Thursday, July 14, 2011

In the Nobly Halting Footsteps of Hephaistos

Let’s talk a little bit about Hephaistos. I’m not sure why he’s so much on my mind today--maybe because it’s as hot outside as it must be in his forge--but there he is, urging me forward to give a small accounting of how he came into my life, so here we go:

It started with a terrible dream. I had only been living with my fiance for a month or so when I awoke with a start after dreaming, in the consciousness of Hephaistos, that I had been horribly disregarded and cheated on. I don’t remember the details of the dream, but the feeling was ALIVE--the crushing weight of a breaking heart, the fire of loneliness, anger and confusion. I had seen Aphrodite, goddess of love, goddess of my heart, turn her back on me and all the tender gifts of my talent I had offered her, while she chose instead to embrace brutish war. Then, when I went to rise from my dream, I could barely walk--my feet and legs being so battered by the stand-in-one-spot-for-eight-hours job I had been doing at Wal-Mart for nearly a year. In other words, I woke up feeling in mind and body how the myths tell us Hephaistos must have felt through his various mythical trials--born club-footed and rejected outright by the Goddess he loved.

But why, I wondered, would he come to me at that moment? I wasn’t having troubles in love. In fact, I was happier with my fiance than I had ever been in my life. It didn’t dawn on me what he was getting at until later that day when I found myself crying my way to work--dreading it in body and soul. You see, I moved to Oklahoma from Nashville where I had worked for Wal-Mart for about eight months. At my Nashville store I had what I have come to learn was a very atypical experience. Even though I am visually disabled, I was never made to feel lesser than other employees, I was valued for my work, my co-workers loved me and I adored them right back, and just about every day was a pleasure. When I transferred to a store here in Oklahoma however--a change necessary for my fiance and I to be together--things were very different, (and this, I fear, is more typical of Wal-Mart). The minute they found out I had a visual limitation I was treated like absolute trash. My manager constantly gave me jobs I could not possibly do in the time frame allotted me because of my eyesight--like cataloging a thousand belts by bar code number--then she would berate me in front of other employees for not completing them. I was a pariah. No one wanted to befriend me because they saw I was the manager’s whipping girl and, as the immortal saying goes, shit rolls down hill.

So I was miserable--absolutely miserable. The gifts I had to offer were not being honored, in fact, I was never even allowed to present them in the first place because of hasty judgments made of me based on my disability, much like Hephaistos who is probably the most talented of the Gods and, at the same time, the most underestimated and rejected.

So that day at work and for many days following I offered up prayers to him asking what I should do. How should I handle my situation in a manner befitting his morally upright and hard working influence?

The answer came: I should quit. It is not noble, he taught me, to abase yourself for pennies and to continually allow yourself to be mistreated. It is noble however to take the frightening leap away from abuse and honor your real talents by pursuing them with dogged determination.

And that is what I did. I quit my Wal-Mart job to pursue my writing and homemaking full time and I pray every day I am given the energy, strength and inspiration to honor his influence with my efforts.

I offer Lord Hephaistos this hymn:

Father Hephaistos,
be here among us.
Mighty and gentle and lord
I lay my hands in yours.
Teach me your art.
Enflame my heart.
Father, I am yours to mold.

Blessed by the Mystery,
-M. Ashley

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