TITLE: Tragedy and the Possibilities of Unlimited Storage AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: November 22, 2010 2:18 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I've spent considerable time this morning cleaning out the folder on my desktop where I keep stuff. In one the dozens of notes files I've created over the last year or so, I found this unattributed quote:
In 1961, the scholar and cultural critic George Steiner argued in a controversial book, "The Death of Tragedy", that theatrical tragedies had begun their steady decline with the rise of rationalism and the Enlightenment in the 17th century. The Greek notion of tragedy was premised on man's inability to control his fate in the face of capricious, often brutal gods. But the point of a tragedy was to dramatize man's ability to make choices whatever his uncontrollable end. The emphasis was not on the death -- what the gods usually had in store -- but on what the hero died for: the state, love, his own dignity. Did he die nobly? Or with shame? For a worthy cause? Or pitiless self-interest? Tragedies, then, were ultimately "an investigation into the possibilities of human freedom", as Walter Kerr put it in "Tragedy and Comedy" (1967).
I like this passage now as much as I must have when I typed it up from some book I was reading. (I'm surprised I did not write down the source!) It reminds me that I face and make choices every day that reveal who I am. Indeed, the choices I make create who I am. That message feels especially important to me today. And yes, I know there are better tools for keeping notes than dozens of text files thrown into nearly as many folders. I take notes using a couple of them as well. Sometimes I lack the self-discipline I need to leave an ordered life! -----