“It breaks my heart. I am far too prone to tears, too full of tears…” Medea – Euripedes
In the play Medea, a lot of time is expended trying to reason with the epynomous character. The chorus pleads with her, her servants and friends beg and reason. What more can they do? She is not moved. She is, at least, human enough to have to brace herself against them, but her mind and heart are fixed:
“Away this flinching! Away this longing!” Medea
The other day towards the end of my brief text exchange with a very mean person I suddenly thought of Flannery O’Conner’s story A Good Man Is Hard To Find. The chilling certainty of knowing that no matter what you say, your words won’t move the Misfits of the world. It’s a devastating realization that leaves one feeling utterly defenseless. When a heart is closed or calloused over no amount of “Wait! Wait! Don’t do that,” or heartfelt love and empathy will touch their soft core.
Even though we know that, in Medea, we are probably dealing with a woman of questionable mental health- I mean not every one would chop up her brother in an attempt to delay her pursuers, or find any necessity in killing their children, never the less, even if it is only for her own sake, you want her to understand the sickness and uselessness of spite.
Jason (Medea’s husband) is worthy of spite. Why didn’t he talk to her? To be looked over and ignored is worse than any cut. It was interesting to me that the word “love” kept coming up. I kept wondering what the original word was. Could it have been a slight mistranslation? Is our modern ideal of love so different? Probably not- a lot of what passes for love is often of a dependent, controlling, or hollow type, so few people seem to ever experience true love, maybe that’s why we’re all so fascinated with the subject. I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual word was more akin to “pride.” Oh the perfidy of pride and social standing! Jason comes late to the scene and his last ditch effort is in vain. Even if the words are ready, the man often is not.
And yet…and yet, I am unable to completely abandon my hope in the ability of words to pierce a soul or open a heart. I want too much for it to be true. And maybe because, for me, it is too true: I am susceptible to the pain or pleasure of mere words.
I am not alone of course, here is a beautiful song sung by Caetano Veloso from a scene of Pedro Amaldovar’s wonderful, funny and sweet film about the power of words – Talk To Her:
Medea quotes from – Euripedes Ten Plays (translation by Paul Roche)