Dating the Greek Gods: Empowering Spiritual Message on Sex and Love, Creativity and Wisdom

Overview

When Brad Gooch began promoting his self-help book Finding the Boyfriend Within, the first of its kind directed toward a gay readership, he was overwhelmed by the response it generated. Thousands of gay men embraced the book's message of looking into themselves to find comfort and purpose in life. So enthusiastic was the response to the book that Gooch began conducting workshops and, in the process, conceived Dating the Greek Gods as both a follow-up and a companion to the earlier book -- a self-help book ...
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Overview

When Brad Gooch began promoting his self-help book Finding the Boyfriend Within, the first of its kind directed toward a gay readership, he was overwhelmed by the response it generated. Thousands of gay men embraced the book's message of looking into themselves to find comfort and purpose in life. So enthusiastic was the response to the book that Gooch began conducting workshops and, in the process, conceived Dating the Greek Gods as both a follow-up and a companion to the earlier book -- a self-help book designed as a sort of "advanced class" for readers of Finding the Boyfriend Within.

Because of the conflicted reaction many gay men have to any discussion of religious spirituality, Gooch hit upon the idea of drawing on an older spiritual base -- that of Ancient Greece -- for examining and explaining his approach to achieving a higher understanding of self through spirituality. The stories of the Greek gods have inspired human consciousness for more than thirty centuries, the outgrowth of a society in which homosexuality was an accepted aspect of human behavior. Dating the Greek Gods explores these stories as well as the dominant characteristics of those Greek deities, tying the spirituality of being a gay male to the inner patterns -- or archetypes -- that shape men's personalities and personal relationships.

Gooch organizes the book into a series of meditations and personal exercises shaped around the characters, stories, and dominant traits of the deities. For example, in chapter one, Apollo addresses wisdom; chapter two concerns Dionysus and deals with sexuality and disco nights; chapter three is about Hermes and concerns communication, and so on, from Hephaestos and Eros (creativity and romance) to Zeus (independence and freedom). Gooch delves into these enduring archetypes to show men how, by understanding the philosophy behind these gods, they can come to better understand themselves and, in the process, enrich their lives.

Unique in its approach and totally accessible in its realization, Dating the Greek Gods is an enlightened and literary self-help book that encourages readers to turn to their own inner oracle -- the inner voice that prompted them to "come out" in the first place -- and in the process to revitalize themselves through viewing the world's spiritual traditions in a more inclusive and caring fashion.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gooch takes a philosophical, quasi-spiritual approach to dating, applying lessons learned from the Greek gods to his romantic interactions with men. But the goal of this volume, which is part memoir, part mythology lesson and part self-help guide, is not simply to empower readers to find social success. Rather, Gooch (Finding the Boyfriend Within) holds that self-examination and study of Greek wisdom can have an effect on the whole self-and that a better social life is a happy by-product. After an introduction that attempts to explain the relationship between the Greek gods and gay dating, the book launches into seven chapters; six examine the traits and lessons of particular gods-Apollo, Dionysus, Hermes, Hephaestus, Eros and Zeus-and one looks at the wisdom of Socrates. The author describes the gods and their beliefs, and offers a few themed exercises for each. Erotic exercise #4, for example, has readers: "List your current crushes. If you draw a blank, you can include crushes from movies, sports, or TV." Hermenuetic exercise #1 urges readers to "Create a new workout program." Though Gooch sometimes stretches to make connections between the gods and real life, the lessons and exercises can be thought provoking. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
As in his previous Finding the Boyfriend Within, Gooch aims this guide at gay men interested in self-discovery. Readers explore characteristics within themselves that are associated with particular Greek gods (e.g., the wisdom of Apollo, the romance of Eros). "All these Greek gods are really different role models," writes Gooch, each with qualities worth considering. Chapters deal with individual gods (e.g., Hermes, the communicator) and identify how readers can develop traits similar to that god's with a little practice. Aside from an aimless chapter on Dionysus, this thematic approach works well. Some advice is unremarkable, feeling rehashed in light of whatever deity is under consideration ("Changing spending patterns based on balance is an Apollonian version of balancing your checkbook"), and Gooch assumes a good deal of willful intent on the part of readers who must do the work. For spiritual self-help that fosters partnering with the Judeo-Christian God, readers might consider Mary Manin Morrissey's No Less Than Greatness: The Seven Spiritual Principles That Make Real Life Possible. Of obvious interest to gay collections, this is an optional purchase for medium and large public libraries. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743226691
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 6/1/2003
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.84 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Brad Gooch

