Lately I’ve been having some strange dreams after which I wake up either with having come up with a terrible pun or some other strange question in my sleep. An example of this is the new name for a cat I’ve come up with, namely “Mephistofelis”. Felis being the Latin word for cat and the name Mephistopheles, taken from the demon I’ve primarily come to know through its Marvel Comics iteration, and more recently through Goethe’s adaptation of the Faust Legend. It is not an incredibly clever pun, nor a very good name for a cat (it is a little long), but I am baffled by the capabilities of the human brain by bringing new ideas together when it is supposed to be unconscious and resting. Now to explain the dream that is actually the main topic of this post.
In this dream I am walking through a meadow, a beautifully green meadow, with small white flowers in evenly sprinkled across the grass. The sky is both bright and black, the brightness caused by the stars scattered across the heavens forming beautiful, but unnatural moving figures as lions and centaurs, the dark caused by the absolute blackness of the void between the light. Through this meadow I am walking towards a figure in the distance. As I approach the figure it reveals itself to be a shaped like a man, a man holding up an enormous perfect sphere. It is clearly the mythological Titan Atlas, holding up the Earth as portrayed in so much statues around the globe (pun intended). As I approach the figure I keep looking up in awe at the enormous stature of the Titan. You see, the Earth is incredibly large, meaning this Titan had to be even more massive in order to be able to hold it in its arms. At some point I arrive closer to his colossal feet. Then I finally stop looking up to this globe, and instead look down. However, when looking down past his feet I realize there is no ground for him to stand on and instead there is only the void. Then I set my eyes on a pile of books on a white nightstand. I had woken up.
The feet of Atlas bothered me for quite a while. If he was holding up the globe with his arms, any body part you would be able to run into while walking on Earth would be his arms, not his legs. However, if Atlas was keeping the Earth from falling, then he needed to be standing on something, or not require to be standing through some other means. Gravity can’t be used to explain the situation, as when gravity comes into the equation, then Atlas isn’t necessary to hold up the Earth in the first place. So, perhaps Atlas should be portrayed not as standing holding up the globe, but instead as standing on his hands.
I wondered whether any of the books I own shed any light on the situation, so I opened my copy of Hesiod’s Theogony. Indeed, Hesiod described the birth of Atlas, as well as that of his equally interesting brother Prometheus and his less interesting brother Menoetius. However, Hesiod describes Atlas as holding up the heavens instead of the Earth. So I did some googling and I found that the modern representations of Atlas are just plainly wrong. He is indeed the Titan holding up the sky not the Earth.
So to answer the question from my dream: Atlas is not standing in the void, holding up the Earth. He is standing on the Earth, holding up the heavens.