Posted in book review

‘Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World’, by Philip Matyszak

Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World by Philip Matyszak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Forty years on our evolutionary scale amounts to a microsecond on our twenty-four biological clock. The millennium years, even Before Christ, feel so alienly anachronistic from our modern sensibility. The sense of time builds upon a fundamental element of consciousness as molded into a collective emotional experience as contemporary citizens of the world, just as the peoples of the misty pasts we tend to overlook felt the same for the civilizations before them. They were the titans of the pre-ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. They, like the evening sun in its full declination, vanished in the hazy horizons of the time, still dazzling with its scarlet hues of radiating halo lingering on the remnants of human civilization to this date.

Forgotten peoples of the Ancient World is an anthology of the peoples whose feeling of permanence and importance in their time of the world betrayed their fates buried in the tires of cities beneath the earth and returned to the dust in the winds. To illustrate, Akkadians were the first builders of the empire who elevated the Akkadian language to the cultural and political lingua franca of the late Bronze Age. The Hyksos were outstanding charioteers, and their military prowess benefitted their Egyptian subjects. The Bactrian culture was a delightful mixture of Greek and Indian heritages, while the Vandals gave a final, fatal blow to the already destabilized Roman Empire. These peoples affected the celebrity civilizations we are automatically associated with the ancient civilizations. As to why the forgotten peoples became peripheral in our realm of ancient history, it is a question of the immanence of the supreme being in the universe. However, what is certain is that they were the torch-bearers of the first civilizations passing the torch of society they had ignited and encouraged to the next in a relay run of collective humanity.

The book is an excellent anthology of these ancient peoples in chronological order from east to west, showing how civilizations expanded from the cradle across the plains, mountains, deserts, and seas to the Isles of Britons. Divided into the eras marking the epochal changes of history, Matyszak succinctly elucidates the peoples of the misty past with his trademark witty ways of describing historical contexts. Moreover, the exciting historical trivia resurrects the eras in a phantasmagorical display of faces and places.

To conclude, the stories about the forgotten peoples attest to the objectivity of truth applicable to any time of history that that which is here was there, has been, and will be. All things must pass, and there is nothing new under the sun. Our sense of time and culture is a likeness of truth, a matrix-like reality, because our facility is rather instinctive than reasoning, rather physical than metaphysical. Who would have known that people 100 years later now would think our time and us in this time anachronistic and antediluvian? Herodotus felt the same when he arrived in Egypt and saw the wondrous pyramids in awe that the people before his generations had built. So did the Babylonian king, who dug and discovered artifacts from centuries ago. We have seen the hungry ocean gain advantage of the kingdom of the shore, and the firm soil win of the watery main, increase with loss and loss with increase. The forgotten peoples and we are time’s subjects, and time bids are gone.



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Posted in Miscellany

Becoming the Ancient Mariner

Think. What do Kubler-Ross Model of Five Stages of Grief, Spinoza’s Amore Dei, Nietzsche’s Amore Feti, and Logotherapy have in common? That it is all about how to accept fate as it is, the stupendousness of truth, the veracity of suffering as a way of finding meaning in what you have to endure. Religion is a poetic way of describing the suffering, a burden of life, another intuitive interpretation of looking at the pain and yielding to it as a destiny. But it is easier to be said than to be done when your spirit is plunged at the lowest tide of life and sees no hope of descrying a land of opportunities in the doldrums. And it betrays your noble hope and begins to shoot albatrosses then become like the Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. Or so it seems.

All the wise in the civilization of humanities told their progeny the reason for bearing the unbearable because they all knew about one thing: that’s what life was about. It is what it is and will be as long as humans exist. In his theory about Amore Feti, Nietzsche posited that evil was what prevents us from striving toward our goals and that power to affirm what we have is the only way to move on in the sailing of life, however terrible it would be. Knowledge and its pursuit are a must-have to shape an essential feature of our consciousness to keep sanity in contextualizing the whys and wherefores of struggles in life with an active mind. It is indeed a noble psychological philosophy, but what about people who are not intellectual as the renowned philosopher but just ordinary earthlings stuck in the existential backwaters of the rut? Did Nietzsche, Spinoza, or Kubler-Ross have to worry about livelihood? Well, Spinoza was a watchmaker, so he should have known something about making a living, but still, he was autonomous in pursuing his intellectual Elysium without having to worry about the burdens of daily life.

