Thoughts after reading Opsopaus’ comments on Delphic Maxim 107

I posted this to Twitter a bit after noon today, but I thought I’d preserve the thread here because it’s important, and it describes something that matters to me. Also, I’m rushing to post this before going to bed, so forgive any typos.

The commentary I was reading on Maxim 107, ὁμόνοιαν δίωκε, was John Opsopaus’ The Oracles of Apollo, which contains a lot of good information. E.P. Butler commented that Opsopaus translates the word ὁμόνοιαν as unity of mind, which may cause ambiguities because it’s not related to concepts in Platonic thought that are typically translated as unity. Opsopaus translates Maxim #107 as pursue unity of mind, and the version I have that was done by a Hellenion member says pursue harmony/concord.

Regardless, the commentary (85% of the way through the entire ebook) says:

Seek concord and unity. Strive for consensus. Get everyone on the same page. Work toward psychological integration. Strive for a unified mindset and attiude. Don’t be of two minds. On the other hand: Banish group-think (a lack of diversity in ideas). Encourage constructive disagreement.

Opsopaus also refers to Pythagoras’ speech in Croton and his use of the term, followed by Pythagoras’ call to establish a temple to the Mousai.

The following comment of mine is not in Opsopaus’ discussion — it’s a connection I’ve made to other material — so … in Hermias’ notes on the Phaedrus, it is noted that the Mousai (specifically the type of madness the give) “[bring] into concord and harmony those of its parts that have fallen into disorder and have declined into indeterminancy and discord and are afflicted with great confusion” (93, ln. 30-33, in the edition of the commentary on 227A-245E translated by Baltzley and Share by Bloomsbury).

Opsopaus also mentions a letter to Iamblichus, “Letter 9: To Macedonius, On Concord,” which I have access to:

Concord, even as the name itself suggests, involves a communion and unity that brings together kindred minds; starting out from this base, it extends itself to cities and homes, to all gatherings public and private, and to all natures and kinship-groups, public and private likewise. And further, it comprehends also the concordance of each individual with [limself]; for it is by being governed by a single mindset and attitude that a [person] is concordant with [limself], while if [le] is in two minds toward [limself] and holds variant opinions, [le] is in conflict with [limself]. (p. 29, trans. Dillon & Polleichtner in Iamblichus of Chalcis: The Letters).

There’s also a bit about a person in discord being at war with limself in the letter’s last sentence, but that’s less relevant to what I want to say. What I want to do — and what I did in the Twitter thread that I seem to have abandoned when I legit intended just to basically repost it here — is talk about the polytheistic communit(y/ies).

I grew up here. This is my home. I get upset when people break things in it.

We spend so much time fighting with one another, or mistaking thoughtlessness, lack of foreknowledge, and/or unawareness for personal slights and bad intentions. We hold people inflexibly to opinions from 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, when everyone changes, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

(While writing the above section of the Twitter thread, I was thinking about what Proclus said in his commentary on the First Alcibiades in the discussion of Socrates choosing to assist Alcibiades even though the entirety of the Platonic corpus is filled with the foreshadowing of what Alcibiades ended up doing, which was not good. All of that has been turning around in my head for several weeks. To be honest, the way I’m thinking about this is mashed up against the first two seasons of The Good Place and Chidi Anagonye’s decision to mentor Eleanor, who is a legit bad person, alongside other context. Due to those passages in Proclus, I’ve also been thinking about deradicalization and whether someone who will not be harmed by another person’s bad actions is morally obligated to keep a communication line open just in case the person behaving unethically and immorally decides to change and get out. It’s a really topical ethical problem given that it’s 2019. I do not have an answer. Moving on to the rest of the thread.)

I will not sugar-coat the issues, though. We have some serious problems with cultural appropriation, racism, and the like; I could go on for a while about what a fine line it is between critiquing (and setting boundaries against) monotheism and engaging in (*-)phobic/misic acts.

I do like to think we all care enough about the communit(y/ies) to triage and address what must be done — and to think carefully about moral and ethical implications of our actions — whether the ideas and strategies we think up/carry out truly serve the gods and one another … or our egos.

For some, the push for concord and positive unity may mean operating in spaces that we’d rather not be in or doing messy, ambiguous work we’d rather avoid; people usually prefer what is straightforward, not complex. For others, it may mean stepping back and taking care of ourselves.

We owe it to one another to at least try, to take the libation bowl and pour out wine to the god of guest-friends, or at least to ask others who are in positions of greater power and/or privilege to do the work when a situation necessitates that is not oneself who can act.

And pursuing concord and a better future does not mean being a pushover when it comes to dealbreakers, like the definition of polytheism, the importance of grounding personal experience in (an) orthopraxy and philosophy/theology/lore/mythology, &c.

This is all I have to say right now, and I hope you liked this post based on a Twitter thread.


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