Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Odysseus with no Telemachus"

As I have been going through a collection of Elder Holland's talks and speeches, I came across a passage that struck me. While speaking at some odd convention in the 1980s, he quoted these words from a letter that appeared in the New Yorker:

"The spirit of emancipation has... touched deep the nerves of truth [but it also reflects]... the blind side of our age, and the cost of the blindness; [and] a perhaps fatal stupidity intertwined with our enlightenment. The idea of emancipation, after all, has to do with an escape from bonds, not a strengthening of bonds. Emancipation has to do with power, not love... I don't think it's a coincidence...that more and more people are living alone these days... [There is a] general sense of the transformation of our society from one that strengthens the bonds between people to one that is, at best, indifferent to them; a sense of an inevitable fraying of the net connections between people at many critical intersections, of which the marital knot is only one... If one examines these points of disintegration separately one finds they have a common causethe overriding value placed on the idea of individual emancipation and fulfillment, in the light of which, more and more, the old bonds are seen not as enriching but as confining. We are coming to look upon life as a lone adventure, a great personal odyssey, and there is much in this view that is exhilarating and strengthening, but we seem to be carrying it to such an extreme that if each of us is an Odysseus, he is an Odysseus with no Telemachus to pursue him, with no Ithaca to long for, with no Penelope to return toan Odysseus on a long journey that has been rendered pointless by becoming limitless."

That last line stings, doesn't it? But yet I wonder if it will continue to ring true as a theme for our generation in some future's hindsight. The more I observe, the more I sense this theme.


emilymcb said...

This gave me chills.

leean robinson said...

Wow. Thanks for this quote. I think dad could use this for some future talk. I know we feel everything E.Holland is commenting on has been what we have observed over our married life. Almost too sad for words as see people search for happiness and contentment in all the wrong places.