Tag Archives: culture

Magical windows of the misty past

The story of man and beast decorates the wondrous latticework of the enchanting casement of Greek mythology. The ancient Greek weavers of stories used their poetic license to mirror the human traits, both attractive and unattractive, through the figures of the beast in scintillating ways. The resultant mythology created an aura of mysteriousness wonderfully anchored in reality whose thematics were originated in, such as the following tales from Greek mythology that reflect the nature of humankind as mirrored in the perspectives on the natural elements of animals and the relations to it.
Cretan_Bull

The Cretan Bull

  • The Cretan Bull and the Minotaur 

The story of a half-bull and half-man monster known as the Minotaur epitomizes the primordial thematic perspectives of mankind juxtaposed along with the law of nature representing the mysterious force. It became a subject of belief tradition peculiar to its natural and cultural environs. The conflicting sentiments of reverence toward the awe-inspiring nature’s creatures and the ambition for domineering them as the ruler of the universe give birth to the bestial creature in the figure of the terrific Minotaur who was fated to be slain by the Athenian hero Theseus. 

minotaur

The Minotaur

King Minos betrayed Poseidon by keeping his beautiful snow-white Bull, instead of sacrificing it to the expectant god, who, in turn, made his wife Pasiphae unquenchably infatuated with the Bull. She copulated with the beast by taking herself into the form of a hollow wooden cow designed by the Athenian architect named Daedalus. The result was the Minotaur kept in a Labyrinth by the selfsame designer of the wooden cow. The Minotaur showed no human feelings or emotions as the mythology did not treat him any more than a horrible bestial creature from the unnatural union of a woman and a beast. 

A Bull in the ancient Greek culture was a chthonic animal associated with fertility and vegetation and also represented the sun and the might. In fact, the famous figure and paintings of bull-leaping are seen inside of the Minoan mausoleum in Knossos as first discovered by the eminent English archeologists Arthur Evans, who also found Linear A and B letters, the mother of the ancient Greek language, at the turn of the 20th century, 

Unknown

Argos finally uniting with Odyssey.

  • The dog – the best friend of mankind

The perspective on the dog as the loyal canine companion collapses the millenniums between the ancient Greek’s time and ours. Even the Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of the Hades look tamable with a piece of sweet cake, making it look less of a menacing beast necessitating the blood and flesh of man. This goes without saying that it was Argos, the paragon of the faithful canine, who recognized his travel-weary employer Odyssey after 20 years of absence from home and put forth what might think he had to approach him with a wagging tail. He died as his long-waited boss in incognito passed by him with his heart pounded by a surge of pathos dubbed in warmth. Of all the gods, goddesses, heroes, and even his family, it was Argos who showed genuine, artless unconditional affection to Odyssey and thus rendered his heroic owner all the more humane and sympathetic. 

Laelaps_web

Laelaps, the dog that never fails to catch

Speaking of loyalty, Laelaps, a Greek mythological dog that never failed to catch what it was hunting, also denotes how the ancient Greeks perceived the dog as their life companions. Laelaps was initially a gift to Europa from Zeus, then bequeathed to Minos, who gave it to his concubine Procris whose sister included Pandora. She gave the hound to her husband Cephalus as a token of her unbroken love for him Cephalus used the hound for hunting the Teumessian Fox that could never be caught. Then Zeus turned both of the animals into the stars as the constellations Canis Major (the dog) and Canis Minor (the fox).

12916666_f496

The Eternal Catch-Me-If-You-Can between Canis Major (the Dog) and Canis Minor (the Fox)

Consequently, the use of the animals above in the thematic context in the Greek mythology evinces that mankind cannot exist alone as part of nature. Man finds his meaning of what it means to be a human and its purpose in life by rendering the values and precepts of natural law emblazoned in the human consciousness to the meta figures of the mythology. The mythological animals, whether wild, imaginary, or ordinary, are the reflection of the human traits interbred with imaginary creatures from the Elysium of Fancy. It became the substratum of a belief tradition administering to the modes of social behaviors in society, and thus developed into an organized religion by way of syncretism in the era of Christianity. 

