κατάβασις: κατά (kata, “downwards”) + βαίνω (bainō, “go”).
In the Ancient world this was an epic used to describe the heroes descent into the Underworld, Hades and the deep dark depths of Hell. Heracles, Odysseus, Aeneas and Persephone are a few of these characters that braved the unknown and returned from hell to tell the tale or at least have it told for them. But why? Why would anyone go to the underworld not knowing if they would return. Heracles was punishment for killing his wife and children, Persephone to retrieve her daughter from the clutches of Hades himself while Odysseus goes to learn how he and his comrades would find their way home to Ithaca and Aeneas went because fate called him there on his grand journey. My favorite underworld story involves Orpheus and Eurydice and a love that brought the gods to their knees, even Hades himself showed pity on pour Orpheus as told by Ovid but alas that story does not end well for either of them. Orpheus walks down into hell and back out, but the world he steps back into is indeed another form of hell.
Each one of these characters went to the underworld without thinking twice, which is rather puzzling really. I love a good adventure as much as the next guy but one in which I may not come back from and if I do not, then I spend eternity being tortured by the god of the underworld himself? No thank you, I believe I will pass. But what if the fates said so, or it was my penance for the wrongs I have committed during my life? Love of my life needs me or it is the only way to find my way home? Okay, so I guess I should not say I would never attempt a κατάβασις. Might not like it, but a guy has to do what a guy has to do, especially for the ones he loves. Can one go through a κατάβασις without actually stepping one foot into hell though? Absolutely! I do it everyday.
That was not a stab at life. My life is far from a living hell, actually it has been going rather well, knock on wood. I have a good job that pays most of my bills. I have great friends always there to help me laugh off a rough week at work. I even have a girlfriend that somehow puts up with my quirks most of the time. My personal living hell is self induced and no it is not drugs. Well, it is not drugs of the prescription, illegal or immediate death kind, but could easily be classified as a drug since I am addicted to it and am not in a good mood when I do not get my fix. Although the death is not immediate there a moments when I feel like a piece of me, a small one dies slowly little by little. No matter how much I try I just cannot seem to bring it back to life. This happens only when nothing seems to work the way I want it too. Which sadly happens more often then not.
By now, you might be asking yourself what exactly my κατάβασις is and why I make the conscience decision day in day out to put myself through a hell I could just as easily choose to avoid. It is simple, well if you know me. I enjoy the challenge, especially if it is a difficult one. I put myself through hell daily in order to see how I walk out of it and look the next day. No, not the gym although now that you mention it I should really start working out again. A different kind of hell from the one I go through now, but still one I need to start.
You have already seen five hundred and seventy accounts of my hell. Depending on how long you have been following this blog you may have seen many more. I struggle with it daily, am I good enough, am I ever going to be worthy of the title and do I even do it justice? Just go read this and you will see my self-doubts. Self-doubts that have stifled my creativity before, shut down projects because nothing works and I am not the right person to fix them. I do this daily to put myself through hell and see if I burn. I walk a different path each day, yet there are flames surrounding me wherever my path leads me. As of now, I have not burst into flames just yet and have been putting my hell on display for the public for almost a year now. My own private hell has lasted much longer than a year actually, with my journals full of words and ideas and thoughts.
There is no end in sight for my κατάβασις either, and I am fine with that. I will keep pushing myself through the muck, surrounded by a fire that does not burn. No matter how bad my words flow, or how well they come across, I keep going not really worried about much of anything, yet I somehow still manage to worry about it all. How it sounds, how it flows and especially how other people see the words. I also worry how I will see the words I write, not in this instance but when I look back on them. How I seem them tomorrow, next week or at the end of my life looking back on it all. Why did I decide to use this word over that one? Why did I take the story this way instead of the other? Will I be proud of the words I selected or be indignant towards them all?
All of these words today re-enforce why I do what I do. Why I even try to put words out there for other people or no one to read. My daily κατάβασις is writing. Writing words, in a certain way to form sentences and from those sentences discover a few paragraphs and maybe, just maybe those paragraphs starts a story that I created with the possibility of reaching just one person who struggles daily with their own personal κατάβασις. If I can walk through mine and not be engulfed, so can they.