Monday, January 19, 2009

As solitary as an oyster

I have often joked to anyone within earshot that I have an auto-didactic classical education. And then I laugh. As the sentence is unusually dense and really not very funny, nobody else ever laughs. The benefits of a classical education used to mean that you could converse with other learned persons on weighty topics of great import. But since no one cares about weighty topics of great import, you're left to make jokes about Blake that no one will ever find funny. And to be fair, I can completely understand why. Acting like a pompous git is never very well liked. But what is it that has caused the decline of classical studies? The phasing out of the study of ancient Greek and Latin no doubt played some part, but the myths and stories of antiquity have been translated into the vernacular for at least two centuries now, and the handy-cap of not reading a text in it's original prose doesn't mean that it's tenants and observations are any less relevant.

Andrea: "Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero."
: "No, Andrea: Unhappy is the land that needs a hero."

The above is a passage from Brecht's
Leben des Galilei. I could make the argument that in this trying time of crisis and universal brouhaha, people have no need of heros, but that simply doesn't match up with historical evidence. In crisis, people like stories of heroes. Today, though, we don't have heroes. We have our celebretatum, for whom we clamour for details of their lives and musical choices, but they are never the sort of people who perform "great deeds". Charitible work not withstanding, our celebrites are not heros of renown, but entertainers: singers, actors, dancers. Bards used to tell the stories of heroes. Now, the focus is on the bards themselves.

1 comment:

Jerry Prager said...

We've lived in the age of the anti-hero for some time now, largely because the 'hero' in history started turning into various expressions of sundry distempered ideologies until only the 'all too human' hero was left.