In medieval Europe, God’s calling was a grounding force. In ancient Greece, a whole pantheon of shining gods stood ready to draw an appropriate action out of you. Like an athlete in “the zone,” you were called to a harmonious attunement with the world, so absorbed in it that you couldn’t make a “wrong” choice. If our culture no longer takes for granted a belief in God, can we nevertheless get in touch with the Homeric moods of wonder and gratitude, and be guided by the meanings they reveal? All Things Shining says we can.The review that clued me into this book’s existence, written by Eric Ormsbry at the Wall Street Journal, focuses primarily on the strangeness of the valuation of polytheism. (He also thinks Hera is the goddess of the hearth for some reason, which is pretty sloppy journalism that makes me wonder if anything else in his review is wrong.)
“It has long been customary to dismiss these gods as mere stage presences, as convenient explanations for random catastrophes or as fall guys for human motives,” Ormsbry writes, followed by some nice prosaic buildup about Aphrodite and Helen. The writers, Ormsbry thinks, “view the ancient Homeric gods as hidden presences still susceptible of invocation” — which I think is an exaggeration made by the reviewer to sell copies/piss off the Religious Right because I have seen neither Dreyfus nor Kelly at our Dionysian orgies (and most academics are on the atheist or believer side of the Christian paradigm). But whatever ... it’s not like I have actually read a fragment of this book yet.
I probably will look at it sometime after the book comes out (likely this summer), but thought I should give people who aren’t in graduate school a heads up in case they wanted to jump in earlier.
Update: I have since looked at some of the comments on this review, so I would definitely say that this book has offended some Christians. Apparently we’ve forgotten that Christianity already provides all of the solutions to emptiness &c. the authors suggest the Gods satisfy. There’s even an annoying person who quotes relevant Biblical verses.