In Defence of Instant Gratification

by marin mikulic

Did you know that Ouranos, one of the earliest gods in Greek mythology, had his genitals cut off by his own son Kronos?

Neither did I.

That’s what mythology is. A mad wealth of information impossible to make sense of, especially if you try.

But why did Kronos cut off his father’s genitals? Because he refused to let his other children live. A terrible sin.

Does this mean Kronos went on to become a much kinder father? Well, he ate his own children. You be the judge of his parenting skills.

He's obviously not having a good time. See the full masterful painting by Paul Rubens here.

Many years and wars later, Zeus became the King of all Gods. He asked Prometheus, whose name means forethought, to create a miniature version of the gods. The Homo Sapiens. Us.

Zeus allowed the funny new creatures everything except the knowledge of fire. He feared humanity would one day forget the gods if we mastered fire.

Prometheus abhorred the idea. He wanted his creation to explore, build, learn, cook, bake, sauté, boil, fry, and roast. So he stole fire from Olympus, the ultimate gift, and gave it to us.

Zeus was furious. He chained Prometheus to a rock to have his ever-regrowing liver eaten by ever-returning vultures. He wasn’t one to turn the other cheek.

Also by Paul Rubens.

Prometheus had a brother, Epimetheus. His name means afterthought. The one who acts, then thinks. A somewhat dull brother to the shining beacon of reason, the hero of humanity, the bringer of fire, Prometheus.​

It’s easy to identify with the forethinker who accepts present hardship for the sake of future reward. Do you invest? Exercise? Study? Save money? Eat healthy? All this you do to achieve a better tomorrow. That is the gift of Prometheus, the god of delayed gratification.

But delayed gratification, too, has its extremes. A delay, or a sacrifice, of all present pleasures for the sake of future ones. That’s a fundamental misstep, this illusion that there is a tomorrow. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t.​

You can’t know, only hope.

Epimetheus, the god of instant gratification, understood this. He acted without a care for tomorrow, tapping instead into a raw, burning energy of the present moment. Sheer, unreasonable, hurricane emotion. He isn’t the dull brother, but a necessary counter-balance to Prometheus. The other side of the same coin.

For what are we without Prometheus?

A destructive, poisonous cycle.

Without Epimetheus?

Automatons, blind to the fruits of our own labor.

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