Monday

The Occasion in Which a Snake Swallowed His Tail

A young adolescent snake eats a bird that has just eaten some sort of mood altering, possibly hallucinogenic, plant:  foxglove, belladonna, morning glory.  Maybe an amanita mushroom.  The list is long. Or perhaps the soon-to-be-eaten bird has just finished a meal of fermented berries and is drunk.  So the adolescent snake becomes drunk too.

He's young, this snake, and inexperienced in the many many ways one can make a fool of oneself. Suddenly he losses all the shyness he has been plagued with ever since leaving the nest. All inhibitions are gone! The alcohol has given him an incredible sense of power.  With this new sense of confidence he has become invincible!  He roars through the meadow.  Let the snake-eating hawk be damned!  He climbs the highest tree in the valley.  Dangling from the highest branch of this highest tree he swings back and forth whistling old snake tunes remembered from those first nights in the nest.  He's thinking about old myths.  He daydreams Eve in the Garden and how he may well be the one to create an entirely new storyline.  Love is in the air.

All things have become clearly possible in this moment for the young, inexperienced and now drunken snake when suddenly hanging from the very branch from which he swings another snake has appeared.  A seemingly young, aggressive male snake.  Very much like the ones that, when sober, he would run from.  But not today.  Oh no.  He grabs the intruder by the tail and prepares to swallow him whole.

About this time a woods-rambling 4th century Greek philosopher, intent on unlocking the the mysteries of the eternal cycle of the seasons...a musing brought on by seeing the first smallish leaves of the forest turn yellow...looks up. This particular Greek philosopher is getting on in years and has seen a lot of things but this hoop of a snake dangling above him swallowing his own tail is nothing short of miraculous.  A true wonder has been revealed to him.

This wonder will become the most beloved of all symbols of renewal: of the beginnings endings bring.  The philosopher will become famous in the streets of Athens.  Students will flock to him. He will become rich.  He will have a following of beautiful young acolytes. Two thousand years hence the New York Times will publish articles about him. The king will consult with him. A crown of laurel awaits him. He has seen. And understood.