Saturday, October 18, 2008

Homer, Shakespeare, and Election 2008

Homer and William Shakespeare have had more influence on my world view than any other writers or thinkers.

Both see the world and reality as in a constant state of flux and see human beings living precarious lives because our ways of perceiving and understanding what's happening in the world are so limited and flawed.

Neither poet puts much stock in empiricism. Both dramatize the senses, especially sight and hearing, as highly unreliable and both dramatize characters acting on what they think they've seen or heard, only to find out their senses betrayed them.

Things are never what they appear.

I'm not a negative person. I am, however, very skeptical.

Homer and Shakespeare's shared vision of mutability and the human inability to understand things very well rings so true to me, I am so deeply skeptical, that I give others as much benefit of the doubt as I can.

Human limitations on knowledge and knowing move me to me lenient with others. I know things are never what they seem to be to me and that the same is true of others. Things are never wha they seem to be to others either.

We muddle through and the miracle is that we do as well as we do.

Daily, I read twenty or more political blogs, trying to understand what's happening in the election of 2008. I enjoy reading the perspectives different newspaper and citizen bloggers have regarding electoral strategies and campaign developments.

I read it all very skeptically. My skepticism is not born of distrust. It's born of Homer and Shakespeare.

I know these experts can't really know what's happening and what's going to happen. They write compelling analyses, make brave forecasts, survey the terrain of key states, and assert what they think has happened and what will happen and, ultimately, which candidate benefits, which is likely to win.

But they don't know.

The image of Odysseus tossed about the winedark sea, seduced by the Sirens, played with by the whims of Poseidon, lured to the Land of Lotus Eaters comes to mind. Odysseus is never sure what's coming next, doesn't know if what he sees and hears is actual, and so must shoulder forward with courage and skepticism.

I don't necessary share Odysseus' courage, but I sure don't know what I can rely on and what's coming next.

It makes me skeptical.

2 comments:

JBelle said...

For me, it's knowing that Act II is just about endless. There will always be another scene that will rend additional information or will change things. Who knew on the 4th of July as we spit watermelon seeds that this election would come down to the economy? Both candidates wanted to run a different campaign; nevertheless, here we are: it's the economy that this election is about and neither candidate is particularly strong in this area. It has been a huge opportunity for both; to step up. To display dazzling leadership. To instill confidence. How each has handled it has been telling, although perhaps not in the manner they might have liked. And I have GOT to reread Homer.

nou weldman said...

Odysseus certainly could not predict the obstacles he was to overcome on his journey, but he knew one thing for sure. He would make it home.

He was at times courageous and skeptical, yes, but his undying virtue was hope.