Thursday, September 30, 2004

A Concise History of the Western World

Stuart Greenhouse continues his exceptional blogging on the 'world a letter' today with some fascinating speculations concerning “knowing” that quickly cover the globe of possibility from Milton to the Tao. Not addressing in particular his concerns but still tangential to them, I thought I’d post these thoughts I've put together from some readings on myth and Homer.
1. In the primitive world, mythology was alive and explained the mysteries of the world through ritual and story.

2. Beginning with Homer in the western world, myths became harmonized with the actual world through the actions of mortal heroes.

3. With the written word, these harmonies of myth and man became stationary and unchanging, unlike the ever-shifting worlds of myth. Moreover, these written words could be studied and analyzed,

4. Giving birth to reason. Reason would look at the world without the biases of myth and inquire

5. Leading to science, which codifies the world, further disproving and deflating myth, explaining the physical world and un-explaining mystery.

6. Leaving us ultimately, after all is said and done, with the unknowable but no myth to explain it. Existential man.

7. But at the same time this situation presents the opportunity (the need) to accept the unknowable as eternal mystery, and realize that we are part of that same mystery.

8. The new role of Homer is now left to confront and thereby reveal the unknowable, harmonizing not man and myth, but man and mystery.
I guess this could be viewed as my understanding of the historical role of poetry. I further understand that the road forked after number 6. What path we follow from that point does make all the difference in the world.

4 comments:

Stuart Greenhouse said...

Convincing unfolding-story (i.e. it folds out of itself convincingly naturally and unexpectedly too), the kind of thing you could use as a scaffold (or a frame, based on how you want to do it) for a long poem. Probably the best way to get people talking about it.

Greg said...

Thanks. I've been thinking along those lines: a long poem. Or something like it.

Anny Ballardini said...

I agree with Greg's observation of point 6, and notice that Stuart's point 7 is optimistic. "Fascinating speculations", yes, they are.

Anny Ballardini said...

I agree with Greg's observation of point 6, and notice that Stuart's point 7 is optimistic. "Fascinating speculations", yes, they are.