Wednesday, 1 November 2017

November ~ Ooops!

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

How October went from an eventful month to a very uneventful month is a painful story to tell in more ways than one.  Again, for the first part of the month, I was concentrating on getting my partner and my food blog, Journey to the Garden, going and the learning curve was an extreme headache in itself.  From building the website, to adding plug-ins, to hack attempts, to learning to navigate the unique venue of social media, it was rather exhausting and overwhelming.  It was only knowing that I was going to the island on the 14th, where I could relax and read, read, read, that keep me plugging away.  A positive attitude always helps, but then I had my visa number stolen and so my card had to be cancelled, AND my computer hard drive started to die just before I left so it was a rush to get it replaced. Thankfully I didn't lose any information and I headed out grateful to get these two problems sorted; I had forgotten the saying that trouble often comes in threes ......

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

Fortunately, the first day there I decided to photograph my Apple Harvest post for the food blog and all the photos were taken.  Why fortunately?  Because on the second day, I decided to take my dog, Finn, for a bike ride, not wearing a helmet which I couldn't find when I left, and somehow I managed to crash going very fast.  I still don't remember what happened exactly; I have a slight recollection of picking myself up and looking for Finn and then my memory starts at the front door of the house next door.  I knew I had a bump on my head, but they took one look at me and made me come in and sit down. The long and the short of it is that I was water-ambulanced off to Vancouver Island, ended up with a bad concussion, a badly broken thumb and various deep scrapes and bruises.  For the first week, I looked like a prize-fighter and wasn't easily able to move without pain.  Because I broke through my metacarpal and it shifted slightly, they were at first talking surgery but apparently even with the shift it's not as bad as they thought; they've casted it, however they're watching it in case it shifts more.  Otherwise I'm healing up but the consequences are that I can't watch T.V., be on the computer (uh ... yikes!) or read.  How long is really up in the air.  I often feel fine in the morning but it doesn't take long for me to overdo it and I know I need to rest more.  I HATE resting, so you can imagine how difficult it is.  So this explains my long book-blogging silence.

© Libby McClelland

As I ease back in, I'm going to try to perhaps read some short stories and essays (which actually turn out to be pretty popular posts), so I hope to be back before not too long. The food blog, however, is getting some attention and I have new posts up for Pumpkin Kidney Bean Curry, Cheese 101 highlight post on P'tit Sainte Maure, and in another few days a Pomegranate Quinoa Festive Salad will posted, so check them out if you're looking for some easy recipes, food history, and fun photos.  Otherwise I hope to meet you back here VERY SOON!

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

Sunday, 1 October 2017

October ~ Pulled in All Directions

Dreamer at the Fountain (c.1860-70)
Camille Corot
source Wikiart

Well, perhaps the title of the post seems more dire than it actually is.  September saw many changes in my routine and to be honest, it's been difficult to get a handle on everything and find a smooth working routine that functions well.  I'll get there ...... it will just take some time, some thought and a little organization on my part.

Celebration Cake @
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
First of all, with the start of our new food blog, Journey to the Garden, there has been a change of focus.  I feel that much of my time has been taken up with it, but if I'm honest, I usually cook and I enjoy it, I had already been working on the blog previously to be able to get it to a point to launch it, so realistically I'm not adding much more time to keep it running. So perhaps time isn't the issue but organization.  Taking photos, especially in my part of the world where it tends to rain alot, can be challenging.  At this time of the year, I have to take them earlier in the day and on days when it's sunny or at least hopefully bright.  So much mental energy has been devoted to figuring this all out, it makes it FEEL like lots of extra practical work when it actually isn't.  Otherwise, I've been making my way through a copious number of videos on how to make a food blog successful which, while so informative, is very time-consuming.  And then the "blog-inadequacy" slips in.  When I started this book blog I remember feeling a little trepidation, but I had started the blog for myself -- for my own enjoyment -- so I wasn't worried about prompting it.  With the food blog, I have a partner who is expecting certain things of me (although he's very easy to get along with and we think very much alike, so don't get me wrong, he's great!), and the purpose is different .... for enjoyment, yes, but the focus in on growth.  However, I need to keep reminding myself of this book blog where, when I first started, I could have no viewers at all during a day, to now where someone is looking at it at any moment of the day and I'm approaching a quarter of a million viewers overall.  Growth takes time and I have to keep reminding myself of that. So once I have more knowledge and figure out some of the challenges, I'm sure it will run more smoothly but so far I feel rather overworked and scattered.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
I am absolutely thrilled with my Greek class and am challenged and excited about it but it's so much work.  Without daily review, it's hard to keep up, so again I'm starting to feel like I'm running to catch up.

