Since the founding of Western imperial ideology under the Roman emperor Augustus, rulers have advertised their visage to the population in busts and portraiture. The emperor’s face occupies public life as a ubiquitous personification of society, inescapable and unavoidable.
It is one thing to be arrogant, imperious, and full of hubris; this much we certainly share with the Romans. But there is something worse in the American experience (the modern experience), something epitomized in the Garfield story. There comes a point where a society can’t make sense of itself, where there is a huge gulf between the system’s internal logic and the results it produces.
When we promote automatic mass awareness as the means for promoting even the most worthy doctrines, we are leading our fellow human beings into a new kind of Oedipus tragedy — the tragedy of never testing the limits of knowledge and feeling their mighty burn, like children who have grown up with flamethrowers but never touched fire.
It is now the path of the Tao which is genuinely heroic, though at first it seems passive and anti-heroic. As Homer so beautifully showed us, hubris is the path of death, a path which seems brave, but ultimately degrades itself into a sort of universal mutual aggression, into Hobbes’ famous war of all against all. The book of tragic death has been written many times, while the book of life is still obscure and unknown.
Philosophers have long held that the whole is greater than the part, and a philosophical study of computation reveals one sense in which this may be immediately, dramatically true.
What ancient societies saw in terms of externalized divine forces, we can adapt into modern psychodynamics — the Muse is most sensitive layer of the psyche, the natural, unedited voice within us we must be humble enough to hear, but courageous enough to follow.
Today it is popular to make more demands on the media, but I wish that the media would make more demands on us, would present less, be rougher around the edges, and leave more to our study and active interpretation. To invert Wordsworth, the world is too little with us.