The Linnet's Wings The Sorrow - Page 49

The Linnet´s Wings Christian world, as in Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” Aphrodite rewards Pygmalion for investing stone with the force of his longing; in our world, Dr. Frankenstein is punished for reaching beyond the world God made. The core Christian statement of this hostility to the gods of the ancient world and their powers appears in 1 Corinthians 13. This magnificent rhapsody by the Apostle Paul celebrates caring (charity; love) above all else. The power of rhetoric, so prized among the ancients, is worth little; speaking “with the tongues of mortals and angels” has no value if caring is absent. “Prophetic powers” and understanding of “all mysteries and all knowledge” is worthless without the humble acceptance that all human knowledge is imperfect and will be eclipsed by revelation. Aggression, self-confidence, and heroic self-assertion are insignificant compared with “faith, hope, and charity.” Christianity celebrates the comfort and stability of the community under God’s law of perfect love, and rejects the assertions of heroic self-seeking, whether the field is war, the arts, the pursuit of knowledge, or pleasure. 10 Were the Greeks religious? They slaughtered prized animals to offer them to these gods (once they stopped sacrificing their children); they made perilous journeys to distant sacred sites; in frenzies, they mutilated their bodies; they built elaborate shrines at great costs, supported a powerful and expensive priesthood; made life choices based upon auguries; and solidified communal values in deeply felt rituals. Is this religion or fairy stories? Sappho's devotional poetry, then, poses serious challenges for us, her late and alien admirers. What does it mean to devote oneself without restraint to Aphrodite? While we hope our political and military leaders are steeped in goodness, we expect them also to be cunning strategists, able to face down the monsters that threaten us. In the creations of our most gifted artists we are offered glimpses of perfection. What does it cost us to respond without limit and the normal orderly protections of moderated desire? How do we imagine respect for a fellow human being who is a daughter, or son, of Aphrodite, Athena, or Hephaistos? In the face of these differences, we are forced to consider what has become of our gods and goddesses. And who are we without them? In the absence of such gods, what things or thoughts or powers can make our unbright earth shine? And how would we worship them? ___ 49