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Legacy from the Greeks Legacy from the Greeks
by David Sparenberg
2012-11-13 11:51:48
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The problem with wisdom, if I may say so, is that it represents itself as “utterance complete,” “articulation absolute.”  One commits it to memory.  With a steel stylus wisdom is engraved in the mind; with an iron spike nailed to the heart.  Then, as wisdom intends, it is as firm as the ground you stand on.
Only what does a person do when the ground, beyond the extreme core of values, quakes and falls away?  This is what I think.
Look at Socrates.  If you find his face ugly—some say he was fathered by a satyr—you simply have not looked deep enough.  If you adore him as perfect spiritual beauty, you are looking with only one eye open (and conveniently blind to his shrewish wife).
Open both eyes!  Then you will surf the dark rolling wave of Heraclitus.  And thus, with hindsight as well as foresight and peripherals in play, you might gain in antithetical vision: see yourself, existentially, in context, and always motive between the razor jaws of a great white shark and the shifting sands of an island shore.
In time’s ocean of creation—of fertile chaos and shape-making evolution—wisdom has no place to rest.  You cannot sit cross-legged upon the waters.  You will go under; you will drown.
Rather, out on the deep, as Captain Odysseus had to experience, story matters as well as the charm of telling.  And every prayer, held in common by dolphins, mermaids and seafaring men, is a plea.  And every outcry is a question.
With reference back once more to Socrates—for I am sharing with you here some legacy from the Greeks—the more you know or think you know, in the sage robes of the Academy of Poised Statues, the less you know.  But rather, those who know, or more correctly, embrace their unknowing are closer to asking the unanswerable and living, intimately, the impossible dream.
All of these thoughts, of course, are but clues as to the elusive nature of God and the dialogues of mystery; which loves to hide inside itself, and creation; which is wild, threatening and beckoning; and of God and humanity.  And if not all of humanity, as least between God and Zorba.

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Emanuel Paparella2012-11-13 12:37:31
Ah, Zorba! Much food for thought here. Those insightful comments by David Sparenberg on the paradox that are the ancient Greeks brings me back inevitably to Nietzsche’s considerations on the Apollonian and the Dyonisiac. He is perhaps is the first one to point out that the Greeks were masters of rationality but they also expressed powerful emotions via their tragedy. Did Nietzsche really go mad or did he simply choose to express the Dyonisian aspect of philosophical speculation at the end of his life? One wonders. Paradoxically the Apollonian world of Kazantzakis and Basil is expressed rationally in literature via a novel, while the existential Dionysian world of Zorba is expressed emotionally via music and dance. For that a film and a great actor (Anthony Quinn) was needed. The novel and the film complement each other harmoniously for a brief time in both novel and film via that powerful final scene when the two protagonists, Zorba and Basil dance together despite the catastrophic collapse of Zorba’s sluice. This is the material from which myths are made and myths tell us more about existential reality than rational discourse. Plato has several of them in his dialogues. Could Socrates himself have been a myth of sort largely invented by Plato? One wonders.

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