I did have a number of little side trips that took up time, as I travelled through B.C. and Alberta to Saskatchewan and back again, then I travelled to Calgary, Alberta and had a couple of trips to the island.

And lately I'm having a block with reading that I rarely have.  I WANT to read and I'm interested in the books I'm making my way through but when I sit down to do it, I end up doing something else much less rewarding, like watching DVDs (which I normally only do occasionally) or cleaning or daydreaming.  Not good, but perhaps a sign of an overloaded brain.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
And thus, my reading for the month has been rather pitiful. I've been slowing dragging through Augustine's, City of God (trying to like it), reading a few sentences of Plato's Republic (loving it; why don't I read it more often?), occasionally picking up The Iliad (this is one of my favourite books of all-time; why don't I pick it up more?), thinking about The Last Chronicle of Barset, and re-reading (ah! Finally!) The Man Who Was Thursday because a group on Goodreads is reading it and I thought it might get me motivated. One thing I believe is lacking lately in the Bookworld is read-alongs.  Either I'm not seeing them, or there are less of them than there used to be.  They focused you on detail, you had a responsibility to read (at least I approached them that way) and they seemed to give momentum for other reads.  I wonder if some of the fall-off is due to the inactivity of The Classics Club, which I found used to give inspiration to readers but now seems to be limping along.  I'm not sure ..... what do the rest of you think?

Mystery Squash
I did not plant this!
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
As for October, what are my goals?  My hopes?  My dreams?  To keep plugging away on the food blog videos; they're interesting so at least I don't have to force myself to watch them.  To keep searching for a job that fits in with my life instead of picking the first thing that comes up.  To keep up with this blog and lastly, which I should have put first, READ!

I was happy with my most recent post, The Great Ideas ~ Opinion and Majority Rule, as it spurred wonderful conversation, so I hope to compile more posts like this one.  Plato has been too neglected, so I must push on with The Republic.  I've decided I'm going to read Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveller and get through it this time, no matter how weird it is.  And I desperately need to finish at least a couple of the books I'm reading, perhaps Dead Souls or The Last Chronicle of Barset. Do I sound really uncertain and unfocused?  That's because I am.  So hopefully October will bring a renewed sense of focus along with a reading extravaganza!  Happy October everyone!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Great Ideas ~ How To Think About Man

As I start my sixth lecture/essay of Adler’s, we are moving from the examination of knowledge and opinion to the nature of Man.  Adler is appearing to take one idea and have five lectures that focus on it, and so far I’m really impressed by the way he logically and reasonably develops his arguments.

In dealing with the Great Idea of Man, Adler states that the problem can be posed in two questions:
  1. With regard to man’s nature, is man different or different in some degree from animals?
  2. With regard to man’s origin in that, is he a created or an evolved being?
Adler says that if he presented a thesis to you that “there is a discontinuity between man and the rest of nature,” you would disagree or feel very uncomfortable with his claim.  Why?  Because of the instilled beliefs prevalent in the 20th century.

Luckman, his co-host, here interjects, challenging Adler.  Is Adler only allowing for the Darwinian view of man, because there are certainly a number Christians who hold a very different view from that of Darwin.

