Thursday, December 06, 2007

A snapshot of the daily internal dialectic of a Syrian lover of wisdom


I've been extremely busy recently with coursework but being the expert procrastinator that I am, I've also been sneaking in some Bab al Harathons before going to bed. It's fun, something I don't have a lot time for these years. In this haze of existence that I inhabit until my submission deadline, I hear snippets of news about an NIE report claiming Iran has no nuclear weapons programme - at least since 2003. I also hear things about some circus called Annapolis and for the first time in a while, I don't care to comment about these. It's not through indifference but rather a certain contentness and certainty of purpose as I progress through my various personal objectives. One of these is to get the most out of philosophy and I have a (hopefully) interesting post on knowledge versus belief coming up soon. A Muslim reading Plato finds something intensely familiar and relevant about it and I think it's because of the huge influence of platonic and neo-platonic thought on early philosophy in the region. We shouldn't forget that most of the area spoke either Greek or Persian before Islam arrived on the scene. I haven't dived into Aristotle yet but I heard that at least a very selective interpretation of his thought had a major influence on Islamic thought and subsequently on our "today". I don't agree with people who tell me you don't need to start philosophy from Greece, on the contrary, EVERYTHING starts from there and all the major philosophers who came later owe something to them (Kant is a legend and an exception to this though).


I get crazy thoughts at the strangest times and something occurred to me the other day. People might like reading up on the ancient Greeks - their stories of passion, betrayal, heroism and virtue. Yet they look at the Islamic/Arab (hence unfashionable and reactionary) face of the Middle East and resent it. They seem to think of Ancient Greece as part of the Western world and divorced from this "Orient". I don't see things like that, in fact, I think if there is any part of the world where the "classical" world with it's tempestuous and turbulent energy still exists, it is in fact the Middle East. Violence, virtue and passion whirl together in a frightening and post-modern enactment which sees the same people surrounded by the trappings of life we recognise today, yet somehow, living almost precisely the same way as people may have lived 2000 or more years ago. That other more "advanced" societies don't live this way is not that they have progressed somehow, but rather that they have killed something in the human spirit and chained it down with the anchor of materialism and some ridiculous notion that we are now "ahistorical". A stupid and dangerous belief to hold.

Today it is fashionable to call oneself liberal or socialist or some other thing pertaining to an "ism" - yet for those who see the world through the eyes of a lover of history, they see yet another folly of thought which millions of people follow unquestioningly, an artificial and petty morality of the day which is easy to absorb and ready for consumption. Man (and Woman) is truly, as one writer I can't recall once said, a dwarf with delusions of being a god. It's probably a blessing that disease, strife and death are there to constantly remind us that we will never be in charge.

Sorry for the heavy going post today, but I'm in that deeply reflective mood which often results in either complete rubbish or something interesting. I hope it's been the latter!

2 comments:

ratbert said...

this is really an interesting and excellent point. the west has this bizarre ability to coopt certain parts of the middle east (the holy land, hellenic heritage, etc) as "its own," when as you note, more of the classical philosophy, as well as religious traditions, live on there than in the west.

Wassim said...

Thank you Ratbert and welcome!