Think you’ve got problems? Remember this tale from Classics 101? Check out this post from Alex Berg (c. 2006):
C’mon, Alexander… You’ve done tougher stuff than this. Remember when dad died, and all those city-states rebelled? You settled that matter, and, once again, Greece is unified. That was great. You are great. You’ve got a reputation now… Don’t let this stupid knot make you look like a horse’s ass in front of all these Gordians. If somebody was able to tie it, then you’ve got to be able to untie it. Don’t panic.
You studied under Aristotle! Aristotle, who studied under Plato! Your mind has had the benifit of having been meticulously groomed by one of the greatest minds that the world has ever known, and yet here you are, standing in front of an ox-cart in Phrygia, jaw agape with beads of sweat pouring from your brow because of a piece of knotted rope. You will crack this nut, Alexander. Greatness is in your future, and this knot is not going to keep you from it.
Seriously, though, who the heck tied this knot anyhow? Isn’t one of the criteria of a good knot being able to untie it when you want to? Whoever tied this knot must not have been a sailor. You would never tie this knot on a ship. You would tie a bowline, or maybe a half-hitch, but never this. If you had to put out to sea on short notice, say to defend Crete from an Egyptian naval invasion, you’d be sunk! Galleon upon galleon of soldiers would calmly dock at your pier, and while you sat there, calmly undoing each of the MMLXXXVII loops in your stupid, over-engineered knot, they would walk up behind you and cudgel you to death.
Sweet crap, this knot is impossible! At what point does a knot this complex become necessary, especially for an ox-cart? What sort of society are these people living in where an ox-cart is so prized a posession that some bozo had to create this monstrosity to keep it secure? If this is the sort of oxcrap I’m going to have to put up with for the rest of this military campaign, then I’m done. Back to Macedon I go, with my head hung low and my tail between my legs. I already have Greece, what do I want the rest of the known world for? The rest of the known world is overrated, if you ask me, especially if it’s full of these stupid knots.
Eh… No. No, no, no… I can’t go home empty-handed… The Spartans will never let me live it down… They’ll rile up Thebes and Corinth against me, and then I’ll have real trouble on my hands. I’ve got to do this. But- URGH!!! This is so frustrating!!! Screw you, Persia! Screw you and your stupid knots! You hear me, knot? Screw you, you jerk! You think you’re so great, don’t you, sitting there all high and mighty on your stupid ox-cart? “Nobody can untie me, I’m so special.” Yeah, well, you know what this is? This guy right here- you recogonize him? Oh yeah, that’s right- It’s a sword, goat-breath. I don’t care what sort of knot you think you are, but this sword doesn’t care how fancy or intricate you are, ’cause it’s gonna cut you just the same. You hear, that, knot? CUT! Take THAT, you stupid jerk!!! Take THAT!!!
Whoa… I really lost my cool for a second there… This is no way for a conqueror to act… I’ve got to remember to breathe deep and count to X next time. What’s that noise? It sounds like… Oh, hey! These people are… applauding me! They hated that knot as much as I did! How funny is that? Phew- it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel soooooo much better now- especially about this military campaign. If that knot couldn’t stop me, what could? Nothing, that’s what. I’ll march to the ends of the earth and back unopposed! This is great! I’ve got to go tell the generals to rally the troops! It’s conquering time!
Written by Alex Berg, aka Alexander Paul Berg.
ps. For all you eagle-eyed scholars…..that third picture is NOT Alexander the Great. Name the man and I’ll send you a free gift!
photo credit: Image taken from page 103 of ‘The Poems of Sir John Suckling. (Edited by John Gray and decorated by C. Ricketts.)’ via photopin (license)
Jean-Simon Berthélemy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
photo credit: Menelaus Supporting Patroclus 5 via photopin (license)