Legend has it that Cadmus, founder of the Ancient Greek city of Thebesi and importer of the Phoenician alphabet, planted dragon’s teeth in the ground of his newly founded city, from which sprang forth armed warriors knows as “sparti,” or “the sown men.”
So here we are planting more teeth in the hopes of seeding further warriors.ii
The growingiii heir apparent may be a warrior – at least having logicked his way into a sort of Stoic’s GA – or he may turn out to be better adapted to his city.iv Or maybe they’re one and the same.v His father is certainly “weird” enough to send the inter-generational pendulum in that direction.vi
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- Yes that Thebes, the one that gave us Oedipus and thus the cornerstone of all modern artistic creativity. ↩
- Left central incisor for all the dentists (and aspiring dentists) as home. ↩
- At not quite 6.5 years of age, he’s the height of an average 10-year-old boy! 6’9″ here we come… ↩
- Goodness knows our city is neither Daphodolic nor Lab-Leaky, which means that it also unfortunately works less and less well with every passing year. Who knew that succession planning for critical infrastructure would be so hard, and yet so vitally important? On the plus side, at least it’s incredibly cold here! ↩
- To quote Allan Bloom from his interpretive essay on Plato’s Republic:
The corruption of the aristocrat’s son, on the other hand, can be seen by all. Unlike the aristocratic city, the aristocratic man really exists; he is a philosopher. Moreover, he is exactly like Socrates. He devotes himself to learning; he is totally indifferent to his body and other men’s opinions of him; he is utterly dedicated and single-minded. But his wife, like Xanthippe, cannot endure the fact that her husband, and thereby she herself, is unhonored and despised. She, along with other like-minded people, convinces his son that this is no way to live. She echoes Callicles, who in the Gorgias accused the philosopher of being unmanly, of being incapable of honorably avenging insults. Man’s fall from the state of innocence is a result of a woman’s temptings. The son’s spiritedness is awakened, and he lives the life of a proud man, performing those deeds which will make him respected by others. Such a life entails the abandonment of philosophy, both because he no longer has time for it and because the questions raised by it are not appropriate to a gentleman. He now lives for the opinions of other men and no longer for himself. His father was not truly a citizen—he was in the city but not of it; but that father’s son becomes a part of the city by adapting himself to it.
- Quoth the Good Rabbi Atkins:
The Maimonidean definition of God as “Other” renders God inscrutable, intangible, and removed, for better and for worse. The Thomist definition of God as “Supreme” renders God exemplary. Theoretically speaking, in the Thomist paradigm, I can be like God, if I just work harder. God is synonymous with perfection. The closer I get to perfecting myself the closer I get to becoming like God. But in the Maimonidean framework, I’ll never be like God, because God is beyond comprehension. The cultivation of virtue and the perfection of intellect get me to a life well lived, but no closer to the black box that is the Holy One.
The lofty theological debate between Aquinas and Maimonides has an analogue in the Torah’s discussion of holiness. Does the commandment to be holy entail an imperative simply to stand apart from the other nations or does it suggest an imperative to be an example for the other nations of how to be? In the former paradigm, holiness is found in difference; in the latter it is found in sameness—all humanity should pursue the same ideal, but the Israelites are simply commanded to lead the way. The God is who YHWH, that is singular and inimitable is a God who elects a people who are to be singular and inimitable. But a God who is a “Man of war” is a God who elects a people not stand apart, but to confront the world and elevate through competition.
The first paradigm leads to a conception of Judaism in which what makes it great is its “weirdness,” its resistance to conformity and conventional reasoning. The second leads to a conception of Judaism whereby what makes it great is its potential for “leadership.” Personifying these two types, we might think of the particularist Jew, following a particularist God, as a kind of rebel, drop-out or avant-garde artist and the universalist Jew following a universalist God, as a kind of statesman or institution builder. In one example, keeping kosher, need not be ethical in the normal sense of the word, for example. Rather, the point is simply to be different. In the other paradigm, kashrut becomes justified and justifiable insofar as it engenders certain universally respectable values: mindful eating, compassion to animals, good hygiene, etc. […]
The most fundamental thing we can and must be is singular. Only when we embrace our names, and accept our “weirdness,” rather than trying to win within some pre-established competitive framework will we have conquered Egypt, spiritually speaking. We are not exempt from “war,” but winning the war will not set us free.
When we claim our names, we aren’t simply taking a break from the ethical, we are demonstrating what true universal ethics requires: not generic sameness, but the embrace of difference as that which we have in common.