Lies as Fuel for Slaughter; Truth as Wellspring of Courage

Yesterday, by chance, reading involved two things: a chapter of history and a short story.  Written by men living 2300 years apart, these describe the very same thing: the workings of the human heart, in particular at times of trial, and the results of those workings in terms of human suffering and survival. In the history, people lied to everyone about everything in an attempt to save their own skins, and failed, earning themselves sordid deaths.  In the story, a man is led by his absolute devotion to truth at least to die with integrity after having behaved well.

Thucydides claims to have based his history on near reports, and to have fleshed it out with his own considered reconstructions of the speeches made by the great men on all sides during the Peloponnesian War.  That’s fine; all well and good, but to read it is to scan multiple recursions of the same theme, here paraphrased:... [Read More]


Anger Management Wednesday: “The Devil and Daniel Webster”


What I am supposed to be doing is packing and otherwise preparing for the Left Coast Sojourn. But this I have in mind is more interesting.  Hey, I checked the upcoming weather Utah and San Fran; I pulled out multiple clothing items and arranged them in various piles; I tried on bathing costumes in March in the Northern Hemisphere!  All those today!  So now I can do as I like for a while.... [Read More]


“The Apple-Tree, the Singing, and the Gold”

In the Hippolytus of Euripides, matters proceed as the usual unstoppable train-wreck: swiftly at times and slowly at other times; hopeful for a few moments but dreadful mostly.  Goddess makes Queen fall in love with own stepson; Queen tries to shake it off, but fails; humans and deities all clamor about, baffling progress and escalating strife; Queen starts gearing up to do something not only stupid but also evil; Chorus gets a whiff of it and just wishes to get the heck out of there.

Here is Gilbert Murray’s translation of the Chorus as they fantasize escape destinations:  a cave, a cloud, the beach, a riverbank, and then hit on the ideal place: the Garden of the Hesperides, of course.... [Read More]


The Old Botswana Morality

Those who value cultural conservatism are made happy when agreeable ideas flow through the mind of a favorite character, straight off on the first page of the 18th book of her series.  Mma Ramotswe, founder and proprietress of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, thinks about these ideas at first in terms of clothes:

.  . . -but she was never keen to pay one hundred pula for something that could be obtained elsewhere for eighty pula, or to get rid of any item that, although getting on a bit, still served its purpose well enough.  And that, she thought, was the most important consideration of all – whether something worked. . . She also felt that if something was doing its job then you should hold on to it and cherish it, rather than discarding it in favor of something new.  Her white van, for instance, was now rather old and inclined to rattle, but it never failed to start -except after a rain storm, which was rare enough in a dry country like Botswana – and it got her from place to place – except when she ran out of fuel, or when it broke down, which it did from time to time, but not too often.... [Read More]