The Mythology of Atlas

NYC: St. Patrick's Cathedral behind Atlas
Image by wallyg via Flickr

“ATLAS was one of the second-generation Titans. He personified the quality of endurance (atlaô). In one tradition, Atlas led the Titanes in a rebellion against Zeus and was condemned to bear the heavens upon his shoulders. In another, he was said to have been appointed guardian of the pillars which held earth and sky asunder. He was also the god who instructed mankind in the art of astronomy, a tool which was used by sailors in navigation and farmers in measuring the seasons. These roles were often combined and Atlas becomes the god who turns the heaven on their axis, causing the stars to revolve.
Herakles encountered the Titan during his quest for the Golden Apples of the Hesperides. He agreed to take the heavens upon his shoulders while Atlas fetched the apples. The hero also slew the Hesperian Drakon, which in vase painting appears as the Titan’s tormentor, and built two great pillars at the ends of the earth, perhaps to relieve the Titan of his labour. In a late myth, Atlas was transformed into the stony Atlas mountain by Perseus using the Gorgon‘s head. The Titan was also the constellation Kneeler.”


Atlas holds a world upon his shoulders. The strain on his face leads me to believe beads of sweat would pop on his forehead if he suddenly turned human. It might have helped if someone had put a pair of shorts on him. Alas, he bears the load alone with his head twisted to the right and a look of concentration lining his face and sightless eyes. Many of us believe we are Atlas and that our world must be born to the bitter end.

An episode of Cross Examine taught me about my “world.” They called it our “script.” Each of us has a script and we hold tightly to that script while saying, “Whatever God wills.” In this episode, I listened to a powerful story of forgiveness and how this family overcame a very difficult time in their life. In short, they were hit at 80 mph by a drunk driver after leaving church one evening. Their daughter’s life changed forever. A six-week coma left her blind, unable to talk, and gaps in her memory. Instead of getting angry, the girl turned to God even in her coma. That family’s world crumpled into debris piles and after a long process emerged into the light victorious. They learned that they aren’t Atlas.

We don’t want to let go of our world. Our world and everyone connected to it become our pet projects. As long as the people connected to us fit into our plans there’s no problem. The moment our world begins to chip and fall a part becomes the moment when we abandon our ideology of, “I’ll follow you anywhere, Lord.” I’ll follow you anywhere as long as it fits my world, my script.

What would happen if Atlas stood and threw his world down the street? His burden would lighten. Afterall, God holds the world in one hand, speaking the seas into existence by one word, and all without sweating or straining. He’s in control and all powerful. The mythology of Atlas doesn’t have to become our reality if we trust God. How tightly are you holding on to your “world?”

Click here to view video:




14 thoughts on “The Mythology of Atlas”

  1. Great post! It is a great relief when the world comes off our backs and we can realize God has had it in His hand from the beginning. It takes trust for sure, but God has always been more capable than us – what freedom there is for us when we see that. God bless 🙂


  2. This is powerful. Love the image of Atlas putting down the world. He doesn’t have to hold it, and neither do we. And the script analogy – perfect. That is exactly what I do! Thanks for this wonderful post.


  3. Beyond holding onto my world too tightly, I know I also take on responsibility that’s not mine. In our office we often remind each other, “That’s not your yard.” when we see each other taking on things we don’t need to. It’s good to let God be God.


  4. What a great visualization of Atlas throwing down the world. I know I hold on to tightly to “my” world also and I have been learning that “I” am not in control and never have been. God is. Thank you for this!


Comments are closed.