Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Herippe, Wife of Xanthus

from Wikipedia
In Greek mythology, Herippe (Ἑρίππη) was a woman from Miletus, wife of Xanthus and mother of an unnamed two-year old child. During the celebration of Thesmophoria, she and many other women were carried off by the Gauls. Some of the captives were ransomed by their relatives, but Herippe was among those who were not, and thus was taken to Gaul. Xanthus, deeply missing his wife, turned most of his possessions into gold and headed on to the land of Celts, hoping to find and ransom Herippe. The Gaul who had abducted Herippe received Xanthus in a most hospitable manner; when Xanthus offered him one thousand pieces of gold for his wife, the host bade his guest to give only one quarter of the sum as ransom, and leave the other three quarters for himself and his family. When Xanthus had a chance to talk to Herippe, she scolded him for having promised to the barbarian a sum of money he did non possess, but Xanthus assured her that he had another two thousand to spare, hidden in his servant's shoes. Herippe then told the Gaul of the total sum of gold Xanthus had with him, and suggested that they kill him and take the money; she further confessed that she liked the Gaul and his land far more than Greece and Xanthus, and wished to stay with the Celts. The Gaul was disgusted at her words; in his eyes, such disloyalty deserved punishment by death. So the next morning he announced that a sacrifice must be made before he lets Xanthus and Herippe go; a sacrificial animal was brought, and the Gaul asked Herippe to hold it. She took the animal, as she was already accustomed to participate in Gaulish sacrificial rites. The Gaul then raised his sword and, instead of slaying the animal, beheaded Herippe. He then explained her treachery to Xanthus and let him go, telling him to leave all the gold for himself.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tomorrow... will be Different

She. I hate a bad man and veil my face as I pass him, keeping my heart light as a little bird's. He. And I hate both a gadabout woman and a lustful man that chooseth to plough another's land. Both. But what's done cannot be undone: 'tis the future that needs watch and ward.
- Theognis of Megara (579-584)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Avoiding Melancholia - The Inability to Move the Objet Petit 'a Due to a Dependency Upon the Other

Melancholia... taking out on myself, what I refuse to take out on you, because I can't afford to let go of you, out weakness and of fear of having to take care of myself. If I could let you go, I could move on, but I can't, and it's my own damn fault, so I torture myself, and hold on to you, and become ever more depressed and self-critical...

Freud, "On Mourning and Melancholia"
The distinguishing mental features of melancholia are a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment. This picture becomes a little more intelligible when we consider that, with one exception, the same traits are met with in mourning. The disturbance of self-regard is absent in mourning; but otherwise the features are the same. Profound mourning, the reaction to the loss of someone who is loved, contains the same painful frame of mind, the same loss of interest in the outside world—in so far as it does not recall him—the same loss of capacity to adopt any new object of love (which would mean replacing him) and the same turning away from any activity that is not connected with thoughts of him. It is easy to see that this inhibition and circumscription of the ego is the expression of an exclusive devotion to mourning which leaves nothing over for other purposes or other interests. It is really only because we know so well how to explain it that this attitude does not seem to us pathological. We should regard it as an appropriate comparison, too, to call the mood of mourning a ‘painful’ one. We shall probably see the justification for this when we are in a position to give a characterization of the economics of pain.

In what, now, does the work which mourning performs consist? I do not think there is anything far-fetched in presenting it in the following way. Reality-testing has shown that the loved object no longer exists, and it proceeds to demand that all libido shall be withdrawn from its attachments to that object. This demand arouses understandable opposition—it is a matter of general observation that people never willingly abandon a libidinal position, not even, indeed, when a substitute is already beckoning to them. This opposition can be so intense that a turning away from reality takes place and a clinging to the object through the medium of a hallucinatory wishful psychosis. Normally, respect for reality gains the day. Nevertheless its orders cannot be obeyed at once. They are carried out bit by bit, at great expense of time and cathectic energy, and in the meantime the existence of the lost object is psychically prolonged. Each single one of the memories and expectations in which the libido is bound to the object is brought up and hyper-cathected, and detachment of the libido is accomplished in respect of it. Why this compromise by which the command of reality is carried out piecemeal should be so extraordinarily painful is not at all easy to explain in terms of economics. It is remarkable that this painful unpleasure is taken as a matter of course by us. The fact is, however, that when the work of mourning is completed the ego becomes free and uninhibited again.

Let us now apply to melancholia what we have learnt about mourning. In one set of cases it is evident that melancholia too may be the reaction to the loss of a loved object. Where the exciting causes are different one can recognize that there is a loss of a more ideal kind. The object has not perhaps actually died, but has been lost as an object of love (e.g. in the case of a betrothed girl who has been jilted). In yet other cases one feels justified in maintaining the belief that a loss of this kind has occurred, but one cannot see clearly what it is that has been lost, and it is all the more reasonable to suppose that the patient cannot consciously perceive what he has lost either. This, indeed, might be so even if the patient is aware of the loss which has given rise to his melancholia, but only in the sense that he knows whom he has lost but not what he has lost in him. This would suggest that melancholia is in some way related to an object-loss which is withdrawn from consciousness, in contradistinction to mourning, in which there is nothing about the loss that is unconscious.

In mourning we found that the inhibition and loss of interest are fully accounted for by the work of mourning in which the ego is absorbed. In melancholia, the unknown loss will result in a similar internal work and will therefore be responsible for the melancholic inhibition. The difference is that the inhibition of the melancholic seems puzzling to us because we cannot see what it is that is absorbing him so entirely. The melancholic displays something else besides which is lacking in mourning—an extraordinary diminution in his selfregard, an impoverishment of his ego on a grand scale. In mourning it is the world which has become poor and empty; in melancholia it is the ego itself. The patient represents his ego to us as worthless, incapable of any achievement and morally despicable; he reproaches himself, vilifies himself and expects to be cast out and punished. He abases himself before everyone and commiserates with his own relatives for being connected with anyone so unworthy. He is not of the opinion that a change has taken place in him, but extends his self-criticism back over the past; he declares that he was never any better. This picture of a delusion of (mainly moral) inferiority is completed by sleeplessness and refusal to take nourishment, and—what is psychologically very remarkable—by an overcoming of the instinct which compels every living thing to cling to life.
And after the torture has done it's work, and I discover that I'm not quite as weak as I once thought... mania!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


"As flies are to wanton boys, are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport"
- Shakespeare, "King Lear"

Death of Adonis

“He is dying, Aphrodite;
luxuriant Adonis is dying.
What should we do?”

“Beat your breasts, young maidens.
And tear your garments
in grief.”
- Sappho of Lesbos This is the tale of Persephone, the "Maiden,", "she who destroys the light", and Adonis, meaning "Lord".

Persephone was the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. When young Adonis was born, he was so handsome that when Aphrodite gave him to her to baby-sit, Persephone refused to give the infant to her. They agreed to let Adonis spend four months of the year with each of them, and four months with whomever he chose to spend the time with. He chose Aphrodite, for Persephone, Queen of the Dead, was forced to live underground in Hades for 6 months of every year. Adonis spent the fall and winter with Persephone, and the spring and summer with Aphrodite.