Adler agrees that there is a lively division between science and religion with regard to the views of man’s nature and origin, but he wishes to speak outside of the religious scope and simply wants to address that the traditional view of man has had very little defense.   Apart from faith, there has been very few who have stood against Darwin’s theory “on the grounds of reason or in terms of the facts and the interpretation of the facts.”

The Three Ages of Man (1500-1501)
source Wikiart

Before and After Darwin

Adler means that in the 20th century, the main secular worldview would reject his thesis that there is discontinuity between man and the rest of nature.  Looking back historically, there is a traditional view of man before Darwin and a completely different view after Darwin.  He will explain the history.

The predominant traditional view of man began with the Greeks and continued into the 19th century.  They believed man was the only rational animal and therefore distinct from the other animals.  While many great thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle, the Roman Stoics and the Roman Epicureans disagreed on many things, they all held that man had a “special character” and was the “only thing on earth descended from the gods.”  This is also true of the Middle Ages, as well as Mohammadan and Jewish culture and beliefs; although they disagreed on much, they agreed on this point, as “theologians, but as philosophers as well, in terms of reason.”  One can say the same of Decartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Kant and Hegel.  He supplies some quotes but claims Hamlet says it best:
“What a piece of work is a man!  How noble in reason!  How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.”
Or Milton, who is less poetic but perhaps more clear:
“A creature whom not prone and brute as other creatures, but embued with sanctity of reason might erect his stature and upright with front serene govern the rest, self-knowing and from thence magnanimous to correspond with heaven.”
The opposite point of view did not become popular until the end of the nineteenth century, although as early as the sixteenth century people such as Machiavelli and Montaigne introduced the idea that man was no better than beasts.  It is the biology, psychology and science of modern times that have entirely altered society's perception of man.  Sigmund Freud points to three men who have fatally injured man's traditional view: Copernicus who displaced man from the centre of the universe; Darwin with his research stole man's special privilege of a created being; and himself, who said, "Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of science two great outrages upon its naïve self-love ..... But man's craving for grandiosity is now suffering the third and most bitter blow from present-day psychological research, which is endeavoring to prove to the ego of each one of us that he is not even master in his own house, but that he must remain content with the various scraps of information about what is going on unconsciously."

Luckman interjects asking if Adler is going to deal with Copernicus and Freud instead of Darwin, but Adler confirms that his focus will be on Darwin for he feels he has made the only serious attack on the traditional view of man.

Study for 'Man and Nature' (1987)
Stephen Conroy
source ArtUK

How Are Human's Different From Other Animals?

Copernicus does not essentially attack the view that "man differs in kind essentially and radically from other animals," and Freud does so only from the perspective that he is a follower of Darwin, so Darwin is the true obstacle.

Bear with me here because he gives a quote of Darwin's:

"The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, is certainly one of degree (Adler directs us to notice the word 'degree,' and not of 'kind'.) ....... We have seen that the senses and the intuitions, the various emotions and faculties such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, of which man boasts, may be found in incipient or even sometimes in a well-developed condition in the lower animals.  They are also capable of inherited improvements ...... If it could be proved that certain high mental powers, such as the formation of general conceptions, were absolutely peculiar to man ...... "  which Darwin doubts, and claims that man merely has a higher language than other animals.

Now Adler say that, apart from the question of God's existence, this question about the nature and origins of man is the most serious question that can be considered as it involves all of religion and science and philosophy.

He reminds us that by arguing his points, he is going to make no appeal to faith whatsoever and approach them merely on the terms of science, philosophy and in interpretation of the facts.  The facts that will be dealt with have crucial consequences for religion, morals and politics, that are even more serious than the division of culture between the West and the East and the way each views man and animal.  He gives examples of the customs of India with regard to monkeys and cattle, then goes on to present a description of a novel by Vercors, You Shall Know Them, where the line between man and animal is blurred and by this uncertain distinction, so is the moral code against killing a human being.

