Thursday, August 29, 2013

TFBT: Random Notes from Readings in Preparation for CB22.1

I am joyfully reading “The Ancient Greek Hero in 24  Hours” in preparation for  CB22.1x  which is the Fall 2013 presentation of this great on-line open course from Harvard.  Here are some of my random notes.

The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours 10§22. “Granted, the stratagem of crafting the false name Outis succeeds in saving the life of Odysseus...In fact, the stratagem of Odysseus in calling himself Outis 'no one' produces just the opposite effect: it erases any previous claim to any kleos that the hero would have had before he entered the cave of the Cyclops. ..Such erasure means that someone who used to have a name will now no longer have a name and has therefore become a nobody, a no one, ou tis. ". The danger of denying who you are.  Nagy explained that is why Odysseys returned to Ithaca as a beggar.
“the audience of Homeric poetry are presumed to be near and dear. The word philoi, which I translate here as 'near and dear', can also be translated simply as 'friends'”  (H24H 2.5-6  Nagy)  Here I recall Casanova’s comments in the preface to his memoirs, “I pretend to the friendship, to the esteem, to the gratitude of my readers.”  He also warns prudish readers that   everyone ought to know that a preface is to a book what the play-bill is to a comedy; both must be read.”

The sirens proclaim once and or always that "No man has ever yet sailed past us with his dark ship without staying to hear the sweet sound of the voices". (Od 12:186-187)  "No man" is an alias of Odysseus.  So they predicted rightly that Oysseus would,  unlike many others,  sail by.

“Rather than being ignorant of color, it seems that the Greeks were less interested in and attentive to hue, or tint, than they were to light. As late as the fourth century BC, Plato named the four primary colors as white, black, red, and bright.”  Caroline Alexander.  A Winelike Sea. Lapham's quarterly

“…introduced by way of a special word houtōs “this is how”  (is) signaling the activation of a special form of speech known as the ainos. Here is my working definition of this word: an ainos is a performance of ambivalent wording that becomes clarified once it is correctly understood and then applied in moments of making moral decisions affecting those who are near and dear.” ( H24H 2§60-61, Nagy)  This sound a lot like Biblical Wisdom literature which is introduced by; as, than, how much more so, and like.  Further on this topic; (H24H; 2§72 Nagy ) The ainos as told by Phoenix, to which he refers as klea andrōn at Iliad IX 524, connects with the overall klea andrōn as told by the master Narrator. The connection is made by way of poetic conventions distinguishing the ainos from epic. One of these conventions is a set of three features characterizing the rhetoric of the ainos. Unlike epic, the ainos requires three qualifications of its listeners in order to be understood:
1. The listeners must be sophoi 'skilled' in understanding the message encoded in the poetry. That is, they must be mentally qualified.
2. They must be agathoi 'noble'. That is, they must be morally qualified.
3. They must be philoi 'near and dear' to each other and to the one who is telling them the ainos. That is, they must be emotionally qualified. Communication is achieved through a special sense of community, that is, through recognizing “the ties that bind.”   

11§45. Here we see once again the same coincidence of opposites that we saw in... Odyssey xi 127-131, where Odysseus must make a sacrifice to Poseidon, god of the sea, at a place that is removed as far away as possible from the sea... where we have just read the report of Pausanias (8.44.4) about a sacred space in Arcadia that Odysseus established in honor of Poseidon, point to the existence of hero cults for Odysseus...Odysseus will put an end to the antagonism that exists between him and Poseidon by performing sacred act in a place that is made sacred by the act itself. And this idea of a sacred space that is somehow shared by a god and a hero whose relationship is mutually antagonistic, as in the case of Poseidon and Odysseus, is typical of hero cults where the body of the hero is venerated within a space that is sacred to the god who is antagonistic to that hero. In the context of hero cults, god-hero antagonism in myth - including the myths mediated by epic - corresponds to god-hero symbiosis in ritual. A classic example is the location of the body of the hero Pyrrhos, son of Achilles, in the sacred precinct of Apollo at Delphi  in the myth about the death of this hero Pyrrhos, it is the god Apollo who causes this death .

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

TFBT: Random Notes in August

“I revisit this episode both because I believe that current accounts of this key moment in the construction of the Western epic tradition should be revised, and more generally to urge that purely rhetorical analyses of textual traditions remain inadequate to the extent that they do not consider criticism and interpretation as what Reynolds calls a ‘social act.’“(Andrew Ford; Epic Traditions in the Contemporary World)  I think Ford’s comment resonance with Jasper Griffin (The Divine Audience and the Religion of the Iliad) and Myers (Models of Reception in the Divine Audience of the Iliad).  I think there is not enough recognition of the Audience; divine, in book, historical and contemporary. 

