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Inspiration

Inspiration
November 30, 2008, 06:30:01 PM
Aeneas, upon waking up to find Ilium being plundered and destroyed by the dishonest Greeks, rallies his men:

~~~~

'"Men! Dear hearts so vainly valiant! If you are set on following one who intends to see the business through to the end, this is the picture: the Gods, by whose grace our kingdom once stood, have washed their hands of us, abandoning shrine and altar; the city you would relieve is ablaze: let us die, let us charge into the battle's heart! Losers have one salvation - to give up all hope of salvation."

So I fired my men with the fury of desperation. Then, just like marauding wolves in a black fog, at a time when their rabid hunger has sent them blindly prowling, and the cubs they have left are waiting at home, their gullets parched, so through the enemy barrage we went as to certain death, we steadily made for the heart of the city, and were engulfed in the black night's ambient shade.

That night! - what words can render its deaths and disaster? What tears can rise to the level of all that was suffered then?'

~~~

If anyone is interested in reading the Aeneid (and you should be), I recommend the Oxford Classics translation. Ancient literature is a great way of realising that humanity isn't always so pathetic. There is a lot to learn from these men and Gods.

Re: Inspiration
March 10, 2011, 08:30:04 PM
  • Civilization seems to be the invention of a species now extinct.


  • Modern man destroys more when he builds than when he destroys.


  • An "ideal society" would be the graveyard of human greatness.


  • In an age in which the media broadcast countless pieces of foolishness, the educated man is defined not by what he knows, but by what he doesn't know.


  • I distrust every idea that doesn't seem obsolete and grotesque to my contemporaries.


  • Many love humanity only in order to forget God with a clear conscience.


  • Philosophy's aim is not to paint new objects but to give their true color to familiar objects.


  • For the myth of a past golden age, present day humanity substitutes the myth of a future plastic age.


  • Many things seem defensible, until we look at their defenders.


  • Total freedom of expression does not compensate for lack of talent.


  • "To be useful to society" is the ambition, or excuse, of a prostitute.


  • Hierarchies are celestial. In hell all are equal.


  • "Taste is relative" is the excuse adopted by those eras that have bad taste.


  • Humanity compensates for the solidity of the buildings it raises, with the fragility of the foundations upon which it builds them.


  • The most notorious aspect of all modern undertakings is the discrepancy between the immensity and complexity of the technical apparatus, and the insignificance of the final product.


  • etc. pp.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994)

http://www.mgilleland.com/ngd.htm
http://zeta.math.utsa.edu/~yxk833/davila.html

Re: Inspiration
March 10, 2011, 11:15:47 PM
Action, dear inactive master, action; there is no other salvation.

The imperishable force which transforms matter into spirit is divine. Each man has within him an element of the divine whirlwind and that is how he can convert bread, water and meat into thought and action. Zorba was right: "Tell me what you do with what you eat and I will tell you who you are! Some men turn their food into fat and manure, some into work and good humor, and others, I'm told, into God."

Two equally steep and bold paths may lead to the same peak. To act as if death does not exist, or to act thinking every minute of death, is perhaps the same thing.

I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else. And all that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart.

The good master desires no greater recompense than this: to form a pupil who surpasses him.

"Life is trouble," Zorba continued. "Death, no. To live-do you know what that means? To undo your belt and look for trouble!"

For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.

Art is, in fact, a magic incantation. Obscure homicidal forces lurk in our entrails, deadly impulses to kill, destroy, hate, dishonor. Then art appears with its sweet piping and delivers us.

The universe for Zorba, as for the first men on earth, was a weighty, intense vision; the stars gilded over him, the sea broke against his temples. He lived the earth, water, the animals and God, without the distorting intervention of reason.

"The world's much faster than we think. We travel, crossing whole countries and seas and yet we've never pushed our noses past the doorstep of our own home."

God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises.

Little by little, everything around me, without changing shape, became a dream. I was happy. Earth and paradise were one. A flower in the fields with a large drop of honey in its center: that was how life appeared to me. And my soul, a wild bee plundering.

I felt deep within me that the highest point a man can attain is not Knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory, but something even greater, more heroic and despairing: Sacred Awe!

"We are little grubs, Zorba, minute grubs on the small leaf of a tremendous tree. This small leaf is the earth. The other leaves are the stars you see moving at night. We make our way on this little leaf examining it anxiously and carefully. We smell it; it smells good or bad to us. We taste it and find it edible. We beat on it and it cries out like a living thing. Some men-the more intrepid ones-reach the edge of the leaf. From there we stretch out, gazing into chaos. We tremble. We guess what a frighting abyss lies beneath us. In the distance we can hear the noise of the other leaves of the tremendous tree, we feel the sap rising from the roots to our leaf and our hearts swell. Bent thus over the awe-inspiring abyss, with all our bodies and all our souls, we tremble with terror. From that moment begins..." I stopped. I wanted to say, "from that moment begins poetry," but Zorba would not have understood. I stopped. "What begins?" asked Zorba's anxious voice. "Why did you stop?" "....begins the great danger, Zorba. Some grow dizzy and delirious, others are afraid; they try to find an answer to strengthen their hearts, and they say: 'God!' Others again, from the edge of the leaf, look over the precipice calmly and bravely and say: "I like it."

