Thursday, December 1, 2011

Schiller you old fool

Lying on the couch, thinking about Schiller. From the poem "Die Götter Griechenlands" (1788):
Da die Götter menschlicher noch waren, waren Menschen göttlicher.
[When the gods were still human-like, humans were more god-like.] 
Staring at the Apollonian head above, I reflect on the line's meaning, and the beauty of Schiller's idea. In his 18th-century Christian/Enlightenment society, the idea of the divine has become abstracted to such an extent as to be only conceivable as a nebulous authoritarian force or a cloudy philosophical concept. When gods took human-form, like the one depicted on the poster above, humans would compare themselves to deities, and be more likely to imitate their actions.
Suddenly I realize the extent of the mistake Winckelmann makes in excluding the Dionysian from his vision of Greece, conceiving of a purely Apollonian, noble, balanced divinity. What does it mean for a person to become more god-like? More like Apollo, or more like Dionysus? More like Athena, or more like Hera? The Greek gods are human, all too human, and it is only with the advent of the Christian tradition that imitation of divinity can be seen as a good thing. Schiller, you old fool, your critique of Christian theology is based on a mistaken image of Greek divinity which is based on Christian divinity itself!
The beauty of the idea falls apart in my hands, but luckily I am able to turn to Lessing, from the Briefwechsel über das Trauerspiel (1756):
Der mitleidigste Mensch ist der beste Mensch.
[The most sympathetic person is the best person.] 
Now this is an idea whose beauty withstands a moment's reflection.

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