The dreadful fact is that there is no God. But what if there is a multitude of gods, small gods of small things, all the small things of the world?
What Horace is telling Leuconoe is this: everything that is needed lies at hand, if only we know how to taste and appreciate it. Spiritual sustenance comes from a winter view, the snow-whitened peak of a familiar mountain; from a beloved waterfall, with ilex growing from the rocks; from the apparent monotony of the sea’s waves; from wine, the great heartener and restorer of spirits; from friendship and conversation; and from love, so long as we do not expect too much from it or grab hold of it with too much vehemence. Horace’s way is the way of worshipping small things and small gods.
— Harry Eyres, Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet
In our current populist-nationalist moment, there are a number of prominent voices announcing and praising the return of the strong gods. They would no doubt prefer the term “idols” for those Horatian miniatures, which they see as shallow pleasures appealing to hollow men. Others, like Peter Watson and Anthony Kronman, have each in their own way called for renewed attention to the transient things of this world in place of grand hopes of otherworldly salvation; Kronman even names his ideal “born-again paganism.” Who will turn out to be more prescient? Who knows? Let the ambitious ghost-hunters attempt to capture the zeitgeist in a narrative; I prefer the poetry of everyday visible life, expressed with haiku-like brevity. Quod satis est, said Horace. Santutthi paramam dhanam, said Buddha. Bonsai minimalism, said some insignificant blogger. Let it be enough.