The Greeks are making a comeback. Or so it seems.
No, I’m not talking about an economic recovery. As far as I know, all the public employees are still on strike. I’m talking about centuries old ideas. Or at least new books about them.
The Classical Tradition, for example, is a new compendium of 563 articles about the classical period, including its heroes, gods and philosophers, as well as articles about their influence—Greek mythology in modern comics, for example.
According to Eric Ormsby’s review in the Wall Street Journal last November, the contributors apparently didn’t take themselves too seriously—and it turns out to be accessible, and even funny at times. How did the ancients know sailors were wicked, anyway? Because they were nautae.
Last month Ormsby reviewed All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age. This would be an effort by two philosophers at Harvard who did take themselves too seriously. They want to portray “Homeric polytheism” as a solution to the “lostness” of the contemporary world.
Shouldn’t be hard. Elizabeth Gilbert, for example, of Eat, Pray, Love fame, says she writes better “when the gods of writing shine upon her.” (Which apparently hasn’t happened yet, but that’s another essay.)
The Harvard guys understand her, though. They “view the ancient Homeric gods as hidden presences still susceptible of invocation.” Wow.
Homeric heroes were open to these gods. They lived in “attentive communities.” And they were at their best when they were “acting in accord with the divine presence, however it may manifest itself. “
This supposedly show how moderns as diverse Herman Meville (Moby Dick) and Lou Gehrig (baseball) were driven by “the imperatives of their heart” and “let some outside force course through them,” an experience the esteemed professors call “wooshing it up.” And I’m not kidding.
They say we need to recover this “worldly kind of sacredness,” and the Greek Parthenon shows us the way. You want to woosh up on Aphrodite this week? Maybe you should, since how we “lost touch with these sacred practices is the hidden history of the West.”
They seem to ignore a lot of history themselves, specifically of Christ and the church, which explains a lot more about Melville than Mars does. Human dignity, women’s right, scientific integrity—all these reflect the work of Christ in the world, generations of people responding to the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
The history of the west isn’t hidden at all.
It’s just ignored.