Posted in book review

‘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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Posted in Miscellany

Becoming the Ancient Mariner

Think. What do Kubler-Ross Model of Five Stages of Grief, Spinoza’s Amore Dei, Nietzsche’s Amore Feti, and Logotherapy have in common? That it is all about how to accept fate as it is, the stupendousness of truth, the veracity of suffering as a way of finding meaning in what you have to endure. Religion is a poetic way of describing the suffering, a burden of life, another intuitive interpretation of looking at the pain and yielding to it as a destiny. But it is easier to be said than to be done when your spirit is plunged at the lowest tide of life and sees no hope of descrying a land of opportunities in the doldrums. And it betrays your noble hope and begins to shoot albatrosses then become like the Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. Or so it seems.

All the wise in the civilization of humanities told their progeny the reason for bearing the unbearable because they all knew about one thing: that’s what life was about. It is what it is and will be as long as humans exist. In his theory about Amore Feti, Nietzsche posited that evil was what prevents us from striving toward our goals and that power to affirm what we have is the only way to move on in the sailing of life, however terrible it would be. Knowledge and its pursuit are a must-have to shape an essential feature of our consciousness to keep sanity in contextualizing the whys and wherefores of struggles in life with an active mind. It is indeed a noble psychological philosophy, but what about people who are not intellectual as the renowned philosopher but just ordinary earthlings stuck in the existential backwaters of the rut? Did Nietzsche, Spinoza, or Kubler-Ross have to worry about livelihood? Well, Spinoza was a watchmaker, so he should have known something about making a living, but still, he was autonomous in pursuing his intellectual Elysium without having to worry about the burdens of daily life.

I had not known what the darkest night of the soul until now, and the fear of losing myself has finally descended upon me. C.K Charleston said madness is when you lose yourself except for your reason. Shakespeare quipped when nature, being oppressed, commands the mind to suffer with the body, and you would become derailed from norms of behavior and faculty of cognition. I prefer the latter version of madness because if I lose myself, then it should be all or nothing for the complete liberation of my spirit from the chains of enslavement. From insidious dominion of gaslighting to dreadful ascribed duties that I didn’t choose, to endless sadness, and cursed estrangement, I now know why the Ancient Mariner killed the sacred albatrosses whom seamen believed to be the souls of the dead sailors. Ire for the delusion of hope, retribution for the betrayal of faith, and freedom from the pain of unrealized dreams drove the Ancient Mariner to execute the birds and then become one of them, never returning but always wandering.

If only. I long for a sign, omen or augury, that can show me what to do or if I can break this vicious circle of unhappiness that has been cursed on me. No Ouija Board. Why? I don’t trust bargaining with the Devil because he, as a henchman of Satan, is like an angel of God in reaping as many souls as possible to build their armies or populate their cities of the Beyond. Then why do I find myself pleading to God by default while writing this for not ignoring me when he prefers the beautiful and the pleasant? Spinoza and Nietzsche, I beseech you to persuade me with your best reasonings of why I should believe that life is still worth living!

Posted in Miscellany

why she wrote

Like muffled drums in rains of thunder and lightening, her heart was still beating as the intuitive leap within her was on the verge of falling into the crevice of darkness. She hoped that life would be better or that if life wasn’t unresponsive to her hope, she could seek an elbow room in her writings blog, her glass castle of the soul. In this regard, her purpose of writing and that of George Orwell agreed that it was for sheer egoism of being an individual and recognizing it. For all she had read and seen, her spirit wanted to record it in writing before leaving the world without a trace. How pathetic it would be!

If only. The girl hoped to articulate her thoughts to the unseen public somewhere out there. But above all, the girl used her writing practice as an autodidactic exercise to improve writing skills in the language she fell for. She loved the English language so much that she was ready to forsake the native language if she must choose one. She would have wished to possess the art of English Writing if a benign fairy had asked about what gift she would want. Perhaps she would have made a Mephistolean pact for the craft. Yet her love was alone because she loved the language more than it reciprocated the appreciation to her. How cruel it was!

To pure lead into an open wound, the girl realized her brain was not as alert as it used to be in the locomotive of thinking. As thoughts shape language, she reasoned that a slowly deteriorating neuroplasticity in her brain might have contributed to her difficulty in reading and writing. Something ominous was happening to her, and it was gripping her spirit under its diabolic aegis for the sheer pleasure of tormenting the soul in hopelessness. Words she saw refused to make a coherently complete sentence and enter a faculty of thinking. The circuits to the control center of the brain felt blogged or damaged to the point of making telegraphic phrases swiveling at a vortex of frustration. It had never happened until last year. But why was it happening to her? Alas!

