Jack wrote this December 25, 2005:
Hope all of you are getting the cobwebs out of your punkin heads sufficiently to maximize whatever joy a person gets out of sitting around a Christmas tree unwrapping packages.
I overslept here, didn’t wake until dawn. Maybe some of this Christmas spirit thing rubbed off on me and disrupted my routines. Nice morning. Quiet outside, cool, but not a shock to hit you when you climb out from under the covers or hit you in the face when you venture outside.
A red dawn. Sailorman would be concerned about that, I expect.
Last night the cats refused to keep me entertained, so I began reading H. D. F. Kitto’s, The Greeks. It’s a book I’ve read before, but I occasionally read it again as a refresher course. Kitto’s work is a fairly expansive treatise on life in Greece during the Classical Period, but he constantly jumps backward so’s to demonstrate how they got where they were and why.
Those Classical Greeks are worth the effort of remembering about. They’re as much how we got where we are as Homer, the Dorians, the Minoans are how they came to be what they were. We owe our ability to think in particularly organized ways to them, mathematics, philosophy, their practical use of democracy, even our concept of drama to some extent.
But we in the West also owe the curse of the Utopian Ideal to their pointy little heads.
That Utopian Ideal has haunted us every since, even though the Greeks, themselves never actually believed in it. They knew perfectly well that human beings are fundamentally flawed in ways that assure they’ll poison their own watering holes, then run them dry. They knew that wherever human weakness fails to do the trick, fate, or the Gods will step in to lend a hand.
Those Greeks studied Homer much the way really devout Christians study the Old Testament. And Homer, whatever else it might be, is a refined catalog of human strengths and weaknesses. Of the drumbeat repetition of human experience.
In their own way, the Greeks were experts on a few thousand years of history in ways we aren’t. They learned from it, not as we believe we’ve learned from it, but haven’t, but rather as an assurance that human beings make the same mistakes over and over. That they’ll go on making them as long as there’s a human being left to do the job.
The Greeks derived a wisdom from their knowledge of history, but the wisdom was an oblique one that provided a separate wisdom….. one that included the certainty there’ll never be any Utopia. Never be any meek inheriting much of anything and holding onto it.
But that’s my premise, not Kitto’s.
I’ve had a couple of days break from the numbers, which I badly needed. I’m thinkng today I’ll get back into the harness.
Best to all of you.
I hope you’ll spend a bit of time remembering what Christmas was supposed to be the anniversary of the beginning of. Not baby-Jesuses or Santa Clauses, blogsters, but a beginning of a spiritual commitment to peace, love, understanding.
An ideal for breaking the endless cycle of power struggles, killing, worship of gluttony and greed. A beginning for human beings to take responsibility for their own behavior, attitudes and lives.
Christmas. Jesus. A beginning of not being so frightened of everything. So angry. So aggressive and downright rattlesnake ugly mean you want to kill strangers a long way from here who are no threat to you if you’ll leave them alone, and take joy from doing it.
A beginning of having the faith that death is part of human experience, and that isn’t something you have to be so damned cowardly scared of it keeps you furious and wanting to look away at anything at all to take your thoughts away from having to do it.
I hope you’ll remember that for a few moments, blogsters, but I know you won’t.
I ain’t a Utopian.
good one jack rip. merry christmas jeanne. 30 below here in the north no sun but a grandson to brighten the world.
Wonderful news, David, I’m happy for your family.