Friday, January 21, 2005

Nothing new under the sun

For those of you who worry about such things, I point to three interesting quotes:

First, from Wil Durant's The Life of Greece, a discussion of Sparta in ancient Greece:
Weary and fearful of the vulgarity and chaos of democracy, many Greek thinkers took refuge in an idolatry of Spartan order and law.

They could afford to praise Sparta, since they did not have to live in it. They did not feel at close range the selfishness, coldness, and cruelty of the Spartan character; they could not see from the select gentlemen whom they met, or the heroes whom they commemorated from afar, that the Spartan code produced good soldiers and nothing more . . .

. . . while, hardly a day's ride a way, the Athenians were building, out of a thousand injustices and errors, a civilization broad in scope and yet immense in action, open to every new idea and eager for intercourse with the world, tolerant, turbulent, free. . .

In the end, Sparta's narrowness of spirit betrayed even her strength of soul. . . When she fell, all the nations marvelled, but none mourned. Today, among the scanty ruins of that ancient capital, hardly a torso of a fallen pillar survives.

Next, from Adam Smith, a description of a university:
. . . sanctuary in which exploded systems and obsolete prejudices find shelter and protection, after they have been hunted out of every corner of the world."

Finally, from Ecclesiastes chapter 1:
9 What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.

10 Is there anything of which one can say,

"Look! This is something new"?

It was here already, long ago;

it was here before our time.


At 9:35 AM, Blogger Becki said...

I grew up hearing the term "Spartan" thrown around to mean something or someone who was not abundant or even close. Something or someone who was bare or had very little. I really never thought about it until I learned one day that the Spartans use to turn their sons out of their homes at age 7 to live (and try to survive) in the mountainous environment that surrounded their city. Some died, some made it, but imagine what type of people they became. Cruel, indeed. I'm glad their society didn't survive.


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