"I think, Zorba-but I may be wrong-that there are three kinds of men: those who make it their aim, as they say, to live their lives, eat drink, make love, grow rich, and famous, then come those who make it their aim not to live their own lives but to concern themselves with the lives of all men-they feel that all men are one and they try to enlighten them, to love them as much as they can and to do good to them; finally there are those who aim at living the life of the entire universe-everything, men, animals, trees, stars, we are all one, we are all one substance involved in the same terrible struggle. What struggle?...Turning matter into spirit."

When everything goes wrong, what a joy to test your soul and see if it has endurance and courage!

Luckless man has raised what he thinks is an impassable barrier round his poor little existence. He takes refuge there and tries to bring a little order and security into his life. A little happiness. Everything must follow the beaten track, the sacrosanct routine, and comply with safe and simple rules. Inside this enclosure, fortified against the fierce attacks of the unknown, his petty certainties, crawling about like centipedes, go unchallenged. There is only one formidable enemy, mortally feared and hated: the Great Certainty. Now, this Great Certainty had penetrated the outer walls of my existence and was ready to pounce upon my soul.  

Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba The Greek


Re: Inspiration
April 06, 2011, 09:21:59 PM
  • Civilization seems to be the invention of a species now extinct.


  • Modern man destroys more when he builds than when he destroys.


  • An "ideal society" would be the graveyard of human greatness.


  • In an age in which the media broadcast countless pieces of foolishness, the educated man is defined not by what he knows, but by what he doesn't know.


  • I distrust every idea that doesn't seem obsolete and grotesque to my contemporaries.


  • Many love humanity only in order to forget God with a clear conscience.


  • Philosophy's aim is not to paint new objects but to give their true color to familiar objects.


  • For the myth of a past golden age, present day humanity substitutes the myth of a future plastic age.


  • Many things seem defensible, until we look at their defenders.


  • Total freedom of expression does not compensate for lack of talent.


  • "To be useful to society" is the ambition, or excuse, of a prostitute.


  • Hierarchies are celestial. In hell all are equal.


  • "Taste is relative" is the excuse adopted by those eras that have bad taste.


  • Humanity compensates for the solidity of the buildings it raises, with the fragility of the foundations upon which it builds them.


  • The most notorious aspect of all modern undertakings is the discrepancy between the immensity and complexity of the technical apparatus, and the insignificance of the final product.


  • etc. pp.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994)

http://www.mgilleland.com/ngd.htm
http://zeta.math.utsa.edu/~yxk833/davila.html

Nous, this is awesome. Thanks for the recommendation.

Re: Inspiration
April 06, 2011, 10:00:24 PM
Given the fact that many of this forum's users are literate and erudite, I feel that we should be more forthcoming with regards to books and philosophies that have inspired us. There's a lot of collective intellectual wealth to be shared, and I think that the board would greatly benefit from it. I'll start by including passages from another work by an author that inspires me, Nikos Kazantzakis.

We mortals are the immortals' work battalion. Our blood is red coral, and we build an island over the abyss.

We must leave the earth not like scourged, tearful slaves, but like kings who rise from the table with no further wants, after having eaten and drunk to the full.

It is our duty to set ourselves an end beyond our individual concerns, beyond our convenient, agreeable habits, higher habits, higher than our own selves, and disdaining laughter, hunger, even death to toil day and night to attain that end. No, not to attain it. The self-respecting soul, as soon as he reaches his goal, places it still further away. Not to attain it, but never to halt in the ascent. Only thus does life acquire nobility and oneness.

On those days I felt that human partitions-bodies, brains, and souls-were capable of being demolished, and that humanity might return again, after frightfully bloody wandering, to its primeval, divine oneness. In this condition there is no such thing as "me", "you", or "he"; everything is a unity and this unity is a profound mystic intoxication in which death loses its scythe and ceases to exist.

The Attic landscape does not swagger, does not indulge in rhetoric, does not degenerate into fits, of melodramatic swooning; it says what it has to say with a calm, virile forcefulness. By the simplest means possible it formulates the essential.

Space had been conquered; distinctions between the small and large had vanished. Infinity entered this narrow, magical parallelogram carved our by man, entered leisurely and took its repose there. Time had been conquered as well; the lofty moment had been transformed into eternity. (on the Parthenon)

The minor virtues, I reflected, are much more dangerous than the minor vices.

Each man acquires the stature of the man he wrestles. It pleased me, even if it meant my destruction, to wrestle with God.

