Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Dream of Achilles

Achilles had the choice of two fates. He could choose to die young, battling before the walls of Troy, and gain eternal fame; or he could live to be old, beloved of his grandchildren, but forgotten when they were gone. He chose his grandchildren. Achilles is the archetype of all heroes; he is the personification of greatness, because, although he dreamed of his grandson’s love, he fought for justice, knowing his victory would cost him his dream.

I was recently one of the judges tasked to select four graduation speakers from a field of twenty-two eager high school seniors. The topic was based on a quote by Henry David Thoreau challenging all to reach for their dreams. As the tryouts wore on, speech after speech full of references to Lincoln, King, Mandela, and Obama, of blind men climbing Mt. Everest and dying men giving “Last Lectures,” I found myself questioning my life’s accomplishments. It is one thing for kids of 18 to contemplate hitching their wagons to the stars, but when there is not realistic way to calculate one’s pile of birthdays into anything corresponding to the middle-age of any human that has lived outside the Old Testament, such dreaming is depressing. Then I had a thought that brought great pleasure and peace.

I recalled how the weekend before, I had been on a “Fathers and Sons” camping trip with my eldest and his four year old son. I hate camping, and the night was particularly uncomfortable, most of it spent in a fight to keep my grandson warm while I froze; wrapping his sweet perfection in my old arms beneath a pile of quilts. We got up early and played hide-and-seek with his invisible dragon. As I carried my beautiful grandson across the camp lawn, he suddenly placed his hands to either side of my face, brought his eyes close to mine, and saying, “Grandpa, I love you,” kissed me on the lips.

Sitting in that classroom, awash in the accounts of the great men whose deeds have changed the world, and buffeted by the daring of youth reaching for their dreams, I realized I already had the “Dream of Achilles”!


RealFruitBeverage said...

I suppose you could also be like Genghis Khan. It is estimated .05%of the world population is an offspring of his in some way. I guess he was pretty good at that war bit too.

Lysis said...

Dear RealFruitBeverage

Good point, but have they ever kissed him on the lips and said, "Grandpa, I love you"?

Anonymous said...

Rumpole said,


The love of your grandson is great and is well-deserved. It is difficult to compare small things to great, but in weakness I will make the attempt.

My oldest son recently departed on a great adventure. He will be gone for a time, and we anxiously await word from him as to his progress. As we said our final goodbyes, my fourteen-year-old boy with Down Syndrome looked up to his big brother and, unprompted, thanked him for “helping him with his games.” The fourteen-year old loves the Nintendo, and the older son would play the games through the difficult parts so that the fourteen-year-old could enjoy them.

The only thing that can remotely compare to love received is love that is shared among posterity.

The baby girl went with us to see the older son off. After his departure and just before bed that evening the baby girl and I were “chatting,” which is what we do in anticipation of sleep.

I explained to the baby girl that when she got older she could enjoy the same opportunity as her older brother. She paused, thinking as little girls do then responded, “No, I think I would rather stay home and be with you.”

Perhaps I am wrong. Obviously I am selfish. There is nothing that can compare to love received.

Lysis said...


Thank you for you story of love, it made me happy to read it.

Long ago, I held my love in my arms. Eye to eye, I stared; begrudging even the blinks; at a face and form that was and is the most beautiful in all the world. I sensed the exquisite pleasure of feeling with arms and chest and legs and lips, meeting soul to soul. My love’s body heat, even their unique scent, was sweet evidence of life and presence. Knowing such beauty and goodness existed made me happy, to hold and behold brought a rush of joy which is the reason for being.

So close; we talked in whispers, between the greedy kisses.

“Thank you,” I sighed, “thank you, thank you; you make me so happy.”

“Thank you,” my love replied, “it makes me happy to make you happy.”

“It makes me even happier to know I make you happy by making me happy.”

“And,” my love replied with an impish smile, “it makes me happy to make you happy by making me happy to make you happy.”

I understood how love is eternal and how divine.