“Would you have Oedipus’s courage?” I remember this question. I recall it from Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I could ask if would have Saint John’s courage, his Dark Night of the Soul, as vivid and as articulate an account of an individual’s conflict with despair–to ward off despair is a supreme act of faith? Despair is a sin because it is a loss off faith, or arises in the loss of faith. How do we lose faith? What is it that I actually had that I called faith? What have I lost?
Would you have the courage of the hero of Plato’s most famous allegory who ventures into the light of day out of his very dimly lit cave. I believe I would, but then there is no one easier to flatter than myself. I am too weak not to succumb to self-flattery; who is stronger? I did see me as the one who left Plato’s cave to brave the light of day.
Basho went on a journey late in his life which became his Narrow Road to the Interior. One might say his journey to the interior mountains of Japan was just a journey to the interior mountains, but then Matsuo Basho was not just anyone, and his journey to the interior was an interior journey to the Self. Would I be as brave as my assumed kin, Matuso? Dharma . . .
Would any of us be as responsible as Oedipus was, answerable as Oedipus becomes? Would any of us venture out as had Basho? As does our Platonic cave dweller? Do you or I have Oedipus’s sense of justice–and it is justice he has a sense of in plucking out his eyes. Is this only, or as we try to mean when we say “merely,” a literary justice. I know I would be too attached to my eyes to pluck them out. Christ understands our vanity when he says if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out.