Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I've learned quite a bit from this class - not just about the texts we've gone over, but other things that will stick with me for a long time, I'm sure. I can't read anything anymore without noticing something that I reminds me of something we talked about in class, or a myth we've read, or just one I've heard about in other classes. I think I'm reading the Eternities now, not just the Times.
For example, to distract myself from the stress of upcoming finals week, I've been reading a collection of essays by Sloane Crosley (the book is titled I Was Told There'd Be Cake) and in one essay,Christmas in July, she talks about going to summer camp as a child. Crosley's family were what she calls "lax" Jews, but the summer camp she went to was Christian based (although her parents weren't aware of this). Anyway, while at camp, she falls in love with all the tradition and ceremony and ritual of the things they do.
"We also folded the American flag military-style every night, tied the rope a certain way, and wore uniforms from the army-navy surplus store...It was a clusterfuck of ritual...On Sunday night we had vespers, where we lit candles and sang folk songs...like "We Didn't Start the Fire," which I had never mastered back in the real world. It even had Grease-like hand motions."
"Every Saturday night the entire camp marched into the clearing in the woods, where we lit a gigantic bonfire. Four girls were selected each week to dip tourches into the crackling fireball. Each torch represented a moral category in which we aimed to exel: Friendship, Cleanliness, Sportsmanship, and Love."
She goes on to talk about a small ritual she has for herself in which she repeats four words over and over again in a kind fo chanting prayer "Sky, Blankey, Speech, Kim" She explains the relevance of the words, but I'll let you all read it yourselves to find out.
This all reminded me so much of the Elusinian Mysteries (I loved that presentation by the way! ) with the ritual and the mysterious words. The Elusinian Mysteries are alive and well in girls summercamps, I suppose.
I just thought that was a good example of what I've learned from this class - a completely new way to read.
So, thanks everybody and Dr. Sexson.
I was assigned Niobe from Ovid & never got around to posting it - so here is my retelling of her tragic story.
Niobe was a high born queen with seven sons and seven daughters. She decided that because she was so beautiful and had such a great and powerful family and so many children, that she should be admired as a Goddess instead of Leto, who only had two children herself.
Upon hearing Niobe's bragging Leto sends her two children Apollo and Diana down to kill each of Niobe's children - our translation gives graphic detail about the deaths of the children. The last son begs for his life, but Apollo's poison arrow has already left the bow and Niobe pleads for the life of her last child, a young daughter, but she is already dead beneath her.
Niobe's husband kills himself out of grief and upon seeing her entire family dead, Noibe begins to weep and weep, slowly turning into stone. A great hurricane sweeps her away from her kingdom up to the top of a mountain, where her stone self is to this day. Still weeping. The rock can be seen on a mountain top in Turkey.
I also found a youtube video (music composed for Ovid's story of Niobe): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMzrVYM6Bpo
painting source:http://www.logoi.com/pastimages/img/niobe_2.jpgphoto source: http://img376.imageshack.us/img376/3697/niobe2jpg3zc.jpg
Psyche sees Cupid for the first time and spills the hot oil on his shoulder.
This painting is entitled "The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche.
And finally, the statue of Cupid & Psyche (my favorite) which stands in the Louve. I thought it must be such an inspiring story if so many arts depicted it in so many mediums. There are even computer generated images of it.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
What is it about the death of a child that is so heartbreaking it brings a complete stranger to tears? I knew none of these people, most live in different states, some in other countries. These pictures didn't remind me of any children I knew, they were just children. Some were very, very small, some nearly as old as me and they were all heartbreaking, no matter the cause of death.
Someone talked about this the first day of individual presentations and I couldn't stop thinking about why. Was it because they're so small and helpless and innocent? I thought and thought about it and I couldn't put my thumb on exactly why it was so painful.
And then I thought of my uncle. He died very young, just out of high school, in a car accident a few years before I was born. It was very, very hard on my grandparents. My dad took a year off of school to stay home to be with them. My family never stopped talking about him though - he's been immortalized as the Hermes of our family. I've heard dozens of stories of his childhood adventures - the time he and my father pulled a TV antenae down from a neighbors house to use as swords, the time he rode a snowmobile off the retaining wall in my grandparents backyard, the time he raced hornytoads across the kitchen counter.
He and my father once took a dirtbike and rode it through the front door of my Grandfather's veterinary practice, almost through the back wall. Grandma says she remembers to this day his face was so white his freckles stood out about a mile.
My favorite, though, was the time he got in trouble for swearing, so he went out to the front yard to swear in secret - right under the open livingroom window. My grandpa never punished him for that one - he said it was too hard to stay mad at him.
My point is, he was such a huge presence in my family's life and suddenly he was just gone, so I thought if anyone would know why it is that the death of a child is so very tragic, it would be my grandparents. So I asked.
My Grandpa, through his tears (allergies, he said), said it had been so hard for him all these years because he never got to see his son grow up. He never got to watch him graduate from college, begin a career, get married, have children. He had to miss not only the boy that he was, but the man that he would have become.
