This piece at ArtPrize caught my eye. Altas bearing the world on his shoulders.
The myth of Atlas has been one of my favorites since I first read it in the Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series.
The Olympians and the Titans had fought an epic 10 year war, with the Olympians coming out the victors. Since the "gods" are immortal, and cannot be killed, special punishments were devised by Zeus to keep the Titans out of trouble for the rest of eternity.
Atlas' punishment was to bear the weight of the sky and world on his shoulders. If he decided he was done, well then, so was the world as he knew it. They'd all be crushed together. I guess this fact was enough to keep him at it.
But, this weight of the world was a heavy burden. Eternally heavy. Atlas was trapped. Weighed down. Doubled over.
It was a picture of subservience but also a picture of great strength. Not everyone can carry the weight of the world and survive.
From this myth proceeds the expression carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Also, it is the reason that collections of maps are called Atlases.
Kind of cool.
There are many theories as to where myths came from.
My personal theory is an actual theory. Who would have thought?
I think that myths are more legends. Stories of actual happenings that have been fairly innocently embellished through the retelling (my fish was THIS big!). Or, even further-they are stories based on truth, that has been obscured because maybe the tellers didn't exactly want to believe or acknowledge the truth. Assenting to the truth of something creates responsibility and requires a response.
Frankly, I could write a whole dissertation on the similarities between the myths and the Bible. And it is very interesting to me how the truth is weaved into the stories, but, is somewhat masked by inaccuracies.
Which may be why people often refer to the Bible as a collection of myths. Because the stories are so similar to the myths, and in any other context (except a Biblical world view, and that the Bible contains God's words and thus is absolutely and completely true) we would view them as myths. As made up stories.
Truth is stranger than fiction, you know.
Anyway, I am getting way off point...
Back to Atlas, and the world on his shoulders.
This myth reminds me of two Biblical truths.
#1- God is the Creator of the world. Of the universe. And He is upholding it. But, unlike Atlas, God does not carry the world or the sky on His shoulders. The burden is not sucking up His strength and essence. The weight is not weighing God down. No. God is omnipotent. He is all powerful. He is the Almighty God.
And He is upholding all things by the word of His power. (Hebrews 1:3)
God created all things via His words. He created everything out of nothing. And He is sustaining all creation by His powerful word.
He doesn't even need to lend a shoulder to the weight of the world.
I think that is pretty impressive.
#2-But, even more than that-at one point in time He did bear the weight of the world on His shoulders. At the cross. Our sins. Our griefs. Our sorrows.
Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows. (Isaiah 53)
And now He invites us to cast our burdens on Him. To swap our burdens for His yoke. For His rest.
Because, don't we occasionally refer to our acquaintances as bearing the weight of the world on their shoulders? Beat down. Burdened. Don't we occasionally feel that way in our own lives? Like we are the ones upholding everything? And, if we let go, the world as we know it is going to crash and burn?
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Christ is the perfect Atlas. He isn't bearing our burdens as a punishment. He is bearing them as an act of love.