Every race and every age gives God its own mask. But behind all the masks, in every age and every race, is always the same never-changing God.

Each day as I walked over the Greek land, I realized more clearly that ancient Greek civilization was not a supernatural flower suspended in mid-air; it was a tree that rooted itself deeply into the earth, consumed mud, and turned this mud into flowers.

The Greeks never served art for its own sake. Beauty always had a purpose: to be of service to life. The ancients wanted their bodies strong and beautiful so that these bodies might be receptacles for balanced, healthy minds. And beyond this-the supreme purpose-so that they might defend the polis.

We have but a single moment at our disposal. Let us transform that moment into eternity. No other form of immortality exists.


Re: Inspiration
April 06, 2011, 10:32:18 PM
But can you reconcile Aeneas' lack of self-motivation and his reliance on the help of the Gods with your philosophy?

(I'm thinking mainly of the Dido episode)

Re: Inspiration
April 06, 2011, 11:30:02 PM
* "Taste is relative" is the excuse adopted by those eras that have bad taste.
This is kind of a chicken egg scenario.  Is this stance adopted to excuse their bad taste, or do they have such bad taste because they've adopted such a stupid framework?  Maybe they're both caused simultaneously by a more fundamental problem?

Re: Inspiration
April 07, 2011, 09:31:01 AM
* "Taste is relative" is the excuse adopted by those eras that have bad taste.
This is kind of a chicken egg scenario.  Is this stance adopted to excuse their bad taste, or do they have such bad taste because they've adopted such a stupid framework?  Maybe they're both caused simultaneously by a more fundamental problem?

When someone wants to conceal bad taste, he has actually understood that it is bad taste. Of which I would not accuse the populace. Dávila is speaking here metaphorically of those who have understood this, but still want to remain in error.

The funny thing to me is that to a certain degree they are right. Taste is something relatively absolute. There is not only one way to have good taste, but thousands. BUT someone with the capacity to see through this relativity will see the absolute within. He would agree that a Mozart piano concerto and a traditional Indian Raga are both tasteful. Or a feathered crown and a turban. Etc.

Now of course, such distictions are lost on the masses. When they bellow "taste is relative" they mean that Lady Gaga's music is as tasteful as Mozart's and a see-through negligee as tasteful as a feathered crown.

I would, however, not say that people are directly responsible for their bad taste; this is partly inbred, partly acquired. Few are intelligent or lucky enough to see an alternative to the relativism which the masses espouse.

Re: Inspiration
April 07, 2011, 01:55:44 PM
But can you reconcile Aeneas' lack of self-motivation and his reliance on the help of the Gods with your philosophy?

(I'm thinking mainly of the Dido episode)

Yes, because it is the personal evolution of the hero which makes the Epic what it is.  Compare Aeneas's character in the first half of the Aeneid with his character in the second half.  By the end of book 12, Aeneas is pretty terrible (in the actual sense of "inspiring terror");

Quote
As soon as his eyes took in the trophy, a memory of cruel grief,

Aeneas, blazing with fury, and terrible in his anger, cried:

‘Shall you be snatched from my grasp, wearing the spoils

of one who was my own? Pallas it is, Pallas, who sacrifices you

with this stroke, and exacts retribution from your guilty blood.’

So saying, burning with rage, he buried his sword deep

in Turnus’s breast: and then Turnus’s limbs grew slack

with death, and his life fled, with a moan, angrily, to the Shades.

Re: Inspiration
April 07, 2011, 04:59:36 PM
I know some might find this a little silly, but nonetheless it is the book that inspired me.

http://www.theforbiddenreligion.com/

Re: Inspiration
April 07, 2011, 10:48:18 PM
But can you reconcile Aeneas' lack of self-motivation and his reliance on the help of the Gods with your philosophy?

(I'm thinking mainly of the Dido episode)

Yes, because it is the personal evolution of the hero which makes the Epic what it is.  Compare Aeneas's character in the first half of the Aeneid with his character in the second half.  By the end of book 12, Aeneas is pretty terrible (in the actual sense of "inspiring terror");

Quote
As soon as his eyes took in the trophy, a memory of cruel grief,

Aeneas, blazing with fury, and terrible in his anger, cried:

‘Shall you be snatched from my grasp, wearing the spoils

of one who was my own? Pallas it is, Pallas, who sacrifices you

with this stroke, and exacts retribution from your guilty blood.’

So saying, burning with rage, he buried his sword deep

in Turnus’s breast: and then Turnus’s limbs grew slack

with death, and his life fled, with a moan, angrily, to the Shades.

Ah fair enough - I never got past book six, all the historical stuff bored me to death/

Re: Inspiration
April 07, 2011, 11:36:30 PM
It's worth ploughing through, just to get to the war between Turnus and Aeneas and their respective clans.  It gets pretty epic (pun intended).