One weird mythological punishment for cannibalism, reborn as a dieting fad!
In an ancient Greek myth, King Tantalus was condemned to spend his time in the Underworld starving in a garden with a tree filled with fruit—however, any time Tantalus attempted to grab a fruit, the tree branch would bend just out of reach, preventing Tantalus from acquiring the delicious fruit.
(In case you are feeling sorry for him, the crime he committed was serving his own son as a dish at a cannibalistic dinner party.)
Presumably you have not done anything like this, but you can still benefit from the lessons of this myth to get in shape for swimsuit season!
Extremely easy access to food is a relatively new historical phenomenon that has resulted in extremely high rates of obesity in industrialized nations.
Perhaps we can partially address this problem by re-imagining traditional ideas about food storage.
Fig 1: A standard Western kitchen. Food is within easy reach in the cupboards or fridge. Casual snacking is inescapable.
Fig 2: The “Tantalus Tree” kitchen replaces all food storage areas with platters held up by movable tree arms. Additionally, the tree has a horrifying eyeball (center) that constantly tracks the user. This is a crucial element, since the food is normally stored within arms’s reach—the eyeball needs to figure out exactly where the user is, so that it can raise a branch and move the food beyond the user’s reach at the last second.
Fig 3: If the user attempts to reach for a piece of food (blue hand at left), the tree whisks it out of their reach (right), causing the hungry kitchen-dweller to grasp uselessly at empty air. Woe! But good for burning calories. Perhaps the tree would eventually take pity on the user, given sufficient determination on the snacker’s part.
Haul your fridge to the dump and remove all the cabinets from your kitchen immediately!
PROS: Inevitably become svelte and strong with all the jumping in the air you’ll have to do in order to reach enough food to survive.
CONS: It is unclear what it says about our society that an ancient punishment for cannibalism may now be considered a reasonable kitchen appliance.