I begin this miscellany post, to round out the month of November (did 2015 go very quickly for all of you as much as it did for me?), with something that I recently read in a book that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with this blog, which wasn’t fantastic (other than for the quotes it gave references to), and which is both not highly recommended by me, nor easily accessible (and it was an unexpected gift–alas, by its author!–recently). Nonetheless, some of the quotes are interesting and worth discussing in a polytheist context, I think, which that original book is most certainly not.
The quote in question comes from Plato’s Protagoras, in which the titular character speaks to Socrates about the apportioning of divine skills and pursuits from the Gods. The quoted section below is from 322a-323c, and the bit I’ve bolded is especially of note to me–it alone was quoted in the alluded-to book, and I decided to pursue it further and give its fuller context (in W. R. M. Lamb’s translation).
And now that man was partaker of a divine portion, he, in the first place, by his nearness of kin to deity, was the only creature that worshipped gods, and set himself to establish altars and holy images; and secondly, he soon was enabled by his skill to articulate speech and words, and to invent dwellings, clothes, sandals, beds, and the foods that are of the earth. Thus far provided, men dwelt separately in the beginning, and cities there were none; so that they were being destroyed by the wild beasts, since these were in all ways stronger than they; and although their skill in handiwork was a sufficient aid in respect of food, in their warfare with the beasts it was defective; for as yet they had no civic art, which includes the art of war. So they sought to band themselves together and secure their lives by founding cities. Now as often as they were banded together they did wrong to one another through the lack of civic art, and thus they began to be scattered again and to perish. So Zeus, fearing that our race was in danger of utter destruction, sent Hermes to bring respect and right among men, to the end that there should be regulation of cities and friendly ties to draw them together. Then Hermes asked Zeus in what manner then was he to give men right and respect: “Am I to deal them out as the arts have been dealt? That dealing was done in such wise that one man possessing medical art is able to treat many ordinary men, and so with the other craftsmen. Am I to place among men right and respect in this way also, or deal them out to all?” “To all,” replied Zeus; “let all have their share: for cities cannot be formed if only a few have a share of these as of other arts. And make thereto a law of my ordaining, that he who cannot partake of respect and right shall die the death as a public pest.” Hence it comes about, Socrates, that people in cities, and especially in Athens, consider it the concern of a few to advise on cases of artistic excellence or good craftsmanship, and if anyone outside the few gives advice they disallow it, as you say, and not without reason, as I think: but when they meet for a consultation on civic art, where they should be guided throughout by justice and good sense, they naturally allow advice from everybody, since it is held that everyone should partake of this excellence, or else that states cannot be. This, Socrates, is the explanation of it. And that you may not think you are mistaken, to show how all men verily believe that everyone partakes of justice and the rest of civic virtue, I can offer yet a further proof. In all other excellences, as you say, when a man professes to be good at flute-playing or any other art in which he has no such skill, they either laugh him to scorn or are annoyed with him, and his people come and reprove him for being so mad: but where justice or any other civic virtue is involved, and they happen to know that a certain person is unjust, if he confesses the truth about his conduct before the public, that truthfulness which in the former arts they would regard as good sense they here call madness. Everyone, they say, should profess to be just, whether he is so or not, and whoever does not make some pretension to justice is mad; since it is held that all without exception must needs partake of it in some way or other, or else not be of human kind.
Take my word for it, then, that they have good reason for admitting everybody as adviser on this virtue, owing to their belief that everyone has some of it; and next, that they do not regard it as natural or spontaneous, but as something taught and acquired after careful preparation by those who acquire it,—
It’s a very benevolent interpretation, that everyone has some knowledge and/or skill in both respect and justice. I’d argue, in agreement with the above, that many who refuse to acknowledge Deities have little if any respect (for Deities, for others, or often for themselves either), and it is perhaps no great surprise that the one who taught respect to humans, according to Protagoras, was Hermes.
I don’t have any witty commentary on this; I only point it out because I think it is very interesting and worth further thought.
Now, for more of the miscellany…
Go and read this RIGHT NOW: a comic by Dylan Edwards called “How I told my grandma I’m transgender.” Dylan Edwards also wrote Transposes, another great graphic novel from Northwest Press.
Here’s an interesting interview with H. Melt on trans poetry.
And, there’s several other links of note at the following Lambda Literary page.
When I do these miscellany posts, there’s almost always something either queer or Irish–and you’ve already had the former, so here’s the latter! This was utter news to me, but interesting at that: an article on Teddy Roosevelt’s role in popularizing Cú Chulainn for American audiences–who knew? I’ll have to see if I can get the article he wrote…hopefully, it’s better than the article written about this, which has several errors of detail in it (alas)…!?!
In the world of physics and astronomy, a rather interesting phenomenon has at last been directly observed: the devouring of a star by a black hole.
And, finally, for some laughs for those who like British comedy, and/or Brian Blessed (!?!):
While he’s damned close to a caricature of the Robert Bly school of “manliness” in so many respects, to parodic and self-parodic extremes, I did laugh very hard during this episode (and so did the audience at particular bits of Sterculinian humor), and I like the color of his shirt. ;)