The Classical Mind Newsletter for Friday, September 1, 2023
A Very Oedipal Newsletter: Sophocles' Swansong, Consider Oedipus's Father, Oedipus and the Sphinx, Police Sketches, Sophia, and Getting Schooled
Our next episode on Oedipus Rex and Aristotle’s Poetics comes out this Tuesday! Keep your eyes peeled (but not gouged…).
Our next reading is going to be “Euthyphro” by Plato.
Through an unfortunate series of events, we were not able to be on YouTube for a while. But we’re back! You can subscribe here:
Providentially, the folks over atposted a great reflection on Oedipus at Colonus. It’s fitting because in this coming week’s episode, we will be discussing Oedipus Rex which is the first play in a trilogy: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. Interestingly, Sophocles wrote Oedipus at Colonus last, near the end of his life. Oedipus at Colonus details the death of the titular figure. At Classical Wisdom, they have a great reflection on Oedipus at Colonus that might cause us to remember back to the thrust of Boethius’ writing in The Consolation of Philosophy: the only thing we can control is ourselves. Our circumstances, the actions of others, and fortune are outside our power. What do we do with what comes our way? Oedipus is perhaps the ultimate example of a situation outside of human control, but even in the midst of tragedy, it offers us an important reminder:
“Oedipus’ grave may lead citizens to realize the irrationality of their attachments to things over which they had no control, but only because those citizens will know Oedipus’ story. A grave without a story would simply be a plot of land. Athens gets no real benefit from the physical grave alone—all the benefit comes from a combination of the secret grave and the circulation of Oedipus’ tale.”
Consider Oedipus’s Father by David Tomas Martinez
It could have been a car door
leaving that bruise,
as any mom knows,
almost anything could take an eye out,
and almost anybody could get their tongue
frozen to a pole,
which is kind of funny
to the point of tears
plus a knee slap or two
that an eye can be made blue, pink
by a baby’s fist, it fits
perfectly in the socket. It’s happened to me.
Any scenario is better,
beats sitting in a car and hearing
someone you love
which I have done
with a black eye.
For me, a woman’s tears
are IKEA instructions
on the European side.
I’m sure for Laius, Oedipus’s father, it was the same.
Think of him sleeping
after having held a crying Jocasta
because they had fought for hours
because she was stronger.
Who knew better the anger of young Jocasta?
Knew that when the oracle, or the police,
come, they are taking someone with them.
I’m sure Laius looked at the crib
and thought better you
than me, kid.
Now consider your own
father, or the guy your mother
dated until he took
the three-sided road,
crouched in front of a paper
plate with a catcher’s
a curveball grip —
but did he ever teach
the essential lesson
of how to block a punch
from a finely manicured hand,
or to walk away when
records are being candled and books disemboweled,
teach the wonderment of
a jar of peanut butter jammed
in a TV screen
below a snail trail of ice cream
near broken pictures on the wall?
Not while he’s king, I bet, and not while
there are mothers and their jobs,
like breastfeeding or serving a warm plate
on a table
to cold beers
from the hand
of a mother he made from a virgin
with his own hands, his own hands.
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