|more Bacchanalia... (a response to Dorothy's recent post on her livejournal)
||[Feb. 27th, 2005|10:39 pm]
Okay Dorothy, let's address your points (and they were well made, kudos for that) one by one:
1. Title: "An ode to Dionysos".-------- You don't seem to grasp the connotations this title has, so let me lay them out for you. There is a play by Euripides called "Bacchae" in which various violent (and highly disturbing) acts are committed by intoxicated Maenads in the service of the cult of Dionysos. Dionysos, in the Athenian high classical sense, and in fact, in the Archaic/ Homeric sense as well, was portrayed as a DANGEROUS god to be appeased, a force that was capable of destroying the core of one's rational self. In Greek society, especially in the Platonic ideal, "ontos" (the germ of self, the essence), and "logos" (reason) were the two essential elements of man. The fact that a drunken spree in the service of Dionysos could erase awareness of these elements scared Euripides and his counterparts. An ode to Dionysos was twofold-- the manic pleasure of wine, perhaps, but also its association with death and bloodshed, with feral inhumanity.
Sure the Greeks liked their wine, in the broadest of senses, but above all they favored moderation in all things (recall the chorus of the Oresteia here!). Wine in the Greek sense was not wine as we know it today. It was often diluted with water at a ratio set by the symposiarch in order to keep everyone from getting too inebriated for good discourse (Plato's Symposium serves as a good example of this custom). Drinking at high school parties has no such lofty aim, no such aspirations toward purpose.
Moral of the story: Don't go invoking the Greeks on me. They're more nuanced than you realise-- and you blame me for making generalisations!
2. Quote from Ovid: "Wine gives courage and makes men more apt for passion. ~Ovid".-------- Quick question: have you read Ovid? I have, in English and Latin, and let me tell you, the man does not whitewash, particularly not about passion. It is passion in Ovid that leads Apollo to attempt to rape Daphne, it is passion (and rotten luck) that leads to the untimely deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe. The term "passion" in Ovid does not always have cheeky connotations. While Ovid, as well as I, recognise that wine can be fun if used properly, we both know that it can be inane and disastrous too.
Moral of the story: Enjoy classical hedonism, but don't appropriate it for your posts without knowing the sources you're citing. Remember, I've spent the past four years of my life trying to understand the classical mindset and tradition. I've read the major authors, many in their original languages. So don't presume to lecture me on them.
3. “no life is not a Hemmingway novel.”------ If you’re going to cite an author, spell his name right. Hemingway! And do you not recall the fate of the unfortunate Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises? Hemingway may have been an alcoholic, but he too recognized the nasty end that drinking to excess in combination with a heady whirlwind of social activity can bring. Just because he drank doesn’t mean he thought all alcohol consumption was hunky-dory.
4. “By acting self righteous its saying you are judging us for drinking. Jumping to conclusions without having experienced half of it.”--------- I’m not judging you, or prescribing actions for you, or setting a so-called “moral standard”. I’m merely explaining why I personally do what I do. As for righteousness, don’t confuse clarity or forcefulness of argumentation for moralistic proscription. I do not, in any way, shape, or form, propose that my approach to drinking be the universal ideal.
As for having to experience something in order to talk about it effectively I ask, did Vergil wander like Aeneas? Did Shakespeare witness the assassination of Julius Caesar? Did Aristotle govern before writing the Politics?
5. “And regardless I have yet to meet a person, with the exception of yourself, that judges character solely by their diction.”---------- I don’t judge character on diction. I just love English, and hope that other people will come to appreciate it too. I like it when people speak well, but I do not dislike people who speak poorly simply by virtue of their vocabularies. That would be shallow.
6. “As far as experiencing life goes, alcohol is apart of life. Has been since the greeks and romans. You know that. That’s fine if you think it will mess with your perception of humanity, but the thing is, you really do not know what it will do, because you’ve never fully experienced it.”------------ Again with invoking the Greeks and Romans as uninformed archetypes! But anyways, I don’t believe there is any such thing as “fully experiencing” the human condition. You can’t do or try everything, it’s a physical (and temporal) impossibility. Discovering one’s humanity isn’t about trying out substances, or sky diving, or vegetable gardening, or anything else. For me, understanding the human experience is about making order out of chaos, questioning the nature of man and the world. Whether or not I’ve tried alcohol is irrelevant, because there will be many, many other things I will never have the chance to do in life. Despite this fundamental and inevitable dearth of complete experience, I can try to understand myself and my species anyway. I have to try—it is my duty as a thinker and a humanist.
7. “This seems long and overdone, and I don’t mean to offend, but the truth is you offended me in your post. You are guilty of generalizing and stereotyping and using those things to judge the character of people, like me. Not cool. “------ I wasn’t judging you Dorothy, or anyone else. Again, I reiterate, I simply laid out my reasons for MY actions. Mine, not anyone else’s, present or future. As for generalizing and stereotyping, I can only say that I attempted to make cogent, specific points, and that some generalization MUST ALWAYS occur when one talks about group actions. I can’t work forward from Aristotelian first principles, so I have to make some assumptions in order to say anything at all. If we were to accept the view that it is invalid to talk in broad categories, then philosophy would lapse into silence. Some generalizations must be made in order to set the stage for intelligent discourse of any kind.*
* See Derrida on the self-consuming nature of theory (in On Grammatology) for some very cool speculation on what philosophy can and cannot say.
Moral of the Greater Story: Your arguments were interesting. Let’s have a dialogue, but keep your emotions out of it. Don’t take my points too personally--ultimately this is an intellectual exercise. Oh, and Dorothy, leave the Greeks to me, ok?