Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Greek Expression of Humanness

In the last post I described the similarity between the Greek Dark Ages and the European Dark Ages in the centuries before the modern Renaissance. The analogy also works when you drop beneath the surface and examine each period in more detail. For example, there was en enlightenment period in ancient Greece like the enlightenment period that began in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries A.D.

I was thinking about this similarity and wondered whether the fact that the human race (western anyway) became actualized twice signals an innate human behavior pattern? I think it does.

We look at the amazing accomplishments of the Greeks and seek to explain them. How could a people twenty-five hundred years ago explode mankind out of a world of spirits and fear of nature to one of modern analytical thought?

Then I started thinking about Maslow’s triangle: the great psychologist’s method of describing a hierarchy of human needs.
Maslow’s categorizes human needs starting from the most basic animal functions at the bottom and moving upward through other needs toward self-actualization.

I mentioned in the previous post that man living alone he doesn’t have time to contemplate metaphysics, he has to spend his time surviving. He’s stuck at Maslow’s lowest level. If he joins a community, however, the group will help him move up the scale of needs toward self-actualization. In human society, his safety needs can be satisfied with the help of others and he can also develop friendships and intimacy.

The Greek intellectual accomplishments of the Golden Age resulted directly from an environment seen rarely in history where a culture of self-actualization was possible and encouraged. The Greeks couldn’t be thinkers until they had time to think and when the notion of philosophical thinking was tolerated.

The issue of human self-actualization is larger than Greece. I believe the development of any society and its institutions are a human driven process toward self-actualization, the twenty-first century being its greatest opportunity. What now? Do we keep moving forward or do we corrupt ourselves?

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