An Argument For the Case of the Nymphai Poleis

While there is absolutely no dispute that that the nymphai prefer wooded, nay, densely wooded areas, the case for the nymphe polis, the City Nymph, is a strong one to be made. As a child, I once read that all trees, all of them, had a nymphe connected to its life; as long as the tree lived, the nymphe would. This is one of those things that has stayed with me always, and has helped, to some extent or another, shape my spirituality and religious life. Within a half-mile radius of my apartment complex, there are at least three apartment complexes named for trees, plus my own, and a golf course, and trees are not only present on the grounds of my apartment complex, there’s one right outside the window of the room where my computer is and another outside my room-mate’s bedroom window. Trees are everywhere I go in this small urban area, so it goes without saying that I believe there is a considerable population of nymphai in this area, as well.

As much as I complain about the gentrification of the Ann Arbor area, it’s still very much a city — a rather small one, but a city nonetheless. Trees are all over down-town Ann Arbor. They run all up and down Liberty Street to Main, they lord over the campus areas from the Law Quad to the Michigan Union to the Diag to Fraternity and Sorority Rows, and up and down Main Street are still more trees. On Liberty and Packard Road both, there are small areas, one is Liberty Plaza, another is tinier, both little more than park benches surrounded by trees with small water fountains built on local wells (taste what comes from those fountains and tell me that’s not well-water).

Even in large cities, even in Chicago, trees may not be more populous than people, but they are present enough that one can duck onto one side-street of Diversey or Belmont or another, close one’s eyes, let oneself “go”, and hear the giggles and whispers of the nymphai who have stubbornly refused to not desert this land simply because Man has brought her cold steels and glasses and her machines, built her buildings of clay and mortar, and coated the grounds in rivers of stone and more clay. The nymphai still stick around Chicago, Detroit, Manhattan, West Hollywood, Seattle, Miami, Cincinati, Toronto, London, Paris, Athens, Hong Kong, Sydney, and elsewhere, and they will not leave Their lands just because Their trees and the other plant-life that They are connected with has grown scarce in those parts. Their numbers may be far fewer, but Their abilities and efforts to drive Man to madness, whether she has asked for their guidance or not, are highly commendable, among the Lesser Divinities.

The Nymphai Poleis are, if you ask me, less a “breed” of nymphai, like the Dryades (the Nymphai of Trees and Forests) or the Anthousai (the Nymphai of Flowers), and more a “class” of nymphai, like the Boukolai (the Nymphai of the “Rustic” or Rural areas): They choose to tough it out in these new forests and jungles of concrete and clay because this is Their land, too, and as long as Man permits the plant life that sustains or at least attracts nymphe life, the Nymphai Poleis will adapt Their ways to urban realities, just as the Naiades (the freshwater nymphai) had adjusted to Man in previous generations. The Nymphai Poleis belong to the trees, the waters, the clouds, the flowers, and the shrubbery, and They are just as much the children of the winds as the Boukolai (thus it is apparent why, of all the large cities I have lived in and visited, why I feel that They are especially fond of Chicago). They are just as likely to be Dionysian or Apollonian or otherwise or neither. They also seem to be protective of those who walk or bicycle or take public transportation, as such means are far kinder to what plant life does exist in the city than driving a large personal automobile. They love street performers and learning institutions and open-air café patios and even the smallest city parks. They hang out under the El Train overpasses and in the Subway stairwells and elevator shafts and they dance and sing and swing around the poles and columns and rafters holding the platforms up and together and sometimes They whisper to you “forget about your appointment or your date or that concert you came here for — wouldn’t it be far more exciting to just take off to Chinatown instead?” or maybe even “your company can get on just fine without you, if you move to Koreatown, you can afford to be a street mime and find far more meaning in your life.” Yet, despite hearing those voices that simply can’t be our own, or that sound too much like our own to really be ours, we listen to Them or not at our own discretion, and our nymphe-guided adventures are as many or as few as we want them to be, yet still the Nymphai Poleis beckon us to extraordinarily mad or silly or merely irresponsible things in ways that the Boukolai simply haven’t the opportunity to: The Boukolai may call us into the woods or lakes or ponds or pastures, but in the end, the Boukolai drive us to Their own madnesses that are wholly distinct from those driven by the Nymphai Poleis.

Just as the Bourgeoisie needs the Proletariat classes and vise-versa, and the balance of the classes of Man must be maintained to keep her social orders fulfilled, neither the Nymphai Poleis nor the Boukolai are any better than the other class of nymphai, and They understand the inherent equalities of the classes as much as They understand the differences that give Them Their intrigue and Their purposes, and They understand these things far better than Man understands them, no matter how relevant and true such realities are to Man, as well. The Nymphai Poleis are as much as part of the city population and urban spirituality as the Boukolai are to the rural areas and rustic spirituality. The Nymphai Poleis couldn’t go away, even if They wanted to; the land the poleis were built upon was Theirs long before Man, and it will be Theirs long after she has gone.

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2 thoughts on “An Argument For the Case of the Nymphai Poleis

  1. Pingback: Urban Pan « Urban Hellenistos

  2. Pingback: Urban Hellenistos » Blog Archive » So, I was dicking around on Theoi.com a couple days ago….

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