lust can leave you blind to the actions of those around you. (Aphrodite)
- Do you find that you’re quick to anger and easily turn into a hot-headed douchebag? (Ares)
In a Glass Cage of Emotion
Myths of the ancient world may have been considered fact by those in that time, but their true intention was to help humanity understand it’s place in the world. Our ancestors created these stories so that they could explain the seasons, the rising of the sun, fertility/infertility, earthquakes, floods, violence, etc.
Now, thanks to science, we know how/why earthquakes occur, we know why the sun rises and seasons change, and science has shown us how our brains work in terms of emotions.
But how can you increase consciousness? How can you take more control over your god-emotions and live a better life?
5 Ways to Become More Conscious
Take Care of Your Body
- Exercise increases your cognitive function, increases the size of your hippocampus (the area responsible for memory), and has dramatic epigenetic effects on how your genes express themselves.
Increase Your Inner Knowledge of Yourself (Journal or write in some capacity)
- “You can’t solve a problem unless you know what it is.” – Dr. Jordan Peterson. Journaling has been proving to help those with mental health issues better cope with their disease because it helps you become conscious of your problems, fears, and worries. Writing helps you shape your mind. It can show you how you perceive the world, and show you how you respond to your emotions, and how you can better deal with them.
- One of the things I love about The 5 Minute Journal that I bought my wife is that it asks her what she’s grateful for every night. We’ve now carried that over our own relationship by telling each other 3 things we appreciate about one another from that day.
Desire (Set Goals)
- Humans are goal driven creatures. Having a lofty goal to aspire to gives our lives meaning. And when you’re conscious of where you want to go, and working towards that goal, your life feels more meaningful.
Attention (Meditation or Nature)
- Put the phone down, pick your ass up off the couch, and pause the video games for a few minutes each day. Take a walk in nature and observe the world around you. Or meditate. But find a way to quiet your mind so that you can connect to your mind.
We’re Animals at Heart
Charles Darwin was one of the first scientists to theorize that our emotions evolved over time in the same way as our inherited genetic traits. Our ancestors needed these emotions to survive in the wild. And no matter how much we try and fight it: we’re still animals at our core. There’s still a “lizard brain” that operates and controls much of our day to day life. Our emotions are still as savage as ever.
We’ve civilized as a species. We’ve built cities, honed fine metals, discovered the building blocks of the universe, set foot on the moon, and flown to the heavens. Our ancestors would consider us gods if they could see what we’ve accomplished.
But we still carry around the same god-emotions they did. (So we’re not complete deities.)
Civilized Savagery: Balancing Your Inner Greek gods
Freud believed that we needed to civilize those emotions—or spirits—so that we could live together in harmony with others. Our emotions can possess our minds, and our conscious being becomes beholden to their whims. To resist, we need to be conscious of what they want, and what actions these gods are demanding transpire.
And then, like Zeus, our conscious minds—the rational and thoughtful and just part of our brain—must take control. But the only way to keep your gods in line is to make sure that you’re Zeus-mind is constantly conscious of what’s happening. To live a right and just life, you must civilize your most savage emotions and become the god of your mind. Or something my friend Nick Sorrell referred to as “civilized savagery.”
Our god-emotions are part of us, they’ve helped us survive as a species and avoid dangerous situations. But left unbridled, they can cause great harm; they’re necessary, yes, but our conscious mind must also civilize these basic instincts so that we can live a good life.
Like a god who can see from the highest heights of Olympus, you need to examine, ask yourself questions, and better understand what your god-emotions are doing. Why are they trying to wreck havoc right now? What has spurred them to take over and come forth?
By doing that, you bring consciousness to your thoughts and feelings. Because as Vertical Horizon so clearly stated: you are a god, and you just don’t know it.