I had not known what the darkest night of the soul until now, and the fear of losing myself has finally descended upon me. C.K Charleston said madness is when you lose yourself except for your reason. Shakespeare quipped when nature, being oppressed, commands the mind to suffer with the body, and you would become derailed from norms of behavior and faculty of cognition. I prefer the latter version of madness because if I lose myself, then it should be all or nothing for the complete liberation of my spirit from the chains of enslavement. From insidious dominion of gaslighting to dreadful ascribed duties that I didn’t choose, to endless sadness, and cursed estrangement, I now know why the Ancient Mariner killed the sacred albatrosses whom seamen believed to be the souls of the dead sailors. Ire for the delusion of hope, retribution for the betrayal of faith, and freedom from the pain of unrealized dreams drove the Ancient Mariner to execute the birds and then become one of them, never returning but always wandering.

If only. I long for a sign, omen or augury, that can show me what to do or if I can break this vicious circle of unhappiness that has been cursed on me. No Ouija Board. Why? I don’t trust bargaining with the Devil because he, as a henchman of Satan, is like an angel of God in reaping as many souls as possible to build their armies or populate their cities of the Beyond. Then why do I find myself pleading to God by default while writing this for not ignoring me when he prefers the beautiful and the pleasant? Spinoza and Nietzsche, I beseech you to persuade me with your best reasonings of why I should believe that life is still worth living!

Posted in Miscellany

why she wrote

Like muffled drums in rains of thunder and lightening, her heart was still beating as the intuitive leap within her was on the verge of falling into the crevice of darkness. She hoped that life would be better or that if life wasn’t unresponsive to her hope, she could seek an elbow room in her writings blog, her glass castle of the soul. In this regard, her purpose of writing and that of George Orwell agreed that it was for sheer egoism of being an individual and recognizing it. For all she had read and seen, her spirit wanted to record it in writing before leaving the world without a trace. How pathetic it would be!

If only. The girl hoped to articulate her thoughts to the unseen public somewhere out there. But above all, the girl used her writing practice as an autodidactic exercise to improve writing skills in the language she fell for. She loved the English language so much that she was ready to forsake the native language if she must choose one. She would have wished to possess the art of English Writing if a benign fairy had asked about what gift she would want. Perhaps she would have made a Mephistolean pact for the craft. Yet her love was alone because she loved the language more than it reciprocated the appreciation to her. How cruel it was!

To pure lead into an open wound, the girl realized her brain was not as alert as it used to be in the locomotive of thinking. As thoughts shape language, she reasoned that a slowly deteriorating neuroplasticity in her brain might have contributed to her difficulty in reading and writing. Something ominous was happening to her, and it was gripping her spirit under its diabolic aegis for the sheer pleasure of tormenting the soul in hopelessness. Words she saw refused to make a coherently complete sentence and enter a faculty of thinking. The circuits to the control center of the brain felt blogged or damaged to the point of making telegraphic phrases swiveling at a vortex of frustration. It had never happened until last year. But why was it happening to her? Alas!

She tried to find reasons for the ghastly maladies and self-diagnosed the following:

  1. Moving to California
  2. Demanding nature of her roles and tasks at the workplace
  3. Attending her elderly mother
  4. Approaching her end with no security for future

She further decided that the existential frustrations were exhausting her will to essay her creative and experiential values in fulfilling her meaning of life to be expressed in writing. All of it was tantamount to the enormous boulder Sisyphus had to roll up on a steep hill in Hades as punishment for his trickery on gods. But the girl was more akin to a Caryatid, a sculptured female figure used as a pillar supporting an entablature of a building on her head. 

But what then was her solution to untangle the web of the menacing spider? She had nothing but her will and resilience born of eruditeness and level-headiness. It helped her sail through some of the difficult adventures between the Scylla and Charybdis in her life’s odyssey. Like an earthling who never gives up hope on getting a signal from an extraterrestrial being via radio transmission, every day, she would write even if it would receive no response. Thereby hangs a tale told by a mad girl in hopeless love with words, full of words and madness, but signifying something.

Posted in book review

’24 Hours in Ancient Rome: A Day in the Life of the People Who Lived There’, by Philip Matyszak – book review

24 Hours in Ancient Rome: A Day in the Life of the People Who Lived There by Philip Matyszak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Edgar Allan Poe once declared that the great was Greece, and the grandeur was Rome. Rome was not built a day, and it lasted from Before Christ to His After for one thousand years. All roads led to Rome, and foreigners, colonials, and slaves from the foes all wanted to become the proud citizens of the Roman Empire. So, what then was it like living in Rome at its glorious prime? 24 Hours in Ancient Rome: A Day in the Life of People Who Lived There by Philip Matyszak comes and carries off the reader in a time coach to Rome’s grandeur and invites to the daily lives of people there with magic of words.

