Nobody’s property

My letter to the editor of BBC Wildlife was printed in this month’s issue. I wrote about my impression of an illegal primate trade in the UK featured on a previous issue, which reminded me of human slavery where lives were treated as expendable chattel.

The story of TikTok tells the marmoset baby monkey who was rescued from a miserable life as a pet in a birdcage abandoned alone. It raised awareness of animal abuse in mental and physical forms as pets at the mercy of whims and caprice of the owners, who regard them as nothing more than live, expendable toys. TikTok was first bought for its exotic beauty and rarity in the illegal animal market, but the owner soon lost interest in the new pet, forsaking due care owed to him. When TikTok was finally rescued, he was in a state of fear and shock, so he was put together with another rescued older marmoset who cared for him like his son. Looking at the two photos, I thought of enslaved people who were sold off like commodities seen from Alex Haley’s heartrending saga of American black family “Roots.” In the story, humans are perceived and treated as nothing more than talking stock, and therefore the most basic unit of society in the form of family is unthinkable for slaves. Mothers and children are forcefully separated, let alone husbands and wives are for mating purposes only to multiply the population. Such comparison is not a stretch of the imagination but a sheer fact of association.

We have come a long way to the progress of the mind regarding human rights and animal rights compared to the past, or we like to think it so. Perhaps it is our animal instinct to dominate what is perceived as controllable. That is why a force of civilization in the form of rules and law is essential to reining in our unruly and crude id in implementing reason as a way to prevent cruelty against lives. But such rationalism should always complement humanism lest we should act on the mechanism of the mind. And let us not forget that those who mistreat animals also do the same to their human brethren.

‘Phonecian Civilization: A History from Beginning to End’

Phoenicians were more than smart ancient people who ruled the Mediterranean before the grandeur of Rome took over the world under the sandals. They were brilliant seafaring merchants, navigating the open waters with the direction of the Polaris, the occupants of Canaan, the biblical land of honey and milk, the high-end manufacturer of Tyrian purple, and the inventor of the alphabet. They were adventurous and impetuous, wild and civilized, just as Dido, the queen of Phoenician Carthage, was to Aeneas and General Hannibal to his Roman enemy force.

As aforesaid, Phoenicians were Canaanite of Semite groups that shared the same cultural and linguistic roots with Jews. Interestingly, Phoenicia was not a single country but a confederate of city-states located along the eastern Mediterranean Sea, comprising modern-day Syria, Israel, and Lebanon about 3,000 B.C. Phoenicians sailed across unknown seas of antiquity, always bringing seeds of vine tree with them to sow them on foreign lands, propagating the bliss of wine everywhere they went. So they went to North Africa and established their city-state called Carthage, located in what is now known as Tunisia, and planted vine trees producing melliferous wine. Perhaps it’s the aura that the land of vine trees infatuated Aeneas, a Trojan prince, destined to become the founder of the Roman race, in the person of sultry queen Dido. Sure, Dido was a Baal worshipper. So was Hannibal because Phoenicians regarded Baal, the dignitary in the circles of hell, to Christians, as the god of fertility and weather, with El, the father of all gods, and Astarte, the progenitor of Greek Artemis and Aphrodite. Moreover, human sacrifices of children during natural disasters or wars were performed, while sacred prostitution to honor their gods Adonis and Astarte, just as Babylonian women did in the temple of Ishtar. It seems that except for the Jews, the ancient peoples from the Middle East, near the Middle East, and the Mediterranean seem to regard physical pleasure as the essential component of euphoria that accounted for sacred ecstasy in the worship of their deities.

Such is my impression of ancient Phoenicians whom Alexander the Great couldn’t even dominate. Romans destroyed Phoenician city-state Carthage, after which it was said that a priest cursed Phoenicians, sprinkling grain of salt on the conquered land, lest they arise again, evermore. Whether it was true, the curse proved not as effective as the Romans wished because the Phoenician legacy continues in the form of cultural influence as aforesaid.

Sister Wendy’s lovely ‘Speaking to the Heart: 100 Favorite Poems’ – book review

Speaking to the Heart: 100 Favorite Poems by Wendy Beckett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sister Wendy was an erudite and delightful cloistered art historian in a veil who knew that Poetry is a song of the heart from a mind spring of sense and sensitivity, not to be burdened with a weight of reason. The result is a lovely apple-picking of her favorite poems in her pretty poetic orchard to share the beauty with the universal reader whose heart intoxicated and the spirit exalted in ethereal ecstasy. Her selection of poems manifests the finer tissues of her heart and the higher octaves of her spirit. Reading the entire book creates empathy for the sensitive minds of the poets so physically poignant that the reader senses the pain and the longing of the poets vis-à-vis.

Sister Wendy, also known for her long-time BBC documentaries on the history of art, speaks her heart through the poems of her choice colored in the spectrums of human emotions, ranging from longing to wonder, hope to sorrow, and anger to love. Even the subject of Faith becomes alluring due to Sister Wendy’s magical transformation of the matter into fairy-like ideation with sensually diaphanous wings as pagan as could be. Her interpretations speak on the poet’s behalf as an individual soul at the utter solitude, not as a literary artificer whose achievement merits the name in the canon of literature. In doing so, Sister Wendy brings out the poet’s true sentiment under a forage of words and shines her mystic perspectives on the poet’s reading in a splendid but straightforward way.

The reader will find famous, not-so-famous, and obscure poems from Elizabethan England to 20th century America in this lovely book. Sister Wendy is both discriminating, and non-discriminating in the human emotions poured into the world of poetry. She is discriminating in the sense that she has a “Third Eye” that sees the poet’s soul and understands the sentiment nuanced in the poem, including wrath and despair, poisons to the mind. Non-discriminating in a way, she values poems spirited in the heroic but straightforward endurance of existential malaise in everyday life written in the plebian language. From Shakespeare’s ‘Fidele’ to John Harris’s ‘Feral’ and many more, the reader will feel ennobled to walk the gardens of the poetic Elysium with Sister Wendy introducing you to each of the poets’ greeting and smiling.



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