Heroes in old epics and legends slay dragons or other monsters and free the people of these terrors. (Do any of you remember reading Beowulf in high school or college?) Perhaps slaying external monsters, as risky to life and limb as it no doubt would be, is more quickly and more tangibly and more completely achieved than exorcising out our inner demons.
It is an enticing prospect, that of killing off an external threat, a menace to the community and then experiencing the end of the collective fear and the end of the depredations. Slay the dragon and then the land and people will know peace and even prosperity. And, he who slays the monster and thus frees the people will be remembered in song (oral tradition) for generations to come.
One may wonder if these old epics are serving another purpose or function. Could it be that these stories are projections, externalizations of our inner fears? Might the monster, the ogre, the dragon, the evil giant be representative (symbolic) of our inner demons? Similarly, one might suggest as much about some modern fantasy fiction.
Our inner demons – guilt, fear, regret, anxiety, despair, depression – are not so easily nor quickly nor so permanently banished from our lives as are dragons once impaled. We want to live in the present, but we carry the burden of our past and worry about the uncertain and unknown future. Such is the nature of the human condition. We may make a conscious effort to not let our fears and regrets, etc. control us.
But how many of us have an apotheosis or a catharsis that frees us once for all of our inner monsters?! How many of us reach enlightenment?
The struggle to maintain our sanity, our mental equilibrium is an ongoing challenge all throughout our lives. And, in these times, it is more difficult than in earlier ages. The daily mental stresses and the excess stimulation in our lives today threaten to overwhelm our biological (physical) nervous systems and weary our spirits.
As to Beowulf, this old English epic may have been in oral tradition in Denmark and northern Germany before the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes (from Jutland in Denmark) migrated to Britain.
Another item of note. In the space of several days we will have had Valentine’s Day, the Presidents Day holiday in the US, Ash Wednesday (the start of the Lenten season for Christians) and the Lunar New Year. For many, an eventful several days.
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