Daniel in the Book of Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon’s dream. The king dreams of a sculpture made of gold, silver, brass and iron—seemingly strong but flawed because his feet are made of both iron and clay. The clay will cause the sculpture to topple. Recently newspapers talked of Michelangelo’s David and the unexpected weakness of his feet. Feet of Clay has been employed for millenniums to refer to a person’s weakness of character.
Peter Paul Rubens
Today we talk of Achilles Heel as a failing that can cause a powerful figure to perform ineffectively. Greek mythology relates the prophesy that the baby Achilles would die at a young age. Thetis, his mother, took her child to the River Styx, believing its magical powers would shield Achilles from harm. Thetis immersed the baby in the water holding him by his heel—the water bathed every part of his body except his heel—a physical failure. Achilles lived through many battles but during the Trojan War died from a poisoned arrow shot by Paris that become fixed in the one weak spot his mother could not protect.
In folklore, a Golem is created from inanimate matter—clay or mud. Raw material that leads to an unfinished human. It is often employed today to describe someone blundering, and dense who may carry out man’s orders under some conditions but is hostile and destructive under others.
I don’t read many biographies anymore. Bios often show the feet of clay, the Achilles heel, the sometimes destructive artist I had previously respected and admired and I find it affects my enjoyment of their work. It’s hard for me to separate the shallow, often despicable person described in the page of a book from my personal image of the painter, actor, or author whose work I once treasured. Many people can compartmentalize and separate the artist’s work from his or her behavior, I find it difficult. How about you?