Adonis grew to be such a handsome youth that Aphrodite and Persephone fell in love with him. He was killed by a wild boar sent by Ares, the lover of Aphrodite, who had grown jealous of her love for Adonis. Where his blood fell, wild red anemones sprang up. Aphrodite, hunting in her swan-drawn carriage, found him dying. Both goddesses mourned him.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Misplaced Thoughts

I must decide this suit by ruddle* and square, Cyrnus, and be fair to both parties, [on the one side ...] and on the other prophets and omens and burnt-offerings, or else I shall bear the foul reproach of wrong-doing.
- Theognis of Megara (543-546)

*A rope dripping with ruddle (red ochre), used to sweep in loiterers from the Agora.

Several means were used to force citizens to attend the assemblies; the shops were closed, circulation was only permitted in those streets which led to the Pnyx; finally a rope covered with vermilion was drawn around those who dallied in the Agora (marketplace), and late-comers, ear-marked by the imprint of the rope, were fined.

A body of whippers-in was literally necessary to bring the people up to the discharge of their legislative duties. It was the business of several officers, six in number, to furnish their servants with a rope, coloured with red ochre, and send them in amongst the knots of idlers, such as bore the marks of their scourge being subjected to a fine (not improbably the loss of their legislative gratuity).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ever Seeking Immortality...

Jowett summary, Plato's "Symposium"
But Love desires the beautiful; and then arises the question, What does he desire of the beautiful? He desires, of course, the possession of the beautiful;—but what is given by that? For the beautiful let us substitute the good, and we have no difficulty in seeing the possession of the good to be happiness, and Love to be the desire of happiness, although the meaning of the word has been too often confined to one kind of love. And Love desires not only the good, but the everlasting possession of the good. Why then is there all this flutter and excitement about love? Because all men and women at a certain age are desirous of bringing to the birth. And love is not of beauty only, but of birth in beauty; this is the principle of immortality in a mortal creature. When beauty approaches, then the conceiving power is benign and diffuse; when foulness, she is averted and morose.

But why again does this extend not only to men but also to animals? Because they too have an instinct of immortality. Even in the same individual there is a perpetual succession as well of the parts of the material body as of the thoughts and desires of the mind; nay, even knowledge comes and goes. There is no sameness of existence, but the new mortality is always taking the place of the old. This is the reason why parents love their children—for the sake of immortality; and this is why men love the immortality of fame. For the creative soul creates not children, but conceptions of wisdom and virtue, such as poets and other creators have invented. And the noblest creations of all are those of legislators, in honour of whom temples have been raised. Who would not sooner have these children of the mind than the ordinary human ones? (Compare Bacon's Essays, 8:—'Certainly the best works and of greatest merit for the public have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men; which both in affection and means have married and endowed the public.')

I will now initiate you, she said, into the greater mysteries; for he who would proceed in due course should love first one fair form, and then many, and learn the connexion of them; and from beautiful bodies he should proceed to beautiful minds, and the beauty of laws and institutions, until he perceives that all beauty is of one kindred; and from institutions he should go on to the sciences, until at last the vision is revealed to him of a single science of universal beauty, and then he will behold the everlasting nature which is the cause of all, and will be near the end. In the contemplation of that supreme being of love he will be purified of earthly leaven, and will behold beauty, not with the bodily eye, but with the eye of the mind, and will bring forth true creations of virtue and wisdom, and be the friend of God and heir of immortality.

Such, Phaedrus, is the tale which I heard from the stranger of Mantinea, and which you may call the encomium of love, or what you please.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saving Desire through Prohibition

Do you take this woman whose hand you now hold, to be your true and wedded wife; and do you solemnly promise before God and these witnesses to LOVE, CHERISH, HONOR AND PROTECT HER: to forsake all others for her sake; to cleave unto her, and her only, until death shall part you?

Mourning sans Melancholia

You escape like a runaway train
Off the tracks and down again
My heart's beating like a steamboat tugging
All your burdens,
on my shoulders

In the mourning, I'll rise
In the mourning, I'll let you die
In the mourning, all my worry

Now there's nothing but time that's wasted
Words that have no backbone
Now it seems like the whole world's waiting
Can you hear the echoes fading

In the mourning, I'll rise
In the mourning, I'll let you die
In the mourning, all my sorry

And it takes all my strength
Not to dig you up, from the ground in which you lay
The biggest part of me
You were the greatest thing
And now you're just a memory to let go of

In the mourning, I'll rise
In the mourning, I'll let you die
In the mourning, all my sorry

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Life, What it is Good for?

“Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.”
- Hosea I

Saturday, October 15, 2011

UnKnown Knowns

To the more part of men this is the one virtue, to be rich; all else, it would seem, is nothing worth, not though thou hadst the wisdom of great Rhadamanthus, and wert more knowing than Aeolus' son Sisyphus, whose wheedling words persuaded Persephone who giveth men forgetfulness by doing despite to their wits, so that through his wilinesses he returned even from Hades, a thing which hath been contrived of none other, whosoever hath once been veiled in the black cloud of Death and gone to the shadowy place of the departed, passing the black portal which for all their denial of guilt prisoneth the souls of the dead; yet e'en thence, 't would seem, to the light of the Sun came hero Sisyphus back by his own great cunning; —nor yet though thou madest lies like true words with the good tongue of godlike Nestor, and wert nimbler of foot than the swift Harpies and the Children of Boreas whose feet are so forthright. Nay, every man should lay to heart this saying: What hath most power for all is wealth.
- Theognis of Megara (699-718)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Meanwhile, Back at the Edge of the Abyss... a Sign

Never give thou thy mind to the impracticable, nor desire things whereof there cometh no accomplishment.
- Theognis of Megara (461-462)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Living in a Trailerpark Near You

In rams and asses and horses, Cyrnus, we seek the thoroughbred, and a man is concerned therein to get him offspring of good stock; yet in marriage a good man thinketh not twice of wedding the bad daughter of a bad sire if the father give him many possessions, nor doth a woman disdain the bed of a bad man if he be wealthy, but is fain rather to be rich than to be good. For 'tis possessions they prize; and a good man weddeth of bad stock and a bad man of good; race is confounded of riches. In like manner, son of Polypaus, marvel thou not that the race of thy townsmen is made obscure; 'tis because bad things are mingled with good.
- Theognis of Megara (183-192)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ho Messo Via

- - I put away a little bit of noise
so you say there's bedside in a mine
tonsils and six thousand watts.
I put away the hide and seek
I did not say the age
if you turn a momomento
I replay it because to me ... goes.

I put away some illusions
that sooner or later that's enough
I have put away two or three cartons
I know they are still there.
I put away a little bit of advice
say it is easier
I put them away because to err
are very good to me.
I'm doing a little place
I expect and who knows
that there was empty space there will be there.
I have put away quite a lot of things
but I do not ever explain why
I am not able to put yourself away

I put away a bit of thrashing
those signs can not be
that is not evil nor the blow
but unfortunately the bruise.
I have put away quite a few photos
that will take dust
both remorse no regrets
that grudges and why
I'm doing a little place
I expect and who knows
that there was empty space there will be there.
I have put away quite a lot of things
but I do not ever explain why
I am not able to put yourself away

In these shoes
and on this earth that rocks
swing swing swing
with the comfort of
a sky that stays there
I'm doing a little place
I expect and who knows
that there was empty space there will be there.
I have put away quite a lot of things
but I do not ever explain why
I am not able to put away
able to put away,
You will be able to put away.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lament for the Toreador

His eyes did not close
when he saw the horns near,
but the terrible mothers
lifted their heads.
And across the ranches,
an air of secret voices rose,
shouting to celestial bulls,
herdsmen of pale mist.
There was no prince in Sevilla
who could compare to him,
nor sword like his sword
nor heart so true.
Like a river of lions
was his marvellous strength,
and like a marble torso
his firm drawn moderation.
The air of Andalusian Rome
gilded his head
where his smile was a spiked
of wit and intelligence.
What a great torero in the ring!
What a good peasant in the sierra!
How gentle with the sheaves!
How hard with the spurs!
How tender with the dew!
How dazzling the fiesta!
How tremendous with the final
banderillas of darkness!

