Mythos, logos, and pathos in The Agony of Survival

by John P. Anton

The classical Greeks had their tragic mythos to carry forth their understanding of the range of human pathos. The modern mind, caught in the chains of its own making of predicaments, had but one genuine alternative: the mythos of the art of fiction, where the plot can encapsulate the emerged predicament hiding in the folds of the spreading globalization of technocracy. Grasping the significance of this emergent element and placing it in the heart of the mythos of the contemporary novel is exactly what the novelist, educator, and creative thinker Spyros Vrettos, has done. He has written his latest novel with a design and determination to test the endurance and adequacy of the mythos in fiction. He gave us an original work.

Vrettos’ The Agony of Survival, the first volume of a trilogy, is being recognized as a work of great breadth and penetrating insight into the complexity of our times. It even revives the world of the great post-classical poets to serve as luminaries of the present agony. But its intent is to make us read the mythos as the anticipation of what the present and the future portend: the constant agony of survival. The scope of the modern mythos invites our imagination and challenges our logic to live in the space of the powerful cultural concerns that have imprisoned our thinking and continue to control our creativity.

The creeping dominant outlook, embodying as it does the last stage of logos in fiction, is determined to remain the sole response to grasp the unfolding realities of our technocratic culture. It has also become the bloodstream of the most peculiar predicament in the scope of human self understanding: the self imprisonment of its makers. Vrettos has confidently grasped the confines of the enslaving magic of technocracy. Still, it is more than a prevalent structure. As Vrettos conceives it, this triumphant attainment of the present state of our culture has closed all exits from the mentality that operates its institutions. Technocracy proved itself so effective as to emerge creatively and operate its institutions in ways that end as the agony of survival by vanishing what is left of freedom in the name of liberty in economics and control.

What has come to prevail through the experience of this agony is the pattern of the effects of one standard pathos. The few persons who become   cognizant of its pressure view it as a challenge: to overcome the agony and advance beyond the deflating power of the dominant technocracy. Whereas the agony is bound to emerge at some point in every human life, the precise meaning of survival continues as a dark and confusing predicament. In fact, it has become a perennial cover of ignorance and is as widespread and puzzling as to hide the dark issues under the mask of eternity. In the context of Vrettos’ art, it takes the power of the fictive mythos to dramatize the formidable implications of the logos of technocracy. Here is where Vrettos is rising to the top of the response. He is original and daring. And so are the dramatis personae of his fiction.

The reader of the first volume of this trilogy, The Agony of Survival, has a chance to understand what powerful alertness is required to rise to a higher level of consciousness and grasp the forcefulness of the predicaments that turn us all into cultural orphans. The Agony of Survival is a diagnosis of the forthcoming trends and a statement about the power of technocracy, its ways of government and its overpowering demands. The power hides the pain as well as the agony over the needed reforms to overcome the effects of cultural agony. Vrettos has brought to the surface the secrets that compose the puzzle of the lasting power of technocracy.  His reflections are at once original and most pertinent. He has proved himself a writer of admirable ingenuity and scope.

Whereas the first volume of his trilogy ends on a solution that assigns an enviable priority to the death of the cognizant individual, still the salvation attained leaves untouched the security of perfected technocracy affords. That is where book one must end, as it does. The message comes through with admirable clarity in the English translation by Harikleia Georgiou Sirmans. We look forward to the translation of the second book of the trilogy, also by the expert hand of Mrs. Sirmans.

The second book of the trilogy moves on to the dramatization of the next possible removal of the technocratic predicament human ingenuity cast upon itself: The Incredible Machine (not yet translated). The persistence of the cultural tyranny of globalized technocracy prepares the reader to dwell in what Vrettos reveals in this second volume: the emergence of the solution through the same patterns of human ingenuity: the genius of science on which technocracy depends for its continuity.  He unfolds its theme with a new set of heroes: the superior masters of the created machines of technocracy. They are expected to pursue the quest that will end the agony of survival through the secrets of the technocratic machine itself. How this challenge begins and ends is the impressive novelty of Vrettos’ fictive mythos. His heroes take the reader to the ends of the universe and the enormous powers of the art of infinite science. Will they succeed? If not, why? Its ending modality necessarily leads to the third volume, The Life and Death of the Peacemaker (soon to be published), focusing on the drama of the termination of human and cosmic agony as well as the taming of technocracy. The completion of this remarkable novel on the threatening issue of humanity’ self imprisonment, reads as a diagnostic statement as well as a vision in art. It allows us to greet Spyros Vrettos as more than a gifted writer. He has elevated his fictive art to the level of understanding the hubris of the contemporary world. Even beyond this point he has open the way for the voyage that will lead to cultural freedom.