Thursday, February 25, 2010
Playthings of the Gods
As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods:
They kill us for their sport.
How should this be? Bad is the trade that must play fool to sorrow
Ang'ring itself and others..
(King Lear Act IV Scene 1)
We may imagine that each of us living creatures is a puppet made by the gods, possibly as a plaything, or possibly with some more serious purpose. That, indeed, is more than we can tell, but one thing is certain. These interior states of fear or confidence- the result of the unwise and conflicting counselors of pleasure and pain- are, so to say, the cords, or strings, by which we are worked; they are opposed to one another, and pull us in opposite directions, and therein lies the division of virtue from vice. A man must always yield to one of these tensions without resistance, but pull against all the other strings- ought to yield, that is, to that golden and hallowed drawing of judgment which goes by the name of the public law of the city. The others are hard and iron-like, it soft, as befits gold, whereas they resemble various substances. So a man must always cooperate with the noble drawing of the law, for judgment, though a noble thing, is as gentle and free from violence as noble, whence its drawing needs supporters, if the gold within us is to prevail over the other stuff. In this wise our moral fable of the human puppets will find its fulfillment.
( Plato. Laws 1 644d)
Search, for some thoughts, thine own suggesting mind
And others, dictated by heavenly powers,
Shall rise spontaneous in the needful hour.
For nought unprosperous shall thy ways attend,
Born with good omens, and with heaven thy friend.
(Odyssey, 3.26 sq.)