Sleeping with Herodotus in the Modern Age


In The English Patient, Micheal Ondaatje writes:

It is when he is old Narcissus wants a graven image of himself. But we were interested in how our lives could mean something in the past. We sailed into the past. We knew power and great finance were temporary things. We all slept with Herodotus.

This book is a reflection of World War II. This quote could be taken to say that we all want to be remembered. Herodotus is considered the father of history in some circles. At the time the novel was written, there was no Facebook or MySpace. WordPress, Instagram, and YouTube were not in existence. The world was still pretty big. Even still, there was a need for every single person. This need was to be remembered for generations to come. Some people, compared to the hundreds lost to history, were able to break through the rest of the pack. Years before, Ezra Pound wrote “Histrion.” In this poem, Pound emphasizes how every time we write we stand on the writing of the ones who came or wrote before. This also might count for there is nothing new under the sun. Yet when we write, we are adding to the pile of all the written things. To a point, Pound is not optimistic about all of us remaining known to history. Yet, we claim a space in history.

Suddenly, social media was developed. Fame was quickly found and quickly lost. People are featured on the front page of YouTube or are Freshly Pressed. Yet, even that fades. Yet, the need remains. People keep writing posts, making videos, and tweeting statements. In the gloom, there remains optimism. That is a fantastic part of human nature. In writing this post, my mind goes to Maslow and his pyramid. In the third part of the pyramid, there is the need for love and belonging. This is where Herodotus comes in. We not only need to be loved by those people. We also need to be remembered by these people. This is why I think that more people seem to be narcissistic. We grow older while we are still young and have the need to reflect. We want to mean something now. Not only that, we also want to be remembered for all time. The current generations have technology that was not there a couple of generations ago. Is this an excuse to be let off the hook in general? Not really. It is an explanation to why too many people are obsessed with the perfect photo. Even while typing, there is an internal struggle in getting all the words right while worrying if any one will care. With more technology, this narcissism will most likely continue. Is there a solution? I really don’t know. That is just the nature of this “problem.” I just really hope to be remembered. But at least, I know that most people also want to be remembered. That just makes everyone feel less alone.


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