If, in the immediate aftermath of Homo sapiens petrolerus, the tanks and towers of the Texas petrochemical patch all detonated together in one spectacular roar, after the oily smoke cleared, there would remain melted roads, twisted pipe, crumpled sheathing, and crumbled concrete. White hot incandescence would have jump-started the corrosion of scrap metals in the salt air, and the polymer chains in hydrocarbon residues would likewise have cracked into smaller, more digestible lengths, hastening biodegradation. Despite the expelled toxins, the soils would also be enriched with burnt carbon, and after a year of rains switchgrass would be growing. A few hardy wildflowers would appear. Gradually, life would resume.
Monthly Archives: February 2014
Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus and its devastation.
Re-reading The Iliad has been fairly eye-opening. Back in high school I actually sympathized with Paris and Helen. This time around, it’s Achilles I’m feeling for. His reluctance to fight, his open criticism of the war, his heartbroken acceptance that he will in fact lose his life in a wholly pointless campaign… How did I miss all this the first time around?
Achilles isn’t even in his essence a military figure. He is famously vulnerable and unnaturally defined by his mortality. He has been raised to know the arts of healing, and tricked into going. And yet he is the hero because he alone has the nature and the stature to think and speak as an individual. He alone stands apart and challenges heroic convention.
What else did I miss the first time around?
The greatest war story ever told basically commemorates a war that established no boundaries, won no territory, and furthered no cause. Worse yet, it’s hero dies a pointless death.