Commentary on Hymn XII: To Antinous-Hermes, Liberator

What I cannot say, Antinous Hermes, open my mouth to speak.
What I cannot hear, Antinous Hermes, clear my ears to hear.
What I cannot see, Antinous Hermes, cleanse my eyes to see.
What I cannot think, Antinous Hermes, liberate my mind to know.
From the prison of too much information, not enough knowledge,
from much social media but little friendship,
from debate and denunciation without exchange or compassion,
Antinous Hermes, liberate me.
May I with clear mind and clear sense and pure will
choose deliberately, wisely what to think, what to write,
what to say, what to read, what to see, what to hear.

Re-reading this hymn in August 2020, it seems prophetic, having been written five years ago. Too much information, misinformation, and disinformation, too much debate and denunciation are even more prevalent now than they were then. If memory serves, when I wrote this hymn, I was often feeling isolated rather than connected by social media, a feeling I still have from time to time (although the isolation necessitated by the COVID-19 crisis has made social media a true lifeline). It seemed necessary to ask a god of communication and information exchange to help me discern what to take into my mind, what to keep out.

Hermes is a complex god, though I could as well say that of all the Greek deities. He is an inventor and a trickster, protector of shepherds and their flocks (along with his son Pan), guardian of travelers and guide of the dead, the giver of luck and official messenger of Zeus, patron of commerce and of thieves, of athletic games and other competitions. I see him also as the patron of writers, communication, advertising, electronic communication, the Internet. A traditional form of divination in ancient Greece was the kledon: praying to Hermes for information or advice about a particular issue and then going out into the marketplace to await a random sight or sound that presented itself as the answer. His signs always came to the seeker in public places.

I still need to pray to Antinous Hermes to help me monitor my online activity, choose my sources of information wisely, see through propaganda, move toward connection rather than division in online interactions, and boost my wifi, too. When the official messengers are not trustworthy, Antinous Hermes is the god who can give us a helpful back-alley tip and put us ahead of the game.

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