She tried to find reasons for the ghastly maladies and self-diagnosed the following:

  1. Moving to California
  2. Demanding nature of her roles and tasks at the workplace
  3. Attending her elderly mother
  4. Approaching her end with no security for future

She further decided that the existential frustrations were exhausting her will to essay her creative and experiential values in fulfilling her meaning of life to be expressed in writing. All of it was tantamount to the enormous boulder Sisyphus had to roll up on a steep hill in Hades as punishment for his trickery on gods. But the girl was more akin to a Caryatid, a sculptured female figure used as a pillar supporting an entablature of a building on her head. 

But what then was her solution to untangle the web of the menacing spider? She had nothing but her will and resilience born of eruditeness and level-headiness. It helped her sail through some of the difficult adventures between the Scylla and Charybdis in her life’s odyssey. Like an earthling who never gives up hope on getting a signal from an extraterrestrial being via radio transmission, every day, she would write even if it would receive no response. Thereby hangs a tale told by a mad girl in hopeless love with words, full of words and madness, but signifying something.

Posted in Poetry

how it became a fallen angel

A dreamer’s shadow in search of the star

It had seen falling over the mountain

Met a stranger’s shadow with a star

It held in the hands, brilliant golden

And asked it wherefrom.

“Over the mountain, and nowhere else.”

The head collapsed, the heart shattered,

A dreamer’s shadow at one fell swoop

Flied to a stranger’s shadow in heartbeat,

Grabbed with its hands the star, brilliant golden

and swallowed it in pride of lions anon.

The star entered its heart’s chamber,

And the shadow became a fire demon.

Posted in book review

‘Leonardo and the Last Supper’ by Ross King

Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I still remember an excellent replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” in a tapestry form decorated on the wall of our family living room when I was in elementary school. It was vast and expansive, nonetheless magnificent with the profoundness of the scene and the expressions on the faces in it – all wondrous and curious. Now a stream of time has flown, but the first impression of the art still has become one of the stars in my heart’s constellation. “Leonardo and the Last Supper” by Ross King has added to the star the brilliance with telling stories resurrecting the atmosphere of the time and vividness of the people surrounding the creation and the creator of the art.

The book is an alluring admixture of the biography of Leonardo da Vinci and the history of religion, politics, society, and culture; all skillfully swirled in Ross’s skillful narrative account of the person of da Vinci and his work of the Last Supper. The narrative becomes more intriguing as the chapters replete with entertainingly informative tidbits about personal accounts of people related to da Vinci and involved in creating the Last Supper are ascending. The story’s construction follows how Samuel Johnson, the 18th-century English essayist and cultural critic, narrated the lives of poets in The Lives of the Poets, composed of a brief biography of a poet, personal accounts of the poet, and professional criticism of the works. The reader will first be acquainted with da Vinci’s biographic backgrounds: parents, a well-to-do lawyer father, and a middle eastern slave mother owned by his father’s household. Da Vinci’s struggle with spelling and even harder Latin education, his fabrication of engineering work experience in his curriculum vitae to obtain a military commissioned engineer post when coming to Milan from Tuscany, and so forth. All the information is a telltale factor contributing to da Vinci’s rise to celebrity in his and our times, which is refreshingly informative to learn that the perennial polymath also had feet of clay with colors of contrast.

Ross is a scholar with a novelist’s magic wand to wield his writing power, casting a spell on facts and knowledge with the beauty of language and ease of words, captivating readers of all life paths with gripping narrative skills. Another book of his “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling,” which I enjoyed with great pleasure, is a helpful companion to this book because both Michelangelo and da Vinci were contemporaries, working under their aristocratic patronage the recalcitrant spirits of creative souls in reins of livelihood. It would also be an excellent reference to the social statuses of artists at that time. Contrary to our images of free-spirited artists, artists worked for their royal, ecclesiastical, and wealthy employers. Therefore, they were not free to choose subject matters for their works because their bosses wanted their power and fame to become works of art, as it were.

Upon closing the last page of Leonardo and the Last Supper, I reminded myself of Plato’s aesthetic definition. Art is a copy of Form, the perfect, pristine Beauty. It exists only in Idea because da Vinci was also a scientist and an engineer who found perfect beauty in perfect numerical and astronomical elements of nature. However, da Vinci’s Last Supper is filled with pathos, contrasts of human emotions, paradoxes of light and dark, good and evil, constantly changing, never-ending. Da Vinci was a humanist, finding beauty in nature as it is, regardless of perfect Form, the unattainable ideal that is out of touch. One thing right about Plato’s Aesthetics is that art is at best entertainment and at worst a dangerous illusion. That says it. Leonardo’s Last Supper is a soul’s entertainment, and so is Ross’s “Leonardo and the Last Supper.”



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