by cheri block sabraw
Joe and I had coffee last Monday to discuss Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides, three Greek tragedians.
Our usual booth was taken.
Our usual server was busy.
Joe wasn’t pleased.
Hell, we’ll take that booth over there, he suggested to the hostess.
I followed without comment.
So Joe, who is the more sympathetic character, Antigone or Creon?
For those of you who read Antigone back in high school, here is a précis: Creon, brother to Jocasta (Oedipus’ wife ,who takes her life after Oedipus blinds himself by stabbing his eyes), ascends the Theban throne after its heirs, brothers Polynices and Eteocles die fighting on opposite sides during the Theban War.
Antigone, sister to the two dead brothers, wants to have both of her brothers buried with respect, but King Creon orders the body of the brother who fought against Thebes, Polynices, to rot in public view. After all, he is a traitor!
Not to be bossed around by the King, ancient flower child Antigone spreads dust over the body twice, hoping to get caught in the act of disobeying the king. She is caught, so Creon, in a kingly fury, orders her to be buried alive. Never mind that she is also his son Haemon’s fiancé.
The central conflict in this tragedy revolves around Creon’s edict and its political implications and Antigone’s emotional reaction to it which is linked to her oikos (family) and the gods.
Joe was in Antigone’s corner; I, in Creon’s.
The conversation was lively.
Our lunches of soup—Joe had onion; I had tomato basil—arrived, along with our sandwiches, so we abandoned the topics of Polynices’ rotting body and Antigone’s suicide.
Can I get you anything else? our server asked
What’s your name? Joe replied.
Danielle, she said.
You don’t look like a Danielle. You look like a Sarah, Joe randomly added.
Our conversation took an odd turn when I asked Joe what we should do to celebrate his birthday on December 1, when he will turn 78 years old.
Shall we go to New York City?
How about going up to Tahoe to gamble?
Would you like to go to our little beach house?
Joe nixed all three suggestions and then made a big statement.
I don’t do nostalgia, baby.
I objected, citing Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he observes that no one can steal our memories. Memories can provide a place to go in times of unhappiness or stress, Frankl wrote.
Nostalgia creates unhappiness and stress, baby.
Why in the hell would I be nostalgic? My parents are dead; I have no siblings and my wife is dead. No. No nostalgia for me. I live only in the present. Doing that serves me well.
Sarah? We’d like some coffee. Baby, you want leaded, right?
We’ll have two cups of coffee, one black, and one with cream for the lady.
The literary conversation resumed.
Why do you have any sympathy for Creon, Cheri?
For God’s sake, Joe, he dismissed Tiresias. Now what type of character would turn down the advice of a seer? That was huge. His character raises more questions than answers. Antigone is fairly simple.
That was huge, Joe admitted, thinking about Creon.