‘A Journal of the Plague Year’, by Daniel Defoe – review

A Journal of the Plague YearA Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The biblical cyclicity of history proclaims that what is happening now happened before because there’s no new thing under the sun. As I agree with the cyclical history theory, I prefer stories that confirm the continuity of human nature, which results in this felicitous book I came across on the Kindle store. The precedent epidemic scares and the response to them in Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, a classic 1722 account of the Black Death that devastated England from 1664 to 1665, do not read no less different than ours. Defoe’s recounting of the plague successfully resurrects the spirit of the epoch as his narrator guides the reader to the places and scenes of the seismic event in the capacity of a charitable and knowledgeable guardian of posterity, making them surprisingly familiar with ours.

It is a literary eye-witness account of what happened during the resurgence of the bubonic plague that had ravaged Europe hundreds of years earlier in the semblance of a nonfiction narrative. Even though Defoe was only five years old when the plague swept England, his fictional narrator feels very real and the account telltale as though it had been written it in the spirit of Veni Vidi Vici. So much so that the story seems more veritable than the counterpart of Samuel Pepys, whose narrative feels comparatively prosaic without the personal charm of the narrator. The reader will also learn that the 17th-century modus operandi of dealing with a pandemic is not that far from the current 21st-century preventive measures of social distancing, personal hygienic disciplines, and other relevant systematic societal restrictions.

Defoe holds up a mirror to his posterity that shows what it was like during the epidemic scare and what the people from days of yore did to sail through such calamity as a wise and warm advisor to our current global pandemic situations. In fact, while I was reading the book, I was surprised by how similar the cautious measures decreed by the authority were then to our own now. In my opinion, this book replaces Boccaccio’s The Decameron as a must-read during the pandemic, because of its power of reality drawn on empirical oral accounts so close to the lives of the ordinary folk that we can relate to our own time.

View all my reviews

Fantastic Beast and where to find it

3bf73ffd63c1ee76b03c15c2e8193863

This is how a Kumiho appeared before the eyes of an enchanted man

I came across the article “Fantastic (Medieval) Beasts” from my subscribed magazine the other day on the train with delight and want to introduce readers another phantasmal beast from Korea called “Kumiho,” meaning a “nine-tailed fox” living in the heart of mountains.

The Kumiho conveys syncretism of totemism and shamanism in which the characteristics of humanity (Intelligence, Beauty, Ambition, Greed, Love) are fantastically intertwined with spiritual beings of natural creatures. Originally born of the spirit of a dead fox, the snow-white, gray-eyed Kumiho with the voice of a baby lives up to a thousand years with a blue magic marble possessing the knowledge of all things in the world.

The Kumiho is also an excellent shapeshifter, often in the figure of a beautiful young maiden to lure a man for marriage, so that it can fully become a human on the 100th day of the marriage. However, if any mortal sees it devouring the livers of livestock or corpses at night before the 100th day, the Kumiho can neither become a human nor will ascend to the celestial kingdom of eternal bliss, but will live another thousand years on earth until it achieves the intention. In fact, there have been accounts that several hikers have sighted the Kumiho deep in the mountains of South Korea…

 

vertigo – chapter eleven

starry_night_full

“Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh

It is the star above her that governs her conditions. Iris knows that the fault is not entirely in herself but mostly in the lucky star that does not seem to know where to find its beneficiary. The star was born when Libra and Capricorn were met in the house of Aquarius on the nineteenth hour of a blustery snowy wintry night. The star hangs on the vault of nightly celestial ballroom among the other stars twinkling merrily and boldly but alone in a corner of the limitless dome, twinkling ruefully and dutifully as if it were trying to signify its insignificant presence on the nocturnal cosmic stage. For this lone star has not found its beneficiary, the ascribed terrestrial hair of its power, and without it, the star cannot become a lucky star. Which is a tragedy for both Iris and her star.

In fact, Iris’s existential frustration or noogenic neurosis agrees to what Shakespeare was suspected of harboring in all his life. Surely, the Bard was a very successful playwright and poet who marched in a parade of famed hits in his time, but he was wrestling with a doubt whether it was Fate or Freedom of Will that governed human lives as conveyed in his works, such as “Julius Caesar”, “Othello”, and “Hamlet”. The characters of these plays fight for their causes as masters of their fates, but the consequences are not entirely fortuitous in bliss. That’s why the Greek soldier and historian Thucydides regarded vain hope imbued with a paroxysm of flattering confidence and blind devotion to the law of attraction as a dangerous hubris to one’s philosophy of life.

