Monday, November 7, 2016
In the Shadow of the Acropolis
The chapter, “In the Shadow of the Acropolis” is fascinating. Time and time again, in biographies of people who have shaped the history of the world, to characters in books and poems and movies and songs, I’ve seen strivings after glory, after kleos. The idea of living on in stories and statues, of still somehow existing on earth by the imprint you leave behind. I’ve heard this on the smaller scale as well, even with people who aren’t concerned with the idea of being the main character in an epic: “You live on in the hearts of those that love you.” This insipid small scale sentimentality bothers me as much as the ALL-CAPS striving kleos. I have two reasons for this.
First, let’s examine the small scale kleos, the idea that we “live on in the hearts of others.” It’s just dumb. Other people’s memories of us don’t effect our state of being dead (no matter whether we’re in heaven or simply in oblivion). But say it did. That somehow, some part of our being lived on in the memories of others. They’re gonna die too. And their memories could live on in the hearts of others, but mine would now be cut off. Unless mine lived on as a parasite to their memory, or perhaps if it worked like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. So either way you look at it, the small scale kleos is meaningless or eventually becomes so.
Second, we have the epic strivings of kleos. If I want to dedicate all my money to a hospital to help children with cancer, and I want to do that because I’d like my name on the wall, we can all agree that that’s a selfish and shallow goal. My actions can end up helping others, but that is not the intent of them at all. If I become a politician in order to “make my name,” then I’m not going to be an honest or consistent politician; my mind will always be preoccupied with myself. Narcassism also discovers itself to be purposeless. I could make it to a museum, where people go. Large groups of middle-schoolers on field-trips go to museums, and usually make more fun of the exibits than they learn from them. Would this negative reaction to my memory be detrimental to my dead self? If kleos affects e after death, would crude and silly mockery of me cause damage?I find the strivings after glory for glory’s sake to be shallow and prone to actions which aren’t admirable.