“No matter how many immortals you find in a family tree, the intrusion of a sing mortal will make all successive descendants mortal.  Mortality, not immortality, is the dominant gene.” Gregory Nagy The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours.

Why does it take Achilles nine days to summon the council and ask Chalcis how to end the plague?  And how come seers never speak up without prompting?

Is it the erinnyes job to maintain the distance between men and gods?  For example; they shuttle the mouth of Achilles’ divine horse when it was about to say too much.  Also, their treatment of Panderas’ daughters might explain that since the gods were in the process of making them divine.

Nagy speaking on menis and quoting Muellner (1996:8)  “a feeling not separate from the actions it entails, of a cosmic sanction, of a social force whose activation brings drastic consequences on the whole community.”

“…daughter of Zeus, tell me, as you have told those who came before me.”  Odyssey 1:10  It sounds to me like Homer is admitting that he was not the first poet to sing of Odysseus adventures.

“…the audience of Homeric poetry is presumed to be near and dear”  (Nagy 2:5)  Same assumption Casanova makes of the reader of his Memoirs.

“…a special word houtos “this is how” signaling the activation of a special form of speech know as the anios.”   Here is my (Nagy’s) working definition of ainos; a performance of ambivalent wording that becomes clarified once it is correctly understood and then applied in moments of making moral decisions o affecting those who are near and dear… the ainos requires three qualifications of its listeners in order to be understood:
1. The listeners must be sophoi 'skilled' in understanding the message encoded in the poetry. That is, they must be mentally qualified.
2. They must be agathoi 'noble'. That is, they must be morally qualified.
3. They must be philoi 'near and dear' to each other and to the one who is telling them the ainos. “ 

 Or as Ford puts it; “wise or good, and so  akin to” the speaker. All this talk about secret knowledge reminds me of “Wisdom Literature”, the recognition of which is signaled in the Bible by “how much more so”.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

VftSW: A Great New Journey for Me!

“Men must be noble as well as righteous.  There is an aspiration to fulfill the possibilities inherent in being human, despite the loss of intimacy with the gods.  The way back was to aspire to greatness, the reward for which was immortality in the Blessed Isles, where sorrow had no place.”   Richard G. Geldard, The Travelers Guide to Ancient Greece

 Alexander Graham Bell said “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”  I regretfully deleted all my links and shortcuts to “The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours” website.  The class is finished.  The students departed like autumn leaves on the winter wind.  Yet, I still long for the door to open again.  However, a new door has opened, to break my futile routine of false hope and dwindling notes on the message board; vacation!  Along with it several five hours flights. 

 What every will I do?  To quote Richard G. Geldard “There came a time when intimacy was lost.  In order to recapture (it), man developed revelatory rituals of feasting, music, dance and sacrifice…”   So what will my new rituals be?   

·        First, to close the door on some of my old routine.  Atop my bed stand perches a dozen books neither better than “The Iliad” nor better than my textbook for H24H.  (Don’t let Prof. Nagy know, but I read only that the last couple of chapters. By the way; ridiculously good price for a textbook.  )  None of those dozen’s authors or the hundreds before, offered interpretations that made so much sense to me as Nagy’s do.  Time to concentrate my reading on what’s important. 
·        Second over time, my treasury of tidbits grows; 737 tweets, the eighty-five pages of the unfinished “To Limn the Sacred” and all of those notes for the book.  Time to do something with all them.
·        Thirdly, “The Reading Course in Homeric Greek” isn’t reading itself. 

This vacation opens the door on a great new journey for me.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

TLtS:Pareto's Analysis and More

Pareto’s Analysis
Pareto’s Analysis was formulated by an Italian economist, the Marquis Wilfredo Pareto. He determined that fifteen percent of the people of Milan possessed eighty-five percent of its wealth. Joseph Juran expanded and improved. eighty percent of the profits derive from twenty percent of the sales, or eighty percent of the revenue derives from twenty percent of the customers, twenty percent of the cars cause eighty percent of the traffic, twenty percent of the employees cause eighty percent of the boss’ headaches.

