I read The Song of Achilles 🏹 + Circe 🔱 Meaning of Life In Greek Myths 2021 Bestsellers Book-ish #5

Hello everyone, welcome to today’s bookish video. I have just finished reading The Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeline Miller; both are adaptations of famous Greek myths. Today the topic is what is the meaning of life? I’m going to share a few lines from the book and I’m going to dive right in.

“The sons of Troy are known for their skill in battle, and their deaths will lift your name to the stars, if you miss it, you will miss your chance at immortality. You will stay behind unknown. You will grow old, and older in obscurity”

This is the second prophecy that was given to Achilles, ‘fate’ told him he had only two options – either fight in the Trojan war, make a name for himself and die young; or avoid the war live a normal life till old age and be forgotten. There was no in-between, there was no second chance at a different war it had to happen at Troy. So since the second choice sounded like absolute hell, of course he goes to Troy. And the prophesy is fulfilled and he was known as the Best of the Greeks; a hero who fought in the Trojan war, killing Hector the strongest enemy. And his song is sang for eternity, that even people like me in the 21st century are still talking about him.

Yet no one talks about how long the war was… or how he changed by the end of it. If you are like me and do not know much about Greek myths except for the headlines, then this book offers a bitter-sweet retelling of Achilles story. It will fill in the gaps, about what happened before the fame. The only spoiler I am going to give is that the war was prolonged because of love; Achilles was told he would die but only after Hector did. And so the plan to stay alive was why should I kill Hector, “What has Hector ever done to me?”.

It seemed really crazy to me at first that he went to Troy, I just didn’t understand why becoming famous was worth dying over and what was so bad about having a normal life? Then I remembered who Achilles was, his father is a human king and his mother a goddess; so he was born with divine abilities, blessed by the gods. He had so much potential in him that to not use it  would have been a disservice to himself. Achilles not going to war would have been him not fulfilling his calling. We love saying calling it is such a sexy word; but to live it out  actually requires using your unique talents and gifts. And so I thought if I was Achilles and my path to purpose holds death it makes sense to walk on following after fate.

Along with his calling it was his desire to leave a legacy behind that led him to Troy. The glory from fighting in the war meant that he would be remembered for eternity, he would earn the title Best of the Greeks. Achieving fame was important to him, something he felt he needed to prove his talents. And honestly I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, he was honest with himself about what he needed out of life. To be forgotten in life would have made him suffer. Achilles choose a short and glorious life; because to him the meaning of life was doing the thing I am great at and leaving a mark on the world. 

Now let’s talk about love briefly in this story. Achilles had lover, yet he did not choose to stay alive for his partner. And I found this so interesting because they were literally perfect for each other, so I thought that the relationship would be enough for him. It wasn’t enough. The relationship was nice, but following his calling and receiving fame was the meaning of life for him. However, for Patroclus his lover, the meaning of life was love. And so instead of this causing friction in the relationship Patroclus simply followed Achilles to Troy; if you die I die was the motto. I thought it was crazy at first but then I understood, to some people the meaning of life is their connection with others; they priorities their relationships; family, friends and lovers over anything.

The only reason I don’t think Patroclus choice is toxic and co-dependent is that he didn’t really have much else going for himself. So supporting Achilles and being happy, was better than loneliness. Some people feel that if they can maintain a special bond, it what life is all about.

So my take away form this book is that the meaning of life is either Calling or Connection; the books makes it seemed like you can only pick one. However, I know there are also more options and it’s possible to find a balance including the different things that matter to an individual. But if you could only pick one, which would you choose?

Moving onto the next book, I also felt calling and connection were shown to be in the meaning of life. Circe has various Greeks myths adaptions in her story; including Daedalus (who built the Labyrinth to hold the Minotaur) and Odyssey.

“The one-eyed…rolled the a stone and trapped them…Odyssey pilled the monster with wine…his name he gave as Otis, (means) No one. When the creature fell asleep, he sharpen a great stake and plunged it into his eye. They were able to escape when he let out his sheep. The enraged monster called for help from his fellow one-eyes, but they did not come for he cried ‘No one has blinded me! No one is escaping!’ Odyssey turned back to shout ‘If you would know the man who tricked you, it is Odyssey’.”

Then his son said to Circe “It was a bad life…He would rather be cursed by the gods than be No one”

Odyssey was also an ambitions hero who wanted his achievements to be acknowledge, however acting on that need by shouting out his name to the cyclops cost him 10 years at sea. 

Circe came into contact with these men and heard their stories of them living out their calling and being respected by those around them. However, she was not someone who was not praised but instead exiled for using her skills. She was one Titan Helios’s daughters, but because of her voice and plain features she did not fit in with the other gods. She spent her days alone and bullied by her siblings.

Being an outcast and filled with loneliness she desperately yearned for connection; so when she meets a mortal who gives her attention she acts rashly to try to make him immortal. She believed that if she had someone her immortal life would become more bearable. At this point the meaning of life to her is being about love, to have a connection with someone and for it to be an eternal love. Circe is able to turn the man into a god, however it does not go as smoothly as she thought in terms of securing this forever love. She keeps making more mistakes and even acts with malice; which eventually leads to her getting exiled to an island.

At first she enjoys her new found freedom, thinking her life is about to start and adventures awaits her. As she explores the island she decides that she would now focus on her talents and she no longer requires a life with connection. The meaning of life for her is now about getting better at her craft, following her calling. 

Throughout the book we continue to see how she handles eternal isolation, I’m not going to say anymore of what happens because I will spoil it and I recommend you go read it for yourself and learn about her experience as she navigates the meaning of her life, and becoming who she is truly meant to be. At the end you will find out if calling is enough for her or if connection is what she desires.

And with that we have come to the end of this book-ish video. The Song of Achilles and Circe are beautiful books, honestly these are best sellers for a reason. The stories are exciting, from the start you are engaged and want to follow the adventure. Yet the stories are also incredibly heart breaking, you learn about different struggles and perspectives. And it really  made me think about my life and the things I value. 

I have linked my books down below; let me know in the comments if you have read it or have anything else to add about some of the points I mentioned. Thank you so much for watching this video. If you enjoyed this video remember to like, comment, subscribe and ring the notification bell so you know when I post. Byeeeee

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