Back in 1930 Edith Hamilton wrote in her classic, The Greek Way:
“The Greeks were not the victims of depression. Greek literature is not done in gray or with a low palette. It is all black and shining white or black and scarlet and gold. The Greeks were keenly aware, terribly aware, of life’s uncertainty and the imminence of death. Over and over again, they emphasize the brevity and the failure of all human endeavor, the swift passing of all that is beautiful and joyful. To Pindar, even as he glorifies the victor in the games, life is ‘a shadow’s dream.’
“But never, not in their darkest moments, do they lose their taste for life. It is always a wonder and a delight, the world a place of beauty, and they themselves rejoicing to be alive in it. Quotations to illustrate this attitude are so numerous, it is hard to make a choice. One might quote all the Greek poems there are, even when they are tragedies.”
And us? How do we in the 21st century view life? Because I have so recently experienced at first hand “life’s uncertainty and the imminence of death” my world is newly drenched in shining colors. Will it last?
Of course the ancient Greeks didn’t have to contend with daily hammer blows from the morning newspaper, endlessly, relentlessly tolling the daily evil, methodically reducing the stuff of our world to a suffocating dark gray pall, let alone with the 24/7 chroniclers of doom, cable television. (Although ironically enough, modern Greeks are right up there in the front lines suffering today’s evils.)
Some reports claim that one in ten Americans suffers from depression. In the new DSM V manual, that Bible of medical diagnosis, sorrow and grief at the loss of a loved one lasting for more than two weeks will be newly defined as symptoms of the gray blanket of clinical depression. Who and what reflects our shining blacks and whites and scarlets and golds to us?
Where do you find your wonder and your delight? What helps you to rejoice in the world, and being alive in it? If we share our treasures, they will surely be increased —