Friday, August 17, 2007

Homines maxime homines

I have never found any classical control or proportion in the ancients. They have seemed untame, reckless, uncouth - dare one say - barbaric. Certainly there is much nobility in that wild leap forward, but such narrow nobility: no universal themes of redemption and compassion that our civilization was only infused with by Christianity (and then liberalism). But this said, with the burst of Athens into the world history a theme of emancipation was introduced that has not ever been since silenced. Yes, originally it was interpreted very narrowly, very harshly indeed, in a way almost contradicting itself, but that theme was of nature to rupture any arbitrary boundaries.

So, even with the softening influence Christianity, we are fundamentally still in the same position: recklessly exposed to fate as free individuals, as individuals striving for freedom. That has led in history to similar bloody and cruel dominions and cul-de-sacs as Athens experienced, but our human experience has in any case been dominated by those issues: what is radically new is this note, this promise and hope of emancipation, of reason and self-control. It is dangerous to exalt those barbarian times (remembering poor Friedrich, for example) but they nevertheless constituted a majestic beginning of a great experiment.

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