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Posts tagged Greeks

Nov 13 '12

Tantalus

Tantalus was an ancient Greek dude who pissed off the Gods to the extent that he was cursed to spend eternity in a lake of water with a fruit tree’s branches just above his head. If he ever reached for the fruit or the water it would move out of his reach, meaning he was going to spend his entire afterlife trying to get nourishment that wasn’t forthcoming.

Famously, Tantalus’s fate gives us the origins of the word “Tantalize,” which makes you wonder if the Gods were like, “Hey, Tantalus, those mortals have started using your name as a dictionary-defined word,” and he’d be like, “Really? What does it mean?” and the Gods would be like, “Erm, ooh, I did know this, what does it mean, ooh, it’s on the tip of my tongue, Oh! Yes! It means, no wait…”

Mind you, given his current plight, I’m not sure being an eponym was much of a consolation to old Tanty.

I do wonder, though, whether Tantalus’s fate was that impressive, given that after a few years of trying to grab the water and fruit, Tantalus would probably have come to the inductive conclusion that there wasn’t really much point to attempting to gather them. Like, even a small child eventually realises after you’ve offered him a candy and gone “Just kidding!” and taken it away, laughing, several dozen times, that they’re probably not going to get any candy today. I’m pretty sure behavioural psychologists have a word for it.

So at the end of the day, as long as he has the ability of basic pattern recognition, Tantalus probably just gave up reaching for the food. The punishment is more of a “ha ha you’re really hungry” than a “ha ha you’re eternally reaching for something that isn’t there.”

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One thing we were told before Audrey was born was that “The first two weeks are the hardest; once you get through those, everything seems easy.” Then, at the end of the first fortnight, when parenthood did not magically achieve the proverbial log-falling ease, people said “It gets so much easier after six or so weeks, whenever your baby starts to smile.”

Because the six week growth spurt leads to a much fussier baby (albeit one who can smile), people would tell me that the magic time for Ideal Little Angelness is three months. That wasn’t entirely accurate, because at between three and four months, babies tend to lose all ability to sleep. I am reliably informed by a colleague that the first five or six months are the hardest and that once you get through those, everything seems easy.

That same colleague, for the record, has a 14-month-old who is, she told me today, currently in the ‘running around biting people’s legs because he’s teething’ stage. A month ago he was in the ‘running around hitting his head on tables and being taken to ER’ stage.

This has been a post.