story · The Good Life

Classical Gifts

In learned, modern hands

Sacred texts, myths are transformed

Thank a classicist

 

Yesterday, I cited the excellent writer J.R.R.Tolkien and the line that has accompanied me ever since I first encountered it in his Lord of the Rings stories: “All that is gold does not glitter/Not all those who wander are lost.”

J.R.R.Tolkien was a classicist. Classicists are those intrepid souls who are expert in ancient Greek and Roman art, literature, culture, language, and/or architecture. They have never been a majority among us, but make powerful, lasting impacts on how we live, work, and play as well as how we think and feel about the lives that we live. Those who stand with one foot firmly planted in the classics and the other in our now contribute depth, breadth, and perspective that we can use to ground our own lives.

Without classicists, there would be no Harry Potter, no Narnia, no hobbits and Middle-earth to enchant, enthrall, and provide enduring foundations for video games, action heroes, and other stories. Our world of work and leisure would be that much weaker, darker, and daunting without them.

In the Middle Ages, groundbreaking creativity in the sciences and art was described by some as present-day dwarves riding on the shoulders of past giants. Bernard of Chartres (12th century) is credited with developing the original concept of finding truth by building upon past discoveries. Centuries later, Isaac Newton wrote “…If I have seen further it is by standing on the sholders [sic] of Giants.”

Centuries after Newton, T.S.Eliot wrote “We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.”

Thank a classicist for building on the concepts of the past, riding on the shoulders of giants, and guiding us in our own wanders to find our ways home.

 

Minds and hearts thrilled by

Hogwarts, Narnia, Frodo

Create wondrous new

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2 thoughts on “Classical Gifts

  1. A profound piece with much to think about. I guess, in all things, we are – or should be – building on the discoveries, inspiration, and lessons (both hard and uplifting) of the past. In too many ways, our memories are short, our concerns too rooted in right now….and so, wars continue and we plunder the wonders of our planet. Hmmm..I took your wonderful tribute to the classics and swerved to the negative…ah well. The measure of a piece is it’s ability to provoke thought….and yours did! XXOO

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    1. Thank you — it was prompted by reading a novel about a start-up gone horribly wrong…and the things that went sideways are exactly the same things that we watched go sideways in the 1980s and 1990s…..hubris, tragedy, comedy, all encompassed beautifully.

      Like

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