Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Man of Many Turns

I tend to be an Iliad man myself, but at the Claremont Institute website Classics professor Bruce S. Thorton makes the best possible case for the Odyssey: Clever, Enduring Odysseus:
Most important is Homer's insight that what is best and most admirable about human beings is to be found precisely in how we meet the challenges and risks of the hard natural world of pain and suffering. This is a notion intolerable to therapeutic moderns who believe that suffering and hardship are unfair anomalies to be corrected by progress, rather than the immutable limits that help to define us and create the conditions for our nobility and achievement. Odysseus accepted this paradox of human identity, which explains his rejection of Calypso's invitation to remain with her and stay young forever, an offer she spices up by emphasizing the hardship and suffering Odysseus must undergo before he can get home and win back his wife. Odysseus's response is a powerful assertion of the dignity of human life, of the value of living a life of meaning even at the cost of suffering and death:

"And if some god batters me far out on the wine-blue water,
I will endure it, keeping a stubborn spirit inside me,
for already I have suffered much and done much hard work
on the waves and in the fighting. So let this adventure follow."

Here is wisdom that we moderns, dazzled as we are by utopian dreams of a perfect world, need to relearn.

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