By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Revisiting Hubris

We have all heard the biblical proverb: "Pride cometh before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). Recently, while studying Attic Greek (that's the ancient Greek of the golden age of Greek culture in and around the 5th century B.C., not Greek suitable only for a certain part of your house), I heard the professor comment offhand on the various meanings of the Greek word hubris: something utterly unacceptable, beyond the limits of toleration, something horrible to see or hear about (I paraphrase).

Many of us can recollect not a few instances of hubris, both on our part and on the part of others. As I recall, Greek tragedy depicts the consequences of hubris. Revisit the concept of hubris and apply it to so much that has gone on in the last forty or so years in the United States and other nations. We have stretched and broken so many cultural limits in our society and families: so many babies coming at the "wrong" time are legally "terminated," instead of being embraced and welcomed with celebration; the standard for marriageability is your actual or potential income or the degrees you have accumulated or your looks, not your honor and character as demonstrated by practice and experience in chaste (that is, authentic) love; vulgarity and obscenity are viewed as inevitable and essential in all forms of media--everything is fair game for all eyes and ears; I see women in public who dress as if they were sauntering around in their bedroom at night (I think some may actually cover themselves up more in the bedroom!); substance abuse has become acceptable and expected by many. Tolerance for the previously taboo is viewed as "sophisticated" (another interesting Greek connection to that word; think of the sophists).Sane, rational, common sense limits are stretched and surpassed. Recently, I read about an increase in the suicide rate among the "baby boomers"; yet, in a further manifestation of willful hubris, the experts interviewed in the article refuse to connect the dots and view the recent upsurge as puzzling. It is not puzzling to me.