And if everything we are experiencing has already been lived?
Our daughter decided while attending 4th grade to switch from her International School to a Humanistic Gymnasium, a secondary school in which the classical languages Latin and ancient Greek are taught as the basis of European culture and as part of a comprehensive education. So surprising her decision was for us (and I guess for basically anyone outside Germany), so content is she four years on the road, flourishing in a school stablished in 1529!!!
Reading March Bassets interview to Andrea Marcolongo, an Italian writer, based in Paris and expert in ancient Greece and Rome published in El Pais on April 24, 2023, I could not avert but thinking that after all, my daughter was most probably right.
Ms. Marcolongo who has just published “The Art of Resisting. What the Aeneid teaches us about how to overcome a crisis”, dedicated to the Latin epic poem Aeneid, by Virgil displays in the interview a rare mixture of erudition and passion for Antiquity. She talks about heroism, resilience, mercy, believe and much more.
• For Ms. Marcolongo everything we are experiencing has already been live. The Greeks were the first to investigate the inner world: what we feel, how much we suffer, how we are. From the year 2500 BC to today, everything has changed: technology, religion, the climate. But human nature, no.
• The ancient world is like artificial intelligence, but without being artificial.
• When asked about what did the Ancients have to have been able to “say everything”, especially considering that we are talking about a very limited place: some islands near Athens; and in a very limited time space since the classical period lasts no more than a century; Ms. Marcolongo emphasizes:
o The Ancients had a very human vision of the world.
o A political system in which the democratic man was at the center.
o A philosophical system which ask itself not only whether there is a god or not, or what will happen after death, but tried to give meaning to this life
o There was much less fear of death.
o It was a non-dogmatic world: there were several answers to the same question, not absolute truths.
o And there was a language, ancient Greek, grammatically made for thinking and of little use for doing business. Greek has many abstract nouns and gives the possibility of forming new words to express new ideas.
• Heroism today? For her today, heroism is taking the risk of choosing one's life. In ancient Greece there was no such obsession with success. Heroism did not mean coming first, nor did it mean winning. It was not important to be king or the last of the sailors. The important thing was to be true to himself.
• While Homer's heroes (Hector, Achilles) are total, irrepressible heroes, Virgil’s Aeneas is so different that one has the impression that he is a little less of a hero. He seems more balanced, measured. It is different because it is not his fate that is at stake, but his, his father's, his son's, his community's. He is a social hero.
• And although Aeneas is not particularly religious, he believes. He believes in something. And a large part of his strength comes from his ability to believe. In Ms. Marcolongo owns words “We have lost the feeling of the sacred. We don't believe in anything at all. On one side there is an overabundance of data, artificial intelligence, algorithms, and on the other we do not believe in anything or, even worst, conspiracy theories are developed”. And she adds: “You don't go anywhere without believing in something”.