1. Humanism
    1. The Challenges of Humanness
      1. Proper posture for humanity is upright and tall
      2. Man as potentially superior to the gods; it is man who must die, it’s only man who can most truly live. Gods are static and unchanging, but humanity possesses the capacity for growth.
      3. Achilles chose the short life of unending fame. Only in that way could he achieve the immortality he had been denied by birth. We all have a weakness we cannot see, but without which we would cease to be human.
      4. Our lives exist in order that we may compete an unfinished task, and it is by that task, that our lives are given meaning whatever the peri. Ulysses could not stay with Calypso because to do would have been to hide from himself, from the self he could be
    2. In Praise of Life: Humanism is the proud affirmation of both our promise and our duty. Greeks celebrated the human enterprise with all of their talent and might in pictures and stories. They expended great time and energy in endowing their pottery and coins with symmetrical form and harmonious decoration.
    3. The Test of Humanism: The modern world provides its own share of challenges; we must decide how we respond to these challenges. Anything humanly conceived, the Greeks are quick to remind us, can be humanly changed.
    4. Practicing Humanism:
      1. Putting humanism into practice requires we define the term accurately. Implicit in "humane" is the notion that there are latent sensibilities in our character that must be cultivated if we are to attain our fullest stature. That task is the moral imperative of our existence.
      2. Humanism thus implies a commitment to the special abilities and talents we possess as human beings. To practical humanism in a personal way means first to look into ourselves to discover the particular abilities and talents that are ours. The second step is to actively apply them to our everyday lives.
      3. In taking the self-assessment, we come to see that our fulfillment as individuals depends, at least in part, on our engagement with the outside world. Becoming fully humane thus means opening ourselves to the needs of other human beings.
      4. "Freedom and life are only earned by those who conquer them each day anew." (Geothe, end of Faust). Until we recognize our own intrinsic worth as human beings we will not make such an effort.
    5. Humanism is a philosophy of limitless possibilities tempered by the fact that we must someday die. It is marked as the tension between these two forces, passionate delight in life, and clear apprehension of its unalterable framework.
  2. Pursuit of Excellence
    1. In the grammar of the Greek universe, humanity was not a noun, but a verb: moving, changing, evolving toward a fuller realization of its inner potential. Humanism implied a dynamic and progressive process of spiritual growth: the pursuit of excellence.
    2. Heroic Code: the compulsion to be the best
    3. From Olympus to Olympia: the Olympic games were really all about showing the gods what human beings were capable of doing if they bent mind and muscle to the task. The Games were meant to honor Zeus by human achievement, energized by the principle that man could best serve the gods by developing his own innate talents, in the process expanding the definition of what it means to be human. This is the inner justification for the Greek pursuit of excellence: the belief that within the human soul is a divine spark, and it is the duty of each of us to fan that spark into a flame.
    4. Wine and Inspiration: the Greeks also revered intellectual competition. Like the drinking of too much wine, the pursuit of excellence does not guarantee a happy outcome. Competitive striving also implied the risk of loss, but the ancient Greeks were congenial risk-takers. Heroism often courts tragedy. This is because the hero's life is a life lived at the outer edge of experience. At such an extremity, success becomes an intoxicant that can cause the individual to lose perspective on his own human limitations and in the end pay a higher price than he would ever have imagined. But to dare less would be to know less and to be less, an alternative the Greek culture rejected.
    5. The Meaning of Excellence: We cannot all be winners, but neither were the Greeks. Winning is not what life asks of us; it asks us to discover those things we are capable of doing well, and then to do them with all our heart and soul. The ancient Greeks never mistook winning for heroism. To be a hero, to pursue excellence, is to be a loving mother, to be a compassionate husband, to do our job well, with honor, integrity, and passion. To do so is to fulfill our finest nature; to do less is to lose our chance to experience the full meaning of being alive.
    6. The Price of Excellence: To pursue excellence, however, inevitably means to encounter frustration (the cruelest punishment of all, to the Greeks). Greek Hell was about being frustrated, not physical torture, because they were a race of achievers. Just being in the land of the dead constituted punishment because nothing could be accomplished there. In its dark and dank environment, the dead dwelt as disembodied ghosts, devoid of substance and purpose. If the price of excellence was frustration in the here and now, it was a price worth paying--without the savor of success the rest would be empty indeed. It is the choice of Achilles, but it is our choice, too, individually and collectively, to wallow in the warm mud of mediocrity, or climb to the mountain's cold and rocky heights.
    7. The Cost of Success: Achievement installs pride, but pride goeth before a fall. The myths of Niobe, Arachne; the arrogance of Agamemnon.
  3. Practice of Moderation
  4. Self-Knowledge
  5. Rationalism
  6. Restless Curiosity
  7. Love of Freedom
  8. Individualism


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Last modified 26 April 2022