Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Real Hope

Zeus was pissed.

That sorry little man Prometheus had tricked him into taking the larger portion of a sacrificed ox, leaving the smaller portion for Prometheus and his buddies. But the large portion was only the bones of the animal, slathered in gleaming, unctuous fat. The small portion, seemingly just the stomach of the ox, contained all the meat.

In those days, before the fall, men were less than gods but were still immortal. They were also just men, womenfolk having yet to be invented.

Mightily angered over being tricked, Zeus withheld fire from the men. They could keep their bloody meat, but they'd have to eat it raw.

So of course Prometheus stole the fire from the gods, and carried it to his fellows.
Prometheus carrying the fire. Jan Cossiers, 1637, wikimaedia commons

In his rage Zeus bound Prometheus in chains and set an eagle to eating his liver. Each day the eagle feasted while Prometheus writhed in agony. Each night Zeus caused the liver of Prometheus to regenerate. Godly punishment and revenge were, well, creative. As we will see.
Prometheus Bound, Peter Paul Rubens, Wickimaedia commons.

The suffering of Prometheus was not enough to quench Zeus' rage. With great malice aforethought, he cleverly crafted a maiden out of earth and water. This was the first woman, Pandora. He presented the woman to Epimethus, the brother of Prometheus, who took her as his wife. To Pandora he gave a pithos, or jar (long ago mistranslated as "box"), a wedding gift she was forbidden to open.
Pandora, Wickimaedia commons.

Well, Pandora was only human. She was curious, and more than a bit irritated at owning a gift she couldn't even open. After a time, of course, she opened the container, and out poured the creatures disease, poverty, misery, sadness, death, and all the ills of the world. This was the fall of man, and it was an utter disaster.
Pandora, John William Waterhouse, 1896, Wikimaedia commons.

After the ills had fled the pithos and rushed to conduct their murderous rampage, one last creature remained, and this was Hope. Hope fluttered out of the jar and immediately began to heal the wounds created by the ills that Pandora had unintentionally loosed on man.


The ills remain, and wound us grievously, yet Hope is with us still. It is the real Hope of real men, and nothing so worn and tawdry as a platitudinous campaign slogan.


I don't know what I was expecting when I published my previous post. It was devilishly hard to write, and there was a big part of me that wanted to not write it. I can't explain why that is, other than it's easier not to write a tragic story.

On the other hand, it's an event that's been with me for a long time. When you do the job I did, you learn to compartmentalize, to put the misery and sadness and death aside and get on with the job. You lock it away in a box, or perhaps in a pithos, and you drive on. It's not gone, of course, it doesn't disappear. It's there, you know it's there, and you know that eventually you'll have to open it and let the misery, sadness and death wash over you. It's a painful process. It would be unbearable were it not for Hope.

I'd also promised Wayne's sister Crystal that I would write the account and share it with her. I did this several years ago, and have often cursed myself for ever making the promise. It seemed an impossible thing to do. How do you share such awful details? How do you share them with the sister of the man you couldn't save? Yet she wanted the details. She was so very understanding and patient, and never pressed me on the subject. She wanted to know about the last minutes of her brother's life. She deserved no less.

Opening the pithos is a process. It takes time, and reflection, and thought, and prayer. It has to happen at its own pace, in its own time. On October 3 it finally happened.

I published it here, and posted a link on koobecaf.

I'd done my best, yet I was concerned for Crystal and for my Coral Sea shipmates, some of whom would see and read the post. A post filled with misery and sadness and death. I was afraid, at least a little bit afraid, that in opening the pithos and finally purging my heart of this hurt, that I would inadvertently hurt the hearts of others. I'd made a promise, though, and after much reflection and soul searching, decided that I'd have to rely on Hope. That Hope would remain, and do for others what it has always done, soothe and heal wounds. In particular, the wounds that the ills of January 31, 1988 have caused.

I'm not a big fan of koobecaf. The utter garbage that populates that place often drives me to distraction. Nevertheless, I posted the link, which Crystal immediately shared to her timeline, and which an old squadron mate shared to the Coral Sea page. I followed those conversations, and I am humbled and amazed at the sheer volume of love and support that flowed. Scores of comments. So very many shipmates knew Wayne and were profoundly hurt by his tragic death, yet so many offered sincere thanks for finally being able to read about some of the grim details.

When Crystal shared the post she began with the line, "This is the most difficult story I have ever read. This is it.....the story of my brother's last few minutes on earth. There truly are no words.....except thank you Shaun Evertson and the rest of the team for trying to save him."

Humbled is just not a big enough word.

A lot of people visited this place and read the post. More than 1,800 page views in 24 hours. That's insane for my little piddly blog. By far the most visits of all time.

That makes me think that it was worth it to post the story, and that in some small way I've done a service. I know for certain that scores and scores of strangers and former shipmates have done me a huge service. They've rekindled my belief in the power of Hope, and they've provided a powerful pushback against the fear I have for the future of our nation.

This is an enormous, gigantic thing.

Today I feel wrung out and a bit limp. It's been a challenging and emotional couple of days. But I also feel better than I have in some time.

All of you people, all of you wonderful, individual, human, sovereign citizens of this great land, thank you so much for the gift you've shared with me.