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‘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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they coveted anything and enjoyed nothing: ‘The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant’, by Guy de Maupassant – review

The Complete Short Stories Of Guy de MaupassantThe Complete Short Stories Of Guy de Maupassant by Guy de Maupassant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Attempts to describe ordinary life without an empathetic heart and sympathetic ear are often led to cliched political or social screeds marred by a partisan ideology that fails to chime the bells of the hearts of universal readers across a great divide of territorial, cultural, and biological planes that we want to cross over. In this regard, Guy de Maupassant, a great 19th Century French writer stands alone, showing us what life means to ordinary folk at the heart of its vicissitudes with an honest, profound observation of the performers of acts as an usher to the theatre of human drama.

The short stories are vignettes of collective contemporary lives of ordinary French folk from the middle class Parisian civil servants to the Normandy peasants that are all connected in one way or another in the wheel of fortune spun on the whims and caprice of Lady Fortune. Titles and ranks lose their forces in this game of cruel lottery, and the characters are fallen apart from their most cherished yearnings, treasured wishes, deluded hopes, and forced beliefs. Humanity, in general, lays bare its essence in the face of tragedy, and it is this aspect of human nature that Maupassant laments and pities as a detached observer of each act of the drama. “Two Friends” shows how life can be altered by the current political affairs of the time, while “Monsieur Parent” portrays a man consumed by solipsistic passions kept in a voluntary estrangement. The hypocrisy of religious sanctimoniousness aided by the idiosyncratic custom in the guise of regional tradition in “The Christening” is accused of a crime against humanity. The bullying of meekness and joviality in “Toine” manifests Shakespeare’s adage that the unkindest beast is kinder than mankind. And there is the awakening of greed and sloth in “The False Gems” as Lady Fortune beckons with a fortuitous lure that even you will be tempted into. The panoply of emotions, varied incidents, and inner conflicts are blatantly displayed in their revelation but are nuanced in their language.

Maupassant is a genius in this regard that he elevates the perspective on the seemingly ordinary outlook on life into the intricate psychology of the human mind with the feeling of the sublime as though seen from the position of a god or an angel not permitted to interfere with mortal life. Through the characters, Maupassant shows us what makes them behave the way they do lest we should criticize their follies and foibles a priori. He is in a way a pre-existentialist by which the experience of their characters precedes their existence. That is, if you know them, you will understand them. Maupassant through the literary looking glassed-selves of the characters tells us to read their own stories breathed in a pulsation of unfulfilled longings, disallowed happiness, and shattered dreams to find sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility toward them.

This book is not for a rapid reading at one sitting. Rather you should read this anthology of short stories chapters by chapters, words by words, day after day like you are reading psalms that speak to your heart amid the vicissitudes of life that try your trust in yourself and others. For that’s what Maupassant wants you to as life is seldom fathomable to ascertain how far it will have to be lived and how much it can be appreciated based upon your own appreciation of the meaning of life in daily life.

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this was a woman!

Josephine Baker was surely more than just a pretty dancer who thrived on her exotic charms and wild popularity from her adoring admirers; she had the guts to talk back to the authority that ignored her presence, the voice to speak out against injustice, the pride of who she was and the will to fulfill her meaning of life despite her hardships. And she did all of this with a graceful choreography of decencies and humanity in style.

Reading of the intriguingly informative article about this strong-willed, headstrong woman has confirmed me in the universal credo that no matter where you came from, with the best of what you possess and the will to meaning by actualizing your valuable attributions, you can rise above biological and social planes deemed to stunt your growth into what you want to be. In fact, Baker’s resilient spirit against social discrimination and personal hardships epitomizes what Nietzsche advised to the suffering humanity:” That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” In this sense, the figure of Baker transcends a statue of civil right activist that some people like to erect for pontificating about their political ideology and becomes a universal model of humanity as she herself practiced during her lifetime. For it was not that she loved the socially disfranchised people of her kind, but that she loved mankind more.

Baker’s life was exciting, and the elements so wonderfully mixed in her that parliament of humankind might applaud her to the very echo and proclaim to the world “This was a woman!” For all her acts of courage and fortitude gracefully surrounding her person, those thousand decencies she exemplified as a citizen of the world flew from all her words and actions, really. 

 

저장

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Vet’s long-lost wallet comes home

RE: 8/26/2018 The Los Angeles Times article of “Long-lost wallet’s unlikely return”

For the times passed by, you can just look away and say, “they are gone away” because they are woven by your memories that you have collected through life, willed or unwilled. They become part of you, making you of spirit, fire, and dew, an unique star in a constellation of the universe. Hence nothing could be more pleasingly surprising than discovering that part of you or your beloved kept in photographic images or words of the frozen time, evocative of distant nostalgia that beckons you to reminisce about them, by a happy stroke of serendipity paired with benevolence of a stranger. Something like that happened to Ms. Sharon Moore, a daughter of one former army corporal Robert McCusker.

When Ms. Moore received a “Friend” request from a certain Frenchman named Patrick Caubet on her Facebook page, she deleted it. But then Mr. Caubet messaged her inquiring about the lost wallet of her father Mr. McCusker with the pictures and documents contained therein that he had accidentally found in a basement of his building presumably used as an America officers’ social club. This time she responded and verified that it was her father’s. Prior to Mr. Caubet’s contacting Ms. Moore, he had launched a campaign for locating the rightful owner of the wallet, which encompassed an aid of his English-speaking friend and inquiries to the Pentagon and the U.S. Embassy for help to no avail. Then the help came from a French military office in Paris that located the names of Mr. McCusker’s children in just days. Being a military man himself with a certain feeling of soldierly camaraderie, he was determined to succeed in his campaign, which ultimately came to fruition.

Thanks to this benevolent efforts of one French military man, Ms. Moore and her brother living in Dover, New Hampshire, could reminisce about the lost pages of his Korean War veteran father who had died in 1983. The wallet had pictures of their mother and aunt, military documents, Massachusett Driver’s License, and a Social Security Card, all of which were still kept in a mint condition. Ms. Moore said that since she had her father’s Purple Heart, her brother would be in possession of the wallet that their father had lost on his way from the Korean War to home. In return of her gratitude, Ms. Moore sent Mr. Caubet a lovely basket full of sweet jars of maple syrup she had made herself, some of the candy her father had enjoyed, and a New England Patriots Jerky. Thus, the wallet became their treasure of their beloved father’s memories that they had not known – the terra incognita of their father’s memories before they came to the world -. It became the part of their memories that bound them together to the legacy of their lineage, reminding themselves of their father’s valorous war efforts as a soldier and of his tender loving memories of their mother as a man.

Amid the news of endless politicking, peddling of social media that goes beyond reasonable measures, and a litany of social ills, this article stroke me as a bonanza of altruism that still thankfully kept alive in everyday life, a fresh breath of air that made me feel grateful and hopeful for our future in which so long as we don’t lose a thread of sanity and milk of human kindness, we can make constraints of our lives bearable with a lightheartedness. The kindness of the Frenchman speaks to us that no matter what language you speak, the feelings and emotions that you and I have can strike the chords of our humanness because the principles of reason and of sentiment are universal in all human creatures. The return of the lost wallet as the living record of Ms. Moore’s father attests to the truth.

 

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The Ills of Gentrification

RE: 8/10/2018 article of “A Home for Homeless Vets” by Teresa Watanabe of The Los Angeles Times

It has always been the case that those who who have suffered from afflictions of life appear to give helping hands to the bearers of the suffering. In Vigil’s Aeneid, when Aeneas and his people arrived at the shore of Carthage after the fall of Troy, the beautiful queen Dido welcomed the refuge with open arms and provisioned them with food and shelter and told Aneneas, “because I was once a sufferer of the affliction, I know how you and your people feel.” Now the time and space is translated in modern day California, and this very noble act of humanity in the figure of an old veteran solder continues.

A certain Japanese-American WWII veteran campaigns to provide affordable housing for veterans as well as low-income individuals and families at the risk of homelessness. He has even gone out of his way by establishing “Go for Broke National Education Center” in order to develop a five-story building on leased city land that would house the center and as many as seventy affordable housing units for the aforesaid applicants who find themselves between a rock and a hard place on the threat of eviction from their homes by landowners.

The article in fact brings light to the increasing number of homeless population that results from urban gentrification by which private developers plan to evict low-income residents from their newly acquired properties, so that such reworked properties will accommodate to the level of comforts required by those who can afford high rents, and thus create a totally new residential and commercial environments commensurate to the economic levels of the gentry.

The projection of building a low-income housing complex should be put into action forthwith without fail; it’s not about creating Skid Row, pace the popular opinions on such project in fear of tainting the atmosphere of communities and affecting the economic activities adversely due to the substantive presence of exiguousness incarnate.

I firmly believe that there should be more consorted efforts of fellowships of humanity as aforesaid to actively, substantially and tangibly help people in need to the extent possible by providing them with many more supportive “permanent” housing programs, not ad-hoc homeless shelters. It makes my head swivel in wonderment why politicians do not champion such existential programs, instead of hackneyed willy-nilly metaphysical ideologies that only divide this nation built upon liberty and justice. For if people are ruthlessly kicked out of their abodes just because they are undesirable in the eyes of the businessmen, where can they find liberty and justice to live their sovereign lives as resonated by the Gospel?

Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” – if you don’t give them the necessities of life? (James 2:15-16)