For many months now, when I pray to Athene in the morning, I ask her to extend her goodness down here to stave of the worst of suffering, illness, death, and calamity — on my mind is everything from human-caused climate change to political unrest to social inequality and injustice, not just in my country, but around the world.
It is a generic prayer, following from the Pythagorean suggestion that we should pray in generics as much as possible; given how little I know about what the weave of cause and effect will bring, I’m reluctant to pray for something more specific. Here’s the passage again, the one posted here earlier in the week:
[Pythagoras] used to say that it was necessary in prayers to pray simply for the good things, and not to name them individually, such as for instance to pray for power, beauty, wealth, and other similar things. For often each of these things, when those who desired them acquire them, turning against them, totally ruins them.Diodorus Siculus on Pythagoras’ views on prayers, p. 63 of Inner Purity & Pollution in Greek Religion
It is times like today — in confusion, checking the news after spending hours fighting with Adobe Premiere Pro because I’ve never used it before and it’s the one my workplace has told us to use for the new video tutorial effort, trying to balance mental fatigue against the strange stories I was seeing — when I am happy to have added that to the prayer, and when thinking about Athene’s guiding hand gives me the most comfort.
Instead of refreshing the New York Times and Guardian endlessly, I read the Platonic Theology (and finished it; I read the final 400ish pages in a week and it was about as hard as marathoning Plato’s Laws) before tuning into one of the livestreams of Congress, where some senators were giving four-minute speeches. One of them referred to Franklin saying that we could have a democracy as long as we could keep it; another, or perhaps the same person, noted that governments like ours are exceptions, not the rule, because most complex political systems sink into tyranny. As long as we can keep it reminds me of the Republic and the disintegration from democracy into tyranny, people swept into the undertow of leaders’ strong personalities and/or mob mentalities. May what happened today be the final purgative before the fever breaks.
If we pray for good things, we do the best for one another in the world. And we should all remember, after Aesop’s fable of the drowning sailor: Pray to Athene, but the Goddess can’t help someone who neglects to even try to swim. 💛