Sunday, October 3, 2010


"to forget that you are only human, to think you can act like a god--this is the opposite of reverence. ancient greeks thought that tyranny was the height of irreverence, and they gave the famous name of hubris to the crimes of tyrants. an irreverent soul is arrogant and shameless, unable to feel awe in the face of things higher than itself. as a result, an irreverent soul is unable to feel respect for people it sees as lower than itself--ordinary people, prisoners, children. the two failures go together, in both greek and chinese traditions. if an emperor has a sense of awe, this will remind him that heaven is his superior--that he is, as they said in ancient china, the son of heaven. and any of us is better for remembering that there is someone, or Someone, to whom we are children; in this frame of mind we are more likely to treat all children with respect. and vice versa: if you cannot bring yourself to respect children, you are probably deficient in the ability to feel that anyone or anything is higher than you."

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