Thursday, March 19, 2009

Athens Comes to Mind

"Freedom strictly limited by self-control - that was the idea of Athens at her greatest."

"Free men, independent men, were always worth inexpressibly more than men submissive and controlled."

"Civilization, a much abused word, stands for a high matter quite apart from telephones and electric lights. It is a matter of imponderables, of delight in the things of the mind, of love and beauty, of honor, grace, courtesy, delicate feeling. Where imponderables are the things of first importance, there is the height of civilization, and if, at the same time, the power to act exists unimpaired, human life has reached a level seldom attained and very seldom surpassed. Few individuals are capable of the achievement; periods of history which have produced such men in sufficient numbers to stamp their age are rare indeed."

Such was the brief Golden Age of Athens, which as best I can tell spanned years equal to that of my life so far.

Then, things went south.

"Solon, too great and too good to want power for himself...saw that power worked out in evil and that greed was its source and its strength. 'Men are driven on by greed to win wealth in unrighteous ways,' he wrote, 'and he who has most wealth always covets twice as much.' Of power he said, 'Powerful men pull the city down.'"

"The cause of all these evils was the desire for power which greed and ambition inspire." Thucydides III, 83

"Thucydides saw that the foundation stone of all morality, the regard for the rights of others, had crumbled and fallen away."

And thus began the downfall of the Greek Way.

Glorious that The Golden Age had its moment in the sun. Tragic that is was too brief.

I see our country's strengths and weaknesses mirrored in the pages of history. Of course. History repeats itself, right? But I thought we studied the lessons of days gone by so that we wouldn't repeat the errors and would benefit from the experiences of others. To study is not necessarily to learn.

To take a broad view, to stand back and observe, to lend a hand where I may, to live my life with honor and authenticity, to be unafraid of unfolding events in the trust that the hand of God cups them still, this is the way of wisdom and peace.

I think.

Processing continues...

(All quotes from The Greek Way, by Edith Hamilton)

3 comments:

deanna said...

Hey, I may see you this evening, and we might talk a bit about your thoughts here. Sobering...

Cherie said...

We did indeed enjoy the play together, didn't we, Deanna, and talked a bit about Ancient Greece, too.

Thanks for snapping the photo of the six of us!

tshsmom said...

Human nature can foul up anything. There will always be greedy or power-mad individuals who care nothing for the common good. Instant personal gratification is all they desire. Wall Street comes to mind...

Historians say that a democratic society rarely lasts 200 years. Our country has passed its expiration date. Maybe that's why most public schools don't teach history anymore?