Brad Gooch is the author of Finding the Boyfriend Within, Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America, and the acclaimed biography of Frank O'Hara, City Poet, as well as the novels The Golden Age of Promiscuity and Scary Kisses. His poems, stories, and articles have appeared in The Nation, The Paris Review, Vanity Fair, Out, and many other periodicals. He lives in New York City.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Apollo: The God of Wisdom

Profile

Apollo is the Mr. Right of the Greek pantheon. A son of almighty Zeus, the king of the gods, and one of Zeus's many mistresses -- the lovely Leto -- Apollo is generally described as tall, dark, and handsome. A Homeric hymn to Apollo tells us that when the young god with his long, curling black hair first appeared on Mount Olympus and drew his bow, all the gods and goddesses rose from their seats in astonishment.

Gazing at a marble frieze of the gods and goddesses making up the pantheon, Nietzsche, the German philosopher and classicist, wrote of Apollo's special star quality: "We must not be misled by the fact that Apollo stands side by side with the others as an individual deity, without any claim to priority of rank. For the same impulse that embodies itself in Apollo gave birth to this entire Olympian world, and in this sense Apollo is its father."

Apollo was a player. His love life was protean, but his success with women wasn't as stellar as might be expected. Daphne had herself transformed into a laurel tree to escape his advances. Afterward, Apollo would wear a branch of laurel as a wreath on his head -- hence, as he was also the god of poetry, the phrase "poet laureate." When Cassandra remained unimpressed by his attributes, he cursed her with the gift of prophecy, which included a caveat that no one would ever believe her accurate warnings about the future.

He had more luck with handsome young men, whose love for him was at least reciprocal. Yet these romances ended tragically as well. Apollo's great infatuation was Hyacinthus, a divine boy who rode swans instead of horses. Apollo would carry the nets when Hyacinthus went fishing, lead the dogs when he went hunting, and accompany him on hiking trips into the mountains, while neglecting his own practice of the lyre and archery. One day when Hyacinthus and Apollo were throwing the discus, the wind was shifted by the jealous west wind, Zephyrus, who was also in love with the boy. The discus sliced Hyacinthus through the skull. From the drops of his purple blood grew the hyacinth flower.

Apollo's next infatuation, Cyparissus, accidentally speared his own pet stag, a flashy sports car of a creature with gilded antlers and festooned with silver ornaments. Cyparissus was so inconsolable when he discovered his misfire that Apollo turned him into a sorrowing tree, the cypress, an evergreen often planted in cemeteries. For these passionate affairs, Apollo is distinguished as the first god to woo someone of the same sex. He might well be nominated on that basis for the vacant post of god of homosexuality. (In Greek legend, the first mortal to pursue another man was the poet Thamyris, who was also in love with Hyacinthus.)

But Nietzsche didn't single out Apollo as the trophy god because he scored sporadically with young beauties of either sex. As with mortals, a disconnect can exist between a god's love life and his work life. Apollo could be dizzy when he was in pursuit of a long redial list of potential lovers. But when he was at the office, he was all business. His focus was sustained and steady. During the workday, Apollo was the sun, and so his job was the spreading of light. His arc was perfection itself. No quality was finally more crucial for energizing Olympian spirituality than light. As the god of the sun, he was, by extension, the god of all things positive, life-giving, and full of clarity. His light was spiritual as well as solar.

Apollo exhausted many fields in his endeavors as a deity. Exhibiting symptoms resembling attention deficit disorder, he was the god of prophecy, healing and medicine, poetry, music, philosophy, astronomy, archery, youth, wisdom, beauty, intelligence, and moderation. The transformation of so many of his lovers into trees and flowers reveals his closeness with nature. But shooting through all these manifestations is the principle of light. "Light" is the root word in "enlightenment." Hidden in "enlightenment" is the sense of lightening up. His style of music and poetry is likewise illuminating. His mode was never heavy metal. He was much more classical.

