At the beginning of Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Rex, a chorus of elder priests surrounds the oracle at
Imagine an Israeli production of Oedipus - with the chorus as ultraorthodox, the skeptical and secular Jocasta (in a pants suit), and Oedipus wearing a knit kippa. In Sophocles terrifying vision, you can’t know - even when the gods seem to be talking to you, revealing their will. This is what the psychoanalyst, Jonathan Lear, calls ‘the other Oedipus complex’: the belief in the certainty of your knowledge, that you always already know – not only the present, but the future as well. The chorus, who always proclaim their lack of knowledge and powerlessness, are part of a traditional culture that both Oedipus and Jocasta want to push aside. In the end, they are vindicated, but only in the catastrophic defeat of
The modern public sphere in
Perhaps it’s time to forgo this other Oedipus complex, and strive for a public culture stripped of the competing extremist dreams that currently define our lives. Of course, it’s a proposal in which everyone loses something, but may be one, in the end, where everyone wins. Ultraorthodox skepticism about the state means acknowledging
What we all gain is a non-coercive public space – for self-reflection and conversation, which in the process may lead us to realize that we have more in common then we had thought. The elders in Sophocles’ play are devoted citizens of
The immature dreams - fantasies perhaps - are discarded, but an admittedly more minimalist and inclusive set of possibilities emerges. As the philosopher Hilary Putnam writes, ‘enough isn't everything, but enough is enough.’ Maybe it's time we all begin to settle with enough.