What is inhuman?
This morning I’m reading Simone Weil’s essay “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force,” and wonder if what I love most about the poem is precisely what Weil loves least – its unflinching recognition and affirmation of the simple truth that much within humanity’s heart is not itself, human. To the moralist and idealist, this is an insufferable torment; to me, it is the beginning of redemption.
Weil evokes lines from the final book of the Iliad:
No one saw Priam enter. He stopped,
Clasped the knees of Achilles, kissed his hands,
Those terrible man-killing hands that slaughtered so many of his sons.
And for a moment at least, re-reading these lines, I think that Homer is even greater than Shakespeare, and I love him for giving us an image of human beings reduced to their essence by the uttermost extremity of conflict, yet neither is evil.
Such a view holds them, and us, in acceptance, and does not require us to purge ourselves of inhumanity, and to become, thereby, inhuman.