April 28, 2008


...a return to semi regular blogging (perhaps not).

The wisdom of the religious imagination: It's all poppycock, ultimately, but there are qualitative differences. The Greeks, I think, were the smartest of all--their theology is at least plausible, flexible, unlikely to be frozen in a text (as if purely human language could express infinity).

I began to suspect this some time ago, but the prejudices of youth are often difficult to overcome. We are taught as children (at least in the United States, or at least I was as a grade schooler in the early '70s, again as a junior high school student in the mid-70s, and as a high school student in the late '70s and early '80s) that the Greeks didn't really believe their myths (after all, Socrates didn't). Compared to the sophisticated Judeo-Christian poppyco--er, theology--Greek notions of gods personifying qualities, gods who are every bit as prone to human weaknesses like jealousy and vanity, but also capable of great passion and courage; they can be humbled and feel pain. I recall my teachers pointing out that, unlike the timeless classics of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Greeks had several different, contradictory versions of the same story (as if Judaism, Christianity and, for that matter, Islam, all didn't offer differing versions of the significance of the same fictional story).

Now -- think of how much more sophisticated the Greeks were. Take the subject of love. We are either to regard the romantic version as something sinful unless it is regulated through the rites of marriage, whereas the parental version is viewed as always being beneficial (indeed, it's the paradigm from which the whole Judeo-Christian-Islamic relationship between worshipper and worshipped--with the former being perpetual children to the latter).

For the Greeks, Eros could be destructive but also drove change and maturation. Storge, who personified parental love, could be both nurturing and smothering. The approach is far more sophisticated -- and far more believable.

Posted by Ideofact at April 28, 2008 12:24 AM