But now he sleeps without end.
Now the moss and the grass
open with sure fingers
the flower of his skull.
And now his blood comes out singing;
singing along marshes and meadows,
slides on frozen horns,
faltering souls in the mist
stumbling over a thousand hoofs
like a long, dark, sad tongue,
to form a pool of agony
close to the starry Guadalquivir.
Oh, white wall of Spain!
Oh, black bull of sorrow!
Oh, hard blood of Ignacio!
Oh, nightingale of his veins!
I will not see it!
No chalice can contain it,
no swallows can drink it,
no frost of light can cool it,
nor song nor deluge of white Lillie's,
no glass can cover it with silver.
I will not see it!
Excerpt from Federico Garcia Lorca's, "Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias"

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Daughter of Jove, relentless Power,
Thou tamer of the human breast,
Whose iron scourge and tort'ring hour
The Bad affright, afflict the Best!
Bound in thy adamantine chain
The Proud are taught to taste of pain,
And purple Tyrants vainly groan
With pangs unfelt before, unpitied and alone.

When first thy Sire to send on earth
Virtue, his darling child, designed,
To thee he gave the heav'nly Birth,
And bade to form her infant mind.
Stern rugged Nurse! thy rigid lore
With patience many a year she bore:
What sorrow was, thou bad'st her know,
And from her own she learned to melt at others' woe.

Scared at thy frown terrific, fly
Self-pleasing Folly's idle brood,
Wild Laughter, Noise, and thoughtless Joy,
And leave us leisure to be good.
Light they disperse, and with them go
The summer Friend, the flatt'ring Foe;
By vain Prosperity received,
To her they vow their truth, and are again believed.

Wisdom in sable garb arrayed
Immersed in rapt'rous thought profound,
And Melancholy, silent maid
With leaden eye, that loves the ground,
Still on thy solemn steps attend:
Warm Charity, the gen'ral Friend,
With Justice, to herself severe,
And Pity dropping soft the sadly-pleasing tear.

Oh, gently on thy Suppliant's head,
Dread Goddess, lay thy chast'ning hand!
Not in thy Gorgon terrors clad,
Not circled with the vengeful Band
(As by the Impious thou art seen),
With thund'ring voice, and threat'ning mien,
With screaming Horror's funeral cry,
Despair, and fell Disease, and ghastly Poverty.

Thy form benign, O Goddess, wear,
Thy milder influence impart,
Thy philosophic Train be there
To soften, not to wound my heart.
The gen'rous spark extinct revive,
Teach me to love and to forgive,
Exact my own defects to scan,
What others are, to feel, and know myself a Man.

-Thomas Gray (1716 – 1771)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Perils of Posing for the Eyes of the Other

One man hath this ill, another that, and not one of all that the Sun beholdeth is happy in the strict truth of the word.
- Theognis of Megara (167-168)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Imagining Ophelia

O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword,
Th' expectation and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
Th' observ'd of all observers, quite, quite down!

Shakespeare, "Hamlet" (Act 3, scene 1, 150–154)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Staying Young!

Play and be young, my heart; there'll be other men soon, but I shall be dead and become dark earth.
- Theognis of Megara (877-878)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Central Message of the Darwinians

Le Danse C'est Morte
Nietzsche's Response - Evolution should NOT be confused with "Progress"...
Formerly, one sought the feeling of the grandeur of man by pointing to his divine origin: this has now become a forbidden way, for at its portal stands the ape, together with other gruesome beasts, grinning knowingly as if to say: no further in this direction! One therefore now tries the opposite direction: the way mankind is going shall serve as proof of his grandeur and kinship with God. Alas this, too, is in vain! [ . . . ] However high mankind may have evolved—and perhaps at the end it will stand even lower than at the beginning!—it cannot pass over into a higher order, as little as the ant and the earwig can at the end of its "earthly course" rise up to kinship with God and eternal life. (D 49)

We have become more modest in every way. We no longer derive man from "the spirit" or "the deity"; we have placed him back among the animals. We consider him the strongest animal because he is the most cunning: his intellectuality [Geistigkeit ] is a consequence of this. On the other hand, we oppose the vanity that would raise its head again here too—as if man had been the great hidden purpose of the evolution of the animals. Man is by no means the crown of creation: every living being stands beside him on the same level of perfection . . . And even this is saying too much: relatively speaking, man is the most bungled of all the animals, the sickliest, the one who has strayed the most dangerously from its instincts. (A 14)

[T]he cause of the origin of a thing and its eventual utility, its actual employment and place in a system of purposes, lie worlds apart; whatever exists, having somehow come into being, is again and again reinterpreted to new ends, taken over, transformed, and redirected by some power superior to it; all events in the organic world are a subduing, becoming master, and all subduing and becoming master involves a fresh interpretation, an adjustment through which any previous "meaning" and "purpose" are necessarily obscured or even obliterated. However well one has understood the utility of a physiological organ [ . . . ], this means nothing regarding its origin: however uncomfortable and disagreeable this may sound to older ears—for one had always believed that to understand the demonstrable purpose, the utility of a thing, a form, or an institution, was also to understand the reason why it originated—the eye being made for seeing, the hand made for grasping. [ . . . P]urposes and utilities are only signs that a will to power has become master of something less powerful and imposed upon it the character of a function; and the entire history of a "thing," an organ, a custom can in this way be a continuous sign-chain of ever new interpretations and adaptations whose causes do not even have to be related to one another but, on the contrary, in some cases succeed and alternate with one another in purely chance fashion. The "evolution" of a thing, a custom, an organ is thus by no means its progressus toward a goal, even less a logical progressus by the shortest route and with the smallest expenditure of force—but the succession of more or less profound, more or less mutually independent processes of subduing, plus the resistances they encounter, the attempts at transformation for the purpose of defense and reaction, and the results of successful counteractions.

