There are a few stories that have physicality at their core. What I mean is, the power of “touch.” Or, more often, “don’t touch.” The Gingerbread Man makes his getaway with the taunt, “Run, run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!” Well, I don’t want those gumdrop buttons anyway, so keep on going, Mr. Man!
But perhaps the most famous (or infamous) story of all is the story of King Midas. See, he was this king who liked to have fun, and in order to do so, he spent time with some “fun” friends. But this is a definitely a case of “be careful what you wish for,” because he was given wishes, and he used one of those to wish for the power of unlimited wealth.Whatever he touched would turn to gold. Real, pure gold. This probably seemed like a brilliant idea at the time, but it was conceived way too impulsively. He must have thought he found a loophole in the wishing game, like wishing for more wishes, etc. But we know there are wishing rules that can’t be broken. Or even bent. There are rules, dang it!
So, he goes around, touching everything, turning it all into gold – GOLD! But he discovered a terrible price for his greed: his food and drink would turn to gold, so no tasty snacks. And when his little daughter ran into the room to hug him…well, you guessed it.
From Myth Man: Alarmed at his predicament, his beloved daughter ran to hug and comfort him, but as he wrapped his arms around her, she instantly turned into a golden statue. That’s when King Midas realized the severity of his mistake and, hungry, thirsty and heartbroken, he begged Dionysus to release him of his burden.
Dionysus couldn’t help but be entertained and amused by the tribulations of King Midas…The merciful god of wine knew that the King had learned his lesson, so laughing he told Midas to travel to the source of the river Pactolus and to plunge his head and body in, rinsing off his “golden touch” in the waters. Dionysus instructed King Midas to also wash off his daughter in the same river, thus restoring her back to her living human form.
To this day the sands of the river Pactolus are bright with gold, to commemorate King Midas and his Golden Touch. As for the King, now a little bit wiser, he realized that there is much more to life than wealth and gold…
Illustration by Giovanni Caselli
from The Age of Fable
Now, I can’t help but think about the “Wall Street Bankers” who seem to have this very same gift. Everything they touch turns to gold. They gain enormous ungodly bank profits, and yet nothing can touch them. Everyone else must go hungry and thirsty, but they grow ever richer. They seem to live like deities, above everyone else, and instead of a “street” in Manhattan, they must really live on Mt. Olympus. (Coincidentally, there is a legend that the Native Americans who lived on Manhattan “sold” it for a few beads and trinkets; not a good precedent.)
Now, I’m not knocking making an honest buck for honest work. Our intelligence, creativity, strength, and work ethic should be adequately paid. However, sadly, people are greedy. I’m sure these bankers are perfectly nice husbands and fathers, and love their children. And I wonder how they would react if one day, their sons and daughters turned to statues of gold?
Because if this is what greed is, better hand over those gumdrop buttons.