Saturday, January 2, 2010
Prometheus really should be the God of self-help, being the ultimate creator of humankind, and therefore representative of the creative instinct within each and everyone of us. Our desire to work on ourselves and to re-create our own identities is easily comparable to Prometheus' legend, though there are elements as well of a self-directed Pygmalion impulse - but I don't want to mix my classical references.
So it should be no surprise that self-help should be such a divisive idea, because it would seem that the Promethean idea has always inspired different, and quite opposite reactions in people. There are those who think that Prometheus was a wonderfully inventive rebel, a god determined to stick it to the other gods and create a name for himself. In this pro-Promethean camp I would place all the writers, readers and exponents of self-help. In a book I've just been reading called The Divided Self of William James, author Richard M. Gale describes the fascinating Mr. James as possessing a "Promethean pragmatism."
But others (and Mary Shelley springs to mind here) take the view that Prometheus was an overly-optimistic, monstrously self-obsessed meddler in nature. He had no right to attempt to create a new destiny, all of his attempts being foolish and misguided and ultimately disastrous.