[M]an as a species does not represent any progress compared to any other animal. The whole animal and vegetable kingdom does not evolve from the lower to the higher—but all at the same time, in utter disorder, over and against one another. The richest and most complex forms—for the expression "higher type" means no more than this—perish more easily: only the lowest preserve an apparent indestructibility. The former are achieved fairly rarely and maintain their superiority with difficulty. (WP 684)

"I would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Living the Black Swan Life

The term black swan was a Latin expression — its oldest reference is in the poet Juvenal expression that "a good person is as rare as a black swan" ("rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cycno", 6.165). It was a common expression in 16th century London as a statement that describes impossibility, deriving from the old world presumption that 'all swans must be white', because all historical records of swans reported that they had white feathers. Thus, the black swan is an oft cited reference in philosophical discussions of the improbable. Aristotle's Prior Analytics most likely is the original reference that makes use of example syllogisms involving the predicates "white", "black", and "swan." More specifically Aristotle uses the white swan as an example of necessary relations and the black swan as improbable. This example may be used to demonstrate either deductive or inductive reasoning, however, neither form of reasoning is infallible since in inductive reasoning premises of an argument may support a conclusion, but does not ensure it and similarly, in deductive reasoning, an argument is dependent on the truth of its premises. That is, a false premise may lead to a false result and inconclusive premises also will yield an inconclusive conclusion. The limits of the argument behind "all swans are white" is exposed - it merely is based on the limits of experience (e.g. that every swan one has seen, heard, or read about is white). Hume's attack against induction and causation is based primarily on the limits of everyday experience and so too, the limitations of scientific knowledge.
- Wikipedia, "The Black Swan (Taleb book)"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

String Theory

ATHENIAN: Let us look at the matter thus: May we not conceive each of us living beings to be a puppet of the Gods, either their plaything only, or created with a purpose—which of the two we cannot certainly know? But we do know, that these affections in us are like cords and strings, which pull us different and opposite ways, and to opposite actions; and herein lies the difference between virtue and vice. According to the argument there is one among these cords which every man ought to grasp and never let go, but to pull with it against all the rest; and this is the sacred and golden cord of reason, called by us the common law of the State; there are others which are hard and of iron, but this one is soft because golden; and there are several other kinds. Now we ought always to cooperate with the lead of the best, which is law. For inasmuch as reason is beautiful and gentle, and not violent, her rule must needs have ministers in order to help the golden principle in vanquishing the other principles. And thus the moral of the tale about our being puppets will not have been lost, and the meaning of the expression 'superior or inferior to a man's self' will become clearer; and the individual, attaining to right reason in this matter of pulling the strings of the puppet, should live according to its rule; while the city, receiving the same from some god or from one who has knowledge of these things, should embody it in a law, to be her guide in her dealings with herself and with other states. In this way virtue and vice will be more clearly distinguished by us. And when they have become clearer, education and other institutions will in like manner become clearer; and in particular that question of convivial entertainment, which may seem, perhaps, to have been a very trifling matter, and to have taken a great many more words than were necessary.
-Plato, "Laws" Religion - Origin: 1150–1200; Middle English religioun (< Old French religion ) < Latin religiōn- (stem of religiō ) conscientiousness, piety, equivalent to relig ( āre ) to tie, fasten ( re- re- + ligāre to bind, tie; compare ligament) + -iōn- -ion; compare rely

Monday, August 15, 2011

What we Don't Talk About....

'Tis not for mortals to fight Immortals, nor yet to give them judgment; this is not right for any man.
- Theognis of Megara (687-688)

Thursday, August 11, 2011


My lad, so long as thy cheek be smooth I will never cease to pay my court, no, not if I have to die.
- Theognis of Megara (1327-1328)

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Dionysian Revelry

No mortal man so soon as he is covered with the earth and goeth down to the house of Persephone in Erebus is rejoiced any more with the sound either of lyre or piper or with receiving the gifts of Dionysus. Beholding this, I will make my heart merry while yet my limbs be light and I carry an unshaking head.
- Theognis of Megara (973-978)
SOCRATES: And now, as Pindar says, 'read my meaning:'—colour is an effluence of form, commensurate with sight, and palpable to sense.

SOCRATES: Well, I will try and explain to you what figure is. What do you say to this answer?—Figure is the only thing which always follows colour.

SOCRATES: To what then do we give the name of figure? Try and answer. Suppose that when a person asked you this question either about figure or colour, you were to reply, Man, I do not understand what you want, or know what you are saying; he would look rather astonished and say: Do you not understand that I am looking for the 'simile in multis'? And then he might put the question in another form: Meno, he might say, what is that 'simile in multis' which you call figure, and which includes not only round and straight figures, but all?
- Plato, "Meno" (selected excerpts)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Greek Cave Finger Talk - Alchemy

When Theon had done, I think it was Eustrophus of Athens who addressed us: 'Do you see with what a will Theon backs Dialectic? He has only to put on the lion's skin! Now then for you who put down under number all things in one mass, all natures and principles divine as well as human, and take it to be leader and lord in all that is beautiful and honourable! It is n time for you to keep quiet; offer to the god a first-fruits of your dear Mathematics, if you think that "E" rises above the other letters, not in its own right by power or shape, or by its meaning as a word, but as the honoured symbol of an absolutely great and sovereign number, the "Pempad*", from which the Wise Men took their verb "to count".17 Eustrophus was not jesting when he said this to us; he said it because I was at the time passionately devoted to Mathematics, though soon to find the value of the maxim, 'NOTHING TOO MUCH', having joined the Academy. So I said that Eustrophus' solution of the problem by number was excellent. 'For since,' I continued, 'when all number is divided into even and odd, unity alone is in its effect common to both, and therefore, if added to an odd number makes it even, and vice versa; and since even numbers start with two, odd numbers with three, and five is produced by combination of these, it has rightly received honour as the product of first principles, and it has further been called "Marriage", because even resembles the female, odd the male. For when we divide the several numbers into equal segments, the even parts asunder perfectly, and leaves inside a sort of recipient principle or space; if the odd is treated the same way, a middle part is always left over, which is generative. Hence the odd is the more generative, and when brought into combination invariably prevails; in no combination does it give an even result, but in all cases an odd. Moreover, when each is applied to itself and added, the difference is shown. Even with even never gives odd, or passes out of its proper nature; it wants the strength to produce anything different. Odd numbers with odd yield even numbers in plenty because of their unfailing fertility. The other powers of numbers and their distinctions cannot be now pursued in detail. However, the Pythagoreans called five "Marriage", as produced by the union of the first male number and the first female. From another point of view it has been called "Nature", because when multiplied into itself it ends at last in itself. For as Nature takes a grain of wheat, and in the intermediate stages of growth gives forms and shapes in abundance, through which she brings her work to perfection, and, after them all, shows us again a grain of wheat, thus restoring the beginning in the end of the whole process, so it is with numbers. When other numbers are multiplied into themselves they end in different numbers after being squared; only those formed of five or six recover and preserve themselves every time. Thus six times six gives thirty-six, five times five twenty-five. And again, a number formed of six does this only once, in the single case of being squared. Five has the same property in multiplication, and also a special property of its own when added to itself; it produces alternately itself or ten, and that to infinity. For this number mimics the principle which orders all things. As Heraclitus tells us that Nature successively produces the universe out of herself and herself out of the universe, bartering "fire for things and things for fire, as goods for gold and gold for goods", even so it is with the Pempad*. In union with itself, it does not by its nature produce anything imperfect or foreign. All its changes are defined; it either produces itself or the Decad, either the homogeneous or the perfect.
- Plutarch, "On the E at Delphi"

*"...Under such conditions, we who repose in the Theory of Numbers all affairs together, natures and principles of things divine and human alike, and make this theory far above all else our guide and authority in all that is beautiful and valuable, should not be likely to hold our peace, but to offer the god our first fruits of our beloved mathematics, believing, as we do, that, taken by itself, E in not unlike all the Letters either in power or in form or as a spoken word, but it has come to be held in honor as a symbol of a great and sovereign number, the pempad, from which the wise gave the name 'pemapzein" to counting which is done in fives."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

That's the Way it Is...

