Damocles was a courtier to Dionysius II, king of Syracuse, Sicily. One day, he exclaimed how envious he was of the sheer power and authority the king wielded. To Damocles’ surprise, King Dionysius II responded by offering to switch places with him for a day to experience what it is like to be a king. Damocles jumped at this chance and agreed to it immediately.
So Damocles was changed into royal attire and was allowed to sit on an ornate throne. But as he sat on the throne, indulging in the magnificence he was surrounded by, he noticed that Dionysius had arranged for an addition to the throne room. He had arranged for a large sword to be hung above the throne, suspended on a single hair of a horse’s tail. The sword loomed over Damocles’ head, threatening to drop and kill him in an instant at any given moment.
The constant threat of death was too much for Damocles and he quickly begged the king for mercy to leave the throne. He finally understood that with great power, comes great danger around every corner. It was impossible for Damocles to enjoy the luxurious life of a king with a sword above his head.
The allegorical sword may not just be the threat of death. Many of us voluntarily hang a sword above our heads: anxiety for the future, paranoia that something will go wrong and of course, existential dread. How can we possibly be happy with a sword dangling above us? Happiness cannot blossom from a soul drenched in fear.
Look above you: what kind of sword hangs above your head? What is preventing you from being happy?