Helen

Today’s random topics – dogs, the Halo Effect, Helen of Troy.

Recently, I took home yet another stray dog. He was running into traffic and looking for trouble, so it was easy to tell myself I was doing the right thing. I like to think of myself as a dog humanitarian (dogitarian?). The truth is, I’m just massively impulsive. I usually do the first thing that occurs to me without thinking about the consequences. Unfortunately, I’m just smart enough to come up with lots of justifications for my impulses. Which makes me a lot like you, and Helen of Troy.


Helen left her husband, Menelaus, for a cheesedick named Paris. This small event led to the ten-year long Trojan war and hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths. Paris was exceptionally good-looking, so obviously, Helen thought he had other admirable qualities. When Helen’s friends called Paris a loser, Helen would say things like, “you don’t know him the way I do,” or “he’s very creative,” or “he’s really smart – really.” Psychologists have studied this phenomenon and it even has a name – “The Halo Effect.”

“At one glance, Hector raked his brother with insults, stinging taunts: ‘Paris, appalling Paris! Our prince of beauty – mad for women, you lure them all to ruin! Would to god you’d never been born… [our enemies] thought you the bravest champion we could field, and just because you’re handsome’…”
Book 3 – The Illiad, Homer

The Halo Effect is our positive prejudice for good-looking people. Studies have shown that physically attractive people are considered more trustworthy, smarter, wiser, and more creative. In fact, one study demonstrated that attractive people are more likely to be found innocent in courts of law than unattractive people. Attractive people also have higher paying jobs than unattractive people.
Anyway, I brought this stray dog home and it attacked my Primary Dog, Rex. Rex was pretty messed up and I felt awful. Just like Helen of Troy, my impulsiveness led to bloody violence. I should have taken the stray directly to the pound. Also, I shouldn’t have lied to myself about my motives. Just like a five year-old, I really wanted to play with the new dog – without thinking about the possible impact on Rex. I’m not a dog humanitarian, I’m a dog slut. Which also makes me like Helen of Troy.

“… I followed your son to Troy, forsaking my marriage bed, my kinsmen and my child, my favorite, now full-grown, and the lovely comradeship of women my own age… whore that I am.”
Book 3 – The Illiad, Homer

The ancient Greeks realized that each man (or woman) is his own worst enemy. People were usually undone by their own impulses, not by anyone else. What does any of this have to do with relationships? Maybe you’re like Helen. Do you ever have trouble admitting that you like someone just because that person is totally hot? Do you ever make up great qualities for a good-looking guy, only to discover later that he never possessed those traits? Just a question. Fortunately for Helen, she realized the error of her ways.

“So, home from the wars! Oh would to god you’d die there, brought down by that great soldier, my husband long ago. And how you used to boast, year in, year out, that you were the better man than fighting Menelaus…”
Book 3 – The Illiad, Homer

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