Impatience As Metaphor For Modern Civilization.
Ancient & Modern.
Alexander the Great is famous for many things. One of which is his conquest of Asia. From Greece there is one path that an army can take to the east. And Gordium stands directly in the way. Well, of course that is why it was there, as a defence. It also had an oxcart standing in the forum tied by its shaft to a column. It was already ancient history to Alexander. Nor was it any ordinary knot. In it was some ceremonial pattern with knotted letters intertwined. Whatever spell it contained, Alexander had no time. No time to busy himself with the niceties of discovering ancient wisdom. For Alexander was a man of action. He made a decision in the light of the moment and acted on it.
He took the relevant facts, ordered them swiftly
When Alexander took his sword to the Gordian knot it did more than open the East to him. Alexander exemplified the new world order. Power, strength and speed justified themselves by overcoming everything in their path. The patient outlook of the ancients was cut through with the efficiency of a sword stroke.
Alexander was driven by that most modern of energies, a passion for the future: impatience. The present simply didn’t satisfy him. Alexander strode towards his future with all the energy he could master.
The battle of Issus saw the Persians defeated. A chase around the Levant and Egypt saw Alexander take hold. Thrusting deep into Persia, crossing the great rivers and meeting Darius at Gaugamela. A messenger comes to Alexander, offering terms beyond the opulent. Alexander knows in an instant that Darius is scared, and with this, knows he has already won. Darius was so anxious he keeps his army awake all through the night. Alexander is so confident he oversleeps.
Alexander’s dream was the East. In fleeing eastwards, Darius only clarified the route Alexander would pursue. Even into the treacherous mountains of Sogdania and beyond. Into Alexander’s dream. To see the sea beyond Asia. Loyal to the core, Alexander’s men do not dream as he does. Decades away from their homes on a chase to some land they have never heard tell of, leave alone imagine. It was to witness the Ganges that does it for them. Nobody had ever beheld a river so wide. Aeons from home amplifies its immensity for them. For Alexander’s army is made up of men who are still true ancients, they live in the present. There is no time for what is to come. For the ancient mind, what is to come was what passed last year, the coming of the spring, summer and winter. Their simple lives were lived in the embrace of the seasons, and in doing so, had no dreams. And no regrets. So Alexander’s army stood still. Rooted. No persuasion can move them and so it is that Alexander turns for home.
Alexander’s Dark Dream
It is said that he had all the gold in the known world. Alexander tore through his life with a dynamism that would flatten a Marine. Only for what? Was Alexander ever happy? He only saw the far side of the Ganges, he never saw that fabled sea. Yet he achieved what few in history have ever achieved as civilizations, and he did so in one brief life. Only he did not achieve his dream. Was it this that quenched his spark?
For Alexander was dead at the age of 32.
Alexander lived for the future. His impatience with the Gordian Knot is symbolic of this one fact of our modern lives. Alexander’s future was wealth and prestige. He is remembered in myth and fable across the world. Yet nobody knows where he is even buried. In dying such an early age, how much of a future did Alexander really have?
What Of Our Own Dark Futures?
How many of us can share such a destiny as Alexander’s? We cannot all expect to be emperors, rich or famous. Only one person can win a race or be the boss. What’s more, this is entirely proper! How many of us accept this simple fact? We look to the future and yet it’s a future that is unconnected to the reality of our own lives. Our own present. Those of us attaching wheelnuts every day, dreaming of lottery wins and power? Just how realistic are these dreams?
Our constant daydreaming is our undoing, and our impatience to claim it dangerous. Because dreaming of impossible things implies a failure in our daily life. It means increasing impatience and increasing dissatisfaction. Dreaming of impossible things has a real sting in its tail. Deep down you know it’s impossible. Unlikely at the very best. Deep down you will do everything to avoid the realization of your dream. Failure is compounded in a vicious circle that tears us all apart.
Only with the dawning of death do we finally realize the immensity of our failures. And of course, there is then no time to make good. To die in such a way is a tragic waste of a life barely lived. More, such a death is a truly terrible experience. To die in such a way is truly modern.
Perhaps it is better to dream of lottery wins, at least that way you can’t blame yourself when it doesn’t happen.