The Tantalus Punishment
July 14, 2021
Tantalus was a Greek mythological figure, most famous for his punishment. The story goes that Tantalus was banished to the deepest underworld Tartarus by his father, Zeus, as a punishment for having committed filicide(a parent killing a child).
In the netherworld, Tantalus was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree that had a low branch with ripe fruit ready for picking. But, when Tantalus tried to reach for the fruits, the low-hanging branch would move away from him, always just out of reach. And, when he bent down to drink the cool water, it always receded before he could get any.
The punishment that Tantalus had to endure was to be in a state of perpetual yearning. Fruit and drink were seemingly within reach, but he could never grasp them.
Tantalus’ punishment for his evil deeds is the source of the English word Tantalise / Tantalising. This means something that is desirable but out of reach.
Greek mythology is all about allegories that in many ways mirror the human condition. We are all constantly reaching for something more. We buy a house and soon we want a bigger house. We acquire some power and we are not satisfied. We want more power. We attain some status and somehow that is not enough. We desire more status. – We are caught in this perpetual loop of desires without satisfaction.
Ambition and desire are good. They are a catalyst for human endeavor. However, if we cannot invoke a sense of fulfillment and contentment with our life, we all run the risk of living the curse of Tantalus- where our satisfaction is tantalizingly out of reach all the time.