I’m almost ashamed to be writing this.
Although I’ve been familiar with the great names of our ancient western heritage — names like Homer, Virgil, Plato, Tacitus, Sophocles and many, many others — for pretty much my entire life, I didn’t begin earnestly reading and studying them until after I’d already passed my half-century mark. And me, the degreed historian too! I can recall playing King Agamemnon in a Junior High School class play, though I don’t remember much more than that. And everyone’s read The Iliad, right?
Oh boy — what I’ve been missing…
This treasure-trove of writings by our civilization’s forefathers has now become my playground and passion. Reconnecting with the deep truths of those who invented the standards by which we continue to view the world to this day has certainly been eye-opening. “Discovering” and contemplating the writings of the great stoics like Epictetus, Seneca the Younger and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius made it vividly clear to me that even in the 21st century, the roots of my thoughts and values reach back thousands of years. What a comforting and humbling realization.
I’m really and truly saddened that all this cultural and intellectual richness is being systematically ignored or marginalized in our day and age. Kids are seldom exposed to the classics and the truths they contain, and we are, as a society, becoming disconnected from what makes us, us. As I read somewhere once, in the past 100 years we’ve gone from teaching Latin and Greek in High School to teaching remedial English in College.
And that’s probably the most important thing I take away from studying the classics: we all need to go back to the dim past and drink once again from the original spring that nourished us into eventually becoming who we are today.
© MMXVI Douglas P. Kendrick, all rights reserved.