No half measures!

During discussion around Odeipus’ guilt I found it interesting when it was suggested that Oedipus was guilty of criminal negligence (I’m very sorry I don’t remember whose idea this was). I found this to be a very compelling argument because in my mind, Oedipus doesn’t do nearly enough to prevent the horrible prophecy from coming true.

It might be arrogant for me to think that Oedipus could have done anything to prevent his dark destiny, but I would argue that it is far more arrogant for him to take such small steps in avoiding it. Indeed the only way he tries to prevent the prophecy from coming true is to move away from his hometown. For a man as supposedly smart as Oedipus, this seems like a rather feeble attempt to thwart the will of the gods. He didn’t even  receive a vague ” Your future holds great peril”-esque prophecy. He was told exactly what would happen and as such should have taken the necessary steps to avoid it.

If, while working at an airport, you get a message that a specific plane will explode that day, it would be reasonable to cancel the flight. If at that point Zeus sends a lightning bolt to destroy your plane while it’s on land then no one would hold you responsible. If however you take the Oedipal route and only give the plane an extra 5 minute spot check, and the plane explodes in flight, you would clearly be to blame.

As the unlucky recipient of an incest prophecy it might just be a good idea to avoid sex. Now if this is too tall a task perhaps Oedipus could have at least confined his romantic pursuits to women who were less than 10 years his senior or perhaps even younger than himself. This would be less foolproof though as the greek gods wouldn’t have had much of a problem making a woman appear younger. Nevertheless it would probably be more effective than a zip code change.

In a similar vein, not killing men old enough to be your father, or even avoiding murder altogether would be a great way to avoid patricide.

Even in a world where godly intervention is commonplace, human beings have a responsibility to avoid causing bad things to happen. If and when their efforts fail they can curse the gods and lament their misfortune but in order to do so they first have to put in an honest effort to prevent it.

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