Now! At the top of the world! Then now, imprisoned, condemned. What can be learned? Should one even bother to learn now or why not give in to despair? These were the questions of one Anicius Manius Severinus Boethius. Or just “Boethius” as he is known.
He is the Last of the Mohicans in his way. He’s the last of the Ancient Romans, his Latin writings are the last ones we see from the Roman Age. The Roman emperors were already “a thing of the past” when Boethius came along. He became a Roman noble celebrated for his learning, in the service to the famous Ostrogoth King, Theodoric the Great. Boethius de facto ran the place! But from this height he fell out of favor and found himself imprisoned awaiting death. From here, Boethius uncorked his great literary work, The Consolation of Philosophy. It would become one of the most important texts for the next thousand years. St. John’s Revelations appears at end of the Bible, The Consolation of Philosophy appears at the end of Roman Literature. These two works are each a terminus, and they are both the two greatest and most influential examples in world history of “prison literature”.
Donald Trump along with his 75,000,000 or so supporters track with Boethius. As does the fate of anybody who might call himself today “a Heritage American.” Why? Because of the fall! From such a height to such a depth, from favor and power to isolation and even persecution (don’t dare deny the persecution, neoliberal!). We can learn from the fate and sublime writing of Boethius!
Prison literature here we come, baby!!! Much ink has been spilt already from St. John’s side and discussions of his text, and much, much more is sure to follow! So let’s talk about Boethius!
The basic concept is simple. Boethius in his cell reaches for his quill and calls upon the poetic muses, those of the arts and of the sensual. But then a woman appears and she is Philosophy, who banishes the passionate muses and nourishes Boethius. Philosophy calls Boethius back to the pursuit of goodness, back to the cause of virtue.
Forget revenge! Forget your anger! Forget your sorrow! The passions don’t matter and they pass.
Forget riches! Forget power! The worldly things don’t matter.
Pursue goodness and virtue!!! The point of it is, you’ve got to do work on yourself. Empowered with this faith, you set to work on reason. Re-evaluate yourself, re-focus yourself on the good.
Even in a prison cell, even with nothing left to you, you can do this.
And you must! St. John’s commenters will exhort you to pray. And that is good and well met! But do more.
Work on thyself!