Centaurs in the ancient Greek world were nothing like the stargazers on the grounds of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts or the wise, noble creatures in Narnia.
The most common origin legend says centaurs are descended from King Ixion of the Lapiths and a cloud. After murdering his father-in-law, Ixion went mad, and Zeus invited him to Olympus out of pity. In repayment for Zeus’ kindness, Ixion lusted after Zeus’ wife Hera. Zeus found out about it and created a cloud version of Hera, which Ixion coupled with. The cloud Hera gave birth to Centauros, and Centauros mated with mares, creating centaurs.
With a grandfather like Ixion, it’s no wonder centaurs ended up with little self-control.
They’re one of the baser creatures of Greek mythology. Stories abound of them kidnapping and raping women, getting drunk, fighting, and tramping crops. Some even say they ate raw flesh. Passions ruled. In battle, they wielded rocks and tree branches against their enemies, and Zeus would use them to punish humans who angered him.
Centaurs could be wise and good, as Chiron proved by serving as a tutor to Greek heroes like Jason and Achilles. But he’s known because he’s the exception. When placed next to the other centaurs, he only makes their lack of self-control uglier, sadder.
The centaurs’ dual nature, both man and horse, capable of good but choosing to be selfish, came to represent the struggle in each of us between what we know is right and our carnal desires for gluttony, lust, and violence.
Lately, I’ve been letting my cravings get the best of me too.
Since February of this year, I’ve been trying to lose weight. Somewhere between my honeymoon in 2010 and finally getting out of a very stressful job situation this year, I managed to gain 25 pounds. When you’re 5’2”, putting on that much weight means your back starts to ache and none of your clothes fit anymore.
I know what I need to do to lose the weight. But too often, when faced with the chocolate or cheesecake or Chinese food I want, I give in. Because I want it. I don’t have an excuse.
My lack of self-control is all the more ugly and sad because of all the other places in life where I’ve proven I have the self-control to make the right choice even when I want to make the wrong one. I get up every morning to work out for at least an hour. I set aside leisure activities when I have a deadline. I once had so much self-control that I dropped my weight well below what was healthy.
I can do it. It’s a matter of will. But some days I worry I don’t have enough willpower left.
I don’t want to be a centaur, so I’m fighting—a pound of carrot sticks and half a pound of weight at a time.
Sometimes I think that’s the best we can do, at least at first. When we feel like the centaur inside is winning, throwing rocks and trees at us that are too big to handle, we just have to keep dipping and dodging and ducking and diving and, as long as we don’t give up, we’ll find the self-control we need to defeat it.
What brings out the centaur in you? (Any tips for losing weight in a healthy way are also welcome!)
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