For me my uncle will only ever be a senior picture on the wall of their living room and a few dozen stories of a naughty little boy with copper hair and a bad temper. That is my loss, but it isn't nearly as painful as the loss of my grandparents who knew the child, but never the man.
Maybe thats the tragedy of lost children. They never get to finish living.
Although its not quite the same sentiment - the athenian women were witholding sex - I thought Lysistrata, were she not a fictional character, would approve. The woman is provocative, enticing, and distracting - which was their aim. We could probably learn a lot from the women of Athens - what is more important? Love (alright, sex) or War?
One of the blogs I found this image attached to also included this little poem as part of a campaign to uphold Roe vs Wade:
"With apologies to Dr. Seuss:
I will not have sex in a box
I will not have sex with a fox
I will not have sex in a house
I will not have sex with a mouse
I will not have sex here or there
I will not have sex anywhere
I will not have sex with a man
I will not have sex with a fan
I will not have sex with a pharmacist
I will not have sex since I'm pissed
I will not have sex with a Democrat,'
til we have a little "pro-choice" chat,
I will not have sex with a Republican,
'cause I'm a part of the Lysistrata sex -ban!
I will not have sex with a judge.
I will not, will not, will not budge."
It looks like Lysistrata's sex ban is inspiring women even today.
And the past possesses the present.
The film I'm talking about is Fight Club -one that our group used to portray the conflict between the individual and society- the scene is when Tyler Durden pulls a convenience store clerk out into a back alley and puts a gun to his head. He asks the mans name, goes through his wallet, and finds an expired community college student ID. The man, obviously terrified for his life, admits that he wanted to become a vet and Durden makes him swear that he'll get back into school or he'll hunt him down and kill him. As the clerk is running away Edward Norton's character asks Durden why the hell he did that and Durden says "Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted. "
I think thats pretty much what "death is the mother of beauty" means. We appriciate things (or we should) because they're so fleeting. Things are beautiful because we don't have an unlimited supply of life.
This year at Thanksgiving my step dad was flying us home from Broadus to Billings and the engine of our plane failed. It didn't even register for a second, but all of a sudden the silence was deafening. When I realized what was going on the amount of adrenaline that flooded my system probably could have taken us all the way back to the airport. Thankfully, my step dad got the plane going again and we made it. Neither of us said anything until we landed and had taxied to our hanger - then my step dad looked at me and said "Holy Shit."
We didn't go home right away. We just sat in the cockpit of his little plane and ate the cookies my Grandma had sent and watched the sun go down. Those were absolutely the best cookies I've ever eaten.
unrelated note: This is pretty much why we chose Fight Club as our example individual vs society. i couldn't find it until just now:
Tyler Durden: Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.
My family has had quite a few pets and spending most of my early childhood on my grandparent's ranch meant that I saw a lot of birth and a lot of death (and some creating of life, although I just thought they were playing leap frog).
When I was about seven, my grandpa bought a bum calf from a neighboring rancher for my aunt's milk cow who'd lost her calf in a spring snow storm. She didn't take to him, so it became my responsibility to bottle feed the calf and so I naturally formed an attachment to him. What my grandpa didn't tell me was that my little spotted calf was destined for the dinner table. Spotty (my creativity abounded) was slaughtered one day while I was away at my with my paternal Grandparents and that next week I enjoyed quite a few meals at his expense. I didn't notice him missing because at that point he'd been old enough to be turned loose in the small pasture on the east side of the house and I didnt' have to feed him. Unfortunately, my older (and meaner) cousin let it slip where my super tastey hamburger had come from - or my easily distracted seven year old self probably wouldn't have noticed.
That isn't one of the sadder stories of pet loss, just a semi-funny one.
Probably the saddest story is of Buster. Buster was my step grandma's dog and he'd been around as long as I can remember.
My step dad and mom started dating when I was about two and I spent quite a bit of time on his family's ranch playing in mud puddles and finding barn kittens with Buster. He helped me destroy piles of neatly raked leaves and stood guard while I tried to hide a calf from the horror (haha) of branding. He slept under the covers of the pull out couch with me and brought me baby rabbits (as far as I can remember they were always alive. He was a retriever and had a soft mouth). He was there when I rode my first horse and licked my face the first time I was thrown off. Eventually, though, he got old. He started to hobble a bit, lost a few teeth, his sight wasn't so good and we couldn't tell because he'd always been a bit selective about listening, but he was probably losing his hearing too.
He kept up though, bossing the younger dogs around, crawling into my lap in the arena while I took pictures of roping practice - he was doing alright for a dog that was almost 17.
On my 17th birthday -the 4th of July- my grandma got into her truck to drive to our house and accidentally backed over a sleeping Buster. He hadn't heard her start the truck, didn't see it coming towards his sunny spot on the dirt driveway, and wasn't nimble enough to roll out of the way. My step dad had to put him out of his pain.
Poor old man. I still miss his soft floppy ears.