Those that expected thee, man, to come to bestow the gift of the golden Cyprus-born ...

... the gift of the violet-crownad ... becometh a most grievous burden unto man, unless the Cyprus-born grant deliverance from trouble.
- Theognis of Megara (1381-1385)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mercy, Reprised!?

PORTIA: Do you confess the bond (of marriage or social contract?)?


PORTIA: Then must the Jew be merciful.

SHYLOCK: On what compulsion must I? tell me that.

PORTIA: The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

SHYLOCK: My deeds upon my head! I crave the law,
The penalty and forfeit of my bond.
- William Shakespeare, "Merchant of Venice"
The anger of the injured creditor, the community, gives him back again to the wild outlawed condition, from which he was earlier protected. It pushes him away from itself—and now every form of hostility can vent itself on him. At this stage of cultural behaviour “punishment” is simply the copy, the mimus, of the normal conduct towards the hated, disarmed enemy who has been thrown down, who has forfeited not only all legal rights and protection but also all mercy; hence it is a case of the rights of war and the victory celebration of vae victis [woe to the conquered] in all its ruthlessness and cruelty:—which accounts for the fact that war itself (including the warlike cult of sacrifice) has given us all the forms in which punishment has appeared in history.


As it acquires more power, a community no longer considers the crimes of the single individual so serious, because it no longer is entitled to consider him as dangerous and unsettling for the existence of the totality as much as it did before. The wrongdoer is no longer “outlawed” and thrown out, and the common anger is no longer permitted to vent itself on him without restraint to the same extent as earlier— instead the wrongdoer from now on is carefully protected by the community against this anger, especially from that of the immediately injured person, and is taken into protective custody. The compromise with the anger of those particularly affected by the wrong doing, and thus the effort to localize the case and to avert a wider or even a general participation and unrest, the attempts to find equivalents and to settle the whole business (the compositio), above all the desire, appearing with ever-increasing clarity, to consider every crime as, in some sense or other, capable of being paid off, and thus, at least to a certain extent, to separate the criminal and his crime from each other—those are the characteristics stamped more and more clearly on the further development of criminal law. If the power and the self-confidence of a community keep growing, the criminal law also grows constantly milder. Every weakening and deeper jeopardizing of the community brings its harsher forms of criminal law to light once again. The “creditor” has always became proportionally more humane as he has become richer. Finally the amount of his wealth even becomes measured by how much damage he can sustain without suffering from it. It would not be impossible to imagine a society with a consciousness of its own power which allowed itself the most privileged luxury which it can have—letting its criminals go without punishment. “Why should I really bother about my parasites?” it could then say. “May they live and prosper; for that I am still sufficiently strong!” . . . Justice, which started with “Everything is capable of being paid for; everything must be paid off” ends at that point, by shutting its eyes and letting the person incapable of payment go free—it ends, as every good thing on earth ends, by doing away with itself. This self-negation of justice: we know what a beautiful name it calls itself—mercy. It goes without saying that mercy remains the privilege of the most powerful man, or even better, his beyond the law (ubermensch/over man?).
- Nietzsche, "Genealogy of Morals"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Isabella and Meeko

Happy he that hath dear children, whole-hoovad steeds, hunting hounds, and friends in foreign parts
- Theognis of Megara (1253-1254)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Still Searching for the Green Flash

Cares of motley plumage have their portion in mankind, wailing for life and substance.
- Theognis of Megara (729-730)

Monday, July 11, 2011

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemas?

Shakespeare, "Hamlet"
HAMLET - ...What's the news?

ROSENCRANTZ - None, my lord, but that the world's grown honest.

HAMLET - Then is doomsday near: but your news is not true. Let me question more in particular: what have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?

GUILDENSTERN - Prison, my lord!

HAMLET - Denmark's a prison.

ROSENCRANTZ - Then is the world one.

HAMLET - A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.

ROSENCRANTZ - We think not so, my lord.

HAMLET - Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.

ROSENCRANTZ - Why then, your ambition makes it one; 'tis too narrow for your mind.

HAMLET - O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

GUILDENSTERN - Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.

HAMLET - A dream itself is but a shadow.

ROSENCRANTZ - Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.

HAMLET - Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and outstretched heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall we to the court? for, by my fay, I cannot reason.

ROSENCRANTZ GUILDENSTERN - We'll wait upon you.HAMLET - No such matter: I will not sort you with the rest of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfully attended. But, in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore?

ROSENCRANTZ - To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.

HAMLET - Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I thank you: and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear a halfpenny. Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come, deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.

GUILDENSTERN - What should we say, my lord?

HAMLET - Why, any thing, but to the purpose. You were sent for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks which your modesties have not craft enough to colour: I know the good king and queen have sent for you.

ROSENCRANTZ - To what end, my lord?

HAMLET - That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved love, and by what more dear a better proposer could charge you withal, be even and direct with me, whether you were sent for, or no?

ROSENCRANTZ - [Aside to GUILDENSTERN] What say you?

HAMLET - [Aside] Nay, then, I have an eye of you.--If you love me, hold not off.

GUILDENSTERN - My lord, we were sent for...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back to the Future

I would not have any new pursuit arise for me in the stead of delightful art; rather may I have this for mine, evermore rejoicing in lyre and dance and song, and keeping my wit high in the company of the good.
- Theognis of Megara (789-792)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bitter Sweetness

There's nothing a man possesseth of himself better than understanding, Cyrnus, nor bitterer than lack of understanding.
-Theognis of Megara (895-896)

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Light (of Nike?) Behind the Veil of Faith

Veiled Vestal Virgin - Raffaele Monti (~1847)
'O Vesta, grant me thy favour! In thy service now I open my lips, if it is lawful for me to come to thy sacred rites. I was wrapped up in prayer; I felt the heavenly deity, and the glad ground gleamed with a purple light. Not indeed that I saw thee, O goddess (far from me be the lies of poets!), nor was it meet that a man should look upon thee; but my ignorance was enlightened and my errors corrected without the help of an instructor. They say that Rome had forty times celebrated the Parilia when the goddess, Guardian of Fire, was received in her temple; it was the work of that peaceful king, than whom no man of more god-fearing temper was born in Sabine land. The buildings which you now see roofed with bronze you might then have seen roofed with thatch, and the walls were woven of tough osiers. This little spot, which now supports the Hall of Vesta, was then the great palace of unshorn Numa. Yet the shape of the temple, as it now exists, is said to have been its shape of old, and it is based on a sound reason. Vesta is the same as the Earth; under both of them is a perpetual fire; the earth and the hearth are symbols of the home. The earth is like a ball, resting on no prop; so great a weight hangs on the air beneath it. Its own power of rotation keeps it orb balanced; it has no angle which could press on any part; and since it is placed in the middle of the world (litt. 'things') and touches no side more or less, if it were not convex, it would be nearer to some part than to another, and the universe would not have the earth as its central weight. The form of the temple is similar: there is no projecting angle in it; a dome protects it from the showers of rain. You ask why the goddess is tended by virgin ministers. Of that also I will discover the true causes. They say that Juno and Ceres were born of Ops by Saturn’s seed; the third daughter was Vesta. The other two married; both are reported to have had offspring; of the three one remained, who refused to submit to a husband. What wonder if a virgin delights in a virgin minister and allows only chaste hands to touch her sacred things? Conceive of Vesta as naught but the living flame, and you see that no bodies are born of flame. Rightly, therefore, is she a virgin who neither gives nor takes seeds, and she loves companions in her virginity. Long did I foolishly think that there were images of Vesta: afterwards I learned that there are none under her curved dome. An undying fire is hidden in that temple; but there is no effigy of Vesta nor of the fire.'
- Ovid, "Fasti"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Giants and Dwarfs

A long twilight limped on before me, a fatally weary, fatally intoxicated sadness, which spake with yawning mouth.