Origin of Species IV (1959)
Coqué Martinez
source ArtUK

Man's Nature and Origin Are Inseparable

Luckman asks is there not two questions: the origin of man, which Adler is discussing, and the nature of man? Are they inseparable, and Adler states they are indeed, although be believes the question of man's nature is more important than the question of man's origin.

The contemporary view starts with "an hypothesis about man's nature, about man's origin, his evolutionary origin," which moves to "a conclusion about man's nature."  The traditional view begins with a conclusion about man's nature which moves to "some hypothesis about his origin."  Adler believes it's best to start with man's nature and then move to his origin.  Why?  Because we have more observable facts about man's nature yet more conjectural facts about man's origin.  To start in the reverse order would be "beg(ging) the whole question, scientifically speaking."  Where one begins is of paramount importance.

In the next lecture/essay he wants to devote a good amount of time to the logic of the issue.  We need to be distinct when we are referring to "degree" and "kind".  Then he will present Darwin's point of view, followed by the opposite point of view.  Finally he will emphasize the significance of this issue and reveal why everyone must take sides.  And even though he has taken a side (which I won't reveal yet) he is going to attempt to argue the question as fairly and equitably as he is able and he welcomes any objections, happy to include other viewpoints in the argument as well as his own.

Adler's next essay is entitled, How Different Are Humans?, where he continues his discussion on the nature and origin of man.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Great Ideas ~ Opinion and Majority Rule

Opinion and Majority Rule

Adler states that he is going to discuss the problem of majority rule, how the opinions of the majority clash with that of the minority and the controversy about basic social issues. Before he proceeds, he reminds the reader about the issues already considered: that central to opinions we have the freedom with regard to how we act; we also have a right to disagree reasonably about policies, actions, etc., however to live in a peaceful society it is imperative to have means to resolve disagreement, to allow that society to work toward a common goal.

Luckman queries of Adler, why political differences cannot be solved in the same way as disputes in science or philosophy?  Adler says it entirely depends on whether one sees science and philosophy as knowledge or opinion; as far as science and philosophy are seen as knowledge, problems can be solved by investigating facts, but because political controversy is seen as opinion, it must be solved in a different manner.

The Attributes of Science (1731)
Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin
source Wikiart

Offering a fabricated and implausible example of a Supreme court judge claiming that he can scientifically prove his independent decision, Adler shows that if this were possible, we would not have contradictory opinions, nor the need to vote to determine how the majority stood on issues.  It would be equally ridiculous for a mathematician to determine the answer to a problem by taking a vote.  However since politics (and judicial matters) are a matter of opinion, voting is the only reasonable way to proceed.  Luckman wants to know if there is no other way to settle political differences.

There are two possible ways:

  1. Force:  However force only silences differences of opinion, it does not resolve or eradicate them.  It is not a way for reasonable men to behave, as opinions should be heard and settled by debate.
  2. Autocracy:  a majority of society agreeing to give one man the authority to make all the decisions for the society to accept and act on.  Adler does not think this way is as reasonable as letting the majority directly make the decisions, which is more conducive to human freedom.

In political freedom there are two integral factors: 1) that the citizens are "governed for their own good for the common welfare of the State," making men free when they are governed for the good of all and not for private interests; 2) men have a voice in the government who makes the decisions.  Citizens of even the wisest monarchy or a judicious despot are never completely free and therefore majority rule, where each citizen has a voice in the decisions, imparts the fullest form of political liberty, which should be a right for all.

