On Indifference

What blurt is this about virtue and about vice? Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent, My gait is no fault-finder’s or rejecter’s gait, I moisten the roots of all that has grown. WALT WHITMAN The Olympian gods are not our friends. Zeus would have destroyed us long ago had Prometheus not brought fire and other useful things down to us. Prometheus was not being benevolent, though. He was angry at Zeus for having locked away the Titans and then for turning on him after Prometheus helped secure his rule. We humans were just pawns in their game. The myths teach that we are here on sufferance, and that the best fate is to be ignored by these poor excuses for divinities. On their indifference depends our happiness. Fortunately we have only minimal duties towards them, so once the ashes from the sacrifices are swept away, the libations mopped up, the festival garlands recycled, we are free to set sail. The Biblical God requires more attention. Though he is sometimes petulant, his providential hand is always at work for those who choose to be chosen. Providence comes at a price, though. We are obliged to fear the Lord, to obey his commandments, and to internalize the moral code he has blessed us with. For purists, this can mean that virtually every hour of every day is regulated. But that is not how the Bible’s protagonists seem to live. They love, they fight, they rule kingdoms, they play the lyre, and only when they lust after a subject’s wife and arrange for his death in battle does God stop the music and call them to account. And repentance done, the band strikes up again. The covenant limits human freedom, but it also self-limits God’s. Our to-do

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