A little over 150 years ago, a thirties with a jaded look at the same time that Altanera arrives at Athens. Is called Ernest Renan.
Look towards Acropolis, discover its pure marble, its perfect splendor, and conceive a prayer in honor of the nobility of Athena shovels, whom he had despised, as he calls himself, "an ugly little Jew who speaks the Greek of the Syrians" whose kingdom, according to him, was living his last days.
And adds: "The world will only be saved if it returns to you "and" repudiates "the" barbaric ties "of the gods that" pass as men ", including that Judeo-Christian" superstition "that is time to wrap" in the purple shroud where the gods lie dead. "
So, 150 years later, where are we?
Some will say that this game of massacring the dead gods is rabid today.
You will see in that young Renan – who remembers, at the foot of the Acropolis, that faith should never be "a chain" – to the prophet of freedom of the spirit of modern times.
But, unfortunately, everyone knows reality as it is.
There will be no survival for this world if you do not lean, in a radical change, not towards the good, but towards the best
That god that a century later, another young man –Jacques Lacan– he will say that he never dies, but that he is returning: among others, the god of radical Islamists who seems to never run out, like the hydra of Lerna, which is reborn, increasingly fearsome, in the form of a new monster with more heads.
The demigods, idols, such as nationalism, Gorgon to which Renan’s children thought they had cut off their heads, are booming: in Turkey, against the unfortunate Kurds; in Europe, under the guise of populism; and we have even seen them cross the waters of Atlantic Like a bottle in the sea. And those are their effluviums, which in turn intoxicate people who, in the past, extolled their melting pot of cultures with echoes of Virgil, after ragtime, jazz and bossa nova.
As for Greek wisdom, just look at this Parthenon that is falling apart to realize what it is: the agony of truth, buried by the black tide of the fake news and the new sophistry; the degeneration of a measured spirit turned into a triumph of technique, which is destroying the planet.
That is why, dear friends, it is incumbent on me to pronounce this prayer now, tonight, and I will, as Ernest Renan did, praise that Greece so beautiful with its carved stones and perfect temples.
I will also sing the glory of the country of the golden number or the sapphire seas that breathe metaphysically.
I will remember that, no less than my distant fellow citizen, it was in Greek in the language in which I learned philosophy; It was in Greek in the language in which the foundations of law, self-government and others appeared for the first time.
And I will confess that I always feel the same emotion when I find a newspaper that, being written in the same geometric language that seems to be made of tridents and tiny deities, is like having the feeling of reading about the speeches of Pericles, about the misfortune of Alcibiades or the death of Socrates.
What will become of us if we are not able to find the way back to what is to be called transcendence
But I would add that, in the face of this world that seems to say goodbye to intelligence, to reason, to art, to poetry, to the anthem of Pindar; in the face of this civilization that already does not even know what a book is and that no longer hears the names of Plato or Aristotle unless they appear in an application or in an wiki; in front of a humanity that is nothing more than a crowd without a body, disjointed, crushed by a wheel that spins non-stop, faster and faster and is called death (because death said Rashi, it is a wheel that spins in the world), I would add that, in this world, it is perhaps Renan who, at the time when he thought he would be resurrected by his own statues, as a Pygmalion of himself, he finally seems to be wrapped in the "purple shroud"; and I would add that we have no other solution but to relive the wisdom of that "little ugly Jew who speaks the Greek of the Syrians."
Exactly, if I have a message today, it's that one.
The great alliance of Greek reason and biblical wisdom. Athens, yes, of course, but also, as I have been repeating for forty years when I wrote against Renanism God's testament, the science of Jerusalem.
Pallas Athena, no doubt, but at his side, because I don't think we can do without the support of his demand and his great intelligence, the knowledge stolen from the god of Jerusalem, that is, the god of the people of Israel.
A difficult Athens and a difficult Jerusalem.
An equally arched Athens and Jerusalem on the extreme point on the touchstone of their respective geniuses, on the aporia of Parmenides and about the vertiginous concatenation of the worlds that the Talmud.
And then, fertilized by them, exalted by the wrath of Dante, the fury of Shakespeare or the frightening and intelligent smile of the Gioconda, increased by the wisdom of Tocqueville and for nothing less than the rage of Saint-just, for the desperate courage of Lord Byron and the cunning of Machiavelli, poor princess Europe and her democracy.
There will be no survival for this world if it is not inclined, in a radical change, not towards the good, but towards the best.
What will become of us if we are not able to find the path to what is to be called transcendence, whose trace remains in the purest of Western thought, be it philosophy, literature or the Talmud.
That is my prayer on the Acropolis, and I would have expressed the same way if I had found myself, at this very moment, at the foot of the Temple Mount.
And if it disturbs the deep sleep of academics, if Renan is stirred in his grave, it won't be serious either: after all, like many of our institutions, he had a few kilos left over.