There is an old Greek myth that is a perpetual favourite of mine – the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. It talks of how Orpheus, the skillful musician fell in love with Eurydice and how they basked in each other’s love till one sad day Eurydice had to die and go away to the underworld. The hapless Orpheus lost all interest in life till he decided to go to the underworld and win his love back using his skill as a musician. Hades, the lord of the underworld fell prey to the musical charms of Orpheus and granted Eurydice back – on one condition; that as she followed Orpheus back to the world of mortals, he should not turn back and look at her. If he did, then she would come back to the underworld. The lovelorn Orpheus, hastens to reach the world but a little distance away from it he turns back to see if Eurydice is following and loses her. Forever.The myth has a lesson for us all. Too much of looking back does no one any good. Nostalgia is a warm and cozy feeling, no doubt; but it almost always makes us inactive, tends to nudge us towards complacency and creates a false sense of well-being. Wake up, and we will see that the truth and the world may be otherwise.
Be it as individuals or an institution, there comes a time when we have to seize time by the forelock. To fail to do so would be fatal. When opportunity comes knocking (and it doesn’t often come knocking), we’d better go and open the door and welcome her in. Look back at our own lives and we will see that there have been several such opportunities lost. We should learn from history or, like they say, we will be forced to repeat some very, very serious mistakes. With an individual it is probably just that one person who may reap the consequences of his/her lethargy; but with institutions the damage can be long term, manifold and devastating. Luckily most institutions have in-built mechanisms to forestall such disasters. Two heads are certainly better than one and certainly, there is wisdom in many heads coming together. If due diligence is followed and procedures respected in the decision making process, then generations stand to benefit from these institutions.
We’ve all heard that change is the only constant; then why are we so resistant to change? If we don’t embrace change, then the dinosaur is a striking example of what can happen to us. Today the dinosaur is history. And that’s because it refused to adapt. That animal was complacent and trusted in its might to see it through the ages. And we all know what happened.
The Orpheus myth coupled with the lesson that the dinosaur has for us is something we all need to be alive to and be aware of.
Are we paying heed?
Prof. John Varghese