"Eternally he returneth, the man of whom thou art weary, the small man"- so yawned my sadness, and dragged its foot and could not go to sleep.
- Nietzsche, "Zarathustra"

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whatever Floats Your Boat

My friends it is that betray me; for mine enemy can I shun as the steersman the rock upstanding from the sea.
- Theognis of Megara (575-576)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Modern Overmen

We don't clear tall buildings
in a single bound anymore.
The people we once admired
have surrended to mediocrity.
And the tall buildings wonder:
'Will we ever be hurdled again? '

- Jerry Hughes

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Abyss-mal Sacrifices and Other Pseude-pig-raphy

Rene Magritte, "The Discovery of Fire"

Herodotus, "Histories" (Book II)
47. The pig is accounted by the Egyptians an abominable animal; and first, if any of them in passing by touch a pig, he goes into the river and dips himself forthwith in the water together with his garments; and then too swineherds, though they be native Egyptians, unlike all others do not enter any of the temples in Egypt, nor is anyone willing to give his daughter in marriage to one of them or to take a wife from among them; but the swineherds both give in marriage to one another and take from one another. Now to the other gods the Egyptians do not think it right to sacrifice swine; but to the Moon and to Dionysos alone at the same time and on the same full-moon they sacrifice swine, and then eat their flesh: and as to the reason why, when they abominate swine at all their other feasts, they sacrifice them at this, there is a story told by the Egyptians; and this story I know, but it is not a seemly one for me to tell. Now the sacrifice of the swine to the Moon is performed as follows:--when the priest has slain the victim, he puts together the end of the tail and the spleen and the caul, and covers them up with the whole of the fat of the animal which is about the paunch, and then he offers them with fire; and the rest of the flesh they eat on that day of full moon upon which they have held the sacrifice, but on any day after this they will not taste of it: the poor however among them by reason of the scantiness of their means shape pigs of dough and having baked them they offer these as a sacrifice. 48. Then for Dionysos on the eve of the festival each one kills a pig by cutting its throat before his own doors, and after that he gives the pig to the swineherd who sold it to him, to carry away again; and the rest of the feast of Dionysos is celebrated by the Egyptians in the same way as by the Hellenes in almost all things except choral dances, but instead of the /phallos/ they have invented another contrivance, namely figures of about a cubit in height worked by strings, which women carry about the villages, with the privy member made to move and not much less in size than the rest of the body: and a flute goes before and they follow singing the praises of Dionysos. As to the reason why the figure has this member larger than is natural and moves it, though it moves no other part of the body, about this there is a sacred story told. 49. Now I think that Melampus the son of Amytheon was not without knowledge of these rites of sacrifice, but was acquainted with them: for Melampus is he who first set forth to the Hellenes the name of Dionysos and the manner of sacrifice and the procession of the /phallos/. Strictly speaking indeed, he when he made it known did not take in the whole, but those wise men who came after him made it known more at large. Melampus then is he who taught of the /phallos/ which is carried in procession for Dionysos, and from him the Hellenes learnt to do that which they do. I say then that Melampus being a man of ability contrived for himself an art of divination, and having learnt from Egypt he taught the Hellenes many things, and among them those that concern Dionysos, making changes in some few points of them: for I shall not say that that which is done in worship of the god in Egypt came accidentally to be the same with that which is done among the Hellenes, for then these rites would have been in character with the Hellenic worship and not lately brought in; nor certainly shall I say that the Egyptians took from the Hellenes either this or any other customary observance: but I think it most probable that Melampus learnt the matters concerning Dionysos from Cadmos the Tyrian and from those who came with him from Phenicia to the land which we now call Bœotia.
Rene Magritte, "The Flood"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Take Five

So long as I alone drank of the black-watered spring, the water thereof methought was sweet and good; but now 'tis all fouled and the water mixed with mud. I'll drink from another and a purer spring.
- Theognis of Megara (959-962)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ezra Pound, "Portrait d'Une Femme"

Picasso Portrait De Femme (1937)

Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea,
London has swept about you this score years
And bright ships left you this or that in fee:
Ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things,
Strange spars of knowledge and dimmed wares of price.
Great minds have sought you- lacking someone else.
You have been second always. Tragical?
No. You preferred it to the usual thing:
One dull man, dulling and uxorious,
One average mind- with one thought less, each year.
Oh, you are patient, I have seen you sit
Hours, where something might have floated up.
And now you pay one. Yes, you richly pay.
You are a person of some interest, one comes to you
And takes strange gain away:
Trophies fished up; some curious suggestion;
Fact that leads nowhere; and a tale for two,
Pregnant with mandrakes, or with something else
That might prove useful and yet never proves,
That never fits a corner or shows use,
Or finds its hour upon the loom of days:
The tarnished, gaudy, wonderful old work;
Idols and ambergris and rare inlays,
These are your riches, your great store; and yet
For all this sea-hoard of deciduous things,
Strange woods half sodden, and new brighter stuff:
In the slow float of differing light and deep,
No! there is nothing! In the whole and all,
Nothing that's quite your own.
Yet this is you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Thirst Yet No Water Fit, Even for Foot Washing

for they recognized Him not at Emmaus...
After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience

Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock

Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand not lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses

If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
And water
A spring
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water
-T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Venus Verticordia

On April 1, the Veneralia was celebrated in honor of Venus Verticordia ("Venus the Changer of Hearts"), the protector against vice. A temple to Venus Verticordia was built in Rome in 114 BC, and dedicated April 1, at the instruction of the Sibylline Books to atone for the inchastity of three Vestal Virgins.

She hath the apple in her hand for thee,
Yet almost in her heart would hold it back;
She muses, with her eyes upon the track
Of that which in thy spirit they can see.
Haply, “Behold, he is at peace,” saith she;
“Alas! the apple for his lips, – the dart
That follows its brief sweetness to his heart, -
The wandering of his feet perpetually!”

A little space her glance is still and coy,
But if she give the fruit that works her spell,
Those eyes shall flame as for her Phygian boy.
Then shall her bird’s strained throat the woe foretell,
And her far seas moan as a single shell,
And through her dark grove strike the light of Troy.

- Painting & Poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Stranded on the Banks of Realism

The river's tent is broken; the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of City directors;
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept ...

-T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Vesti la Giubba!

