Compare and contrast Greek mythology's view of nature  to ours.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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For the most part, modern society preaches a respect for the environment.  While it might not be followed to the greatest of extent, individuals are taught to display respect for the ecology.  Whether it is through events such as Earth Day or via recycling and composting attempts, or even in using appliances that conserve energy, there is a social attempt to show a healthy care for the environment. Greek Mythology emphasized some of the same tenets.  In both frames of reference, the natural world is viewed as something in which humans inhabit, but is something that also cradles the human experience.  The natural world is not an element that can be controlled by human beings. Rather, the human predicament operates within the natural world.

A significant difference between the Greek mythological view of the natural world and the modern sentiment lies in the fervor of the devotion to the natural world.  For the Greek mythological view of nature, symbolic representations are everywhere.  There is a natural reverence towards the environment because it is connected to some aspect of symbolic explanation. Gaia's embodiment of Mother Earth helps to render a vision of nature where Greek Mythology display reverence for the natural setting.  Any disgrace of the natural setting is an affront to the divine. This is different than the modern setting's view of nature.  Greek Mythological reverence is more intense than the modern notion of environmental respect or awareness. For example, Ocean is a Titan that surrounds the Earth.  Polluting the oceans would be seen as an affront to the Titans, something that necessarily seen in the modern setting.  The Oak tree is symbolic of Zeus, and thus the Oak tree carries symbolic representation.  Removing an Oak Tree for commercial development, for example, would be seen as an insult to Zeus, carrying with it grave implications for the individual. Baucis and Philemon were transformed into Oak and Linden trees to honor their devotion to the divine.  Offending the divine through disgracing the natural setting would therefore carry severe consequences.

The natural world contains a symbolic importance in many different aspects of Greek Mythology.  This helps to enhance the reverence for the natural world.  The Narcissus flower is embodiment of human frailty, while the Arachnid is representative of hubris.  Persephone's presence indicates Summer and Spring, while her absence embodies Winter and Fall.  In each of these settings, the natural world contains symbolic meaning that lies at the heart of Greek Mythology.  This is fundamentally different than the modern setting.  Ours is a paradigm that is decidedly more secular. Environmental respect in the modern setting is geared from a social perspective, as well as from a science of ecology. While such a position does preach respect for the environment, it does not match the fervor towards nature inspired by Greek Mythology.  The symbolic reverence for the Earth that lies at the heart of Greek Mythology differentiates it from the modern view of the natural world.  

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