The burden of being aware

Heinrich von     Füger's   " Prometheus Brings Fire to Mankind" (1817)

Heinrich von Füger's "Prometheus Brings Fire to Mankind" (1817)

Mankind's embarkment into knowledge and enlightenment can't get any more symbolic than the tale of Prometheus. In Greek mythology, he was a Titan who stole fire from Mount. Olympus and passed it to the humans who were living in darkness. The Olympian Zeus was furious and punished Prometheus, chaining him to a mountain and have an eagle devour his regenerating liver daily, for all eternity.

Like the fire, knowledge can be both beneficial and destructive. Prometheus is an enlightened; who had experienced an awareness and wants to share its benefits. In addition to giving humans fire, he also educated them in civilization. In the end, he was punished by a ruthless authority who recognises danger in that awareness. What difference is this to an authoritarian government that seeks to limit awareness among its citizens? Dictators silence the intellectuals, the brave and the ones who dare expose.

It is stern work, it is perilous work, to thrust your hand into the Sun and pull out a spark of immortal flame to warm the hearts of men.
— Joyce Kilmer

Figures like Prometheus are a rare kind. In literature, the enlightened often find themselves at odds against a system and society that are unwilling to accept a level of consciousness greater than what they're used to. In Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston, who rebels against the Party, fails in his uprising and reverts to a state of depressing apathy. In Flatland, the Square, is branded insane for attempting to spread his newly-discovered awareness of the Spaceland dimension.

Often, one claims this awareness for arrogance and fixes this as an imposition of values to those who don't understand nor require them. This may be true. But there also burns a burning desire to share and to make better; that with awareness comes an unwritten civic responsibility. Hence the burden of prophets and the messengers of God. "The message" was never intended as an imposition but an alternative for a better life.

While we punish, ignore and lock away the Prometheuses of our society -  let's not forget the burden and responsibility that comes with knowledge, and its impact towards a society that should be naturally progressing. Lest we accept Zeus' premise bent on the destruction of humankind.