Surely he that thinketh his neighbour knoweth nought and he alone hath subtle arts, he is a fool and his good wits attainted; truth to tell, we all alike have our wiles, but one is loath to follow base gain, while another taketh pleasure rather in false cozenings.
- Theognis of Megara (221-226)

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Hope is the one good God yet left among mankind; the rest have forsaken us and gone to Olympus. Gone ere this was the great Goddess Honesty, gone from the world was Self-Control; and the Graces, my friend, have left the earth. No more are righteous oaths kept among men, nor hath any man awe of the Immortal Gods; the generation of the pious is perished, and no longer are laws recognised, nor orderlinesses. Nay, so long as ever a man live and see the light of the Sun, let him with reverence to the Gods worship Hope also; let him pray to the Gods with splendid meat-offerings, and also make sacrifice first and last unto Hope. Let him beware alway of the crooked speech of the unrighteous, who having no respect for the Immortal Gods do ever set their heart upon other men's goods, making dishonourable covenants for evil deeds.
- Theognis of Megara (1135-1150)

Monday, June 6, 2011

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride"

Cyprus-born Cytherea, weaver of wiles, Zeus hath given Thee this gift because He honoureth Thee exceeding much —Thou overwhelmest the shrewd wits of men, nor lives the man so strong and wise that he may escape Thee.
- Theognis of Megara (1386-1388)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Deeper Sort of Thirst

'Tis sure there are two evil Spirits of drinking among miserable men, Thirst that looseth our limbs and grievous Drunkennes; I shall go to and fro between these twain, nor wilt thou persuade me either not to drink or to drink too much.
- Theognis of Megara (837-840)

Will the Restoration of Hippoplyta's Girdle

...reveal the Holy Grail? Enquiring Fisher Kings need to know whether the sands of the time for mankind have all run out, or or a renaissance for mankind will recur.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Observation Central

Of Tunnels, Umbrellas & Bent Telescopes... very Freudian. ;)

I no longer love a lad; I have shaken off sore troubles and gladly 'scaped grievous distress; I am delivered of my longing by the wreathad Cytherea, and thou, lad, hast no favour in my eyes.
- Theognis of Megara (1337-1340)

By the late 5th century BC, philosophers might separate Aphrodite (Cytherea) into two separate goddesses, not individuated in cult: Aphrodite Ourania, born from the sea foam after Cronus castrated Uranus, and Aphrodite Pandemos, the common Aphrodite "of all the folk," born from Zeus and Dione. Among the neo-Platonists and eventually their Christian interpreters, Aphrodite Ourania figures as the celestial Aphrodite, representing the love of body and soul, while Aphrodite Pandemos is associated with mere physical love. The representation of Aphrodite Ourania, with a foot resting on a tortoise, was read later as emblematic of discretion in conjugal love; the image is credited to Phidias, in a chryselephantine sculpture made for Elis, of which we have only a passing remark by Pausanias*.

Thus, according to the character Pausanias in Plato's Symposium, Aphrodite is two goddesses, one older the other younger. The older, Urania, is the "heavenly" daughter of Uranus, and inspires homosexual male (and more specifically, ephebic) love/eros; the younger is named Pandemos, the daughter of Zeus and Dione, and all love for women comes from her. Pandemos is the common Aphrodite. The speech of Pausanias distinguishes two manifestations of Aphrodite, represented by the two stories: Aphrodite Ourania ("heavenly" Aphrodite), and Aphrodite Pandemos ("Common" Aphrodite).

*Pausanias, Periegesis vi.25.1; Aphrodite Pandemos was represented in the same temple riding on a goat, symbol of purely carnal rut: "The meaning of the tortoise and of the he-goat I leave to those who care to guess," Pausanias remarks.

Rep. Weiner, member of the House LGBT Caucus, are your Tweets more than a political tale of the tub? Your young wife was once rumoured to have been Hillary Clinton's gay lover...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Day in the Life

I play rejoicing in Youth; for long's the time I shall lie underground without life like a dumb stone and leave the pleasant light of the Sun; and for all I be a good man, shall see nothing any more.
- Theognis of Megara (567-570)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Moving Forward, Always Forward

She. I hate a bad man and veil my face as I pass him, keeping my heart light as a little bird's. He. And I hate both a gadabout woman and a lustful man that chooseth to plough another's land. Both. But what's done cannot be undone: 'tis the future that needs watch and ward.
- Theognis of Megara (579-584)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Collectively Summoning a False Sense of Euphoria

If thou be'st honest, go not a step to meet any of these thy fellow-townsmen, in reliance neither on oath nor friendliness, not though, willing to grant thee security, he give thee the Great King of the Immortals for his surety. A fault-finding city liketh nothing so well as that which shall make many men live more unhappily, and now the ills of the good become the joys of the bad, who rule with strange laws; for Honour is perished, and Shamelessness and Pride have conquered Right and prevail in the land.
- Theognis of Megara (283-292)

Friday, May 27, 2011

**Haemon's Antigone*

We have come into a much-desired mischief, Cyrnus, where best the fate of Death would take us both together.
-Theognis of Megara (819-820)

*Antigone (play /ænˈtɪɡəniː/; Greek: Ἀντιγόνη) is the daughter of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta in Greek mythology. The name may be taken to mean "unbending", coming from "anti-" (against, opposed to) and "-gon / -gony" (corner, bend, angle; ex: polygon), but has also been suggested to mean "opposed to motherhood", "in place of a mother", or "anti-generative", based from the root gonē, "that which generates" (related: gonos, "-gony"; seed, semen).

**Haemon ("bloody")

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Behaviour of Horses and Asses in a Democracy

Plato, in his "Republic", describes the degeneration of a democracy that leads to tyranny. The acclaimed translator, Benjamin Jowett summarizes the text as follows:

Tyranny springs from democracy much as democracy springs from oligarchy. Both arise from excess; the one from excess of wealth, the other from excess of freedom. 'The great natural good of life,' says the democrat, 'is freedom.' And this exclusive love of freedom and regardlessness of everything else, is the cause of the change from democracy to tyranny. The State demands the strong wine of freedom, and unless her rulers give her a plentiful draught, punishes and insults them; equality and fraternity of governors and governed is the approved principle. Anarchy is the law, not of the State only, but of private houses, and extends even to the animals. Father and son, citizen and foreigner, teacher and pupil, old and young, are all on a level; fathers and teachers fear their sons and pupils, and the wisdom of the young man is a match for the elder, and the old imitate the jaunty manners of the young because they are afraid of being thought morose. Slaves are on a level with their masters and mistresses, and there is no difference between men and women. Nay, the very animals in a democratic State have a freedom which is unknown in other places. The she-dogs are as good as their she-mistresses, and horses and asses march along with dignity and run their noses against anybody who comes in their way. 'That has often been my experience.' At last the citizens become so sensitive that they cannot endure the yoke of laws, written or unwritten; they would have no man call himself their master. Such is the glorious beginning of things out of which tyranny springs. 'Glorious, indeed; but what is to follow?' The ruin of oligarchy is the ruin of democracy; for there is a law of contraries; the excess of freedom passes into the excess of slavery, and the greater the freedom the greater the slavery. You will remember that in the oligarchy were found two classes—rogues and paupers, whom we compared to drones with and without stings. These two classes are to the State what phlegm and bile are to the human body; and the State-physician, or legislator, must get rid of them, just as the bee-master keeps the drones out of the hive. Now in a democracy, too, there are drones, but they are more numerous and more dangerous than in the oligarchy; there they are inert and unpractised, here they are full of life and animation; and the keener sort speak and act, while the others buzz about the bema and prevent their opponents from being heard. And there is another class in democratic States, of respectable, thriving individuals, who can be squeezed when the drones have need of their possessions; there is moreover a third class, who are the labourers and the artisans, and they make up the mass of the people. When the people meet, they are omnipotent, but they cannot be brought together unless they are attracted by a little honey; and the rich are made to supply the honey, of which the demagogues keep the greater part themselves, giving a taste only to the mob. Their victims attempt to resist; they are driven mad by the stings of the drones, and so become downright oligarchs in self-defence. Then follow informations and convictions for treason. The people have some protector whom they nurse into greatness, and from this root the tree of tyranny springs. The nature of the change is indicated in the old fable of the temple of Zeus Lycaeus, which tells how he who tastes human flesh mixed up with the flesh of other victims will turn into a wolf. Even so the protector, who tastes human blood, and slays some and exiles others with or without law, who hints at abolition of debts and division of lands, must either perish or become a wolf—that is, a tyrant. Perhaps he is driven out, but he soon comes back from exile; and then if his enemies cannot get rid of him by lawful means, they plot his assassination. Thereupon the friend of the people makes his well-known request to them for a body-guard, which they readily grant, thinking only of his danger and not of their own. Now let the rich man make to himself wings, for he will never run away again if he does not do so then. And the Great Protector, having crushed all his rivals, stands proudly erect in the chariot of State, a full-blown tyrant: Let us enquire into the nature of his happiness.

