Prometheans, Ancient and Modern

Prometheans, Ancient and Modern

Prometheans, Ancient and Modern

Prometheans, Ancient and Modern

Excerpt

The identity of the genius who conceived the myth of Prometheus is lost in the mystery of remote antiquity; but let us honor his memory and salute his shade with all the deference due him for having put into an allegory one of the sublimest testimonies to the struggles of the human spirit. It was Prometheus, you will recall, who defied the fearful gods and brought to mankind the gift of fire. For having dared to do this Prometheus was punished by a wrathful Zeus who caused him to be chained to a precipice in the Caucasus where an eagle descended daily to eat out his heart. Daily a new heart grew in its place.

The men and the women who have wrought warmth into the bleak terror of man's war against the elements, against his own nature and against the imminence of death, have brought us out of a savagery that is now at least a savagery modified by an appearance of amenity. They have always suffered and their hearts have been torn out repeatedly by the spectacle of the cruelty men can inflict upon one another in their efforts to survive. But their hearts grow back, for further pluckings, because the belief persists that all the difficulties of life may some day be smoothed away.

I am not sure that would be a blessing. But I have never had experience of such a state, nor do I know of any one who has. The Nirvana of complete tranquillity is, I suspect, an ideal for and by those who have no tranquillity whatever; whereas I have observed that those who achieve an outward appearance of the static condition of tranquillity for any length of time get bored with it and sometimes break out in the most unseemly conduct. They not uncommonly resort to clubs, firearms, or meat-axes.

Still, at the same time, one wishes, in these years of the locust, that there could come some stability and that life would not dance before one's eyes like a species of retina trouble. One wishes that young children were not starving and that feeble old men innocently abroad on their routine affairs were not shot down by gunmen. One wishes above all that wars might cease, disease be conquered, and that kindness, generosity and magnanimity might universally prevail.

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