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Who cares if the goddess Cura went for a walk near a river and created humankind?

These are the days when we discuss messages printed in the back of jackets to decide how much we care or don’t care about certain issues. However, the debate about caring or not caring is as old as humankind, specially if we are talking about other people, as it is shown in the old example of a brother asking why he should care about his own brother.

Yet, caring, in the sense of being concerned or preoccupied about something, or focusing our attention and resources on something, seems to be a key element in what it means to be human. That’s the lesson we learn from a fable (#220) shared by Hyginus, a Roman writer who live 2000 years ago.

According to the fable, one day the Roman goddess Cura (in English we call her “Care”) went for a walk near a river and, after taking a piece of clay, she decided to create humankind using that clay.

Cura then asked Jupiter to infuse his spirit in the new creature and Jupiter did it. There was then a dispute about what would be the proper name for Cura’s creation. Cura wanted her name to be used. Jupiter and Earth voted for their names because they each contributed with elements for the creation.

The gods decided to talk with Saturn, the oldest of the gods, who decided that, when a person dies, his/her spirit shall return to Jupiter, whom gave it in the first place to the new creature, and the body will return to Earth, for the same reason. And the creature, Saturn said, should be called “human” (homo, in Latin) because it was formed from the soil (humus, in Latin). But, what did Cura get?

In Latin, “cura” means caring, paying attention, feeling concern or anxiety, and even love. “Care” is its proper and usual translation. (“Sorge” is the translation in German.)

Saturn (Chronos, the god of time) decided that, because humans were formed by Cura (Care), then the new being (that is, us) should live every day possessed by Cura. In other words, according to this fable, we have been created in such a way that every day is for us a day of caring (pay attention, feeling anxious or concerned, or being preoccupied.)

Some people say fables are fables and we shouldn’t care about fables in our techno-scientific, globalized, postmodern, narcissistic 21st century world.

Yet, Hyginus’ fable is a testimony that two millennia ago people reflected about the multidimensionality of human life, the temporality of our existence, and the fact that we as long as we are alive, will always experience a level of Care (uneasiness, preoccupation, attention, love.)

Another Roman poet Ovid, contemporary of Hyginus, wrote Metamorphosis in part to explain that humans can become like gods if adopted by a deity. Almost 2000 years later, Frank Kafka wrote his Metamorphosis, this time to explain we are turning into impure monstrosities. But we already know that even without any need of proclaiming it on our backs.

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