Hamartia – Missing the Mark

Guest Post: David McPeak

Hamartia is the Greek word for missing the mark. It can be used to describe the aim of an archer who misses his target. It is also used as the fatal flaw in a hero or heroine that causes their downfall through a series of poorly made choices. Hamlet comes to mind as a great Shakespearian example. Looking at the concept of Root Flaw from the point of view of being off, fundamentally, in one’s outlook, or character, or perspective or what one considers to be of value; give us an entirely different viewpoint than that of compromised ethics. It’s a more profound problem than being an ethical midget.  

How often do we miss the mark! Often it is in the context of not being fully aware of what is going on around us, or within us or the complexities of real-life situations that are rarely black and white. Using the COVID-19 crisis as an example we have two warring factions. Faction one is focused on safety and preventing the spread of the contagion by any and all means possible. Faction two is looking at the economic catastrophe forming by not letting people work and pay their mortgages, taxes and bills. Both factions are right. Both factions are wrong. There is no possible right answer if these are the only two factors, or the only two viewpoints. Hamartia, like in a Greek Tragedy, promises death to us as a people if these are the only two choices. 

Thus, Root Flaw – Hamartia, takes on a corporate and communal context in which it is not merely the individual who must discern what is truly going on, gain correct perspective and make appropriate adjustments; but it is incumbent upon a whole people to gain some wisdom and figure out: First, what is the true nature of the problem we face; and Second, what can we as a people do about it? 

And, like the religious-ethical challenge presented by the fact of Root Flaw, we may have to admit, as a culture that we cannot solve this problem (or this kind of problem) without Divine Help, something outside of ourselves. It’s not a foolish thing to ask for directions when one is lost. Neither is it foolish to ask for God’s Help for God-sized problems that seem to have no right answer. Hamartia is not corrected merely by wishing it so. Character flaws, in nations and individuals, can only be addressed by fundamental life-changing metamorphosis. I’m thinking we need some help here. 


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