In terms of residential mode, there were more apartment buildings than villas and detached houses in Rome. Apartments called Insulas had 3 or 4 floors with no bathrooms, which means the residents dumped their bodily wastes in buckets out of their windows to the ground any time of day or night when unfortunate passer-byes would have unpleasant surprise showers from above. The apartment residents were city dwellers whose livelihood was arranged from a fish-stroll attendant to a nightguard, an unlicensed independent prostitute, and primarily others diligent and savvy waiting their time and luck to come.

Rome was a practical society with shrewd politicians and powerful merchants/tradespeople. For instance, baking was a highly respectful and lucrative trade because not many people had well-equipped kitchens to cook or bake at home. Bakers had their representatives in the Senate who would lobby for the increase in the price of bread. Still, the Senate often rejected the proposal because the Senate knew that keeping the price low would maintain social stability lest the mass should not cause riots for a change of living cost.

On the other hand, unless they were aristocratic or wealthy mercantile families, women had not many choices of working with desirable pay or respect. They worked in shops or stalls densely concentrated outside the walls of Circus Maximus for long, arduous hours, wrestling between the demands placed upon their tasks at work and home without due respect. Slave women’s employment was mainly hairdressing and doing domestic chores. It was less rewarding and more demanding, contingent upon the mercy of their lustful masters and the whims and caprice of their mistresses, who often inflicted cruel punishment on their slaves if they irked their temper and nerves on a bad day.

Rome was undoubtedly splendid in its dominance and influence consummate with the longevity, but only a few privileged basked in the sunshine of grandeur. Matyszak puts together tesserae in the mosaic of ordinary Ancient Roman lives in this leisurely entertaining and academically stimulating narrative of his part-fictional and part-actual characters. It becomes each vignette comprising a collective story of human life that still rings true to our modern life. Matyszak is an unlikely, uncommon historian whose erudition and humor put him on the same pedestal as renowned historians, such as Tacitus, Plutarch, Herodotus, and Paul Johnson. His narrative styles are engagingly knowledgeable but surprisingly personable, collapsing a great divide of time between the people of the past and the present reader.

Rome was no fun when you had none. Nevertheless, for all that’s worth, Rome was a great city rich in ethnic and cultural diversity. The energy of urbanity made Rome all the more vivacious and vibrant, bustling with businesses and people, and created opportunities for better lives. It is no surprise that Poe thought highly of Rome.



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Posted in book review

‘The Way Mothers Are,’ written by Miriam Schlein, illustrated by Joe Lasker – book review

Nietzsche’s theory of Immanence is about intellectual kind of love of God, Agape, through an elevated perspective of God’s existence manifested in things great and small. That said, this vintage book about unconditional motherly love, first published in 1963, is a charming adaptation of immanence translated in simplicity of language in speaking “charity,” which also means love, as it is derived from “Caritas,” meaning “dear” in Latin. It is a kind of love that Mother Teresa expressed to all, discriminating none to prove superior level of love. And it is this love that Mother Cat has for her son.

The story of the Tabby Cat Mother and Son reads like a poem. Also, the book has adoring illustrations delineated with admiring details on the backgrounds: the wallpapers of rooms, the feline version of Mount Rushmore’s Great Faces, and the carved decorations of charming furnishings – all heartwarming elements that are so fitting to this book about love. The son asks why his mother loves him even when he is a little urchin to his younger sister and is naughty all day. The mother tells him full of affection that she loves him because he is her son and cares for him for who he is, not what he does. The son cat tries to reason his mother’s love for more innocent questions rather than nagging but then finds that the reason she loves him even in his least desirable behavior is lovely. The epiphany of true love also reminds me of Marilyn Monroe’s saying that if one cannot love her in her worst self, that person does not deserve her love. It is not a blatant egoism of a Tinseltown celebrity, but the truth about unconditional love, which is not synonymous with Eros on the heat of passion.

It is a story for all ages whose inner children refuse to grow beyond the evolutionary scale of time. Mark Twain, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Walt Disney had never outgrown their childhood whose childlikeness became all the more radiant and illustrious with their boundless imaginations conjured in the alchemy of the arts. On a personal note, When I saw a tweet about this book, the forever child in me urged the grown-up me to get it because of the adorable illustrations of the Tabbies reminding me of my tabby cat Toro. I wonder if Toro’s mother might have looked like the Mother Cat because the son cat takes a solid resemblance to Toro. So I read the book to Toro, and he seemed to like it, starting to close his eyes on my desk and then purring softly. And I understand Mother Cat’s love for her son because that is how I feel for my little Toro, whom I adopted when he was nine weeks old. Now he is 11 months old, and although he is a sweetheart, his occasional Zoomies and forceful nibbling surprise me. Still, Toro is my cat. And I say to him every day thus: “I love you, Toro. Never forget that.” I know how the mother cat felt for her dear son.