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)

Out of Patience

Thou'rt fair in form, lad, but a mighty great wreath of ignorances is upon thy head; for the ways of thy wits are those of a darting kite, seeing that thou art persuaded by the words of other men.

O lad who hast given ill return for good conferred, and hast no gratitude for kindness done thee, never yet hast thou advantaged me, and I that have so often served thee well have no respect at thy hands.

Like are the minds of a lad and of a horse; the horse weepeth not because his rider is in the dust, but hath his fill of barley and carrieth another in his turn; and in like manner a lad loveth him that is present to him.

Thou hast lost me my good wits, lad, by reason of thy gluttonies, and art become a shame to our friends; but to me thou hast given a little time to refresh me, and with night at hand I lie quiet in haven after the storm.

Love himself riseth in due season, when the earth swelleth and bloweth with the flowers of Spring; ay, then cometh Love from Cyprus' beauteous isle with joy for man throughout the world.
- Theognis of Megara (1259-1278)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Modern Sisyphus

I am a fair and champion steed, but my rider's a knave, and this grieveth me much; often have I almost taken the bit between my teeth, cast my evil rider, and run away.
- Theognis of Megara (257-260)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cymon's Plea for Supra-Natural Charm

Frederic Leighton (1884)
Artemis, Slayer of Wild Beasts, Daughter of Zeus, whose image was set up of Agamemnon when he sailed on swift shipboard for Troy, give Thou ear unto my prayer, and ward off the Spirits of Ill, a thing small, O Goddess, for Thee, but great for me.
- Theognis of Megara (11-14)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pair 'o Lax (& Other) Errors Leading to Misread Road Signs Along Life's Highway

“…so beautifully is their song fitted together”
- H. Apollo (164)

Now where did I put my Stereoscope?
Salvador Dali - Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937)

The Auroch's Instincts Revenant

“I am Aithōn by birth, and I have an abode in well-walled Thebes, since I have been exiled from my native land.
- Theognis of Megara (1209–1210)
Whether I contemplate men with benevolence or with an evil eye, I always find them concerned with a single task, all of them and every one of them in particular: to do what is good for the preservation of the human race. Not from any feeling of love for the race, but merely because nothing in them is older, stronger, more inexorable and unconquerable than this instinct—because this instinct constitutes the essence of our species, our herd. It is easy enough to divide our neighbors quickly, with the usual myopia, from a mere five paces away, into useful and harmful, good and evil men; but in any large-scale accounting, when we reflect on the whole a little longer, we become suspicious of this neat division and finally abandon it. Even the most harmful man may really be the most useful when it comes to the preservation of the species; for he nurtures either in himself or in others, through his effects, instincts without which humanity would long have become feeble or rotten. Hatred, the mischievous delight in the misfortune of others, the lust to rob and dominate, and whatever else is called evil belongs to the most amazing economy of the preservation of the species. To be sure, this economy is not afraid of high prices, of squandering, and it is on the whole extremely foolish. Still it is proven that it has preserved our race so far.
- Nietzsche, "Gay Science"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Paean to Introverts

“more barren [a-karpos] than the Gardens of Adonis”
- CPG I p. 19.6–11

The rituals surrounding the Gardens of Adonis, as Marcel Detienne has argued, are a negative dramatization of fertility. For the details, the reader should consult Detienne's intuitive analysis. Suffice it here to observe that the Gardens of Adonis are planted in the most unseasonal of times, the Dog Days of summer: the plants grow with excessive speed and vigor, only to be scorched to death by the sun's excessive heat, and this death then provides the occasion for the mourning of Adonis, protégé of Aphrodite. In opposition to the normal cycle of seasonal agriculture, which lasts for eight months, the abnormal cycle of the unseasonal Gardens of Adonis lasts but eight days (cf. Plato Phaedrus 276B). Like his suddenly and violently growing plants, Adonis himself dies proēbēs 'before maturity [hēbē]' (CPG I p. 183.3–8, II p. 3.10–13; cf. II p. 93.13). Adonis is thus directly parallel to the debased second generation of mankind, the Silver Men:
“But when the time of maturing and the full measure of maturity [hēbē] arrived, they lived only for a very short time, suffering pains for their heedlessness, for they could not keep overweening outrage [hubris] away from each other
” - Hesiod, "Works and Days" (132–135)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Beware in Interpretting Angels Bearing Answers

“A man who is theōros [i.e., who consults the Oracle] must be more straight, Kyrnos, being on his guard, than a carpenter's pin and rule and square— a man to whom the priestess [i.e., the Pythia] of the god at Delphi makes a response, revealing a sacred utterance from the opulent shrine. You will not find any remedy left if you add anything, nor will you escape from veering, in the eyes of the gods, if you take anything away.”
- Theognis of Megara (805–810)

The Noos at This War's End

“But I do not even get a bit of respect from you, and you deceive me with what you say, as if I were some small boy.”
- Theognis of Megara (253–254)

The Modern Hotel Existence

Cohen's Noos
Part 2; Part 3 (w/partial repeat of 2)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Re-Discovering Joy

“ I heard, son of Polypaos, the sound of a bird making its resonant call, the bird that comes as a messenger of ploughing for men, ploughing in season.

And it roused my somber heart, for other men now possess my flowery fields, and my mules no longer pull my curved plough— all because of that other sea-voyage that is on one's mind. ”
- Theognis of Megara (1197–1202)