Sometimes, we fail to understand the motivation that drives one to perform one's duty. Even without realizing that we all rely on someone's shoulders. This is a slight re-telling of a very old tale. --For Erik.
His great muscles bulged as he heaved his heavy burden high. Tears in his tunic formed from the force of the strain. His shoulders, stretched across the cap of his torso, rested the burden on their sconces and draped it across the back of his neck, his head canted to one side. His face bore the mask of the pain of his effort, but he never cried out nor uttered a word. Slowly, ever steadily he rose, first one leg, then the other. His first knee angled perpendicular to the other, pushing up until he brought the second one into place in the same manner. Then, both legs slightly bent, and heaving from his middle core, he rose to his feet. His back stretched out as his tunic slipped from its perch upon his breast. His abdomen pulsed and his ribs spread apart as he hefted the burden higher and higher until at last, light shone through and the world settled to normal.
He knew that he had brought this fate upon himself. His own pride and arrogance were the cause of it all. And now he would pay the price. As would his family. The shame and humiliation they would endure only hardened his resolve to carry out this new purpose. He understood that redemption lay in his acceptance of his guilt and the endurance of his punishment. His desire to put his past behind him and change his foolish, prideful nature gave him the energy to meet the challenge of this task.
His wife Phoebe, whose beauty stole his heart as a young man and who had given him many children came to him, begging him, "Darling, can you not see how this tears us apart? I will follow you to the ends of the earth or even to Tartarus itself, if only you will lay this burden down."
She could not know how this would tear at his heart and soul. She could not understand how, despite the great and deep, abiding love he had for her, his honor must be kept. She would wail against his body, bashing and beating her fists against his breast. Begging and pleading with him to set aside his burden. But his determination to see this through steeled his will against her ardent pleas. And still, he held on.
His daughter Calypso, from her island home, at the urging of his wife, also pleaded with him, "Please father, lay your burden down!"
But his desire to teach her the lessens he had failed to learn ought but by his own mistakes fueled his determination and still, he held on.
His many sons and daughters all banded together in the hope of persuading him to let go and take the punishment his brother had. But still, he held on. His arms would quake from time to time and showers of sweat would roll off in sheets and fall to the ground. His shoulders, so broad and large and strong, would occasionally shake under the pressure of his burden, the muscles straining under the great weight. His tremendous thews thundered and his brows darkened. His strain and concentration were such that light burst from his eyes and static built up along his body only to discharge back into the earth. Even his rasping breath would gather from time-to-time and cling to the earth like a great low-lying cloud. Yet, still he held on.
After some time had passed, his brother, Menoetius, fresh from his own burden of prison, came to him urging rest and an end to his labor and pain. "Lay it down," he would plead.
Still, he held on.
Friends from the four corners of the globe came to him in intervention, "Lay it down! Lay it down!"
Still, he held on.
Day after day stretched one to another and he settled into the routine of his office. He reflected upon his position and how it came about. For he and his brother had tried to fight the very system he was now burdened to enforce. They had thought that perhaps they had a better way to bring their ideals to the world, but the world was not ready. As punishment, for their part in the conspiracy, his brother had been locked away and he had been given his current duty.
But each day stretched into another and before he even realized what had happened to him, he had begun to embrace his new role. Every day brought new challenges. But he always seemed to find the room on his shoulders for each new burden. And his strength grew and his mighty thews thickened. His massive frame hardened like the mountains after which we was so aptly named. His endurance never faltered and though he felt the strain of his woes, never-the-less, he hardened his resolve and steeled himself. And still, he held on.
Burden after burden after heavy, heavy burden were laid upon his great shoulders and still, he held on.
His father, Iapetus one day came to him cajoling, "Son, please, for the sake of my heart and the love I bear for you, lay your burdens down!"
Still, he held on.
One day, the son of his tormentor came with labors of his own, asking for help in retrieving that which his own daughters protected. The precious golden apples of Hera. Heracles even offered to relieve him of the weight of his burden. Instead, he held onto his prize, though it nearly bore him to the ground with its now massive and growing weight. The crush of its force driving deeper and deeper into his being, almost more than he could bear.
Still, he held on.
At length his mother, Clymene came and stood beside her son. She wore only white and bore no makeup as her visage was unmatched by any other save the goddess of beauty, herself. She raised tear-filled eyes to look upon the face of her son, and a gentle hand to caress his cheek, and asked him but a single word, "Why?"
With a great effort, he adjusted his aching shoulders and shifted his burdens around to make for a more comfortable bearing and turned his now wizened face to hers. And for the first time in more years than any could remember, he spoke, "The burden I bear on the shoulders you gave me, when you birthed me oh so long ago, is the sky, whose very air you breathe. And for that alone, I'll never let it go!" He shifted his weight once more and turned his strain-pained face away.
And still, he holds on.