"If someone appears seriously ill, heat up a cast iron frying pan, run outside and hit it really hard with a hammer until it breaks. After which, bury the pieces and the person get better. This ritual pretends to “breaking a fever”. This reminds me of the Greek myth of a difficult birth. Someone said the child would die about the same time the last long on the fire burned up. The quick thinking midwife grabbed the log with her bare hand, plunged it into a vat of water (quenched the fever) wrapped up the log and buried it somewhere in the basement.

A Dozen
A dozen mighty lords and ladies sit upon the gilded thrones of Olympus. A dozen beautiful horaes accompany me during the day and a dozen horaes in a blessed night. So five-dozen minutes in a fleeting hour. Roughly five dozen time five dozen days in a year. So three hundred and sixty degrees in a circle.

This country was surveyed from sea to shining sea by townships. A township equals three dozen “sections”. A section is a mile wide. A mile is eighty chains long. “Chains” are four rods long.

This explains the placement of telephone poles, fence posts and the stays in posts and the stays in bob-wire fences. A “rod” is sixteen and a half feet.   A foot can be divided into a dozen inches. After time and distance pretty much everything else seems based on;
• the number Pi (3.1415926…),
• the Golden Section (1.61803 39887...) or conversely (0.61803 39887...)
• and the Fibonacci Series (1,2,3,5,8,13…)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

TLtS: Dawn

Dawn is the time of enlightenment( the Fool). Dusk the time of reflections(the Hermit). Dawn is a time of enlightenment and magic. It is also that twilight land between sleep and awake where things are often resolved in our minds. Speaking of twilight, it is also the dusk that offers a bright shining moment of tranquility. “At dawn my soul grows bright wings. My face glows with white heat. Above fields, I speak with the voice of a hawk, my eye sharp as a blade against the wheat. I speak the work from which I was made. I speak of truth , splendor and strength.” -Normandi Ellis-

"Performances do not occur on stage nor in the auditorium but in between the two, they are, in effect, exercises in the creation and occupation of thresholds." [George, Performance Epistemology: An Essay 1995) "Cyberspace is a consensual hallucination that these people have created. Its like, with this equipment, you can agree to share the same hallucinations. In effect they're creating a world." [William Gibson in Rucker, Sirius and Mu, Mondo 2000 User Guide To The New Edge, 1992) Like being at the theatre and being on the telephone, being 'in' cyberspace necessitates the imaginative 'creation and occupation' of a third, consensually created, liminal world. Liminality is a term used by the Belgian folklorist Arnold van Gennep to denominate the second of three stages in what he called a "rite of passage". The liminal state is a transient time/space for the consciousness as it travels from one world to another. This might be from bachelorhood to marriage, the ritual of the ceremony being the liminal phase when/where one is neither single or married. Crucially, though, the liminality of cyberspace differs to Gennep's linear "rite of passage" in that it suspends the threshold to give the transient world the primary status (rather than tangible worlds that define it) that remains 'in-between'. Two people share a virtual cappuccino in MOO-space . Whilst there would appear to be only two worlds in this equation there are in fact three. The meeting of two time/spaces necessitates the construction of a third. Cyberspace is neither 'here' in WORLD A, nor 'there' in WORLD B but 'in-between' under constant negotiation within the suspended threshold of WORLD C. Both time and space are ambiguous (but not artificial), the world being 'now' but 'not now' and 'here' but 'not here'. Without this time/space created in the imagination of the two people, communication could not occur for neither would understand the other. In the limen there are shifting yet implicit rules and codes which work to create and preserve the meeting ground.

Mircea Eliade, in Rites and Symbols of Initiation (1958), like van Gennep before him (Rites de Passage /I , 1909), outlines three stages in initiatory ritual; separation from or death to the old life, the intermediary state of chaotic ambiguity and ordeal, and rebirth in a new life and return to society as a new being. The liminal state, Eliade opines, is equivalent to the primal chaos. Crossroads, traditionally the place of uncanny happenings, are liminal places; Samhain and Beltaine are liminal times, offering a partial explanation for the weird and magical happenings associated with them, as are the twilight times of dawn and dusk, neither night nor day.

TLtS:Between and Betwixt

The poet Shakespeare said, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”[16] “The consecrated spot” cannot be formally distinguished from the playground. The arena, the card table, the magic circle, the temple, the stage, the screen, the tennis court, the court of justice… are all in form and function play-grounds, forbidden spots, isolated hedged around, hallowed…”[17] 

The great will not condescend to take any thing seriously; all must be as gay as the song of a canary.” [18] . “In all the wild imaginings of mythology a fanciful spirit is playing on the border line between jest and earnest… Conversely, no one is ever totally joking, there is always some degree of truth in their jest.

