Saturday, February 21, 2009

un essaie sur les Grecs anciens...

Well, it's 2am, and here I am. I've been trying to sleep for three hours, but my brain is working overtime for some reason and I just can't stop it! What's more, I'm having tons of great ideas! I've solved numerous problems that popped up throughout the week, made important decisions, and even found inspiration for two creative projects and a video I must produce in the coming week.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my Ancient World class has been mostly focused on Ancient Greece and Rome so far. We've read some really interesting texts; besides the textbook (The Humanistic Tradition by Gloria K. Fiero), I've read Plato's Euthyphro and Apology of Socrates, and will read Plato's Crito and Aristophanes' Clouds next week. The biggest text is The Classical World, a sometimes dry, but overall fascinating investigation of ancient Greek culture; it discusses everything from the concept of pantheism to the role of women and children to a history of the major wars, and of course architecture and the origins of the Olympic Games.

I find it really interesting that the ancient Greeks formed the basis-- I would argue even the canon-- for the Western worldview, standards of beauty, mathematics, philosophy, politics, and literature. Out of all the ancient civilizations, I wonder how the Greeks became so advanced both technologically and socially. What did they have that other civilizations didn't?

I think that what set them apart was virtue. From the information we have about them today, it seems that the Greeks weren't as engulfed in self-interest as, say, the Mesopotamian civilizations. This is reflected in the Greek ruling system: democracy takes into account the good and the interest of the entire group, while monarchy is so blatantly a one-man show. Even though the Greeks' true democracy ultimately failed, the updated models seen in the modern Western world seem to be working okay -- not perfect-- but okay.

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Going back to my temporary insomnia, I've spent the last hour amusing myself by telling stories in all the languages I can think of. Then I got to thinking about it, and realized that what I do for fun is what most people consider homework.

My most recent contemplations all have to do with sources of inspiration -- this is why I mentioned the Greeks. This Ancient World class is having a much larger effect on me than I ever would have thought. I can identify sources of inspiration for the great Greek philosophers and architects that are the same as those which have inspired artists throughout history and even today: rhythm/music, sun/moon/stars/earth, relationships, symmetry/order, etc.

I've always been surprised by music's ability to both calm and soothe as much as invigorate and energize. It's no coincidence that, armed with my iPod, I can run faster and longer now than I ever could as a very fit teenager on the Jr. High cross country team -- a lot of what athletic performance depends on is mental, and music can help sustain a mental state even when a person's physical state is in decline.

But, as much as I love music, language is my primary inspiration. I don't know that I could ever adequately explain why, I just know that I love them! Each new language is a new system, a new code. I remember sitting in church as a little girl and creating new alphabets and writing secret messages in the new alphabets. I created codes and number systems to represent letters and sounds. I was convinced that there had to be more than 26 sounds and tried continuously to make a sound that couldn't be represented by our alphabet. Although I never found one on my own, I was thrilled when I started learning foreign languages and discovered that there are LOTS of other sounds that English fails to employ. So my first theory, (formed as a 7 yr old) was correct....I just wasn't genius enough to prove it on my own.

Here's another reason why I'm enthused by languages: they're entirely practical. Knowing the exact order of the planets in our solar system probably isn't going to be useful on a daily basis, but being able to communicate with fellow humans could really help -- especially if you're lost in a place far away from your home. I just think that languages are so much more practical to learn than most of the useless trivia I spent years reciting in public school. It's definitely proved true in my life, and if globalization continues at this pace, I'd recommend you learn one too! :)

2 comments:

  1. haha...you make me smile & laugh little shirah...i just love you.

    and yes, most people would consider language story-telling homework;).

    love you! shamrocks and leprechans are coming soon to a house near you!

    ;)

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  2. totally unrelated, but i get to have lunch with my very special friend today, yay:)!

    ReplyDelete

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