Movie Night, Cassiopeia and Meritocracy

By Mike Bossy

Movie Night
Photo by Ryan Mueller

This past weekend, Jill and I were treated to back-to-back movie nights on our dock. This was a special treat provided by my youngest daughter Gabrielle and my son-in-law Ryan. As a backdrop for the movie, we had, in the sky above the screen, the constellation Cassiopeia and the Milky Way. This enhanced our viewing experience and made it a truly remarkable evening. We even had popcorn! It reminded me of a time when my parents used to load my siblings and me into the family car (likely some kind of parade float) and head to the drive-in. It’s timely with the current resurgence of drive-in popularity.

The constellation got me thinking. The story goes like this: King Cephus’s wife, Cassiopeia was provided a position that was not achieved by merit. She was vain and arrogant to say the least. From there, it was all down hill for her:

Cassiopeia was said to be vain and boastful about her immense beauty, so much so that she claimed to be even more beautiful than the Nereids, the daughters of the sea-god Poseidon. To punish Cassiopeia for her vanity, Poseidon chained Andromeda (Cassiopeia's daughter) to a rock to be devoured by a sea monster.”

Cassiopeia in her chair, as depicted in Urania's Mirror

Cassiopeia always reminds me of what happens when people lead with arrogance and vanity.

Relating to this thought is the idea of merit. I am currently reading a book by Mark Bourrie called Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson. In one of the chapters, the author relates a time when Radisson is held captive by Mohawks. He was accepted into a Mohawk family based upon his courage and abilities. The Iroquois had developed a complicated society, “…a meritocracy, where a person could show their worth and rise from prisoner to a member of the League council…” In this sense, Radisson was able to earn his station in society based on merit rather than the aforementioned story of Cassiopeia.

So how does this all tie together? It’s simple. Strive for achievement based on merit. Use your talents, work hard and do not look for equal results. In Canada, you should only ask for equal opportunity. You then won’t end up like Cassiopeia, anchored to an unfulfilled life.

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