Tag Archives: history

Stoic mind

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That which they called Providence,
A divine scheme of God’s purposes,
Was the handiwork of Fair Fortune,
The ancient idea of lucky chances
Of adventures and misadventures,
Knocking the door of a poor man’s hut
With a pouch of lucky stars regardless
Of what the world saw for his worth,
Pacifying his ills of grief and grievances.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The doctrine of providence that a man’s life was an intricate handiwork of God’s mysterious purposes was a tenet of Protestantism which, as a counter-cultural way of resisting medieval Catholicism, advocated zealous work ethics in an effort to combine a practical faith with an active self-reliance and independence. That riches and authority came of men’s industry and diligence, of their labor and travails, not of miracles as a result of mechanical recitations of prayers and devotions to saints was the canonical principle of the reformed church. However, the folks who were not well-off, not-too-rich, poor, and very poor never subscribed to the doctrine of providence. They still clang to the concept of luck because it accounted for any misfortune befalling them regardless of merits and efforts when others wayward seemed to prosper. By believing in luck or chance that reformists condemned, he who in travails did not have to jeopardize his self-esteem as something of a mental analgesic against the strains of his contemporary life, lest he should fall by the wayside, and thus could reconcile himself to the environment he lived. Hence this belief in luck survived the seismic protestant reformation and still thrives on in our time. 

Fantastic Beast and where to find it

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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…

 

‘The Real Guy Fawkes’, by Nick Holland – review

The Real Guy FawkesThe Real Guy Fawkes by Nick Holland

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was a fateful day for a man, it was a fortuitous day for a crown. A man of imposing physique with a more imposing spiritual credo stood there speechless in the cellar of the House of Lords stocked with barrels of gunpowder that could blow up the parliament to the detritus of the past sovereign supremacy. The captors were in awe of the man’s imperturbability amid the silent trepidation of the weight of aborted stratagem. He was no less than a person than Guido “Guy” Fawkes himself, one of the eight Gunpowder conspirators, the man whose effigies are ceremoniously mocked and burned on 5th of every November throughout England as his eternal Promethean punishment for defiant treason since 1605.

Nick Holland’s The Real Guy Fawkes tells it all about who this unfortunate but formidable man of unshakable faith in his realistic discourse of the accused based on historical evidence gleaned from his exhaustive research superbly blended with his vivid storytelling narrative skills that resurrect the atmosphere and ethos of the era contributing to the making of Guy Fawkes. We see young Protestant Guy with a great linguistic talent, good looks, and full of life, playing a Nine Men’s Morris with his friends. We witness Guy’s conversion to Catholicism, his stint as a valorous soldier in the Spanish Army in Flanders, his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot as the right-hand man of Robert Catesby, the charismatic leader who wanted to bring his beloved England to the One, Holy, Apostolic Church, and his last moment on the scaffold. He was a passionate man of faith who keeps his words by actions, and the image of Guy Fawkes overlaps with that of Father Mendoza in the film “The Mission”, who tried to revolt against the tyrannical oppression of despotism suppressing a freedom of wills and faith incompatible with its claim of totalitarian supremacy over individualism.

Holland’s role of compassionate and open-minded narrator helps the reader to understand what motivated Guy Fawkes to involve in such an epochal plot and who the person of Guy Fawkes was. The infamy that chained Guy Fawkes in the unbroken shackles in the darkest dungeon of history becomes justifiably lessen, and the eternal mockery of his likeness becomes faded off as a collective echo of demotic populism orchestrated by the powers-that-be with systematic religious prejudice. Personally, I feel that the celebration of Guy Fawkes Day is akin to the eternal punishment of Prometheus, which should be lifted in order that his soul can rest in peace. If you feel the way I do, or if you understand what it meant to be a Catholic in the Reformation era and before the Second Vatican Council, then you will probably agree with me.

Thereby lies the Devil’s Bible

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The Codex Gigas, courtesy of google

A monk to be welled up alive

After breaking his sacred vows

Bet his life on a magnum opus

In one night with all the knowledge

Deep and wide of heaven and earth

to appease the communal fury

in glory of the holy community

Forever famed in an earthly shrine.

So, the monk made a special prayer

To Lucifer, Prince of Darkness fallen

From heaven in exchange of his soul

For helping him complete the opus.

The Devil answered the prayer thus

And possessed the monk with feats

of supernatural erudition and swiftness.

The monk then paid his dues in twofold:

The portrait of his satanic master in the opus

And the offering of his life to Lord of Hell

In likeness of the life of one Dr. Faustus

According to the gospel of Marlowe.

Thereby lies the Codex Gigas immortal

Author’s Note: This poem is based on my reading of an article about “The Devil’s Bible” that survived the infernal fire in a Swedish castle. It’s arguably the largest medieval manuscript in the world originated in 13th century Bohemia. The scribe who penned this formidable book is said to have made a Faustian pact with the devil for completion thereof in just one day. What’s more, the book escaped the inferno by being defenestrated outside the window despite its being of 8.7 inches thick and 75 kilograms (approximately 165 pounds). The story is so remarkable that it has been registered in my mind’s book since I read it. The Devil’s Bible is now preserved at the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm.

The unlikely duo

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The Unlikely Act: Jack the Baboon and James the Signalman, courtesy of google.com

As a regular customer of a commuter rail, I sometimes wish there was a signalman at my home station instead of an impersonal ticket vending machine without a proper waiting area on a barren platform that makes the nondescript station all the more desolate, drab, and dreary. California wintry mornings are treacherously cold and heartless; they make you yearn for a conspicuous presence of a guiding light of humanity. So it gave me a fillip when I happened on an article about an extraordinary duo from my subscription magazine on the train. 

Let’s take Time Train to Uitenhage in Cape Town, South Africa circa 1890. Meet Jack the Baboon and his senior partner James, the Signalman working side by side watching a train coming toward their station from a distance. James brought Jack to his station after losing both of his legs in a train accident to train the primate to push him around in a trolly, as well as to operate the train signals. Jack was indeed James’s working avatar and a best buddy at work. For good nine years, Jack’s work performance excelled some of his human colleagues, which earned him official employment for which he was paid twenty cents a day and a half a bottle of beer a week. A laborer is indeed worthy of his reward. 

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Jack and James at work, courtesy of google.com

Fast forward the mind’s cinema projector, and I am back at the same home station in the wee hours of cold, rainy California morning. There’s neither Jack nor James, except for a motley of hooded figures of would-be passengers on the platform. All seems crude and cruel except a light with a whistle approaching the station growing bigger and bolder, and I welcome it with the feeling of thankfulness mixed with adventurousness into an unknown new day