On Hubris. On Awe.

Yesterday I read a news article about the discovery of parthenogenesis in condors. Nature thumbing its nose again at everything we think we know – everything we humans have named and categorized and utilized to give us a sense of control.

For a few months of my junior high school years, I attended a school that had the condor as its mascot. I think I remember because they seemed such an odd choice. Such an inelegant bird. Those were the days of Vanderbilt jeans and those swans – and so much hope in ugly duckling stories.

Who would aspire to be a condor? A carrion-eater. A vulture. Crippled by DDT. Zombie-like. Or maybe our inspiration for Zombies?

When I was in college, my then-husband J. was driving to a dig in the mountains and his truck collided with a vulture, whose body burst against the windshield. J. spoke for weeks after about the smell he shouldn’t shake from his nostrils.

Death frightens us so much that it seems perfectly fitting that condors would then disturb us with their insistence on life. And if we pull away – if we approach again like children who put everything in their mouth, who make no judgments based on social cues, on categories of good and bad? We might see hope.

Which I suppose is a different kind of beauty.

I think there is both hope and beauty in our powerlessness. There is awe.

I am summing up the chapter on Greek Theatre this week. Looking at the overriding themes that we can see in what we can piece together from so long ago. It seems to me that hubris is important. That respect for the gods, for the autonomy of the universe in terms of human will, are both key if we are to avoid tragedies.

Are we not in awe of ourselves to our own demise, now as then? As may well be human nature? Which is tragic?

There are, though, always the characters – the old and wizened – who have surrendered.

In awe.

Strange that they are never the protagonists of our stories.

The Bacchae in 8 minutes.


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