All Things Shining

"The world doesn't matter to us the way it used to," say two philosophers who have written a book about the loss of traditional meaning in contemporary secular culture.

The authors' general theme, and lament, is that we are no longer "open to the world." We fall prey either to "manufactured confidence" that sweeps aside all obstacles or to a kind of addictive passivity, typified by "blogs and social networking sites." Both are equally unperceptive. By contrast, the Homeric hero is keenly aware of the outside world; indeed, he has no interior life at all. His emotions are public, and they are shared; he lives in a community of attentiveness. He aspires to what in Greek is termed "areté," not "virtue," as it is usually translated, but that peculiar "excellence" that comes from acting in accord with the divine presence, however it may manifest itself.

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