Muse and Memory

the muses b&wThe muses in Greek mythology are the source of inspiration for the arts. They were:
Clio, history
Euterpe, music and modulation of sounds
Thalia, comedy and pastorals
Melpomene, tragedy
Terpsichore, dancing
Erato, poetry lyric, divine, and amatory
Polyhymnia, rhetoric
Calliope, epic poetry, and
Urania astronomy

I kind of love that history and astronomy are arts. I am even more struck by the fact that their mother is Mnemosyne- Titan goddess of memory, also language in some renderings. I don’t know why she’s depicted her grabbing somebody by the hair- but memory just works that way sometimes, doesn’t i?

Bullfinch says:

The Muses were the daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne (Memory). They presided over song, and prompted the memory. They were nine in number, to each of whom was assigned the presidence over some particular department of literature, art, or science. Calliope was the muse of epic poetry, Clio of history, Euterpe of lyric poetry, Melpomene of tragedy, Terpsichore of choral dance and song, Erato of love poetry, Polyhymnia of sacred poetry, Urania of astronomy, Thalia of comedy.

Professor Whalen of HIllsdale college, in a lecture on The Odyssey, pointed out that memory is part of our identity- our memories make us who we are.

I thought about that, and then I thought about the person best knew who illustrated that- my father when he had dementia.  That part of dementia that steals away the patient’s memories steals their identities, as well. They not only no longer know who they are, but others recognize that they are not who they once were. Their deaths, in the ends, are a period at the end of a goodbye hat was said ages ago.  When they no longer know who they or you are, you say your goodbyes.

Culturally, our identity is wrapped up in our memories, too- our national history and the shared stories we tell ourselves about it, and as we tell ourselves those stories, our history becomes part  of the cultural memory, our identity.

So what happens when we stop telling those shared stories and change the narrative, and have shouting and competing narratives instead of anything remotely resembling a shared one?  A culture that no longer shares a history or memory, no longer is itself. IT has dementia. It’s become somebody and something else. Small wonder that modern art is largely so wretched, unmoored, and divorced from meaning.

We have lost our memories, and wander in an indistinct maze.

And I think I am rethinking my ideas about open borders.

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