There be dragons!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Looking into the Abyss

I found an interesting passage in Euripides' "Women of Troy" yesterday where Hecabe laments how she now sees "...the cold abyss of truth" (Vellacott). This abyss seems to parallel the abyss from whence emerge Erebos and Night as mentioned in Hesiod's Theognis. It also is a striking parallel to the abyss over which moves the ruha of YHWH at the beginning of Genesis. It is the same abyss described by Goethe and Kierkegaard and Melville and John Paul II. What is most striking is that, given the syntax of Hecabe's realisation, truth comes from that abyss just as creation comes from the abyss of the waters. Is Euripides (like the other great writers) suggesting that our existence hovers over an abyss? That at the heart of things there is a darkness? Or is he suggesting that the experience of the abyss is necessary for wisdom (a la Job)? Or is the suggestion that the abyss separating man from the truth of God, separating Augustine from belief, separating Gatsby from Daisy, is so vast that we can't always see clearly that there even is another side to which we might strive. Thence comes sorrow, grief and despair.
I'm reminded, though of two cultural references; Apocalypse Now "Never get off the freakin' boat" - don't abandon the craft when you lose sight of the farther shore. Gattaca "I never left anything for the return journey" - striving for that ever receding Ausonian shore with every ounce of our being and not saving anything for getting back to normality. Is that what Hecabe is experiencing? And does that mean that true wisdom ONLY comes after draining dry the cup of suffering?


  1. "does that mean that true wisdom ONLY comes after draining dry the cup of suffering?"
    - I should hope not, but what I hope for and what is ain't always the same. If that is true, though, then who can have true wisdom? Nobody I know, except maybe....
    I 'll think more about it later. Too much work right now!

  2. Maybe you're already draining that cup of suffering through the work you're doing. I don't know if suffering has to be death. Death is an extreme, but there are lots of little deaths before Death and each seems to teach some modicum of wisdom. Paradox; to die is to receive the ultimate in wisdom... but you're dead so what good does it do?

  3. Ah, of course, one can have bits and pieces of true wisdom, each gained through some bit of suffering. Step by step, not all at once.
    But then comes the concept of "infinite wisdom." Ooh, now things are getting tricky! When one dies, they totally drain the cup, recieving the "ultimate in wisdom," which is infinite in nature. Perhaps that's what good it does. The ultimate in wisdom cannot be contained by death, because it is infinite.