The most famous of all the ancient temples was Apollo's temple at Delphi, believed by the Greeks to be the center of the world, its exact site marked with a large conical stone, the omphalos, or navel. The two guiding principles engraved on the temple in the sixth century B.C. were KNOW THYSELF and ALL THINGS IN MODERATION. (Both commands were later accepted by the Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as the basis of morality.) The light of wisdom that produces intuition and healing balance is the shining logo of the Olympian brand. The Athenian Greeks roved freely through all experience in their integration of life with wisdom. They didn't leave any dark closets in their psyches unexposed. But even at their most garish and violent, they maintained a glow of sanity about them. This glow was the halo of the Apollonian principle of wisdom.

Meditations and Exercises

Street Wisdom

Apollo's wisdom can sound like the most abstract of principles, the most far-off and Olympian. The Greek word for wisdom, sophia, possesses some lofty connotations. The early Greek-speaking Christians even identified the word with Jesus Christ, as the wisdom of God. (Hence Hagia Sophia, or Holy Wisdom, was the soaring Byzantine church in Istanbul.)

But sophia in ancient Greek had more practical definitions, too. The word could denote skill, craft, cleverness, know-how, cunning, smartness, even expedience. These meanings are closer to our own sense of "streetwise."

The best way to extract wisdom with a capital W from our street experiences is to practice formulating what we've learned -- to exercise wisdom. The most productive place to start is with our relationships past and present. We grow wise from our relationships. Nothing speeds up the process of wisdom more than passion -- whether sexual, romantic, or deriving from a deep friendship. Wisdom isn't a purely intellectual quality. The Greek goddess Psyche -- her name means "Soul" -- was in love, after all, with Eros, the god of romantic love. The soul needs juice from which to distill wisdom.

APOLLONIAN EXERCISE #1

List significant relationships that you've had in your life: trysts, friends, lovers, or partners. Try for five. Then write down lessons you have learned about yourself and life from these relationships.

Each of us has his own quotient of wisdom gained from a personal supply of experiences. I'm going to share my findings. Hopefully, these results will resonate with yours, but you will certainly have conclusions that are entirely your own. Depending on how our particular hand of cards is dealt, we arrive at different insights in different orders and at different times.

My list:

• Sally

• Howard

• Dirk

• The Boyfriend Within

• The two Larrys

Sally and I began our romance in college. I was already experimenting with guys. But the comfort of bubble baths and nights shared with her under a patchwork quilt made for an invaluable home base. Yet Dionysus, the god of sexual energy, soon demanded his due.

Lesson: I was gay.

Howard was a lucky stumble into love. This eleven-year relationship had many of the traits I've since come to think of as wise for the long term, but didn't even know I was looking for at the time.

Lesson: Shared interests, parity of mind and body, and brotherly love all contribute to long-lasting relationships.

Dirk, with his long black hair and heavy Southern accent, resembled Apollo. (Although he didn't sound like Apollo.) He told me everything I wanted to hear: "I'm the one you've been waiting for." Six months later, he eloped with a plastic surgeon.

Lesson: "If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is." (Borrowed from an online-profile quotation, a great source of folk wisdom.)

If your lessons begin sounding disgruntled, like mine directly above, another bit of wisdom found online is useful: "Don't judge others, evaluate yourself."

The Boyfriend Within, after our two years of dating, left me much lighter, happier, and more relaxed. Much of what passes for love and romance is disguised insecurity.

Lesson: Happiness comes from within. By going within, you mysteriously get outside yourself.

The two Larrys, with whom I recently experienced romantic sparks, are two of my longtime friends, one on the East Coast, the other on the West. For over a decade, I'd found both to be stimulating company. In both cases, we just went to the next step: sleepovers.

Lesson: Having demythologized obsessive love in time spent with the Boyfriend Within, I now find certain friendships to be more passionate affairs.

During the early 1980s, I was employed as the porn critic for the New York Native, a now-defunct gay newspaper. My beat was the Adonis movie theater, a baroque pile in midtown Manhattan long since demolished. While taking notes on a mangled little pad, I would often drift from appraising the antics on-screen to staring through the living lust of shadows of men traipsing up and down the center aisle.