Wisdom (1560)
Ticiano Vecellio
source Wikiart

Luckman counters with examples from Plato and Hegel who thought it was better for men to be ruled by a wise ruler for their own good, as the majority were often misguided and did not make decisions in the best interests of all society.  Adler agrees that some of the greatest political theorists have disagreed with majority rule and since it is a matter of opinion, he can only defend his case by producing opinions from some of the most respected minds in history:

"Ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows for on public matters no one can hear and decide so well as the many." ~ Thucydides
"The many of whom each individual is but an ordinary person when they meet together are likely to reach a better decision than the few best men.  For each individual among them has a share of virtue and prudence.  And when they meet together they become in a manner one man who has many feet and hands and senses and minds.  Hence the many are better judges than a single man; for some understand one part, and some another, and together they understand the whole." ~ Aristotle
"The people of any country, if like Americans they are intelligent and well-informed, seldom adopt and steadily persevere for many years in an erroneous opinion, respecting their interests." ~ John Jay
"The people commonly and usually intend the public good.  They sometimes do make errors, but the wonder is that they seldom do." ~ Alexander Hamilton

Luckman mentions John Stuart Mill who greatly feared the majority but Adler bring in two quotes of his that appear to prove he accepted the principle of it.  Because Luckman brings up Mill's idea of protecting the minority, Adler then begins to speak about the majority's responsibility for the opinions of dissenting minorities, implying that we have a problem in how we approach this responsibility in modern times.

Endless Debate
Norman Rockwell
source Wikiart

First, there are three ingredients for making the majority responsible to the minority:

  1. We should never fear controversy but embrace it.  We have a moral obligation to seek out controversy, engage in it, and see it as good.
  2. We should safeguard public debates on public issues and ensure that they never become farcical.  When one uses propoganda and dishonest pressure and does not employ rational discussion, it is as bad as using guns and bombs.  He says this about the Lincoln-Douglas debates on the hot issue of slavery: "neither side in those debates was intimidated by sinister pressures or counteracted by insidious propaganda."
  3. Public debate on public issues should be maintained as long as possible until all sides have been heard and all issues presented.  Even when a decision is made there should still be avenues for discussion for those who do not agree with it.  

Only when these three elements are employed does majority rule have its fullest positive effect on decision-making.  Adler adds a quote from Mill which he believes should be engraved on the heart of every American:
"First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may for ought we can certainly know, be true.  To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. Second, though the silenced opinion be in error, it may and very commonly does contain a portion of the truth.  And since the general or prevailing truth on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only be the collision of adverse opinion that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.  And third, even if the received opinion be not only truth, but whole truth, unless it is suffered to be and actually is vigorously and earnestly contested, it will by most of those who receive it be held in a manner of prejudice with little comprehension or feeling of its rational ground."
Finally Adler brings up a collision of opinion that he grieves will never be resolved: the difference of opinion between generations.  In this "irresolvable dispute", the older generation because of their life experience and maturity should be wiser than their children but the problem is that the children have not had that experience to be able to find common ground with their parents' generation, and often irreversible mistakes are made.  His final words are compelling: "I regard this as one of the saddest facts about the human race.  If we could only do something about this, if we could only find a way of having children profit somehow by the experience of their parents, of accepting somehow the wisdom that is in their parents' opinions as a result of that experience, I think we could change the course of human history overnight.  Progress could be made to move with much greater speed than it ever has in the whole course of human history."

The next essay is titled How to Think About Man.

Opinion and Human Freedom                             How To ThinkAbout Man ⇒

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Ten Goals for Autumn!

Autumn (1870-90)
Emile Eisman Semenowsky
source ArtUK

Since I normally post bookish-type posts, I thought I'd change it up today.  Inspired by one of O's posts on Twitter, I've decided to post some goals with regard to autumn.  So often we get distracted by the big picture and forget to appreciate the little things in life. Therefore, I've picked ten goals that focus on the wee, meaningful aspects of life that really are much more worthwhile than a day at a shopping mall, or painting the porch steps, or doing your taxes, or surfing the web.  

1.  Draw a picture of something in nature, such a leaf or tree or insect.  My drawing skills are not superb so you'll just have to put up with me for this one.

