Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Oracle Speaks to Room 17 on the Occasion of Their Graduation

Pythia has an oracle for the students of Room 17 as they prepare for their graduation from the Douglas School on June 21.  Let's hear what she has to say.

How do we, humans, receive a message from the god Apollo, who speaks to us the unsearchable truths through his medium, Pythia?  I have come to Delphi, the "center of the earth"---where controversial and opposing earthly powers are put into balance, so the ancient myth proclaims--- to follow the path that the ancients before me walked to in order to meet the oracle.

I get into a great procession, led by Pythia herself.  Before gathering the people who will follow her up the hill to the Temple of Apollo, Pythia takes a ceremonial bath in the local spring water.  Then she begins her journey up the winding road, the procession snaking its way up the mountainside.  She chews on the intoxicating bay leaf as she walks.

Shortly, we enter the Precinct of Apollo, as the larger temple area is known.  In one of the stalls I buy a suitable offering for this mighty god.  Like all the others who enter here to present the oracle with a question, I know my job is a serious one.  I will not waste Pythia's time with trivial matters.  As if I need a reminder, the walls are inscribed with a warning to those of us who seek an audience with Pythia: "Know thyself," and "Do nothing in excess."

I follow Pythia as she enters the Main Gate and proceeds up the mountain.  I am focused on my goal of attaining the oracle; I am undeterred by statues and trophies and treasuries that call my attention to the feats of man.

I am almost there.  I pay homage to the Rock of the Sybil.  It is behind this rock where Apollo hid on the day he struck and killed the snake---the python that had entered the underworld and had therefore learned all there is to know.  By taking the python's life Apollo had also taken its knowledge, of all things that man would ever want to know.  But these things are really unspeakable.  In order to convey this knowledge to man, Apollo needed a medium:  Pythia.

I notice the laurel tree growing next to the Rock.  It reminds me of Daphne, who begged Zeus to change her into a tree rather than be pursued by Apollo.  Poor Apollo, who was so unlucky in love.
I am at the altar of Apollo.  Pythia is several hundred feet away, at the other end of the building.  I will not be allowed to see or speak directly to her.  Instead I write my question and a priest will deliver it to the oracle herself.  "Tell me," I write.  "Tell me the future of my students."

Although I cannot see it, I know what is happening.  The priest is presenting my petition to Pythia.  She reads it, standing in her chamber.  She breathes deeply the intoxicatng vapors of the mineral water that runs directly beneath the far end of the temple.  She speaks!  She babbles something, and the priests capture her words in writing. Back on the other side of the temple they present to me, in written form, the message from Apollo.

I read and smile.  The message to my students--graduates--is this:  You are ready.  You are prepared.  Go forward; grab hold of life as it comes to you and let it take you where you have never imagined.

Students of Room 17:  I will truly miss you on the day of your graduation.  But I know you will take the oracle's message to heart.  My best wishes to you all!

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