One evening I found myself in the singular position of weeping as the credits rolled at the end of a film: Tom de Simone's The Idol. This prevideo production began with an unlikely (for porn) sequence in which we witness the death in a car accident of the main character, a golden high school idol of a track star, very much Apollo's type. The conceit was that we were at graveside and given access to the heads of each of the mourners as they replayed their memories of the deceased. The first romantic interest, acted by a transvestite, was his girlfriend, with whom he made out in the backseat of a car. She was followed by the coach, who massaged his star athlete in an overly attentive manner following an injury. Next was a teammate who had joined him in a masturbation duet in the shower.

Eventually the camera circled upward to reveal a boy on his bicycle, surveying the burial from an overlook. Entering into his brunette head, we found that he and the track star had been boyfriends. The "idol" had progressed in his sentimental education through more and more authentic liaisons, discovering simultaneously his sexuality and his capacity for love. Together these two cavorted in a swimming pool, and then on a king-size mattress in an anonymous bedroom while the sound track "Love Is in the Air" played like aural soap bubbles. At the film's conclusion, with the bereft boyfriend leaning against what might as well have been a cypress, the lesson of love had been imparted.

This film could be exhibit A in street wisdom. Through its mixture of sexuality, romance, love, and death, a spiral is set in motion that illustrates how lessons learned from relationships eventually allow the main character to find love and identity. Without the disco music and mythological dye jobs, our own lives can follow just such a spiral if we grow in wisdom through our experiences. If we don't assimilate wisdom, then we will repeat ourselves, and our lives will likely remain a revolving circle.

INTUITIVE WISDOM

Apollo was big box office in the ancient world mostly because of his association with prophecy.

He was said to have learned the art of prophecy at a very young age. Gods grew quite fast, so he might have been just a few weeks old. By the time he was four days old, after all, he had already killed the dragon Python with his bow and arrow in the temple of Delphi, which at that time was still the temple of the earth mother, Gaia. Apollo's teacher in prophecy was Pan, a goat-legged god on the island of Crete. Importing this gift to his oracle at Delphi, who chewed a leaf of Apollo's bay laurel during her oracular trances, he became so identified with prophecy that most soothsayers claimed some connection to him.

The ancients were as titillated as we are by hearing prophecies of the future. They delighted in many varieties of sortilege, or divination, including the reading of entrails of birds. Lots of popular contemporary activities are their descendants: Ouija boards, tarot cards, horoscopes, I Ching, runes, palm reading, and crystal balls.

Skill in all of these activities could be filed under prophetic intuition. The forms of intuition that continue to amaze are such bright tricks as predicting the future or having psychic abilities. A friend swore to me that he'd been playing a game of guessing unseen cards from a pile with a partner and became so expert as the night wore on that the partner insisted on stopping, claiming to be spooked by his ability. Another friend uncharacteristically turned off her computer before leaving her loft one summer morning, thinking to herself that there would be a power failure. An hour later a Con Edison substation exploded and all Lower Manhattan lost electrical power. (In her case, though, her downstairs neighbor had commented the day before on brownouts. Many cases of psychic foreshadowing involve just such a dose of knowledge subtly assimilated.)

More transformative, if less flashy, is the application of intuition in daily life. Intuitions are basically felt thoughts. They don't arrive as actual verbal messages. They arrive more in a form such as "I have a good feeling about that guy." Some people are more intuitive than others. Or perhaps some simply have practiced more -- like the friend with the playing cards. "I think people who have good intuitions tend not to be as needy," a friend recently conjectured between puffs of a late-night cigarette. "It means being open...being able to read the tea leaves. Being able to look at what's there even if it doesn't conform to what you want to be there...even if it doesn't feed your ego. You have to be able to face down your fears to be truly intuitive."

His theory sounded good to me. But theory bought or not, intuition can be tested until you discover its benefits. Gods and goddesses come with attributes, like superheroes, and with props that symbolize those attributes. Apollo's wreath of bay laurel marks him as a poet and a champion athlete -- victorious athletes were graced with a crown of laurel for winning competitions -- but also as one gifted with good prophetic intuitions. Such an Apollonian gift can be developed and tested in the interpersonal world.

APOLLONIAN EXERCISE #2

List friends and acquaintances who elicit a positive feeling. Then list those who elicit a negative feeling. Over the next week, spend time only with those on the positive list.

