Easy, Rider

The music is playing in my head, and I can’t get it to stop.  It’s carousel music, the round and round, up and down tune that, apparently, has no end.

It started when I Googled Calliope.  I intended to research the oldest of the nine Muses of Greek mythology, but I clicked on the wrong entry and got interested in steam organs, which were the original source of the music we hear at carnivals, circuses, and on carousels.  Did you know that it’s impossible to control the volume or tone on a steam organ?

But back to Calliope, the Greek goddess.  Like I said, she’s the oldest of the nine Muses, the goddesses who inspire music, art, and writing.  So she’s kind of the boss of the Muses.  Hesiod, in fact, called her the “chiefest of them all.”

Calliope is the Muse charged with inspiring epic poetry.  An epic poem is a rather long narrative detailing heroic deeds and events significant to the history of a culture or nation.  The Iliad and the Odyssey, about the siege of Troy and a hero’s journey home after the Trojan war, are perhaps the most famous examples of epic poems.

I teach Short Story Writing at Flagler College in St. Augustine, and I tell my students that one of the elements crucial to a good story is conflict.  As writers, we must decide what our protagonist wants more than anything else, and then our job is to throw obstacles in his or her way.  The conflict is what makes the story interesting.  If a heroine doesn’t have to overcome a few hurdles on her way to happiness, is there even a story to tell?

To my way of thinking, if Calliope is the inspiration for heroic stories, and conflict is what makes a story interesting, then she could be called the creator of conflict.

I’ve met up with Calliope once or twice in my own epic quest for happiness.  Maybe even five or six times, come to think of it.  But this morning, as the carousel music was playing in my head and I realized I had no way of turning it down, I had the thought that I could just jump off the carousel.

Before you wonder if I’m thinking of offing myself, let me explain.  Somewhere along the way, most of us have decided that life is a struggle.  If we’re going about life in a noble manner, then it should be hard.   After all, when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden, a furious God told them that was the fate they’d ordered up for themselves and all of mankind with their disobedience.

But before that, life was easy.  Everything they wanted and needed was readily available.  It was all “good,” as God Himself called it.  Let me put it this way:  God originally designed life to be a breeze.  People screwed it up by insisting upon investigating the alternative.  They already knew good, so the knowledge of evil was where they went askew.  In Star Wars terms, they went over to the Dark Side.

I played two tennis matches this week, and in both, my partner and I blew several match points.  Actually, I blew several match points.  I walked off the court and said to someone, “I made that harder than it had to be.”

The tennis pro called it “prolonging the agony.”  He told me I might want to start figuring out how to end matches sooner because the alternative is a long, slow death that does more damage to both teams.

But I don’t do that just with tennis matches.  I do it all the time.  It’s like I believe things just haven’t been hard enough yet, so I call on Calliope to help me create a little more drama.  Apparently, I need to make life just a little more difficult in order to believe I earned it when something good happens.  The problem is that it’s not the way life was originally intended to be lived.

Calliope’s fired, and so is her stupid music.  I’m off the conflict carousel and choosing the smooth, easy ride from now on.

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