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Ancient Greece, Modern Psyche in Santorini, Greece
September 1 @ 08:00 - 18:00
Ajax: The Dawn of Paranoid Thinking
Saint Paul wrote, “I do not do the good that I will, but the evil that I do not will” (Romans 7:19). And Brecht’s Massnahme (The Measures Taken) begins, “We shot him. He wanted to do what is right but has done what is wrong.”
The central human problem remains the same across millennia: choosing justice but being unconscious and committing injustice. Western history pursues reason but is secretly drawn toward the most destructive madness: paranoia. The main difference after two thousand years is the addition of industrialized murder.
What we call the West has been built upon sharp oppositions of polarities. In spite of its depth, the European mind tends to underline the differences and to “solve” them through splitting and projection.
In his very first play, Sophocles – the most psychological of all tragic authors – depicts in a single work the greatness and the impossibility of this extreme heroic task. Ajax goes wrong not because he makes any one particular mistake but because, in succumbing to paranoia, he becomes obsessed with a simplified idea of the enemy and deaf to human complexity. From the moment when that fixed idea is revealed to him, he believes that he has grasped what is most important in life.
By contrast, he becomes himself – a real character, possessing a personality – the first time he makes a choice instead of performing a heroic duty. The moment is inevitably a fleeting one, for the choice he makes is to die.