The premise behind this exercise is that your intuitions, if followed, will change your life for the better. You already have a built-in monitor that will guide you more wisely than any oracle or guru. Crucial to benefiting from this exercise is being able to identify a positive feeling about someone. This skill might sound obvious. But too often our sense of positive feeling becomes garbled on its way from the gut through the heart to the brain. We have lots of contradictory impulses and agendas. The simple feel-good message is intercepted along the way. Having a positive feeling about someone simply means that when you conjure up their name or image you feel comfortable, stress-free, or happy.

Being skilled at recognizing a positive feeling requires being in touch with your body. I was told by an ex-disciple of the Hindu leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (who famously appeared on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album) that followers would sit with him and pose long, complex questions about what they should do with their lives. His usual simple response: "Feel your body!" If you're having trouble identifying your feelings about someone, just tune in to any physical sensations you have while thinking of them -- tiredness, anxiety, or boredom.

My own positive list included half a dozen of the usual suspects among my friends. On the negative side, three or four I avoided. But I also found, on the negative list, Jeff. Now here was a tough one because Jeff is a creative director in an advertising firm who's helped me get work and make some solid connections. But it's true that he always suggests a dinner, and the dinner is barely over before he's suggested another, no matter how unsatisfying the first. I'm stumped at his motives and consistency.

Nevertheless, Jeff is stimulating enough, and there is the business angle. I do enjoy him well enough in small doses. When I wanted to have a clear week of responsible social life, full of good feeling, the first thing I did was call Jeff up to make a dinner date...for the following week. I'd removed the obligatory dinner from my schedule and my mind. But cowardly lion that I am, I hadn't chosen a radical free fall from all such obligations.

This exercise takes some practice because you may find -- as did I -- one or two friends on the negative-feeling list. Life is complex enough that having some friends about whom you have ambivalent feelings is fine. And giving of time selflessly to someone in need -- whether stimulating company or not -- is more than fine. If you continue to do this exercise over time, though, your list might shift. This exercise can be gradually expanded to include more activities. Begin exploring your intuitions with lists. Then try putting them into practice for a week. You'll start feeling freer and communicating that sense without trying. You'll cultivate the air of someone on permanent vacation.

Another opportunity for Apollonian intuition is deciding what to do at night. Again there are certain restaurants or bars about which you have a positive feeling. If you spend a week visiting only those spots and staying away from others, you'll experience the same lightening up as with the list of friends. Also, people and locations can hop lists. One night you might have a completely negative feeling about going to a certain club. But a month later you might have a positive feeling about the same establishment. Listen to those messages. They are a reliable navigating device. This approach saves you the trouble of making too many ultimatums and decisions from which you later stray.

Intuition about career choices can be critical and have the most obvious long-term consequences. I once offered, unsolicited, to a friend the intuition that he'd make a good screenwriter. Three scripts later, he's on his way. But our surest intuitions concern ourselves. We have a more complete emotional and biographical dossier on ourselves, and good intuition often involves such prior knowledge and information. If you're at a career intersection, try writing down a list of jobs or projects about which you have a positive feeling and those about which you have a negative feeling. You might be surprised at the outcome. Try following through on looking for a different job, or beginning a new career or project. But don't quit your day job immediately based on the results.

Our intuition is ultimately our guide through life. I once sat in the back of a car careening down the wrong road somewhere in the Lake District in England. In the front seat was my favorite husband-and-wife couple. She was fumbling with a map that seemed larger than the entire dashboard, trying to distinguish tiny red lines from blue in order to rescue us from an increasingly puzzling terrain, full of cows. Realizing that her suggestions were only making matters worse, the husband snapped, "Don't listen to Jane. She doesn't have any sense of direction." "My dear," she responded elegantly, without missing a beat, "I've guided you through life." Everyone laughed at the truth of the perception.

While not all of us might be so fortunate as to have such a wife, we all do have the possibility of having just such a reliable guide through life in our Apollonian intuition. If we have trained our intuition to be healthy, to gravitate toward happiness and the light, we will always have this homing device. If we stay true to our Apollonian principle when faced with decisions such as those about relationships, or whether or not to adopt children, or what project to undertake next, or what religion to practice, or how best to spend our vacations -- all the big stuff -- we're likely to wind up with the destiny best suited for our character. Our life will be a relaxed fit rather than an awkward squeeze.

