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.



What is the global threat?

We live the global threat every day and we hear theories about the end of humans and the world. But the real threat lives beyond every eschatology and the controversial predictions of the Maya. The real threat is humans themselves, or, to be exact, those humans who influence directly the making of history with their decisions and actions. The real threat is also modern civilization, mainly technology and economy.

What causes the global threat?

1. The continued deterioration of the Earth’s climate which can cause uncontrollable situations in vast areas of the planet. Our natural environment has been damaged by reckless human interventions, and it emits death to humans and to everything alive in nature. In addition, major earthquakes are inevitable.

2. The global economy can collapse or disintegrate under a partial destruction. Over 90% of the world’s money has passed in cyberspace, leaving a minimum of approximately 9% spent on production. This maximum amount of money is directed towards speculation which contributes to the unequal distribution of wealth and generates new situations of instability in the global economy. A new attitude tends to dominate the world, that of the markets where all countries and individuals are debtors. Despite of the negative effects of a possible economic downfall, this threat brings something positive: the new “balance of terror,” which means that the threat of the global economic destruction may possibly boost the global economy. It resembles the atomic and nuclear bombs which prevented a global conflict because of the threat of a global disaster.

This threat could also promote the concept of supervision of the financial systems so that the absence of any corporate codes of conduct will cease to dominate. It could prevent or heal extremely dangerous local or global recession situations. Or even produce a new concept for the global public interest, not only in universities and scholars, but also in international forums that bring countries together. Although the absence of morality makes things difficult, it brings back the concept of politics and philosophy. Today, the absolute spirit has led to situations of intolerable cruelty, and it opposes situations of genuine compassion. It seems that what distinguishes history is lack of intelligence which consequently emanates lack of morality. Failure to anticipate and prevent tragic situations always returns to the historical scene. This concept of prevention as a feasible achievement constitutes the main problem of our time.

The intensity of incurable diseases intensifies our dangerous times and infernal practices. This fact is probably the only example of global democracy. Diseases do not distinguish humans. The tragic death of Steve Jobs, a distinguished entrepreneur of Apple, Inc. is a prime example to this unique global democracy. Paradoxically, the so-called modern humans refuse or fail to understand important events and they live their daily lives as if nothing has happened.

The question arises whether this delusion can be diagnosed in advance; whether it is possible to prevent the birth and development of unrestrained cruelty; whether the population overgrowth, the depletion of the energy sources, and the shortage of drinking water exacerbate the local or global reality, which aggravates the helplessness of human thought.

However, there is still room for positive action. A sense of beauty and new possibilities emerge, at least, in theory, and hopefully, in practice.

October book signing

Harikleia Georgiou Sirmans autographed copies of The Agony of Survival on Thursday, October 4, 2012 at the Authors’ Reception in Georgia COMO, Macon, GA.

This event celebrated the creative minds of published authors, illustrators, and translators. 34 participants had the pleasure of promoting their books, and networking with book fans. Because of space limitations, authors shared tables to display their work. Congratulations to all writers for their hard work. Without their books, there will be no libraries.

To live or not to live? A survival question

Front cover art

The Agony of Survival: A novel by Dr. Spyros Vrettos

Translated from the Greek by Harikleia Georgiou Sirmans
Edited by Dr. Constantine Santas
Cover art by Frana
INBN: 978-0-7414-6909-0
Infinity Publishing December 2011
USD$13.95; 185 pages; 21 x 14 cm 

This is the first novel of a trilogy which deals with the most vital issue of survival in its entire manifestation. It is a prophetic novel because it anticipates exactly and foresees, in general, the evolving and threatening reality of our world as well as the necessity to seek intelligent solutions of escape.

The central character, Aris, an investor and representative of high technocracy, realizes that something extremely menacing is developing worldwide. Extended natural disasters continuously afflict particular areas of our planet, which he can trace through his complicated electronic systems. Earthquakes and diseases emerge more often in the universal spotlight, while complicated and peculiar disasters threaten the foundations of the worldwide economy.  It is like creating a new “entity,” something new that starts to control the fate of the world with its own destructive force. Philosophy and political thought are powerless to confront or to simply conceive the new complicated reality as well as the reasons that generated it.

Aris selects an area of rare beauty to live, to invest, and to connect electronically with the world. He lives with a woman, Danae, whom he met during his visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and who stands by his side along with another couple that arrives later. He believes that he has discovered an exceptionally secure way to survive in an insecure world. But, does he survive?

On a second narrative level, both the characters of the story and the reader participate in the narrative tale of a panoramic screen, where Dante guides Virgil to landscapes of a recognizable planetary experience. Together, they discover dramatically the good and evil of modern life as well as the limits and possibilities of human reason.

The plausible question arises whether human intelligence suffices to confront the coming reality. However, the beauty of the broadening capability of human thought and virtue also emerge during this ordeal. Despite the threatening visible or invisible disasters, the possibilities of escape and rebirth in the story are depicted allusively in some passages and vividly in some others.

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