The "BED OF PROCRUSTES" or "PROCRUSTEAN BED" has become proverbial for arbitrarily - and perhaps ruthlessly - forcing someone or something to fit into an unnatural scheme or pattern.

“I can’t go on,” said Orlando, who had been quieter than usual, as we travelled up the green valley to the Olympic Mountains, towards the honeycomb of caves.  “What do you mean?” I asked.  He sat down on the rock by the roadside, I settled the mules and sat beside him.  “I mean I can’t go on — in the same way.  The things I’ve learned now, they change the picture.  It’s making me unsteady and it’s torment, the old ways of the world.”

Smiling, because I understood this age old problem, I shaded my eyes against the sun and looked at him sitting there all forlorn.  “You seem guilty, haunted by something,” I ventured.  He had changed much, and so had I, but the constant on the journey was change, so it must be.  The unsettling tug of it, the almost taunt of it.  Backwards and forwards, one step forward, two steps back, as they always said.  I wondered how long we would wait, until he was clear again.

A flower became apparent to us, hugging the rock as it did, bright in the sunshine.  Then it spoke.  “Guilt and fear,guilt and fear,” it said, edging closer to the rock to get Orlando’s attention.  My eyes opened wide, and I realised it was a forget-me-not, and it was white.  “Orlando, I think that flower is trying to communicate with you…”

Orlando indulged my feminine promptings with a polite glance in the general direction, humouring me, then saying, “Forget-me-nots are blue, not white.  And the very sight of it just makes it worse.  I mean, how many of those have I unwittingly trampled in my life?  It doesn’t bear thinking about.  Just leave me to my thoughts.”

I wandered away from him, finding an old oak, shading part of the road.  It seemed in a conversational mood too, one of its leaves reaching out to whisper discreetly in my ear.  “The universe is out of balance, and the newspapers are saying it’s all his fault.  He finds the weight too heavy, being of that gender the newspapers are mentioning.”  I thought about this for a moment.  The forget-me-not said he was full of guilt and fear, and the oak was saying he was trampled by headlines.  Not a good note on which to continue a journey such as this, I realised, and said as much to the oak:  “How are we going to fulfil the expectations set for us, with all these unnecessary things?  Useless thoughts, false labels.  I mean, if he was the worst kind, he wouldn’t be on a journey at all.”

The oak agreed wholeheartedly, said I was beginning to make sense, but doubted this sense would come to the doleful mood of Orlando, without a little time under its protective boughs.  And so it was contrived, by way of enchantment, that Orlando would rest awhile, after some bread and cheese from the pack, while I wandered with the mules over and over the green valley, pondering what I had learned.  It was there, by a running stream and yellow flowers, that I saw the chimney remains of an old house, badly built from the beginning, and in ruins now, the wood charred by a fire.  All was as it should be.

 (copyright Imogen Crest 2006.)

Make sure to follow the journey of Imogen Crest and Orlando.


"To that comfortless bed where you'd have them all bound,
As the travellers luckless who fell in the way
Of the old Attic highwayman THESEUS did slay.
Though your voice may sound loud and your thews look immense,
You may fall to the THESEUS—of Free Common Sense!"

“Tyrant more cruel than Procrustes old, Who to his iron-bed by torture fits Their nobler parts, the souls of suffering wits.” 

P for Procrustes

Procrustes was the ancient champion of enforced conformity. In Greek antiquity he was a legendary highwayman who lived in Attica. He had an iron bed which he regarded as the standard of length. Because it just fit him, he concluded that every one should fit it. He stopped every traveler and tied him to the bed. If the person happened to be too short, Procrustes stretched him until he attained the correct length; if he happened to be too long, his legs were cut off until he met the proper requirement. Thus was everyone made identical in size.

Many modern day Procrustes attempt to reduce all to one standard, one way of thinking and acting by forcing us to lie on the Procrustean bed of Multiculturalism, Political Correctness, Moral Relativism and Post-Modernism. These new "stretchers" relentlessly apply their predetermined patterns to shape and control people, arguments and the market place of ideas. They do this through redefining words and concepts, deconstructing Christianity and Western culture, revising history, denying the existence of evil, separating faith and reason, eroding the rule of law, and exalting extreme individualism over duty to others and commitment to Western values.

The spirit of Procrustes abounds in mainstream media reporting, in the education establishment, among politicians of the left and the right, in labor unions, in our judiciary, in Hollywood and the arts, and in the so-called "War on Terror." This corrosive force has done much harm and has to be contained and dealt with before it completely plunges us into a dark age of barbarism. This weblog seeks to emulate Theseus of Greek mythology. However, instead of an axe, this Theseus will wield "Free Common Sense" to oppose the loud "voice" and immense "thews" of the modern day Procrustes.
source: The Bed of Procrustes