WISDOM AND BALANCE

Apollo's signature statement was "Everything in moderation," also translated as "Nothing in excess." The enemy of barbarism, he stood for moderation in all things. The seven strings of his guitarlike instrument, the lute, were connected with the seven vowels of the later Greek alphabet and used for therapeutic music. At the end of the first book of the Iliad, Apollo is found strumming soothingly for the gods at twilight, with backup from the Muses, the female goddesses who inspire all the arts:

Thus thereafter the whole long day until the sun went under they feasted, nor was anyone's hunger denied a fair portion, nor denied the beautifully wrought lyre in the hands of Apollo nor the antiphonal sweet sound of the Muses singing.

(Lattimore translation)

Balance and moderation heal. This connection can jive Apollo's quality of balance with his role as a healer and god of medicine. Like Walt Whitman on the battlefields of the Civil War, Apollo is often pictured in the Iliad as a nurse mending wounded soldiers -- especially those of his favored side, the Trojans. When the warrior Glaucus prays to him on the battlefield of Troy,

....Phoibos Apollo heard him.
At once he made the pains stop, and dried away from the hard wound
the dark running of blood, and put strength into his spirit.

(Lattimore translation)

Apollo was as balanced as the classical architecture of his own temples. For the Greeks, this principle was the foundation of morality. Such a notion might seem odd, or subversive. We're used to thinking of moral choices in terms of right and wrong, good and evil, black and white. The Apollonian principle is that all actions need to be balanced by other actions.

APOLLONIAN EXERCISE #3

For a week, keep track of the number of hours you spend doing different activities, such as sleeping, working, or watching TV. At the end of the week, draw up a balance sheet. Based on your own goals, try to adjust any imbalances the following week.

I've given this exercise to students. Usually the big shock is how few hours they spend reading, writing, studying, and even sleeping, and how many hours are spent watching TV or partying. By keeping a schedule, the students see the reality of imbalance on a ledger sheet. This evidence helps because they stop thinking of studying as a "should" activity and more as a balance restorative. A version of this project is valuable for everyone.

In my case, I found my profile radically unlike that of most of my students. My squares for reading, writing, sleeping, and exercising were nicely shaded in. But time allotted for relaxing alone or with friends was minimal. My workaholic nature was plain on the page and was evidence of imbalance.

This exercise can be done as well with personal finances. A priest of the Episcopal cathedral in New York City once told me, "If you want to know what someone is really like, don't listen to their prayers, look at their checkbook." Looking at our checkbook or credit card statement with an eye to identifying different categories of expenditure can be as revealing of our priorities as the schedule sheet for measuring how we spend our time.

We speak of "spending" time. The connection between spending time and spending money is built into our language. When I look at my latest American Express statement, I see an equal balance of expenditures under restaurants, clothing, books, and CDs, with less spent in the categories of anonymous titillation online and charity, and very little for the downtime of travel. Changing spending patterns based on balance is an Apollonian version of balancing your checkbook.

To be balanced is to be grounded. Leading a balanced life might sound like some bygone classical ideal. But if we translate the virtue into our own jargon we might get at the essence of Apollonian balance. A phrase going around that expresses the meaning of balance or being grounded is "keeping it real." Borrowed from hip-hop culture, "keeping it real" means to make choices that are realistic, or authentic, or practical, rather than those driven by fantasy, posing, fronting, or wishful desire. There is certainly a place for cutaway fantasies and wish fulfillment, no matter how infantile. But what Apollo offers is a principle for making the most important of choices. Apollo isn't just about getting us through the day happily but about getting us through life happily -- the two don't always require the same faculty.

Reserve the quality of Apollonian balance, then, for the major issues. If you're deciding who you want to spend the night with, you might want to go crazy and be impetuous. But if someone is offering you his hand as a life partner, you need to ask yourself whether or not you're keeping it real, going for the solid, balanced candidate.

