Last year, I came across a Roman version of an old Greek myth called “The Sword of Damocles”. The Roman Cicero mentioned it in his books. The Sicilian tyrant Dionysius II (4th century BC) made a moral point in his example. Dionysius made one of his courtiers Damocles sit on his throne while hanging a sword over his head tied to the ceiling by a horse hair. Dionysius wanted to illustrate to his courtier that with power comes unknown and unexpected fear.
This story intrigues me every time I remember it or every time I see the picture. It reflects an inner feeling and way of life. It serves as a constant reminder to the danger I face in life. The silent danger is hovering over my head, a sword that could fall any minute unexpectedly. The sword may fall especially in times when I relax, become complacent or forget its existence above my head. I know if it falls, it will bring inexorable pain. The sword could represent unexpected problems I face in life. As a constant reminder, I know somewhere, somehow a problem is forming. Or even, someONE is plotting against me.
The story has taught me another lesson. It reminded me about a famous Iraqi proverb, translated approximately to: “Some people’s misfortunes bring benefits for others”. Reflecting back on my previous problems, there were people watching. I learned to see who is watching and enjoying as spectators in the gladiator arena while I fight with my problem. People are still the same people; nothing has changed throughout the ages. Yet we act surprised. Machiavelli said it in his work The Prince long ago: “As though heaven, the sun, the elements and men had changed the order of their motions and power, and were different from what they were in ancient times.” I have failed to notice the spectators of my problems in the past. Some people enjoyed gasping about it as “news of the day”, some people enjoyed exercising their imaginary mental executive power and share it with their friends and co-workers, or those who felt better about themselves as in an act of revenge, or those for whom I became a reminder of, “Thank God it is not me”. All as an endless rebounding effect and the sound of the echo caused by the problem.
Problems!!! We face them in our families, among our friends, or at our jobs. Before they appear, they start to get near us, close to us, or even on top of us. They come in different form, magnitude, and length. Our life has become a cycle of ups and downs. Yet, every time I witness a problem or misfortune hit someone around me, the person acts in total surprise something along the of:”Why me???” or “I was expecting it to hit the guy next to me.” As if somehow, we feel we have immunity against problems, but not other people.
Keeping this in the fore-front of my mind better prepares me mentally for life’s unexpected problems. The constant awareness enables me to be vigilant and try to prepare for when the sword lands on my head; the challenges I face in life. In my experience, if it is my turn today, then it will be yours tomorrow. The sword is still hanging above my head and yours by the horse’s hair.
The lesson is to try not to share problems with others, and minimize the spectators. I want to live happy in a world that I don’t completely understand, but I do understand this.