A little personal writing.

I’m not usually given to posting either anything terribly personal in nature or an assigment here. However, tonight I am feeling both whimsical and curious, so I present to you the following. It is an in-class response to a series of three questions: 1. Evaluate yourself with respect to the three categories of character (piety, temperance, justice). 2. Which are you - a tragic hero or a philistine? 3. Place yourself on the cycle of koros (satiety, excess) > hubris > ate (madness, ruin).

Like I said, this was produced during a class, so it is a little rough and less well-thought out than it should be. Neverthless, perhaps someone will see something in it that strikes their fancy, or ignites a small spark of curiousity. For this time only, since I will never make a “Look how many posts I’ve made!” thread, I will open myself up to questions of a personal nature. Nothing is off limits, though I do ask that you try to use some brain cells if you feel like asking a question. Those with a little background in the humanities will notice not a little tragedy and Nietzsche along the way. I encourage discussion of both, though Nietzsche for the most part goes over my head.

“I have little concept of piety towards the gods. In place of “the gods” there is a sense of history, permanence, and eternity. Oedipus, Pentheus, and Agamemnon never denied the existence of gods, just misunderstood them (especially so in Pentheus’ case). It is entirely possible that I am equally wrong in my conception of what some sort of higher reality is, but at the least I am prepared to admit that error. The tragic heroes acted under a certainty of belief, even if that belief was misguided. I, whether it is correct or not to do so, do not derive certainty from the thing I see as higher in reality.
Temperance and self-control I can handle better. Whereas the heroes fail in moderation on the side of excess, I fail in moderation on the opposite side. Where Oedipus can not recognize where his words are wrong and misguided, I do not recognize where my words are right and have worth. I exercise caution to the detriment of meaningful action, afraid to venture too far. Yet the tragedies always seem concerned with excess, not a lacking. Perhaps a lack of a quality does not make as good a story as does an overabundance; or maybe tragedy, to relate to its crowd, concerns itself more with the one than the other.
Justice is the simplest of the three attributes. There is the Golden Rule: treat others as you would wish to be treated. This describes the ideal state of human interaction. This does not mean that I believe I should treat others kindly in all situations. There have been times where a swift kick in the pants has done a world of good. Criticism is also necessary to aid understanding. In conception, justice is simple. In execution it is of course a nightmare. I would say I’m good at it with respect to those who are playing by the same rules. For those who don’t, who derive their concept of justice from an artificial authority on morals or laws, I’m sure my conduct could seem to be monstrous.
A good near half of me is attempting the role of a tragic hero for reasons amounting to curiosity. The other half is quite happy simply living the physical life until death, at which point it wouldn’t need to worry about anything anyway. The tragic part seeks to understand death beforehand.
Placing myself in the koros>hubris>ate cycle actually sounds like fun; since I could either be fully enveloped into it or standing completely outside of it. I believe I am well outside of the cycle, but that belief could easily be the definition of hubris. I think I have already described my status with regards to koros – I am not in excess of anything except perhaps modesty. I do lack in some areas, though. Where I am timid I could stand to be more adventurous without being in danger of being rash in judgment. This is an internal evaluation and a self-correcting issue. If the least virtuous person was suddenly given the knowledge and ability to be the most, the change in understanding would not be instant. If I am correct in my understanding of an ideal temperance, it might take time to change myself to fit that understanding. Perhaps this idea exhibits an excess of patience (and lack of ambition)? Witness irony at work.
Hubris suffers the same paradox – if I think I lack hubris, does that make me think I am somehow better than anyone else…and therefore hubristic? I don’t think it necessarily does. Teiresias possesses understanding but not hubris, so the one does not automatically lead to the other.
Ate in itself does not seem to me the horror it is made to be. If one truly wishes to understand, this ruin, this destruction of self, however painful, should be welcome, as it is destroying hubris along with possibly other things. Teiresias lives; Oedipus lives. Not all tragedy ends in death. The heroes who embrace understanding, however fearful and awesome they find it, and however miserable they are, outlast the Pentheus’ and Agamemnons. Understanding or death, and death will come regardless. Ate can either be the end of a life (final) or the end of a cycle, after which there is another chance for understanding. This is not redemption. Death will still come. I would still hope I choose understanding, whatever the consequences, though.”

Have at it.

Uh, I have a question.
What rules DO you play by?

I am not entirely sure what you mean by that question. With respect to other people, as I said above, the Golden Rule is the only guide for my actions. Otherwise, the only base for my actions is a sincere belief in honesty. This answer is relevant assuming your question stems from the paragraph about justice.

Hmm, yes, that makes sense to me now.
Good rule.

Anyway, in that case, did you decide upon that straight away, or did you try other stuff first?

I was raised a Roman Catholic, so I grew up attached to that belief system. Shortly after confirmation I began to abandon it, something which took about four years (high school, basically). I read some things about modern humanism, liked what I saw, and attached myself to that. On the dark side, I still craved some sort of supernatural solace, so I looked into things like psychics and out-of-body-experiences while dreaming now and again (freshman year in college). One particularly odious thing I came into contact with was the writings of Sylvia Brown, one of those psychics who show up on talk shows and such. She presents a very hopeful view of the afterlife at once different from Christianity but at the same time similar enough to rope in lost souls who need a source of certainty to be able to live with themselves. After my brief affair with these sources of bullshit, I sought to understand why I desired this sort of supernatural element in my life, and I became the healthy skeptic I am today.

The decision to settle on the Golden Rule as some sort of basis for action isn’t set in stone. I use it simply because it seems to be a common theme running through any number of worldviews, and at the same time is effective in its execution. If I find that there are some problems with the Golden Rule, I will happily abandon it for something more real.