I Speak, I Desire, I Undergo

We used to think that there were three things that we did, signified by three ancient Greek words: logos, eros, and pathos.

Logos means speaking, thinking, but also picking out or gathering together.  Aristotle said a human being was a living being capable of logos.  The Gospel of John said in the beginning was the logos which means the word, but also the connection between a world of timeless ideas and our world of blood and strife.  A Greek explanation of the idea of incarnation – of the divine manifesting itself in our world.  Logos means logic too.  These ideas are all connected — the divine incarnation, gathering, thinking, speaking. They are the human ability to transcend the flux and chaos of the moment by gathering together what is important and thereby leaping over the stream of time.

Eros, cupid, a blind god with an arrow who causes sexual desire.  Sexual desire, famously, is no friend of logic.  We want to have sex first and come up with the reason later, if ever.  But more generally Eros is all desire — everything which binds, attaches, and connects.  Eros is the child of fullness and poverty says Diotima to Socrates in the Symposium.  We have desire because we are empty and desire to be full — but we are full of something — emptiness. We are full of desire.  Eros is also a divine spark that gets us to jump out of our skins, but it is crazy.  At least it is different from logos.

Pathos is undergoing. It’s the mirror image of eros.  Eros brings me out of myself actively — I actively desire (although of course it is passive since I am shot with the arrow of eros).  Pathos is suffering.  Pathos is emotion — the pathetic fallacy.

What we all are is a bundle of logos, eros, and pathos.  And that’s what we used to think.

But then we met some people across the mountain and they will have none of it. They have all these different animals that each tribe is forbidden to eat.  And the are that animal.  And for them the cassowary tribe, the bear tribe, the ichneumon wasp tribe have nothing in common with the other tribes.  There is no logos or pathos or eros that can unite an ichneumon wasp man with a cassowary man.  They don’t even call them both men.  And the rivers that they fight over are the same. They don’t even think they are all rivers — they call them Er, Samo, Del, Fil, Tu, Em, A, O.  All completely different.

What do we do?  Obviously we desire them, try to understand them, and suffer from them.  What do they do?  They charge at us full of fury wearing masks of their animal totems.

How can you not desire and want to understand and feel strongly about people as weird as that?  Who could resist?

Not us!


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