Long long ago, before I knew how long things actually take in life, I studied Homeric Greek. My teacher was an iconoclastic traditionalist who was busy compiling a concordance of Chaucer on a computer, one of the first such exploits ever to go down in the damp alleys of academia. The computer was as large as my living room and programming was done on punch cards which this man could actually read…
He’d been taught Greek and Latin by Jesuits in the back of beyond — eastern Washington — and his way of teaching us (I had one other classmate) was with his textbook from back in the day. He had the thing photocopied. “So what?” you say, you mid-century modern worshippers with your real and faux Danish modern furniture and your persistent belief that back then (1971) we all ate liver jell-o and wore pillbox hats. Well, photocopying was new and there was a lot of concern over whether the rare and expensive Xerox could handle two two-hundred page projects. And it was pricey.
ANY-who, the class was fun, and in that year I read Homer’s Odyssey. THAT is an achievement of which I’m proud. Though reading Homeric Greek in that way is more like de-coding Homeric Greek, I learned much more than I knew.
Recently, in the business of promoting my books (now an all consuming task if not a passion) I wrote an article about inspiration. I touched on the idea of “invoking the Muse,” something I learned about in high school. I thought it was kind of cool back then that these guys — Sophocles et al — didn’t start writing until they had subordinated themselves to the will of the appropriate goddess.
Lots of people don’t believe in inspiration, but I do. As for summoning the Muse? There’s a lot to be said for approaching inspiration with humility and gratitude — and hanging on because it can be a wild ride.