Metaxy, Friendship, and an Ode by Horace
The metaxy is a “metaphysical” concept of how we live consciously in the world. It is often called “the between.” One may study it in the pages of Eric Voegelin, Simone Weil, William Desmond, and others. A quick way to grasp the concept of metaxy is in terms of friendship.
How does a relationship ripen into friendship. What are the stages? Using Desmond’s analysis of the “senses of being,” we may compare it to the process of coming to love a person. First, we notice the person, we are intrigued (univocal); second, we are confused by our feelings, we are no longer sure we know what we are getting into (equivocal); then we start a relationship, a conversation, and find ourselves in a process of learning about the other. This often involves learning about oneself. Eventually this stage will exhaust itself or be transformed. The transformation is what I call “metaxyturn”: one begins to see oneself AND the beloved in light of something greater than both combined. The relationship takes on a “vertical” dimension (whether that vertical is imagined up or down is, well, relative to those involved). If this moment prevails, the friendship develops; equality emerges from dialectical tensions now and then to refuel the sense of promise. Something other than the individuals, an absolving absolute, secures the relationship in its openness to sources only hinted at in the earlier stages of the relationship.
The metaxy is the world seen under the sign of friendship. Horace’s Ode 1:26 is about such friendship:
And I, beloved by the Muses,
I will send sadness and fear
On the wild winds, out to the Cretan sea,
Without worrying what northern king
Of what frozen country threatens us, or what worries the king
Of Armenia. O sweet Muse,
Who loves pure fountains, weave me
Bright flowers, weave me a garland
For my Lamia! Nothing I can give him
Is anything without you: You and your sisters
Should sing him immortal
With new songs and the sound of the Lesbian lyre.
(trans. Burton Raffel, The Essential Horace: Odes, Epodes, Satires, and Epistles (Northpoint Press, 1983)