In the early days of his tyranny he smiles and beams upon everybody; he is not a 'dominus,' no, not he: he has only come to put an end to debt and the monopoly of land. Having got rid of foreign enemies, he makes himself necessary to the State by always going to war. He is thus enabled to depress the poor by heavy taxes, and so keep them at work; and he can get rid of bolder spirits by handing them over to the enemy. Then comes unpopularity; some of his old associates have the courage to oppose him. The consequence is, that he has to make a purgation of the State; but, unlike the physician who purges away the bad, he must get rid of the high-spirited, the wise and the wealthy; for he has no choice between death and a life of shame and dishonour. And the more hated he is, the more he will require trusty guards; but how will he obtain them? 'They will come flocking like birds—for pay.' Will he not rather obtain them on the spot? He will take the slaves from their owners and make them his body-guard; these are his trusted friends, who admire and look up to him. Are not the tragic poets wise who magnify and exalt the tyrant, and say that he is wise by association with the wise? And are not their praises of tyranny alone a sufficient reason why we should exclude them from our State? They may go to other cities, and gather the mob about them with fine words, and change commonwealths into tyrannies and democracies, receiving honours and rewards for their services; but the higher they and their friends ascend constitution hill, the more their honour will fail and become 'too asthmatic to mount.' To return to the tyrant—How will he support that rare army of his? First, by robbing the temples of their treasures, which will enable him to lighten the taxes; then he will take all his father's property, and spend it on his companions, male or female. Now his father is the demus, and if the demus gets angry, and says that a great hulking son ought not to be a burden on his parents, and bids him and his riotous crew begone, then will the parent know what a monster he has been nurturing, and that the son whom he would fain expel is too strong for him. 'You do not mean to say that he will beat his father?' Yes, he will, after having taken away his arms. 'Then he is a parricide and a cruel, unnatural son.' And the people have jumped from the fear of slavery into slavery, out of the smoke into the fire. Thus liberty, when out of all order and reason, passes into the worst form of servitude...
An encounter of Beethoven and Goeth with a group of aristocrats on the streets of Teplitz.
Bettina Brettano tells the story of that encounter as such: " As they were walking together, Beethoven and Goethe crossed paths with the empress, the dukes and their cortege. So Beethoven said to Goethe: Keep walking as you did until now, holding my arm, they must make way for us, not the other way around. Goethe thought differently; he drew his hand, took off his hat and stepped aside, while Beethoven, hands in pockets, went right through the dukes and their cortege, barely miming a saluting gesture. They drew aside to make way for him, saluting him friendlily. Waiting for Goethe who had let the dukes pass, Beethoven told him: " I have waited for you because I respect you and I admire your work, but you have shown too great an esteem to those people. "

Clearly, this led to a tacit rupture in their relationship. Subsequently, Goethe never mentioned Beethoven’s name again and after a few years he never returned one of the composer’s letters. Nevertheless, Beethoven held the highest respect for the poet, even trying to rekindle the old friendship, but his efforts were in vain.
A recent article on current events inspired this post. So much for Beethoven's "Enlightened" meritocracy which surplanted the aristocracy...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Life in a Theatre of the Absurd

Ah, blessed and happy and fortunate is he that goeth down unto the black house of Death without knowing trouble, and ere he have bent before his foes, sinned of necessity, or tested the loyalty of his friends.
- Theognis of Megara (1013-1016)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wenching it up

In youth a man may sleep all night with one of his age and have his fill of delights, and may sing in revels to the pipe. 'Tis certain nothing is sweeter either to man or woman. What worth to me is wealth or honour? Gaiety and good cheer together surpass all things.
- Theognis of Megara (1063-1068)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Penelope's Musings at the Loom

Remind me not of misfortunes; for sure, I have suffered even as Odysseus, who escaped up out of the great house of Hades, he that so gladly and pitilessly slew the suitors of his wedded wife Penelope, who had so long awaited him in patience beside his dear son till he set foot on the land....
- Thersites of Megara (1123-1128)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Freeing the Inner Merman

Be patient in misfortune, my soul, for all thou art suffering the intolerable; 'tis sure the heart of the baser sort is quicker to wrath. Be not heavy, thou, with pain and anger over deeds which cannot be done, nor be thou vexed thereat, nor grieve thy friends nor glad thy foes. Not easily shall mortal man escape the destined gifts of the Gods, neither if he sink to the bottom of the purple sea, nor when he be held in murky Tartarus.
- Theognis of Megara (1029-1036)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Time Out

God giveth prosperity to many useless men such as being of no worth are of no service to themselves nor to their friends. But the great fame of valour will never perish, for a man-at-arms saveth both soil and city.

May the great wide brazen sky fall upon me —that dread of earthborn men —if I aid not such as love me, and become not a pain and great grief unto such as hate.
- Theognis of Megara (865-872)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Epimetheus and Modus Tollens

The Black Swan Theory or Theory of Black Swan Events is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept that The event is a surprise (to the observer) and has a major impact. After the fact, the event is rationalized by hindsight.

The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:

1. The disproportionate role of high-impact, hard to predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance and technology

2. The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities)

3. The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs
It all sounds so ludicrous... I know. ;)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jen's Photo Tribute 2

Virtue Endureth

Many bad men, for sure, are rich, and many good men poor; yet will we not change our virtue for these men's wealth, seeing that virtue endureth but possessions belong now to this man and now to that.
- Theognis of Megara (315-318)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

L' Amour

Nothing, Cyrnus, is more delightful than a good wife; to the truth of this I am witness to thee and do thou become witness to me
-Theognis of Megara (1225-1226)

Emerson and the One

"If One is not, then nothing IS"
- Plato, "Parmenides"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Once More into the Breech!

A young wife is not proper to an old husband; she is a boat that answereth not the helm, nor do her anchors hold, but she slippeth her moorings often overnight to make another haven.
- Theognis of Megara (457-460)