The Japanese language exhibits this concept in polite speech, the mode of address used in conversation with people of high rank. The convention is that higher classes merely play at all they do. The polite form for “you arrive in Tokyo” is literally “you play at arriving in Tokyo” And for “I hear you father is dead.”, “I hear that your father has played dying.” In other words, the revered person is imagined as living in an elevated sphere, where only pleasure or condescension moves on to action” -J.Huizinga-

[16] As You Like It, Shakespeare
[17] Homo Ludens, J.Huizinga
[18] Heroism by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


“The magical and the scientific views of the world are quite similar. In both, the succession of events is assumed to be perfectly regular and certain, being determined by immutable laws, the operation of which can be foreseen and calculated precisely: the elements of chance, of change, and of accident are banished from the course of nature. The principles of association are excellent in themselves and indeed absolutely necessary to the working of the human mind. Legitimately, applied they yield science, illegitimately applied they yield magic, the bastard sister of science._ "Magic"; triple-bodied, torch bearing, cur-hounded horrendous hateful howling Magic. • (What distinguishes sacrifice and prayer (religion) from magic? Magic wants to be effective without entering into any relationship)_ “In one classic formulation, the anhropologist Bronislaw Malinawski argued that, science, means achieving practical results through direct physical action; magic, means seeking practical results through indirect, immaterial and some times supernatural means; and religion, mean seeking fellowship with the divine, totally apart from practical results...Prayer is a request and leaves the outcome to God’s decision. magic is the attempt to exert power and establish control sometimes over forces regarded as demonic.” _In so far as religion assumes the world to be directed by conscious agents who maybe turned from their purpose by persuasion, it stands in fundamental antagonism to magic as well as science”. The scientific quest for truth and the religious quest for faith are equal effort._ “As reason is a rebel unto faith, so passion unto reason; as the propositions of Faith seem absurd unto reason, so the theorems of reason unto passion and both unto faith”_ In the last analysis magic, (the last recourse of a vanquished race), theology and science are nothing but structural belief systems. 

As science succeeded it’s predecessors, so it maybe itself succeed by a more perfect hypotheses._ A more perfect structural belief system that betters aids its practitioners attain their goals. The point is there is more than one way to see things, more than one way to understand things and these differing structural belief systems reach the same valid conclusions.

[1]Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough 1922
[2]Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science, & Religion and Other Essays, Double Day 1948
[3] Eliott
[4]Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough 1922
[5] Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary
[6] The Non Pareto Principle; Mea Culpa J.M. Juran
[7] Gaia was the primordial goddess of the earth according to the ancient Greeks.
[8] James Lovelock, taken from The Ages of Gaia
[9] Social Theory and Social Structure, Merton, 1957
  [10] The Elements of Logic, Barker
[11] Hamlet; Prince of Denmark, Act III, Scene IV, Line 180
(12] How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie, Pocket Books, New York Feb. 1957 Page195
[13] Proverbs 23:7
(14] Pygmalion in the Classroom: Teacher Expectation and Pupils' Intellectual Development (1968; expanded edition 1992),
[15] Apollodorus. Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by Sir James George Fraizer

Monday, August 5, 2013

VftSW; Another Reason for Reading the Classics

I’m talking to an old guy at coffee hour after church. Like most retires he says “I got so much to do, I don’t know how I got anything accomplished while I was working.” Over the years he grows frailer. Hearing aids plug both his ears. He has a touch of the palsy and the strength of voice comes and goes. He then mumbled something about not being able to get his contractors to finish up. I recalled vaguely he needed some landscaping done. He said every time he started something his daughter got involved for what she wanted to do. Knowing his daughter I could see her figuring on saving money for both of them by merging their projects. I could also see her making sure the work got done! I said so. He muttered several things as the volume of his voice waned, then loudly and firmly, “Worst mistake I ever made!” “What’s that?” “Giving her the house.” He said with a shake of his head and sad expression Ends up he had read some articles on estate planning and probate. That’s when he gave his sole heir and daughter his house. I thought she is taking care of the old guy, but the maintenance is now in terms of what she wants for the property not what he wants. End up I was wrong. “I would have had a new house years ago, without stairs.” He stated with emotion this time. As his strength faded again he confessed that he turned one of his businesses over to his son-in-law and now the old guy’s friends belittle him with how everything has gone downhill. I made a comment about reading “King Lear” more to myself than he. He didn’t get the literary reference. “You need to import yourself a Pilipino wife. She’ll look out for your interests!” That put the smile back on the old guys face!