Sunday, January 13, 2013

15 Degrees of Fire: Ancient Flame

15th Day of 42 out at Sea
 the Jypsy-APL Philippines, first engineer- merchant marine...
Measuring of time in creative degrees


"This association between the human being and the architectural column indicates that the Greeks identified the human being with the characteristics of the column: strong, orderly, proud, erect, beautiful. The column symbolized the human being, while the human being symbolized life, the intellect and the human spirit. 
  Thus, we think of the Greeks dedicating their many-columned temples not only to the Gods, but also to the idea of the human being. The human being was indeed the measure of all things, even of his Gods. And just as each column contributed to the support of the whole structure so each human contributed his support to the whole community. 
Greek theories of virtue are based on the term arete, which means "goodness," "excellence," and "virtue." The goodness or virtue of a thing is that by which it performs its function well. Thus, the function of a knife is to cut; a good, or "virtuous," knife cuts well.  
  Plato argues in The Republic that when reason rules the soul, as is its function, the soul is virtuous; as such, it possesses wisdom, bravery, temperance, and justice. 
  For Aristotle, the ethically virtuous soul habitually chooses its path of action according to a rational mean between two vices. Thus, when faced with a fearful situation, it chooses the mean, which is courage, rather than wallow in an excess of fear, which is a vice called cowardice, or proceed heedlessly and fearlessly, which is rashness. "

The Hero (center) led to the Temple of Virtue (top)
by Athena (left) and Hermes (right),
the three Graces are near (bottom left),
           Rubens (1625). 

The amazing Greek philosophy and theology is the mixture of the two.  The human being is the measure of how the gods have exceeded in their creation.  To honor the human being, with its reason, physical performance, soul, potentials to create, invent and have compassion is to honor the gods.  If you pursue Arete- the virtue, excellence and goodness that is innately within you then you are an embodiment of the highest possible conclusion.  The Greek’s understanding of life with their fate and or tragic view makes death a quality known from the beginning.  They know that the human has a limited path and must stay within the virtue of their qualities.  Thus when faced with hardship, monsters and the such one must be like Odysseus- brave, yet cunning, give thanks to the gods and especially Athena your goddess of wisdom.  This can be a personification of male and female qualities united in one human being.  Odysseus listens to his wisdom, but acts bravely with strength and skill.  Human beings can be everything as Homer and the Greeks show us.  We are divine, yet limited.  We can create great works of art, yet we should know that our inspiration comes from a higher source.  It is a balance of attributes that requires that we do not deny any part of the human being.  If we start to mark ourselves as evil, or born from a wicked union, we are paralyzed by this tainted view of life.  We will live in fear, and are unable to shed this deep feeling of inferiority.  We shall never rise to our potential of creativity, peace, balance living within the mean between the gods and the vices of our limitations.  It is ultimately a quest for the middle path-a temperate way creating harmony towards our fate.  Our fate is death, yet we have such amazing potential.  The question is how do we travel with the knowledge of both of these ideas, and take action.  How do we use our reason and allow the muses to inspire us.  It requires our full human beingness…that is our natural inclination to believe in a higher power, but also our natural tendency to be curious and use our intellect. 

Is it Ironic that I am teaching the Odyssey, with the epic hero Odysseus seducing my every thought?  And my friend the Jypsy traversing the massive N. Pacific in an exaggerated commercial ship.  The Hubris exists of such a ship, thus it is out of balance.  A Greek would be enamored by the creation, yet appalled at the nonharmony and excessive resources it uses.  Now on the other hand they would wonder at the Engineer who must keep the beast going on a second- by- second basis.  They would think it tragic and a comedy.

 Does Jypsy, the first engineer, act with arête, virtue, goodness and excellence?  I am not sure.  I think Jypsy might be a lost Greek, unable to fit into this modern world with its crazy excessive-consuming nature.  Yet his pursuit of excellence is one part that he takes seriously.  If a Greek was well schooled in intellectual knowledge, had skill as an athletic being, and pursued art as in music and other endeavors, then Jypsy might be part Greek.  His awareness on the ship is wide- eyed and nervous.  As in his virtue, that motivation to do the right thing according to Engine room is obvious.  Does Jypsy have too much hubris, pride?  It does not appear this way so far.  The research is still ongoing.  He does not show gratitude to the gods or Athena for his grace in the engine room.  This is our modern position.  We do measure ourselves by exclusively human ideals, yet with this position we are left empty in some parts.  We feel a bit lost on the whole.  It is a battle ongoing to find the medium between scientific life and the nature of inspiration and some mystery that continues to astound us.  We feel something, but we are afraid to cross the threshold to embody our whole potential.  The purpose of the gods is lift man to this height.  If the Greeks teach us anything, it is about the creation of art, architecture that reflects the highest potential of man, but he could not do it without the gods, they show us the way higher.  It could be an illusionary circle, but it is required to move to a higher state of being. 

   Let us as it were celebrate the first God, not as establishing the earth and the heavens, nor as giving subsistence to souls, and the generation of all animals; for he produced these indeed, but among the last of things; but prior to these, let us celebrate him as unfolding into light the whole intelligible and intellectual genus of Gods, together with all the supermundane and mundane divinities - as the God of all Gods, the unity of all unities, and beyond the first adyta [the highest order of intelligibles], - as more ineffable than all silence, and more unknown than all essence, - as holy among the holies, and concealed in the intelligible Gods.  
-From Thomas Taylor's Introduction
to The Theology of Plato by Proclus

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