Friday, January 28, 2011

We Need Old Stories

I've been teaching a class in Greek and Roman literature this year to high school students and have been reminded that human nature has remained pretty constant throughout the generations. While we've made advances in knowledge about the world around us, I'm pretty sure we've lost knowledge about the world within - we no longer know our souls for what they really are.

One of the things that constantly amazes me when I'm looking at the daily news reports is how naive people seem. Even with multiple degrees and years of schooling, many folks miss the simplest truths.

One reality that the Greeks saw that we seem to be unaware of is the concept of hubris, or excessive pride. It's painfully obvious in the plays Oedipus Rex and Antigone that the kings, for all their good intentions, are closed to the counsel of others because they are so sure they have the right perspective. They need to be strong leaders, so they won't consider any change of course. Ultimately, everything they hope to preserve (their good intention) is destroyed because of their pride.

I want my children and my students to read and think about these old stories. They are as current as today's news reports! I pray that they move into adulthood with an accurate and humble view of themselves and an ability to honestly assess situations and people. We need adults who have let go of the magical thinking of childhood, who realize that all the wishing and believing in the world won't make things right. Leadership takes discernment, an ability to make wise choices, a willingness to learn the truth, a cautious approach to making pronouncements, and a determination to persevere in hard times. In a nutshell, it takes humility and hard work. The old stories tell us these things; E-News Tonight can't and won't.

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