Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Holy Shit, Hospitality!

Bringing in the Boar's Head

No, but seriously. Hospitality. I know it doesn't sound like the kind of thing that could dazzle you into swearing, but there's a long and storied history behind hospitality that makes it one of the most important concepts in Western Civilization. The best place to learn about it is in Greek mythology.

Among the high concepts associated with Zeus was that of Hospitality, or Xenia. If someone in a Greek Myth disrespects hospitality, the King of the Gods considers it a personal affront. Personal affronts to the mightiest of the gods was something the Greeks generally wanted to avoid, since anyone who managed to insult him was guaranteed an exceptionally and creatively severe punishment.

You may have heard of some of the poor suckers who thought it would be no big deal to disrespect a tradition associated with the guy who casually tosses lightning down from Mount Olympus in his spare time.
Zeus on His Chariot
I don't know if you were aware, but not a lot of people can do that. Also, horse penis.

Take Sisyphus. Sisyphus was sent to Tartarus (which is basically Hell) to push a massive boulder up a hill with a rounded top. Every time he crests the hill, the rock rolls down the other side and he's forced to start all over again. Forever. His crime? As a king of Ephyra, he murdered guests and travelers in his home. That's a pretty flagrant violation of Xenia.
Cheer up, little fella. Someday, Camus will make you a metaphor for the human condition.

Tantalus killed his own son. On it's own, filicide was not bad enough to warrant the full brunt of Zeus-style justice. But he also disrespected Xenia by bringing a His-Son Pie to the table of his hosts. And his hosts were the gods.
Jackie Chan.
What the hell is wrong with you?!

Jesus Christ. I mean...why on Earth would he think that was a good idea? You don't just pull a fast one on Zeus. Tantalus was sent to Tartarus for his trouble, where he was placed in an inescapable pool of water next to a low branch full of fruit. Cursed with everlasting hunger and thirst, Tantalus soon learned that every time he reached for the fruit, the branches would rise just above his grasp. When he leaned down to drink, the water level would recede to just below his lips. That's where we get the word "tantalizing."

According to the myths, when Ixion murdered his father-in-law it was the first kinslaying in history. Zeus's response? He invited Ixion to dinner. He figured, "What the Hell Tartarus, right? Everyone makes mistakes." When Ixion arrived, he started making googly eyes at Hera and caressing her under the table.
Commander Shepard
"I can't see how this could end poorly."

Here we have a double whammy. Not only did Ixion dishonor Zeus's favorite virtue, he made Zeus the victim of his crime. For that, he was tied to a winged wheel of fire that will continue spinning ceaselessly until the end of time, causing him thousands of lifetimes of horrible, searing pain. Not because of the murder, because of the hospitality.

Of course, the Greeks didn't have a monopoly on hospitality. Most cultures have similar feelings on the matter. In fact, a compelling argument has been made that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed not so much because of all the butt sex, but because citizens were planning to perform said butt sex forcibly upon angels of the Lord who had just been explicitly granted hospitality by citizens of the two cities. Old Testament God responded with his typical remedy for disrespect.
Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
I love the smell of brimstone in the morning. Smells like...piousness.

The shared moral of these stories is that disrespecting hospitality, historically speaking, is about the same as slapping a god in the face. So...maybe don't kill your guests or anything.

Holy shit.

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