Author Revives Gay Greek Myths

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AB: What’s the importance of myths? Why do we have them or need them?

AC: Myths are the very foundation of culture. We mold ourselves to the myths we read and hear; we live through them. We become them. If you look at a child growing up today, he is constantly being exposed to the myth of boy-girl romance. It can be in a story, it can be in a movie, it can be in a commercial – but when it comes to boy-boy romance, there is a huge gaping hole. Utter silence!

But children will have those feelings anyway. Why should they be left without guidance? What is the meaning of culture if not the evolution of human thought and behavior? Love has a culture, too. Why should boys who love other boys have to build up a culture from scratch every time? So you might say that the importance of these myths in particular is that they return to the missing half of our love culture. And not just for gay people, for everyone with the courage to face that side of themselves.

Maybe if I had read these myths when I was young, I would have been known how to show my love and live my love in ways that I simply was not able. The more I study these myths, the more I see in them the Greek’s loving guidance: how to love, how to be loved, how not to hurt your lover or beloved. On a deeper level, there are spiritual teachings there as well, about the importance of surrendering the self in order to be fully yourself, but that is another topic.

AB: What’s your opinion of pederasty – that is, the social institution in which younger men were paired with older men?

AC: That is a loaded question. The word “pederasty” has been misused in so many ways. People today think of pederasty as an illegal act with an underage child. If we look at the Greeks, we see that they loved law, they saw it as the only thing that separated civilization from barbarism. The pederasty they admired was lawful pederasty, between a man and a youth who had come of age. There is no real difference between our cultures as far as that goes – they had an age of consent; we have an age of consent. If anything, they were more protective of their children than we are: inferior people were not allowed to become their lovers, anal sex was not supposed to take place, and the father kept an eye on things.

So if you are asking me what I think of lawful pederasty today – that which takes place between an older man and a much younger beloved who is of age, something that is legal today everywhere – I will say that it can be wonderful and empowering and enlivening for both.

There is a real magic to a relationship between unlike partners, between lovers who are able to leap that gap between the generations, and who complement each other instead of just mirroring each other. Oscar Wilde, when he was in the dock at Old Bailey, said it very well: it is the love between a younger and an older man, when the older one has wisdom and culture, and the younger has the all beauty and energy of youth.

AB: I’m 26 – so, if I were dating a fifty or forty year old man – would that be pederasty? Is it the age or the dynamic that makes a relationship pederastic?

AC: Well, Bosie, Oscar Wilde’s beloved, was in his early twenties, if I am not mistaken. And Oscar certainly thought their relationship was pederastic, as did Bosie. And if you look at most of the youths depicted on the Greek pederastic vases, these were not scrawny kids, they were well developed young men.

Yes, we should probably say that it is the difference in age that creates that dynamic, but it is not necessary, and probably not desirable, especially if that difference is so great that underage youths are involved.

There has to be a certain consciousness there too, that dynamic you point to: there has to be a certain kind of nurturing and generosity on the part of the older lover, a certain melting of the heart. And the youth too has to be devoted – it really is a two-way thing. If you do not have reciprocity, you do not have pederasty. You have something else.

AB: How did you go about gathering the information and putting all the pieces together to compile your book?

AC: Most of the stories of Greek mythology that we come across in books and movies have not been preserved whole, but were pieced together from fragments found here and there, some written hundreds of years apart. It was no different with these stories. It just so happens that nobody had done that yet – the stories were too embarrassing and too dangerous to one’s academic career. But the times have changed, and I think it is simply an idea whose time has come. If I had not done it, someone else would have. It is like that with ideas.