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Many things are formidable, and yet nothing is quite so formidable as man.
Over the gray sea and the storming south wind,
Through the foam and welling of the waves, he makes his perilous way;
The Earth also, highest of the deities, who never shows fatigue, nor exhaustion, nor decay,
Ever he furrows and ploughs, year on year, with his ploughshare, muzzles and horses.
The light-seeking birds of the air he stalks and traps, the wild beasts of the forest, and the salty brood of the sea, he catches with his richly woven net–
He, the cunning one,
And by his arts he achieves mastery of the savage game, of the creatures who wind their way upon the heights, tamed through his wondrous art,
And the defiant steed he bends to his will under the bit.
Speech and wind-driven thoughts and emotions form the foundation upon which he builds the city,
All of this he has taught himself; and to take shelter before the inhospitable torrents of the heavens, and the freeze of the winter sky.
He is prepared for everything; against nothing does he want for protection. Even against once perplexing ailments he has developed an escape.
Only against death has he at last no refuge.
Supplied with cleverness of every imaginable type,
He ventures once towards evil, and then towards good.
If he honors the laws of the land and the right attested by the Gods,
Then may his city prosper. But homeless shall he be if he boorishly debases himself.
–Sophocles, “Antigone,” Chorus (lines 340-380) (S.H. transl. after Hans Jonas)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”