Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Board Games!?

Of all the activities that took place at the ancient greek symposiums, I found that they played board games one of the funniest! Apparently one of the games was a dice game similar to our Parcheesi, which they played with three dice (later the romans adapted it to be played with two dice). Here's a depiction of Achilles and Ajax playing such a game:

Modern Symposium

Researching the Symposium I ran across an article that documents a modern day symposium between philosophers at a dinner party, based off of the format and subject of love at Plato’s Symposium. It is interesting because not only does it include a helpful summary of the points each ancient Greek character made, but a modern interpretation as well! Here’s the link: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=1&hid=13&sid=d7e4baab-541f-49ea-bcfa-4841bb5ddf9c%40SRCSM2&bdata=JmxvZ2lucGFnZT1Mb2dpbi5hc3Amc2l0ZT1laG9zdC1saXZl#db=aph&AN=8637410#db=aph&AN=8637410

Once you're there, you can click on the PDF form for the full text at the bottom of the page.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Antigones Passage

I was reading and struck upon a passage in Steiner that was quite interesting to me. In congruence with the 5 conflicts that we’ve been discussing, it hits upon the conflict between gods and mortals. On page 275, the interpretations of Creon’s political views, and their effects on his actions, come into question. Steiner reads “Has Creon discovered in the bleak clairvoyance of his rage the abyss of non-relation between mortal and divine? Does he now realize, if only in a barren flash of insight, that his desecration of Polynieces corpse was a meaningless gesture because a man’s fate in respect of the transcendent cannot be determined via ritual or the denial of ritual?”. This is one interpretation of the rigidity by which Creon appears bound to the laws of man. We do see that his view contrast with Antigone’s reverence for the god and their laws, but how extreme is it really? Steiner offers, on page 276, that Creon’s outcry on line 1284 can read as “signifying that no sacrifice can appease all-devouring Hades”. Maybe as much as he would like to believe in the laws of the gods, he knows that no act or deed can remedy his dark fate. Yet it seems that this view wouldn’t make sense until the actual death of Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice. Because until that point he wasn’t planning on the death of his wife and son as well, so the only tragic-fated one was Antigone. At that point he could still go off of the excuse that he must stick by his laws in order to keep the state afloat. But then again, if at that point he actually did find the rule of the gods inconsequential, the act of the burial or desecration, as well as the death of Antigone, would have been of no consequence. Therefore there would have been no tragedy.—It seems integral to the construction of the play that the true views of these characters are so ambiguous. We think we understand the role that Creon’s political observances play, and we try to understand that because it is our nature to desperately want to characterize people, but any other interpretation can change their entire meaning and his intentions completely.

It seems like a line that a lot of people struggle with. The line of faith, that is. What is the value in giving yourself whole-heartedly to a god head; performing rituals; believing in something that may not have tangible effects on your life? You can find meaning in anything if you search hard enough, see signs anywhere. But you also have to be reasonable in what you find. Or you can simply live by the laws of man, which are wholly tangible and applicable, and only question your fate and your practices when some course of events prompts you to do so.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Midgy the Hamster--May She Rest In Peace

The death of a pet. A truly devastating occurrence for a child. In many instances it is the first time they experience any kind of tragedy or emotional trauma. I mean sure, great Aunt Mildred may have died, but sentiment for that old bag of bones is nothing compared to the aquatic frog you bonded so deeply with over the 3-day period it was alive.

A child’s pet is basically his best friend. And why is that? Constant attention. Kids need attention, and that hamster isn’t going anywhere fast. A bond begins to form between these two eager creatures. They give each other their whole heart, and hold nothing back, which makes for a truly special relationship.

And eventually when the pet grows old, as all pets inevitably do, and dies, there is a feeling of loss. It feels like the deepest of pains, to know that your special friend is no longer there to spend hours with you playing video games and devouring foreign objects. Yet at the same time, you are consoled by all the adults who tell you that the little guy is going to a better place; which is a totally acceptable and comforting thought. And you’re able to move on and form relationships with new pets while still keeping those fond memories of the first one alive. The key to all this, however, is the tangible death of the animal. The physical evidence that your bunny rabbit or goldfish, just didn’t have any life left in them, and that they had nowhere to go but up. The grieving process has a chance to come full circle.

On the other hand, in the cruelest and most unusual of circumstances, your pet doesn't die but simply disappears…into a wall, in my case. That’s right, my little hamster, Midgy, the love of my 8-year-old life, gone, into a socket hole in our kitchen wall. Imagine the horror—no—the sheer suspense in it all. One minute she’s there, and the next, nowhere to be seen. By the time mom figures out what happened she has the job of keeping you optimistic about the chances of Midgy reappearing, when in fact she has probably already made her way into the foundation, never to be seen again. Which is exactly what did in fact happen. I had no consolation, no closure. Who’s to say she went to a better place? It’s likely if that better place is trapped between dry wall. I can completely understand Antigone’s need to bury her brother, to give him a peaceful rest, to finalize things. For all I know, that poor hamster's body is just laying on the damp cellar earth, decomposing, never having made it to hamster heaven. These are disturbing thoughts. And if I could have gotten my little hamster back, dead of course, you can bet I would’ve given her a proper burial that all loyal pets deserve. In a shoe box in the back of the yard. Antigone by no means shoved her brother in a shoe box, but even the simple act of throwing dirt over the body was enough to bring her peace. And that’s all any of us really look for; an ending, a finale, a last goodbye, some closure.

