Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Feeling Loudly

Earlier times may not have understood it any better than we do, but they weren't as embarrassed to name it: the life force or spark thought close to divine. It is not. Instead, it's something that makes those who have it fully human, and those who don't look like sleep walkers... It isn't enough to make someone heroic, but without it any hero will be forgotten. Rousseau called it force of soul; Arendt called it love of the world. It's the foundation of Eros; you may call it charisma.

Is it a gift of the gods, or something that has to be earned? Watching such people, you will sense it's both: given like perfect pitch, or grace, that no one can deserve or strive for, and captured like the greatest of prizes it is. Having it makes people think more, see more, feel more. More intensely, more keenly, more loudly if you like; but not more in the way of the gods. On the contrary, next to heroes like Odysseus and Penelope, the gods seem oddly flat. They are bigger, of course, and they live forever, but their presence seems diminished...The gods of The Odyssey aren't alive, just immortal; and with immortality most of the qualities we cherish become pointless. Withing nothing to risk, the gods need no courage.