Antigone's Eros

The fifth century BCE Athenian tragic poet, Sophocles, said Ερως ανικατε μαχαν (Eros irresistible in battle or nothing defeats Eros or love). He made that statement in "Antigone," an extremely important play in antiquity and during the Renaissance. In fact, "Antigone" is still relevant and timely to timeless human thirst for real love. "Antigone" is about conflicts between humans and the state and conflicts between human and divine law.

Antigone's Eros for her brother Polyneikes led her to defy Kreon, the king of Thebes. Kreon denied her right to bury her dead brother. But Antigone buried her brother because she had no doubt the divine law -- demanding the burial of the dead -- was superior to human law. Besides, her Eros for her brother was life itself. She broke the human law knowing she would be put to death.

Eros was much more than love among the Greeks. Eros was the son of goddess Aphrodite, a mighty god in his own right. No human or god could resist him. No wonder the Greeks discovered Eros in the cosmos. In fact, Eros was in the primordial stuff that made the cosmos. It was a gigantic force that kept the universe together. We now call that force universal gravitation.

Modern people know rudiments of Greek mythology and even less about Sophocles' "Antigone." We have discarded the Greek cosmos and philosophy for a largely violent science and make-believe images on television and literature. We no longer have heroes that bridge the divine with our threatened world. The Greek superhero, Herakles, performed his labors to improve Greek society. There are no more men-gods like Herakles.

Now our world is divorced from the heavens. It is alone, victim to misguided and religious humans. Our world, our beautiful Earth, is becoming an endangered planet. Armed with bitter and divisive one-god religions and technical knowledge, man has been devastating the Earth for centuries.

He incorporated Greek philosophical and scientific know-how, only to subvert its spirit and end up nowhere. He took the Greeks' atomic theory and made nuclear bombs. These genocidal and biocidal weapons remade societies and science for war and annihilation. They are the secret monsters slowly devouring their makers.

Put nuclear bombs together with endless burning of petroleum, coal and natural gas, and you have a deleterious and explosive mixture.

Burning fossil fuels results in tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide and other Earth warming gases. A warming Earth is bad for both men and the natural world. Growing food is getting more difficult. Draughts and violent weather are telling us we are living in an era of climate change. So much carbon dioxide enters the oceans that the oceans are becoming acidic and hostile to life.

Telling Americans to drive less, stop eating meat and stop watering their lawns will not elect you to the Senate of the House of Representatives.

I have been watching America since 1961. The country remains the leader in things poisoning humans and the Earth: pesticides, other chemicals, fossil fuels, nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons and cars.

Cars continue to increase. Indeed, carmakers are making obese gas-guzzlers to accommodate the obese. Cars have become an American plague. They are everywhere. Their drivers are oblivious to the harm they cause.

But Americans and all humans love the Earth because they understand she is the very reason they exist.

It was not the Greeks alone who worshipped the Earth for millennia. All pre-modern people did. They saw the sun rise in the heavens, giving them light and warmth. They quickly discovered the sun ripened their crops. The Greeks made the sun a god. The Japanese still worship the sun god.

The Greeks and other pre-modern people had festivals celebrating the sowing and harvesting of their crops. Indeed, Demeter protected Greek agriculture. She was goddess of wheat and grains and rural culture. She was the sister of the mighty god Zeus.

Humans also fixed their calendars on the movement of the Earth around her axis, the movement of the moon around the Earth and the yearlong movement of the stars and the sun around the Earth or, in the last five hundred years, the movement of the stars and the Earth around the sun.

Eros was behind that devotion to the living Earth. The Eros of Antigone was more than a sister's love for her brother and a citizen resisting the state. Ii was a force that continues to move the cosmos and society.

We need to follow on the steps of Antigone, make her Eros our Eros. There's no time to continue with business as usual and environmentalism as usual. The first destroys the Earth; the second deludes us. We either defend the Earth with the Eros of Antigone or the Earth will become inhospitable to human life.

The evidence of harm is out there. The emperor of all maladies is our industrialized way of life. It's stupid to assume we are on top, meaning we are separate from other animals. Whatever happens to them will happen to us. If our chemicals are castrating frogs and alligators, and they do, watch out. Male humans are next. If the farmers' neurotoxins are decimating honeybees, and they do, humans, especially children, are not that far behind.

We cannot wait for the last coral and fish to die in the oceans before we ban fossil fuels and industrial fishing. We cannot wait until people drop dead from cancer like flies in a cloud of DDT before we ban pesticides and transform industrialized agriculture into small-scale organic farming.

Finally, we need to bring back to life our ancestors' veneration of the Earth. After all, Earth gives us life and, like Plato said, she is the oldest of the gods.