Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Degree, Ideas, Shakespeare

The included quotation is from one of my most favorite books -- reviewed multiple times in the Blog, "Ideas Have Consequences",  it is an quotation from Shakespeare as you can see. I've gotten back into trying to understand the bard, with the help of Issac Asimov's Guide To Shakespeare. The reason I'm using that book is because it is very clear to me (and Asimov) that the only people in the modern world that can understand Shakespeare are those that study him AND have a reasonable understanding the historical, legendary, and mythological underpinnings of the works.

Other than the Bible, Shakespeare is one of the biggest creators / interpreters of the meaning that made Western civilization work. His work was intended to appeal to both the common man of his day ("1600 England"),  AND to the aristocracy that funded him. Our problem is that even our (largely technically) "educated" have LESS understanding of Classical Greek and Roman literature than his lower class audience in 1600.

The following quote is included as an "artful means" to make the argument that the chapter it is in opens with ...

"... those who seek to do things in the name of mass are the destroyers in our midst. If society is something that can be understood, it must have structure; if it has structure, it must have hierarchy; against this metaphysical truth, the declamations of the Jacobins break in vain". 

(The Jacobins are the radical reformers of the French Revolution -- the folks with the guillotines) 

Troilus and Cressida, Act I Scene II

O! when degree is shak’d,
Which is the ladder to all high designs,
The enterprise is sick. How could communities,
Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenitive and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark! what discord follows;
each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores,
And make a sop of all this solid globe:
Strength should be lord of imbecility,
And the rude son should strike his father dead:
Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong—

Between whose endless jar justice resides—
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, a universal wolf,

So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce a universal prey,
And last eat up himself. 

The play Troilus and Cressida was written about 1600 but set against the Trojan war (1200 BC) with all the heroes of Homer (850 BC oral, 500 BC written) -- Ulysses, Achilles, Helen of Troy, Agamemnon and sundry references to gods and goddesses and historical references both real and legendary.  Prior to the late 1800's when a German named Heinrich Schliemann went a digging, Troy and the whole story was assumed to be a myth -- but he found it, so historians are sure it is based on history rather than pure mythology.

As you read the Shakespeare and the Greek and Roman mythology for that matter, you see timeless human questions played out -- "the Gods", fate, chance,  betrayal, friendship, love, honor and hatred of parents, children, peoples, order, disorder, etc.

In 1600, they considered the BASICS of a "Classical Education" to know the time of Troy -- 2500 years removed from their time, to be REQUIRED if one was to consider themselves "educated". Even the "peasants" knew more of ancient history than the typical college educated science, humanities, etc "educated person" today.

From the Shakespeare:

"Degree' -- Difference, distinction. Fair lady vs worthless harlot. Immortals vs mortals, etc. Today much of our society screams that "there are no degrees or distinctions" -- all supposed "merit" is "privilege". All outcomes are to be made the same ... "inequality" is the 2nd biggest issue of our time (Climate Change the first).  The Golden State Warriors may as well replace Stephan Curry with any old college player -- there is no such thing as "degree" -- your "betters" have told you so! Fortunately, they have told you there is no such thing as TRUTH either.

"Force should be right, or rather right and wrong" ... might is right. TP has the votes to repeal gender, marriage even life itself for the 60 million unborn dead so far. The gods have spoken!

"Power into will" -- or in Nietzsche, "Will to Power".  All of life CAN be reduced to abolition of degree between "mortals" through will and power. See North Korea today. Remember the USSR or National Socialist Germany. Shakespeare knew all about POWER. Shakespeare had been sponsored by and was friends with Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southhampton, who was aligned with Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex who ended up being executed by Elizabeth I -- in fact, Cressida going bad may have been an allusion to Elizabeth I.

As I now try to parse through Shakespeare I realize yet again the inadequacy of my own knowledge and the height I need to climb to recover even tiny pieces of the wisdom of the ancients. We once KNEW THIS! It was "so simple a child could do it". We had a much greater grasp on what it meant to create and operate a working personal character, family, church, community, culture and nation, but we lost it ... here is a little metaphor from one of the cheesier original Star Treks -- at about 2:30 McCoy has encountered "the teacher" and returning Spock's brain is suddenly doable.

  I covered a bit about our shared plight of having lost the owners manual to the starship of western civilization, grabbed a bottle of pure grain alcohol (we didn't want to try to identify "degree" between beverages), and turned the controls of the starship over to natives from the jungles of the Amazon -- why not? Everyone is equal!

What could go wrong? ... hey, I just met this girl named Pandora. She has a box that seems interesting, so we are going to crack it open tonight and see what is in it. I hope it is "new stuff", new stuff is ALWAYS better -- "progress" you know.

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