Monday, November 24, 2008

The Possibilities of the Cornucopia

I've long found cornucopias a thing of beauty. I like seeing them filled with beautifully colored fall vegetables and fruits--or with flowers.

I think the concept of a "horn of plenty" has a generous ring to it.

So it caught my eye the other morning when I was on the elevator at work and the word cornucopia came up on the ever-playing Internet monitor on the wall near the door. (It's taken the place of people staring at floor numbers as they ride up or down.)

I learned something about cornucopias that I didn't know.

It turns out the idea of the cornucopia came from Greek mythology. When Zeus was born, his mother sent him to Crete to be cared for so he would be hidden from his father, Cronus. Cronus had a bad habit of eating his offspring. The daughters of Melisseus, king of Crete, nursed & raised Zeus. Their goat, Amalthea, provided milk for the toddler god. Zeus broke off one of the goat's horns and gave the horn the power of becoming filled with whatever its possessor desired.

It was that last line that struck me. Whatever its possessor desired. Or, as Merriam Webster's says "an inexhaustible store" of whatever you desired. . .

Wow. What would that be for me if I got to choose, I wondered? I found images of some things that came to mind--cornucopias filled with chocolate candy and overflowing with cash.

Then I started to think of less tangible things. . . self-confidence, drive, stamina, life. Would it be a waste to have it supply me with things that I already strive for--tolerance, patience, perserverence, kindness.

Instantly, I start to think things like, what's the use of me having endless life if hubby doesn't? Or if it doesn't come with good health? Can the horn supply us both?

But if it's capable of being more than self-serving, shouldn't I be asking for something more Miss USA-like--world peace? (What would it take for world peace to re-establish itself every day. . . is there a difference in an abundantly filled cornucopia of peace as one that is dwindling towards emptiness?)

One source I found definitely connected the cornucopia with food--saying it was Zeus's promise that whoever had the horn would never starve. I think of Star Trek The Next Generation--where they just ask the computer for whatever food or drink comes to mind ("Earl Grey, hot."), and it appears. Or I think of the Japanese story of Yam Gruel, where the peasant wishes for his favorite delicacy, yam gruel, every day, and he gets his wish and it lasts until just the thought of it makes him sick. (If I didn't have to spend time shopping or paying for food, what more could I be doing with my life?)

Moving beyond food once again, I think of Robin Cook's book Brain, the story of a woman who loses all sense of humanism for her desire to have continuous orgasms.

What do I desire to continuously be replenished that I would never get sick of or that would start to seem like not enough? Some desire that wouldn't take over some sense of my own independence or verve? Some fulfillment that would only make me more sustained or bolstered without making me more lazy or greedy or complacent?

I come up empty. So many possibilities that I can't decide.

If you were the possessor of the horn, what would be your desire to have it be filled with? Over and over again in an unending supply, something you'd want in an inexhaustible store? What's your quick answer? How does it change if you give it more thought?


  1. OK, it's completely cheesy, but I'd say love. Everyone wants to be loved.

  2. I think I'd put time in the horn. Then I'd never miss a deadline. Abd we'd all have time to help the world get its act together. :0|


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