Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Apollo's CV

Apollo - from Wikipedia

A quote from Santayana's the Life of Reason.

If we consider again, for instance, Apollo’s various attributes and the endless myths connected with his name, we shall find him changing his essence and forgetting to be the material sun in order to become the light of a cultivated spirit. 

At first he is the sky’s child, and has the moon for twin sister. His mother is an impersonation of darkness and mystery. He travels yearly from the hyperborean regions toward the south, and daily he traverses the firmament in a chariot. 

He sleeps in a sea-nymph’s bosom or rises from the dawn’s couch. In all this we see clearly a scarcely figurative description of the material sun and its motions. 

A quasi-scientific fancy spins these fables almost inevitably to fill the vacuum not yet occupied by astronomy. Such myths are indeed compacted out of wonders, not indeed to add wonder to them (for the original and greatest marvel persists always in the sky), but to entertain us with pleasant consideration of them and with their assimilation to our own fine feats. 

This assimilation is unavoidable in a poet ignorant of physics, whom human life must supply with all his vocabulary and similes. 

Santayana was adept at using a literary style to bring out and ram home important philosophical points and in many ways there is nothing more important than this one. Often we are already familiar with what he says, but not in such forceful and elegant language.

The last sentence is the key of course - human life must supply with all his vocabulary and similes. Do we have a complete repertoire of vocabulary and similes? We can't say can we? Literally.

Could we lose part of our verbal and imaginative repertoire through political correctness and the global narrative? Do those who have retained their vocabulary and similes sometimes have difficulty communicating with other people?

Particularly if they live or work in a politically correct environment? 

2 comments:

James Higham said...

A quasi-scientific fancy spins these fables almost inevitably to fill the vacuum not yet occupied by astronomy.

That there is such a vacuum speaks volumes.

A K Haart said...

James - scientists have been too keen to fill them, or journalist too keen to sell them.