In The Eyes of The Gods This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 25, 2010
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Set the scene. A wedding hall, garlanded pillars, flowery boughs and torches of flame. A hall for men, but filled by gods. Eating, drinking, arguing; all honored guests. A wedding unlike any other; friendship between the lordly and lowly. The close of a beautiful day.
Fickle Eris laughs.
It’s amazing what one apple can cause. Spin a coat a golden varnish on it and polish it up, and place it just so on the floor. Watch it glitter and gleam, begging to be noticed, luring the eye with it’s soft luster. Inscribe a message for maximum amusement; “Beauty is...?” Then sit back and watch.
Every female eye in the place locks onto it. The men take one look at the inscription, glance up at the women, and vanish. Men are wiser then women, sometimes.
The arguments bloom from seeds of dislike, and soon the room, wherever it may be, is a forest of feminine competition. Apple goes from hand to hand, never in one place for long. Three, no matter how lovely, cannot agree on anything; and no one will cede the honor. Someone else will have to chose, always a male, and when they do. . .glorious discord. Argument over beauty is beauty itself.
Three finalists remain. The marriage drew Hera, wife of Zeus and patron of the shared bed. A promise of wisdom and war lured Athena. And in slipped sultry Aphrodite, red tresses glowing, drunk on the atmosphere of unconsummated love.
Apple tumbles between them. Exquisite.
Zeus frowns.
Who knows beauty better then he? He’s developed an eye for it, these last millennia; attention turning from maiden to maiden, always the loveliest, always the fairest. Sometimes his roving eye returns homeward, and he sees that he is surrounded by surpassing sensuality, and he ceases roving. . . for a while.
Three ask; what pleases Zeus best? He answers. Peace on the heights, peace in the house; he values both as only a home wrecker can. Grace is elusive and beauty is vain; but a house without discord is to be prized most of all.
Choose, they cry, choose, choose. Zeus values peace; he chooses. Not among them, no, but another, better suited judge. Someone who cannot be long affected by the wrath of two angry goddesses; mortality will carry him off soon enough. Decide? Zeus has decided. A shepherd on the slopes of Mount Ida, unimportant and expendable. Let him make the choice. Let him suffer.
Three goddesses appear on the fields. An apple glistens on the ground.
Hear us, they say. Look upon us.

Proud Hera, hair black as night and spangled with silver flecks, speaks first.
Prosperity. The merchant rises early to sell his stock; the farmer rises earlier to tend his crops. Up, soldier! Up, Sailor! Industry is next to godliness, if the gods ever worked. Plant the seed of a good life and it will sprout. Fields to tend, coax, and succor in the hot sun. You must return somewhere, and why not to a household of your own? Open the door and see your children, smile at your wife. Prosperity, and power. Let a man govern himself and his house. Industry and prosperity can build a man to such great heights, almost to the level of gods. Chose industry, and it can make you lord of Asia. Chose industry and be content. There is beauty in that.
Copper hair cut short, Athena reasons, her words clipped as spears.
Knowledge. Who leaves the greatest mark on the world? Those who learn and think, who unravel riddles and peel back the mysteries of life. To devote one’s life to a higher cause; hone one’s mind as lesser men hone their bodies, dreaming up what is and what was and what one day might be. Build a rational world from the chaos, a world that can be measured and understood and changed, a world that dances to the music of the heavens and ticks by its own clock. Knowlege, and wisdom. Let a man seek knowledge, and all doors will be open to him. A man who understands creation is a man who can create; who can write great works, who can speak great things, who can paint great thoughts. Chose wisdom, and it can seal your name in history. Chose wisdom and be content. There is beauty in that.
A sigh beneath red hair, a sweet sweep of an arm, and soft Aphrodite whispers.
Pleasure. The eyes of man are thirsty things, ever parched, ever dry. Drink up the view, and possess it. The roll of a soft wave beneath watery cloth; the morning sun on the eyes of a beloved. Why create, when you can possess what has been created? Why toil, when you can sleep in sweetness? Life is an apple, ripe and round for the plucking. When you die you will die happy, for you will have drunk deep of all that life can offer. Pleasure, and love. Embrace the joy of another’s smile. Men who love are loved in their turn. A man who seeks pleasure is a man of power, a man with purpose, a man of pride. Chose love, and have no regrets. Chose love, and be content. There is beauty in that.
Three goddessess. Three choices. One apple.

Shepherd Paris picks up the apple, rolls it in his hands. Gold flashes in the sun; and the inscription flashes brighter. “Beauty is. . . ?”
He thinks over his choices. Honest Prosperity. Ascending Knowledge. Consuming Pleasure. Three roads branched before him, each leading to its own beautiful conclusion. He might have lived and died an unimportant man, and would have gone to his grave with no regrets. He might have learned and suffered, but gone to his grave a better and wiser man, leaving good behind him. He might have lounged and lazed, always taking, always possessing, and fallen into an early grave, unmourned and unloved.
All face the choice, early in life. All are handed the golden apple, faced with the goddesses, and told to decide. Everyone knows what Paris chose; how he placed beauty in the hands of pleasure, and collapsed into days built on a soft haze of greed and lust before falling pierced by weeping arrows on the plains of shining troy. A life as golden as an apple already browning at the edges.
And there was some beauty in that.

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