Midgey the Hamster
May she roam the foundation for eternity

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dysfunction In The Family

Talking about dysfunctional families on Monday got me to thinking about the ways in which my own family is dysfunctional. A key to this thought process is the fact I’ve been away at college and am no longer around my family 24/7, and therefore having been removed, developed maybe more of an honest interpretation.

Comparing my family to the ‘stock’ dysfunctional family, I can’t find anything too dysfunctional. My dad isn’t dopey, maybe a little removed when he reads or does the crossword. Actually as he ages I’ve been noticing a little senility, but at 46 I think it would be unfair of me to start grouping him into the old-man-out-of-the-loop crowd. Instead I’ll just say he has his own interpretation of things.

Mom isn’t the sensible one, so much as she is the insensible one. A long day of work will leave her in a tizzy over why a single sock of mine is lying in the middle of the floor. Her automatic response is that I flung my sock off in a fit of filth, and the fact that it is still lying in the middle of the floor obviously signifies my complete disregard for the cleanliness of the house. Actually, Mom, I was doing my laundry and the sock happened to tumble out of the basket—in no way was it a deliberate attempt to defile the kitchen floor.

Little brother would appear to be the all-american kid from a distance…a considerably long distance. He plays sports, does homework, watches TV, and eats. However the ratio at which this all happens is the clincher. Lots of TV, not so much homework, quite a few sports, lots and lots of food. His food selections are actually quite shocking to me. He’ll come into the kitchen for an afternoon snack, and proceed to make a whole bag of pot stickers. Yeah like 15 or 20 of them. Enough to feed the whole family and still have leftovers basically. And then that’s it…until an hour later he comes up to eat a huge bowl of cheerios, not a cereal bowl, but like a serving bowl. The problem I have is that these are all goods foods to eat, but the sheer quantity in which he eats them gives me nightmares about nutrient deficiency and explosions.

And then there’s me. And I don’t even have anything to say about that because I am perfect.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cross Road Blues: Legend of Robert Johnson

I went to the crossroad

    fell down on my knees

I went to the crossroad

    fell down on my knees

Asked the Lord above "Have mercy, now

    save poor Bob, if you please

Mmmmm, standin' at the crossroad

    I tried to flag a ride

Standin' at the crossroad

    I tried to flag a ride

Didn't nobody seem to know me

    everybody pass me by

Mmm, the sun goin' down, boy

    dark gon' catch me here

oooo ooee eeee

    boy, dark gon' catch me here

I haven't got no lovin' sweet woman that

    love and feel my care

You can run, you can run

    tell my friend-boy Willie Brown

You can run, you can run

    tell my friend-boy Willie Brown

Lord, that I'm standin' at the crossroad, babe

The legend of the crossroads, or rather of Robert Johnson at the crossroads, turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment once researched. It turns out that this legend is much more marvel and much less truth than I was hoping to find. But I guess it follows the trend of legends tending to be falsified. These lyrics are to Robert Johnson’s song ‘Cross Road Blues’ which in some cases is believed to be about that fateful night he met with the devil. However many now believe it to be (less excitingly) about hitch-hiking. The emotion and conviction with which he played the song were truly born out of feelings of anxiety that naturally would come with being a young black man stuck at a crossroads at nightfall during the 1920s-1930’s. The line “tell my friend-boy Willie Brown” eludes to Johnson asking someone to tell his friend what happened to him. He feels desperate and alone. And this interpretation of the song does make sense, because according to the legend the exchange with the devil happened at midnight, and this song is during dusk.

The significance of the crossroads is still deep rooted in ancient and mystical tradition. And without direct reference, the crossroads allusion is enough to leave us a spark of belief that something other-worldly just might have happened.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

History Quotes

As I was re-reading over my notes I came across the James Joyce quote said in class, “History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake”. So I looked into it a little bit and found a few more quotes that went along with some of the themes we’ve discussed in class:

“History doesn't repeat itself - at best it sometimes rhymes”—Mark Twain

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge - myth is more potent than history - dreams are more powerful than facts - hope always triumphs over experience - laughter is the cure for grief - love is stronger than death”—Robert Fulghum

“History is a set of lies agreed upon.”—Napoleon Bonaparte

“We learn from history that we do not learn anything from history.”

“What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past”—Victor Hugo

“History is fables agreed upon.”—Voltaire

“History repeats itself, has to, nobody listens”—Steve Turner

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Myth of the Eternal Return

Coming off the exhilarating high of Groundhogs Day, we’ve been able to talk more literally about the concept of eternal return. As before we were simply relating police reports and strange happenings to mythological events, we can see now that even normal, everyday things repeat themselves.


The basic concept of ‘Eternal Return’ is that there exists a finite amount of matter in the universe, however, time itself is infinite. So with infinite time, the finite matter will eventually run out of configurations and repeat itself.

There are several interpretations of this phenomenon. One is that eternal return makes our world meaningful, because we are imitating preexisting models. So everything that is happening in the present is significant because it automatically parallels something that has happened in the past.

But then again, since matter and events are repeating themselves, wouldn’t it make sense to assert that our world isn’t meaningful so much as it may be predictable? Is anything meaningful or special if it’s occurred countless times before? Or rather is it comforting to know that whatever is happening has indeed already happened?

It is a dilemma for those of us who accept this theory of eternal return. I know I have mixed feelings about it myself. But I always think it’s more fun to contemplate these things than to be one of those people that would rather believe their scrambled egg in the shape of Jesus is truly a universal phenomenon.