Procrustes was a villainous character in Greek mythology. Procrustes (Polypemon/ Procoptas/ Damastes) was the son of Poseidon.
He had a house by the side of the road between Athens and Eleusis. He used to invite passengers to spend a night in his house. They were attracted by his hospitality and warm welcome. He offered pleasant food and a night’s rest in his special magical bed, which, he said, was capable of exactly matching the length of anyone who would lie down on it.
Procrustes would compel the guest to lie on the iron bed. Then he would tie him to the bed and start his cruel treatment. If the guest was shorter than the bed, he would stretch the body of the guest on a rack using a hammer till his length exactly matched that of the bed, causing great agony and final death. If the guest was longer than the bed, Procrustes would chop off the legs of the guest to achieve a perfect fit; but he would certainly bleed to death. In either case the victim was sure to die.
Some legends suggest that he had two different beds of different lengths which he used so that no guest would ever fit a bed exactly and escape from a painful death.
Finally the Greek hero Theseus defeated Procrustes and fatally adjusted his length to suit his own bed. Thus Procrustes died as a victim of his own technique, thus ending his reign of terror.
Any attempt to establish universal uniformity is disastrous. Every person has a unique personality and individuality. It is impossible to judge everyone using the same strict standards. Harmony in variety and unity in diversity should be appreciated.
The phrase ‘Procrustean bed’ is a metaphor to describe an arbitrary or unnatural standard for a set of conditions to which everyone is forced to conform. One who finds fault with everyone except himself and tries to punish others shares the distorted vision and life style of Procrustes. When we point one finger at another person, three other fingers on the same hand point towards us. Often we fail to notice our own imperfections when we watch the sins of others. When we are harsh in judging others, we become unable to receive mercy and compassion from others and from God.
© By: Prof. Dr. Babu Philip, Darsana Academy, Kottayam-686001, Kerala, India ( Former Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India), Prof. Mrs. Rajamma Babu, Former Professor, St. Dominic's College, Kanjirappally, Leo. S. John, St. Antony's Public School, Anakkal, Kanjirappally and Neil John, Maniparambil, Ooriyakunnath, Kunnumbhagom, Kanjirappally, Kottayam-686507, Kerala, India.
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