Prometheus, Part One

Prometheus, Part One September 25, 2020

“Prometheus (Prometeo) at Rockefeller Center (Detail)” by Esparta is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

William R. Jones, UU theologian and one-time religious educator, pointed out may years ago that the myth of Prometheus serves as a useful counter to the myth of Adam and Eve. For Adam and Eve, rebellion is sinful; for Prometheus, “a response of rebellion is soteriologically authentic.” Although Jones considers the Prometheus myth to be important for humanists, I think Prometheus is important for anyone who is an existentialist — which means almost every Unitarian Universalist today, whether they are humanist existentialists, Christian existentialists, pagan existentialists, Buddhist existentialists,….

That means the myth of Prometheus should be an integral part of Unitarian Universalist religious education for kids. Here’s one attempt to make that happen, as several ordinary people go back in time to relive the myth of Prometheus:

Full script is below….

A: Who’s your favorite character from Greek myths?

B: I like Zeus, because he’s the most powerful.

C: I like Athena, because she’s the wisest.

D: I like Hephaestus, because he’s a Maker.

E: I like Poseidon because he’s wet.

Greg: I like Prometheus.

F: Wait, who was Prometheus?

Greg: Let’s go back in time, and I’ll show you.

[Eerie music, TARDIS sweeps by Ancient Greek temple.] Voiceover: “The gods and goddesses created all the animals … And they ordered Prometheus and Epimetheus … to equip these creatures….”

Athena: All right, Zeus. That’s the last one. We’re done.

Zeus: Wow, Athena. That’s a lot of work!

Hephaestus: Oh, darn it, we didn’t pass out the gifts that will allow the animals to survive.

Poseidon: Oh no. I’m too tired to do any more.

Zeus: I’ll tell you what, I’ll order two lesser gods to get the job finished. [looking down] Prometheus! Epimetheus!

Epimetheus [looking up]: Sir, yes sir!

Zeus [looking down]: There’s all the animals. There’s the gifts that will allow the animals to survive. Let’s get the job done.

Epimetheus [talking with Prometheus]: Gee, look at all these animals. Mountain lions, mule deer, fifty kinds of rabbits, about a million kinds of beetles….

Prometheus: And look at all these gifts. Warm fur, speed, sneakiness, good hearing, claws, pinchers, stingers… This is going to take forever.

Epimetheus: Tell you what, I’ll pass out the gifts, and you can inspect my work.

Prometheus: Good plan.

Epimetheus: I’ll start by giving claws to mountain lions.

Prometheus [holding list and pen]: Check.

[Dramatic music. Prometheus and Epimetheus at work.]

Epimetheus: Stinging cells to the Portuguese Man of War. That’s the last one. We’re done.

Prometheus: Oops.

Epimetheus: Oops? What do you mean, “oops”?

Prometheus: All the gifts are gone, but there’s one more creature — human beings.

Epimetheus: Look at them. Naked. No claws or hooves. Slow. Not very strong. No stingers. Nothing. If we send them out like that, the other animals will tear them to shreds.

Prometheus: Are you sure you gave out ALL the gifts?

Epimetheus: Yep. Nothing left.

Zeus [looking down]: Hi guys. Just checking in with you. Are all the animals are ready to go?

Hephaestus: We worked hard on them, so I hope you did a good job.

Poseidon: I hope you got all the swimming creatures.

Athena: Yes, we’re really looking forward to seeing every single one of the creations.

Epimetheus [to Prometheus]: Uh oh. NOW what do we do?

Prometheus: Don’t worry, I have a plan….

About Dan Harper
Dan Harper, is the Assistant Minister of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, California (UUCPA). He writes: I live with my partner of more than twenty years, Carol Steinfeld, who is a writer specializing in ecological pollution prevention issues, particularly water and wastewater. Before I became a minister, I worked as sculptor’s apprentice, warehouse help, salesperson, carpenter, clerk in a health food store, and director of religious education.  I sing regularly at Bay area Sacred Harp singings, and with the San Francisco Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Heritage Chorus. You can read more about the author here.
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