Hope plays its role as a morale booster when one sees it as a card of chance in awareness of odds in one’s favor. In this manner, one does not have to think about it but can fight with every hope of winning. This also relates to a principle of Logotheraphy: the less one cares, the more one can without stress for success. But alas, my dear reader, to pour lead into the wound, all the aforesaid needs luck as the Bard chips in thus: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” A tide of the deep wide ocean of Life that arises from the heart of the ocean to surge in bounty of fortune to a weary wayfarer on the land is what Iris has been waiting for till now.

All this thought, all this doubt about her so-called life – the existential frustration- are vexing her mind and crippling her faculties of the mind like vermin, so much that she feels utterly disoriented and deserted in the crossroads of life. The faith she has begun to lose with reasons justifiable only to herself, meaning of life she still hasn’t found, Iris finds herself lost in the Labyrinth where the Minotaur is roaming around to find his prey. And she does not have the hero Theseus nor Ariadne for help. Iris must find the way out anyhow for her dear life. But one thing is certain my dear reader; that although fortune’s malice or absence might conspire to overthrow her state, her feisty and recalcitrant mind will eventually exceed the compass of her will of fortune with a triumphant laugh.

Fiddlesticks! – on Smartphones

RE: 8/20/2018 edition of The Los Angeles Times on “Your smartphone is a teddy bear”

We are swimming in a dazzling sea of modern technological conveniences, and we are drowning in it, whether we are against it or not. We have come a long way since the inventions of a talking telegraph (a telephone), an electronic toaster, a walkman, and all other apparatuses that have become inseparable from us, to arrive here in the 21st century where we seldom begin and finish our days without gazing into (or being glued into) monitors with our hands on keyboards. Surely, it’s a marvelous human cultural progress, a fantastic collective enterprise of the human minds for betterment. Hip, hip, Hooray for the magnum opuses.

Apart from the marvels of our ingenious inventions that have made our lives a bit more bearable to fulfill our daily tasks, how about our non-technological aspects of life then? Do we really think that smartphones provision us with the bells and whistles of our equilibrium? At least two researchers at UC Irvine declare the resounding “Yes.” According to their recent study of psychological impacts of smartphones on our behavioral tendencies, the high-tech gizmo guarantees a feeling of security by saving us from social faux-pas in awkward situations. In fact, they “conclude” that smartphones function as efficacious stress relievers.

John Hunter and Susan Pressman are the names of such revelation, and they want to debunk the infamy of a smartphone as a mindless gizmo used for killing away our otherwise productive moments. They conducted an experiment that involved 3 experimental groups of those who had (1) the phones but were not permitted to use them; (2) the phones and were permitted to use them; and (3) no phones among a control group of UC students. The results were all over but the shouting: that those with the phones displayed less degree of anxiousness and anxiety than those who had none when they were purposefully estranged from the control group. Conversely, those without the phones exhibited the highest level of the stress hormone alpha anylase in the saliva. Besides, those with the phone but were not allowed to use them showed the least level of the stress hormone. Consequently, the researchers raved about these results, rhapsodizing about the positive effects of a smartphone on our psyche.

Neither a luddite nor an anachronist adhering to a primeval way of living, I am all for the munificent technological largess of our time with open arms because I also, inevitably, use it myself in my daily life. But the researchers’ triumphant conclusion of their experiment seems rather precarious and cursory in relation to the following speculations: (1) What were the age groups of their experimental groups? Did the researchers target a specific age group? (2) What were the education and social levels of the experimental groups?; (3) were there any variables in the experimental groups and the control group?; and (4) were the researchers by any chance funded by technologically-based companies?  These are the questions that my heart suspects more than my eye can see.

The image of a devil’s advocate is what I am donning on this topic, but this article pushed me into the position on account of rather superficial results of the experiment devoid of the information on the aforesaid speculations. Also, looking at people wallowing themselves in small smartphones everywhere, especially on the subway and the bus, other than books or kindles, renders an apocalyptic image of the world nearing the doomsday or a scene of horror creatures that turn into zombies every night. “Magnas civitas, Magnas solitude,” Francis Bacon once lamented a great feeling of isolation in a great city. That says it, I should think so. Our sense of belonging and security is not bound by a possession of smartphones, nor does it replace your sweet teddy bears.