You might want to take a fun job for a while. When I graduated from college, I satisfied a short-lived libidinal fantasy by being a locker room attendant at the Y for a month. But when you're figuring out your next step professionally, you want to keep it real by making a choice based on salary, hours, or personal freedom, rather than how you will be perceived by others. Apollonian balance is admittedly based on pedestrian standard operating procedures. But only advanced gymnasts and yogis, after all, can be as balanced on one foot as on two.

A DATE WITH APOLLO

Devise an Apollonian date. You can either go alone or go with a friend. As Apollo is associated with wisdom and healing through beauty and contemplation, he might lend himself to a solo experience. A god such as Hermes (Chapter Three) is more buddy-buddy and so will be conducive to tandem events or team efforts.

Choosing an Apollonian date is a good opportunity to use your intuition. Just go inside yourself and think of something you'd like to do that makes you feel light, balanced, and good about yourself. All these Greek gods are really different role models. So we're looking here for an activity that makes us feel like Apollo -- sunny, absorbed in the beauties of art, music, or poetry. You'll probably find that your gift of intuition will kick in quickly. You'll feel that a certain destination is right. This date is an opportunity to take time to go there.

On my date with Apollo, I opted to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show I selected was The Lure of the Exotic: Gauguin in New York Collections. The Met was an obvious choice. Few locations are more like a Greek temple than the Met, with its high pillars, crescendos of staircases both inside and out, and vast classical main entrance hall filled with light pouring down from above. But a museum was the right choice for uplift for me in a more personal way, too. I was often in a dark funk when I was a kid. Lots of kids are -- especially gay kids. I associate a certain amount of disconnectedness and offbeat gloom with my early years.

Yet I could always count on a trip to a local museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to transpose my emotional key from minor to major. If I scanned their collection now in comparison with the Met's, I might not be too impressed. But what I remember as an idiosyncratic gathering of oil paintings, Egyptian artifacts, and geological specimens in long glass cases was then a revelation of a wider world, of civilizations past, and of curators who had selflessly dedicated themselves to the antlike task of bringing these treasures together. I'd leave the museum feeling keyed up and happy. I learned resilience at that museum. Its joys of the spirit helped me to deal with the exigencies of the playground, where I felt much more threatened.

One person's museum is another person's basketball game. My student Frank might get more of an Apollonian shot of light from attending a basketball game. The quality of the afterglow achieved is the proof. In my case, on my Apollonian date I did take in the Gauguin paintings: the colors -- tangerine, fuchsia, and rose -- on his matte canvases were like a rich mold covering the walls of a lower floor of the Lehman Wing. Given the excuse for this date, I of course visited Apollo, in the form of a chopped marble trunk of a vestige in the lucent hall devoted to ancient Greece and Rome statuary. At lunch in the refectory, I noted scores of white-haired men -- the gentlemen who lunch -- looking calm and alert as they read the Times, presumably taking a break between exhibitions. Above all else they exemplified for me the value of civilization and its contentment. They were showing how the Apollonian spirit could add grace and dignity as punctuation marks to a life intelligently lived.

Making my way back to the Lexington Avenue subway on a humid July afternoon, I felt a familiar zing. This was the curative zing of adolescent afternoons spent in the Scranton museum. During that walk along a town-house-lined street, I thought of the cluster of qualities in each of the Greek gods and of the almost subliminal messages sent by their differing combinations of qualities. I understood, too, Nietzsche's claim that if you just needed one god to fathom the premise of Olympian spirituality, take Apollo. Everything else is fine-tuning. When in doubt, go for the light.

The message I got that day from Apollo -- aka the Shining One -- was that nothing is wiser than healing. And nothing is more healing than beauty sifted by time or contemplated in the right light.

APOLLONIAN EXERCISES

1. List significant relationships that you've had in your life: trysts, friends, lovers, or partners. Then write down lessons you've learned from these relationships.

2. List friends who elicit a positive feeling and those who elicit a negative feeling. Spend a week with only those on the positive list.

3. Keep track of time spent doing different activities. At the end of a week, draw up a balance sheet of activities. Try to adjust for any imbalances the following week.

Copyright © 2003 by Brad Gooch

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction

One Apollo: The God of Wisdom

Two Dionysus: The God of Sensuality

Three Hermes: The God of Communication

Four Hephaestus: The God of Creativity

Five Eros: The God of Love

Six Zeus: The God of Power

Seven The Inner Oracle of Socrates

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