Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Studliness, Arete and Writing.

Achill - Max Slevogt

I have an awesome Western Civ professor. I have heard him refer to Xerxes, King David, Sappho, Socrates and St. Perpetua as 'Studly'. I will not comment on his use of a term generally reserved for a male horse on female historical characters--I am too tactful for that sort of thing. Usually, when he refers to 'studliness' he refers to a concept of general toughness. Cruder internet folk might have called this concept 'badass', but the ancient Greeks, who were refined internet folk, called it arete. 

We have a notion of being the best you can. This stems from the Greek arete, the idea of achieving excellency in every way possible. Arete donated a very helpful idea to the culture-- it proposed that writing is neither simply self expression, nor is it just a record. Writing is an art--and the very roots of that word tie into arete. We have to develop our writing to an expertise--a dynamic skill that we improve with practice.

Often we take this for granted, but back in the day, the idea of pursuing something so fully spread like the Plague: hardening writing and thought as it went. Since then its power fluctuated; for example-- it died a little when Rome fell, and resurged in the Renaissance. Over the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries we've killed it yet again as we allowed our culture's trust in absolute truth to decay. The advent of electronics shortened our patience and nipped our willingness to work. We need to protect (or restore) excellence, and in doing so, become excellent ourselves.

So that's your history lesson for the day.

1 comment:

  1. I see the warrior in the picture is using his left hand...