Learning to Hold On to Your Convictions
by Eric Wright
Heinrich Schliemann made a discovery in 1871 that changed the way we look at legends. A German, who spoke over a dozen languages, Schliemann immigrated to the United States and made his fortune as a banker during the California Gold Rush. But money was just a means to fulfill his two real passions – archeology, which at the time was in its infancy, and proving his unique theory about Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Though the Greek epic poems were standard curriculum in any classic education, Schliemann believed that Homer was describing, with certain embellishments, actual events. To the amazement of the world, this retired businessman discovered the lost city of Troy in eastern Turkey. Today, you can see the ruins of its towers and walls, which were sixteen feet thick.
Gosh, That’s an Awesome Horse!
According to Homer, the Greeks laid siege to the impregnable fortress of Troy for ten years without success and most wanted to give up the fight. However, the king of Ithaca, Odysseus (Ulysses in Latin), came up with a daring plan to get the Greek army into the city. He had his men fashion a huge horse, in which he and a select group of soldiers hid inside, while the Greek fleet sailed over the horizon. They left the “Trojan Horse” supposedly as an offering to the gods and the persevering Trojans. But a debate arose over what to do with the trophy. Laocoon, a Trojan wise man, made an impassioned speech to burn it, with the fateful warning, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” or more accurately, “I fear the Greeks even when bearing gifts.”
Whether it is truth or legend, 2,500 years later, the Trojan Horse and the fall of mighty Troy still represents the subversion of anything from within. What the Greeks couldn’t do in ten years through an aggressive frontal assault, they accomplished in one night through deception.
You’re Cold and I’m Hungry
Similarly, we all have a set of core values, but when times are lean, whether that is economically or emotionally, we are all tempted to allow things to get inside of us that subvert our most firmly held convictions. Especially when it comes in the form of relief from persistent stress or the breakthrough for which we have been longing. At times like that, it is so easy to press the “Mute” button that warns, “It only looks like a gift or opportunity.”
Perhaps you heard the story of the frontiersman who saw winter approaching and decided he needed a new bearskin coat to survive the frigid temperatures that would soon be upon him. With chilly winds already sweeping in the mountains, he got his gun and set out on a hunting trip. Soon he came upon a large bear and raised his rifle to shoot. To his amazement, the bear asked, “Why do you want to shoot me?” Cautiously he replied, “I’m cold and I need a new coat.” The bear responded, “Well I’m hungry, perhaps we can reach a compromise.” So the two sat down to discuss their predicament, but only the bear left the encounter, feeling quite full.
In most cases, it isn’t some radical change that drives us onto the rocks; rather it is small compromises, usually by degrees, which like the Costa Concordia (the Italian cruise ship that partially sank after hitting a reef last January off the Tuscan coast), results in a sudden and dramatic catastrophe.