For reasons that are difficult to pin down the ancient Greeks one day conceived of their many gods as one and they thought this god was a spherical being. Overnight the old gods and goddesses of Olympus were relegated to a soap opera. The new god was Hermes who was essentially recycled from the Olympian melodrama.
Why was Hermes recycled?
Because he was acquainted with people who were dying.
Hermes was believed to be compassionate. He could also fly. The Greeks always used flight as a metaphor for poetry and philosophy. The winged horse Pegasus was a Greek figure for poetry.
(People who came of age in the middle of the 20th century could see Pegasus flying above the gasoline pumps. The automobile was obviously a new kind of poetry.)
But I digress. Hermes could fly because his physical attributes were more complex than the mere sight of a flying man would have one suppose. His wings represented compassion for terminal illness.
In effect the Greeks woke up one morning and felt how alone they were. Nothing in the Pantheon spoke to matters of human energy. By this I mean the most basic of questions: how can I best live today?
Suffering must make sense and sense must reconfigure suffering.
On the day that suffering must make sense the bread rising in the ovens must make sense; the lilies cultivated along the Nile must make sense; the spare and detached trees must make sense; and death also.
Hermes new spherical conception means that the winged god is at the center of the universe and also at its circumference. He is the precursor of Christ who represents a compassionate cosmos and everlasting life.
The thing that most interests me is how a culture moves toward this view.
Culture is impenetrable as basalt and no responsible scholar can fully answer the “how” questions that mark the turning points in civilizations. But one thing is clear: free people become smarter over time.
Wise cultures move toward compassion, which is, if you will, the barometer of a culture’s intelligence-atmosphere.
The health care debate going on now in our country is about compassion. No more, no less. I believe that Olympia Snowe understood this when she said recently that when history calls you must act–implicitly she was saying that a smart nation sides with compassion.
The spherical god cannot be seen. But you can feel the compassionate geometry of sense and of the call to alleviate suffering.
Olympia Snowe felt it. More in the United States Senate should think more of circles and of Hermes and the mystical geometry of the cross.
Let the nation not conduct itself in the halls of government like frightened beasts.