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Ancient Demotivation

August 20, 2011


Everyone is aware of or remembers those corny motivational posters that where popular around the office, such as “Persistence: challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful”. Thankfully I never had to work in an office that had those posters plastered around the walls.

Eventually people began to parody them on the internet creating “demotivational posters”. This trend progressed to a point where the black background was used to make the parody posters but it had nothing to do with motivation or demotivation.

However, there are still original demotivation posters around the internet that are meant to create an amusing contrasting message but may also fill the person with despair.

Here’s a couple of demotivation posters I am talking about:

I got an urge to read a collection of ancient fables after a friend mentioned one in his writings. I use to have a book of fables when I was a child, but didn’t care much for them back then apart from the great illustrations depicting animals with clothes etc. Most fables are over 2.5 millennia in age so are in the public domain.

For people who don’t know what fables are here is a good definition from Wikipedia:

“A fable is a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures,  plants,  inanimate objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized (given human qualities), and that illustrates a moral lesson (a “moral”), which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim. It’s like a parable but with animals.”

What does that have to do with demotivational posters I mentioned in the beginning of my post? One fable when reading caught my eye that would have been an ancient version of the demotivational posters. The particular fable is attributed to Phaedrus (15 BC – AD 50), Roman fabulist, who was probably also a slave. But a lot of his fables are derived from more ancient traditions going back to Aesop who lived in the 6th century B.C.

Anyway here’s the fable translated by Laura Gibbs

It is not enough that a man who is born under an unlucky star leads an unhappy life: the bitter affliction of his fate pursues him even after he is dead.

The Galli, those priests of the goddess Cybebe, used a donkey to carry their luggage when they went around begging for alms. When their donkey finally died, overcome by work and the whip, they stripped his hide and made themselves some tambourines. When someone asked them what they had done with their darling donkey, the priests replied, ‘He thought that once he died he would get some rest, but he keeps on getting beaten just the same!’

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