Sleeping with the curse of Hermes

David Chartrand

David Chartrand

Greek legend has it that Hermes, the god of cunning and theft, would swoop down over rooftops at night and sow strange and troubling dreams into the heads of sleeping citizens.

In the morning, no one could remember their dreams in detail, but many were filled worry and dread.

“Hermes has visited you!” was the rebuke to anyone in a gloomy mood.

Those goofy Greeks. What did they have to worry about? The thorniest issue for ancient Greeks and Romans was running out of baby names that ended in “us.” (Romulus, Theodosius, Asparagus, Promiscuous.)

There were no house payments back then, no college loans. No talk of fiscal cliffs, sequesters, and government shutdowns.  No one cared if LeBron James is really the greatest athlete of all time.  Weʼre talking nightmares here.

If the ancient Greeks were alive today theyʼd know what real worry and gloom are made of. Hermes sneaks into my house all the time. Around 4 a.m. I am wakened by ghostly questions that come out only at night. They are harmless apparitions, mostly — imaginary quandaries that pose no threat, spirits without bodies that materialize for no reason but to disturb my sleep. They cut into my dreams like a scythe through hay.

Do I believe in evolution or creation?

Should I have taken my motherʼs advice in high school and entered the priesthood?

Where did I leave that letter from my sonʼs school, the one with the instructions on how to enter and exit the parking lot on football game nights?

Whatʼs the difference between a palindrome and a conundrum?

This drives me crazy. My brain insists that sleep cannot return until each puzzle is answered, each riddle solved, or, if all else fails, until I have ransacked the kitchen for leftover Junior Mints.

But the brain is wrong. Gradually, as though under the influence of some odorless poison seeping into the room, I drift to sleep. In the morning, attempting to shave while peering through a shroud of shower steam, it dawns on me that I never located the answers and I canʼt even remember the questions. It also dawns on me that I just sliced my ear with the razor.

And so it goes. All is fine in daylight. But bedtime finds me in the grip of vespertine musings. My brain throbs with dilemmas that seem apocalyptic at 2 a.m. but insignificant by sunrise. Is it the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or the “Eeensy Weensy Spider”?  Why can’t I remember the lyrics to the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song?

Call me crazy, but all you ancient Greeks out there know what Iʼm talking about.

We nocturnal worriers are powerless against the forces that disturb our sleep, scattering our heads with needless fretting. Perhaps we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Personally, I blame Hermes.

One Response

  1. Yes, I continually remind people what a tremendous impact ancient Greece still has on our modern lives.
    Perhaps your solution is through Hermes’ protection of Dionysus, the god of wine and loose living.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: