Life’s meaning is not from distant, lofty examples of public recognition of personal achievements. It can be found in everyday life; however, it may seem trifle or prosaic. For me, I see my mom in her old, invalid self whose back is arched like a bow and her left knee immobile and think she has reached the stage of the Old Woman as presented by Shakespeare’s poetic view of human life composed of Seven Stages of Man. Gone are the days of parental tyranny built on tirades, a rant of frustration, ire of a disappointed expectation, and a delusion of estrangement. Without the queen’s mighty power, she is now approaching the age of oblivion with one foot in the threshold of the last stage of a play called life.
I have recently read Samuel Johnson’s essay on authoritarian parenting. Johnson must have written it out of his childhood experience or observation from others. Johnson follows the Aristotelian definition of parenting as being naturally tyrannical. He admonishes the dysfunctional effects on the child’s mind and body, subject to the illogical rants of inordinate temper and crude ignorance on the part of the parent. To be a good parent requires no occasion for the assistance of high education or social standing of recognition, but unconditional love and understanding springing from the parent’s heart. A good parent encourages, nourishes, and loves the child who will return the jewels of parentship at the Latter Stages of Man. Therefore, it is all over but the shouting that a parent whose intermittent bouts of uncontrolled tantrum inflict pain and exact terror on the child will live in malignity of the disaffected child who mistreats now the old, infirm parent without the presence of love and warmth. What a pity.
Upon reading the essay, I saw the images of a young mom, mature mom, and old mom screened in a phantasmagorial display of the ancient time on a mind’s theater. From childhood until now, mom I have known is lonely, living in her castle where no one would bother or scare her fragile sensitivity that feels too much to confront life’s realities, including parenthood. How I will think of her as a parent is a foregone conclusion not with spite but with sympathy. With her left knee immovable by the osteoporosis combined with calcification in tibial arteries, I now only see an older woman on the verge of extreme pathos about the life she did not like much, among which her regret of not being an ideal mother. Although Johnson had a point in admonishing harsh parentship without love producing revengeful quid pro quo consequences, I cannot turn my shoulders away from my mom, who has none but me to take care of her in this world. I remember Mother Teresa pleading to all of us that charity begins right at home. That’s what I feel when I see my mom asleep like a baby. And thereby hangs a tale.
The period of four months can be long or short, depending upon how you feel it, and to me, it amounts to a long time that has changed my life in every possible way akin to an epoch of revolution. My life with an orphaned kitten named Toro has become a fugue of meows and voices in multiple strands of more meows and voices that has no coda.
During the four months, Toro and I had anfractuous moments made of frequent visits to different veterinarians, displays of whims and caprice on both sides, tears and smiles, frustration and understanding, doubts and hopes, wishes and disappointments, all of which are crystallized into a virtue of acceptance. I still cannot believe that I have a cat when I still have a weakness for more domesticated, more trainable, and more approachable canine breeds. This doubt develops into a sense of guilt, a whirlpool of self-criticism of not being good enough to be a loving owner of Toro, who is particularly in need of love and kindness due to his sensitive nature and suspected traumatic postnatal experience. Those educative textual and visual information on raising cats dissipates into a gray area of reality and stay there amid my trials and errors in the course of being a terrific guardian whom Toro wishes to live with. Does Toro want to live with another owner who can make him happy in a bigger house where he can run like his wild ancestors or cousins in nature with his new playmates? I ask Toro, but he returns me with that pensive glance and grooms himself like nothing more is necessary than licking his legs and rectum.
My mother still wants me to return Toro to the shelter because his burst of pep and temper is unprecedentedly unbridled and insurmountable to be caught up with. Then I read other cat owners’ stories and watch their YouTube channels only to make parallels to their blissful lives with their cats and to descend to the labyrinth of gloom and sorrow without an exit. My previous post about my precipitated proclamation of a mutually beneficiary feeling of dependency becomes a public humiliation, a textual pillory of an incompetent cat owner who has no idea about the animal that does not like to be with her the first place. Or so it seems. Alas, woe to the one whose head is whirled like a potter’s wheel in the vortex of confusion, illusion, and discord in a da capo.
Notwithstanding all of the above, one thing is sure that Toro’s wellbeing, both mentally and physically, is what I care about the most. I have taken him to three different vets so far due to his frequent diarrhea, constipation, and anal pain repeating like Bach’s Toccata. Even if Toro may indeed secretly entertains a wish to meet a new ideal owner, I want to take care of him as much as I can to the fullest extent within my capabilities because I care about him and want to be happy together. His little heartbeat I feel in my hand and when he sleeps at my feet is the most precious thing I treasure that empowers me with a sense of purpose that I have a life depending on me.
As members of society and citizens of the world, we are one way or another connected to the past, present, and future. That is why history is a multidisciplinary study to understand human nature and learn lessons from the past. Listen to Winston Churchill: “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.” Watching our nation’s leaders on T.V., dividing the country into splinters of dissenters instead of embracing them as one people of the nation, makes me urge the current political leaders of our country to read about what it means to be an intelligent and influential ruler who knows a thing about leadership.
Roman emperor Hadrian was of history scholar, specialized in ancient Greek history and mythology. He was affectionately known as a “Greekling” and endeared and admired by the Greeks whose land he made in the Roman Empire. The Greeks’ love of the Roman Emperor was inscribed in the Arch of Hadrian built in AD 131, an archeological wonder with the 59 feet high structure made from marble from Mount Pentellicus used for the Parthenon, that read: “This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus.” The Greek elation reached the pinnacle when their Roman ruler built the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s dedication to the king of Greek gods and goddesses’ splendor. He also made the legendary Library of Hadrian, containing 100 marble columns with halls with printed ceilings, alabaster walls, and great statues of the Olympians destroyed by the malice of fortune AD 267. Greek enthusiasm for their Roman emperor was no unreason for their willing submission to Rome’s rule, which they had once colonized. The site of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian in modern Athens
Hadrian’s fascination with Greece developed from his learning under the tutelage of his cousin Trojan became a foundation of Pan-Hellenism to turn Athens into a new cosmopolitan cultural center for the Roman Empire. By way of acculturation, Hadrian hoped to stabilize the Roman Empire’s fractious eastern part and effectuate the colonials’ ruling. Hadrian followed what the antecedent Roman poet laureate Virgil in the Aeneid to solidify Greece and Rome’s cultural link. In this fashion, he succeeded in ruling the colony with glad acceptance by the governed, who even declared him a founder of new cosmopolitan Greece, intent on cutting ties with the mythical ancient past.
Hadrian’s motto of Pan-Hellenism reminds me of Macedonian predecessor Alexander the Great’s Hellenism, both of which proved work in incorporating different cultures into a dominant culture with respect and benevolence. Both Alexander and Hadrian had an eye for beauty in arts embedded in cultures they annexed to the dominion and knew how to rule wisely and effectively. It was acculturation of the native cultures on both sides, the ruling and the ruled. Yet, Hadrian’s way of exercising sovereignty over Greece is more accommodating and welcoming, even if the intention was not free from political ambition. The ancient Athenian historian Thucydides confirmed that history is the ultimate record of the events by recognizing certain commonalities between the past and the present that transcends the subject of times and applying it to our present situation. If our current political leaders take a cue about social integration to the same vein’s present social conditions, it might help the country stratified by race and class.
“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary,” said Thomas More, who died for his relentless faith despite Henry VIII’s promise of honor he would confer on to his most trusted counsel in his cabinet. Samuel Johnson also confirmed that faith required no byzantine theories or philosophy for the validity of truth. Until I attended a public Sunday mass in a parking lot yesterday, I had not realized the power of faith, which I doubted I still had in my heart.
The beautiful liturgy of the mass, which culminated in the Eucharist, was akin to a flowing of streams of life to the eyes of a seasick seaman and the thirst of a weary traveler. I had never expected such exaltation of the soul with faith disappearing into an abyss of despondency populated with a school of doubt, disbelief, and frustration nurtured in a reality of everyday life. But while listening to a priest’s sermon based on the reading of Matthew 25:31-46, which is about the importance of practicing faith into actions, especially by sharing milk of human kindness with people you feel least likable or unkindest.
The priest further asked if we would counsel with God in making decisions in life or just about anything needful of help. No one answered yes because let’s face it, we regard such tendency to recourse to God as a derogatorily medieval way of living life in this Digital Age of Artificial Intelligence. We try to reason our faith with the validity of practical truth and willfully turn our heads from the Gospel with the usual facade of “Religion has nothing to do with it.” But then can you also prove that we are nothing but of a highly complex living organism made of accidental atoms, sans souls? What is the feeling that urges you to search for meaning in life, our sense of purpose? Can atoms do it?
It is my wholly solipsistic reflection of hearing mass, but now I feel like finding Ariadne’s Thread in the labyrinth to find a way out on this last day of the church calendar. What a feeling. Peace to be with you, and God bless you all.