Friday, March 2, 2012

Taming wolves

Jan Cox used to laugh at how the media (and policy makers) would tout education as the solution to human ills. This came together for me with something else he said, when I read this etymology of the word 'lyceum.' :

1. A lecture hall or an institution that provides public lectures, discussions, concerts, etc....
From Latin lyceum, from Greek Lykeion, an epithet of Apollo meaning wolf-slayer, from lykos (wolf) which also gave us words such as lupine (like a wolf) and lycanthropy (the delusion of being a wolf). In ancient Greece lyceum was a gymnasium so named because it was near a temple of Apollo. Aristotle established his school here. Earliest documented use: 1579.

'Wolf-slayer' which gave us a glance at human progress, also. 

I just put in the whole thing (from Anu Garg's word newsletter) for fun. What caught my attention was that lyceum comes from a word meaning wolf-slayer. Wolf slayer---that which, let us gloss, subdues the beast, the body. Some have called it 'the red circuit.' The point though is that we have here etymological evidence for the growth of Humanity. That continuous growth which is not perceptible normally within one generation, and for ends we cannot intellectually encompass in totality. We have in the etymology of lyceum a perspective for the growth of the intellect from the more simplistically hormonal body.

So the Greeks saw education as a means of civilizing man, as we do. The interesting thing, though, is how this shows multiple meanings. For while over a short span, the proposal of education is misleading as a solution, in the long run, education IS, part of the growth, the growth of Humanity -- though, and I stress this, my words do not mean the lyceum is an answer, rather part of a mystery to investigate. In this case, and recalling Jan's words, I realized he had two sides of this complexity, because he also mentioned, that morality began when men realized they had to protect their women from other men.  Morality is just another word for education, for slaying the wolf, for human progress. What is a joke viewed from the perspective of the ordinary intellect, is a real gear in a larger and dynamic pattern. There is of course, at least another side, and that is part of the mystery that beckons. 

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