My last few posts raised the risk that this blog would turn into a series of quotes from Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue” (a book I am well aware has many critics) – so now I am going to feature a brief quote from the chapter “The Virtues at Athens” following on from a discussion of opposing virtues
Hésuchia appears in Pindar (Pythian Odes 8.1) as the name of a goddess; she represents that peacefulness of spirit to which the victor in a contest in entitled when he is at rest afterwards. Respect for her is bound up with the notion that we strive in order to be at rest, rather than in order to struggle ceaselessly from goal to goal, from desire to desire.
The idea that “we strive in order to be at rest” is at odds with much of the spirit of the present day, for which the maxim from Goethe’s Faust “he who unceasingly strives upwards, him alone we can save” could be designed.
Much of the online resources I can find for approaching ancient Greek terms is rooted in Bible study – for hesuchia see here and here and here. The word is evidently translated very often as “silence” and is used in the context of meekness or acceptance in these translations, rather than the “rest that follows striving” MacIntyre discusses.
One of my interests is a sort of typology of silences – we are familiar with terms like “comfortable silence”, “uncomfortable silence”, “awkward silence”, “rich silence”, “eerie silence” and so on. Silence is more than an absence of sound (itself increasingly impossible to find in the modern world) but is defined by circumstances and context. A silent meadow will strike us as sinister – where is the birdsong? A silent mountain may strike us as awesome or peaceful or perhaps sinister. And so on.