(Story begins here) “Nothing can grow without rain, darling.” Demeter added, “although it seems that Zeus gives me a lot less rain than he used to,” she concluded sadly.
“Thank you Mother,” said Persephone brightly.
“Maybe there are too many women that inspire his rain storms…”
“Thank you Mother,” said Persephone through slightly gritted teeth. “So Pete, shall I show you an example of our story?”
“Anybody that succeeds in escaping from the underworld, hell, samsara whatever it is, has already developed into the sort of person that wouldn’t dream of not helping others back out of the darkness, so there is no compulsion. Buddhists call them Bodhisattvas”
“Yes please,” said Pete eagerly. Not least because he felt that Persephone and Demeter might need a break from each other. The olive grove faded away and was replaced with a snowy mountainside. Spectators were cheering a downhill skier hurtling down the slope with an expert blend of speed and smoothness of movement. He aligned himself for a jump but looked down in panic as his binder failed and a ski dropped off behind him. He was still looking downwards when he took off from the jump on his remaining ski. A heartfelt groan erupted from the spectators, who had seen that his line was hopelessly wrong. The skier hurtled through the air, slowly arcing onto his back. Nearby spectators turned away, some covering their eyes, they had seen the log. The skier was losing height now and landed with the small of his back on the log, taking all the impact of the crash. The skier’s helmet whipped back as he mercifully lost consciousness. Persephone turned to see Pete with a hand clapped over his mouth in horror. “Not nice to see, I know”, said the young Goddess quietly, “but this is my rape, the crucifixion, the fall from Eden, it is so many things.” The landscape morphed into a private hospital room. There were lots of expensive cards on the window sill, but they had blown down and no one had stood them up again. There were hampers of luxury fruit dotted around the room, but the fruit was starting to rot underneath the cellophane. A young man was propped up in bed, with a numb look in his eyes and an unconscious sneer on his face. “Behold the decent into hell, or the subconscious, where most true spiritual work is carried out” whispered Persephone. Another young man furtively entered the room, wearing a hoody and a shifty expression. “Alright Geez? You sure about this, most of my clients try to avoid overdoses, nah what I mean?” The skier nodded tiredly.
“I’m never walking again, my career’s over, my knighthood’s off the cards, I need someone to massage my abdomen just so I can go to the toilet into a bag. I don’t want to be remembered like this.”
“Your funeral Geez, no offence.” Ensuring that his hood was pulled firmly down, the shifty man dropped a thick envelope on the table and accepted the roll of bank notes. “I won’t bother counting these now Bro, but if it’s not all there, I’ll be coming back to do the job for you”. He turned and strolled out, tapping on a phone as he did so. “Yeah Geez, with you in about fifteen minutes Bro.”
“The time in hell, the underworld. On a deeper level, the endless lifetimes of suffering caused by rebirth into samsara,” whispered Persephone, “but watch, this is important. The skier stared blankly ahead of him, tears welling up in his eyes as he summoned the courage to go through with his plan. But as he stared at a large basket of overripe fruit, his expression changed subtly. He reached for the envelope and began sketching out a crude technical plan on the back. “The beginning of the resurrection, returning to the sunlight, the initial spark of spiritual understanding” whispered Persephone. The hospital room faded away and Pete and the Goddess were once more on the mountain side. A skier was heading towards them, slightly slower than before. He was kneeling in a custom-made cradle mounted on a large ski and holding two small skis on poles for balance. He took the jump and this time landed it perfectly, digging in a hand ski with a deft flick to set himself up for the next jump. “That cradle of his looks remarkably like a large basket of presentation fruit doesn’t it?” smiled Persephone, shivering slightly in her gown.
“Amazing,” breathed Pete, “this is the same chap?”
“Yes, in body and mind, but his spirit has developed beyond recognition,” said Persephone. “He’s developed para-alpine skiing to a serious sport and tirelessly tours schools for the disabled the world over encouraging the students to take up the sport, or just encouraging them generally. His YouTube videos get millions of hits. Remember those that find the light have to come back to help others out of the darkness.”
“They have to? Somebody makes them?”
“No Pete, anybody that succeeds in escaping from the underworld, hell, samsara whatever it is has already developed into the sort of person that wouldn’t dream of not helping others back out of the darkness, so there is no compulsion. Buddhists call them Bodhisattvas. The fears that this man had of injury, loss of career and so on have no power over him anymore, he has triumphed. The best part is, he got his knighthood! Only not the stuffy affair that it usually is for a successful sportsman. People lined the street for him outside the palace, disabled and able-bodied but all inspired and transformed by him, cheering him on as he passed in his wheelchair. His knighthood meant infinitely more than it would have done otherwise.”
“Wonderful,” said Pete as the Greek olive grove and temple rematerialized around him.
“Persephone darling, please don’t go off and leave your mother like that for so long,” called Demeter. The younger goddess rolled her eyes.
“Sooo…” said Pete, “it’s been fascinating to learn that mythology can be equally effective with male or female figures.” The awkwardness was dispelled by the arrival of a very serious looking Moroccan rabbi wearing 19th century Italian dress. He looked relieved when he saw the Goddesses and deferentially removed his hat. “Buongiorno ladies, it is very good to see you,” he said in a thick Italian accent. He paused to kiss Demeter and Persephone heartily on each cheek.
“I was worried you might follow protocol and kiss my hand,” said Persephone haughtily, but her voice was tinged with affection. Demeter bustled over with her plate.
“You look hungry darling, stuffed vine leaf?” the learned man gratefully took one and began delicately munching. He looked over at Pete, “so this is the young man that Lisa has told me so much about?” The old rabbi swallowed the last of his stuffed vine leaf and hurried over to Pete, kissing him spectacularly on each cheek. (continue)