Monday, August 29, 2011

"Suddenly, Greek gods can be just as interesting and relevant as real people"

A Metafilter thread today led me to this passage from the novel Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson, that deals with the continuing relevance and power of Greek mythology to the modern world. An extract:
"Okay. So the Athena that you honor on your medallion isn't a supernatural being--"

"--who lives on a mountain in Greece, et cetera, but rather whatever entity, pattern, trend, what-have-you that, when perceived by ancient Greek people, and filtered through their perceptual machinery and their pagan worldview, produced the internal mental representation that they dubbed Athena. The distinction being important because Athena-the supernatural-chick-with-the-helmet is of course nonexistent, but 'Athena' the external-generator-of-the-internal-representation-dubbed-Athena-by-the-ancient-Greeks must have existed back then, or if she existed back then, the chances are excellent that she exists now, and if all that is the case, then whatever ideas the ancient Greeks (who, though utter shitheads in many ways, were terrifyingly intelligent people) had about her are probably quite valid."
It goes on from there and is thought-provoking. A nice thing to read as the San Francisco Olympians Festival draws nearer.

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