Sunday, December 03, 2006

More Kennedy Scandal?

So, now we read of Bobby Kennedy's love affair with Edith Hamilton. This from NY TIMES columnist David Brooks (11-26-06). What will the media dig up next! Brooks is commenting on the recent film "Bobby."

Who is Edith Hamilton? Well, who among us who took a liberal arts education in the 1960s didn't read her little paperback books on ancient philosophy and life? It is in this vein that we read about Bobby and Edith. Says Brooks:

"Classical scholars often scorn Hamilton because she wrote in a breathless 'all the glory that was Greece' mode, but her book changed Robert Kennedy’s life. He carried his beaten, underlined and annotated copy around with him for years, pulling it from his pocket, reading sections aloud to audiences. . . . Kennedy found in the Greeks a sensibility similar to his own — heroic and battle-scarred but also mystical. He shared the awful sense of foreboding that pervades the work of Aeschylus and Sophocles, and that distinctly Greek awareness of the invisible patterns that connect events to one another, how the arrogance men and women show at one moment will twist back and bring agony later on."

Brooks continues:

"Hamilton is at her best describing the tragic sensibility, the strange mixture of doom and exaltation that marks Greek drama. It was based on the conviction that good grows out of bad, virtue out of hardship, and that wisdom is born in suffering. Kennedy memorized a passage from Aeschylus, which Hamilton quotes twice in her book:

'God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.'

Kennedy, recovering from his brother’s murder, found in the ancient Greeks a civilization that was eager to look death in the face, but which seemed to draw strength from what it found there. The Greeks seemed more convinced of the dignity and significance of life the more they brooded on the pain and precariousness of it. . . .

The story of Kennedy’s grief is the story of a man stepping out of his time and fetching from the past a sturdier ethic. He developed a bit of that quality, which greater leaders like Churchill possessed in abundance, of seeming to step from another age. Kennedy became a figure in the 1960s, but was never really of the ’60s. He promoted many liberal policies but was never a member of a team since he drew strength from somewhere else. . . ."

[The only site I could find with the entire column--that does not require a password is here--though I'm not recommending the site itself.