Sketch of Countryside (c. 1890)
Nicholas Roerich
source Wikiart

2.  Walk barefoot in the ocean.  Perhaps I'm a tiny bit crazy but I will have a chance to do this a couple of times before autumn is over.

The Charmer (1911)
John William Waterhouse
source Wikiart

3.  Do something kind for someone else.  I like to think I'm a kind person but I'm not always sure it comes naturally.  We all need practice, right?

Charity of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Frederic Leighton
source Wikiart

4.  Put my feet up.  I'm sure NONE of you have even guessed that I'm quite a busy person and don't often slow down.  Well, I admit it.  Leisure is a lost yet necessary pastime for our mental well-being.  Really, I need to practice this more than once.  Will someone join me?

Solitude (1890)
Frederic Leighton
source Wikiart

5.  Cloud gaze.  The last time I did this was with friends, laying in the middle of a frozen pond late at night.  It was so peaceful with the moon shining down ..... as if you were the only ones left in the world.  The feeling we experienced was indescribable.  Definitely a time to remember.

Ophelia (1889)
John William Waterhouse
source Wikiart

6.  Make a new meal.  This shouldn't be difficult.  A friend and I have started a new food blog called Journey to the Garden, so I'm going to be spending lots of time in the kitchen.  I really love cooking yet I hope to hit on at least one meal during this time that's spectacular.

Prayer Before Meal (1660)
Jan Steen
source Wikiart

7.  Be computer-less for one day.  I'm not sure this is possible, but I'm going to try. Honestly, there's very little I do on the computer other than blogging and taking a few courses, but I am on it every day.  I would LOVE to have a day per week where I don't use it.  Now THAT'S dreaming .....

What a Freedom (1903)
Ilya Repin
source Wikiart

8.  Read a poem slowly and REALLY think about it.  Poetry is a new interest of mine, but being new at reading it, I'm not very good at drawing meaning out of it.  Often good poetry can have dual meanings and symbolism, and imagery and a number of other different things.  I need to read it more slowly instead of rushing.

Young Man Reading by Candle Light
Matthais Stom
source Wikiart

9.  Pet or see an animal that's not domesticated.  Well, I could cheat and visit my neighbour's wolves but I'm not going to.  However, they would probably fall under the "domesticated" umbrella and not count.  We'll see if this one comes to fruition.

Dante and Virgil Meet the Wild Animals in the Forest (1800)
Joseph Anton Koch
source Wikiart

10.  Intentionally say something nice to someone at least 5 days out of 7 during one week.  No, this is not the same as goal #3.  Saying is much easier than doing ...... which is why I've challenged myself to do it 5 times during the week.  We take each other too much for granted and don't often say the appreciated or kind things that we should.  Time to change that.

Charity (1878)
William-Adolphe Bourguereau
source Wikiart

As I've been listing these goals, two themes have stood out for me:  KINDNESS and REST/LEISURE ..... well, perhaps three ...... NATURE is in there as well.  So just by brainstorming some goals, I've learnt something about myself:  I need to practice more kindness, take more time to relax and spend more time in nature.  Rather than being "Cleo-specific goals", these are things we all probably need to do, so whoever wants to take a few goals from my list and see if you can accomplish them, please do!  And please let me know how they turned out!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Tears, Idle Tears by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Well, I have proven very predictable.  Following my usual pattern for the Deal Me In Challenge of getting off to a great and very consistent start, I then quickly fell behind schedule.  Do I care?  Yes!  I'm usually a very consistent person --- a loyal friend, a hard worker, a steady blogger (yes, this is important too!) ---- so it really bothers me when I don't stick to a challenge.  However, I have some very consistent blogger friends whom I won't mention, whose dedication to challenges continually convicts me (oh okay, I will mention them ---- O, I'm referring to you!), so with their gentle reminders, I've decided to pick up where I left off and hopefully get some momentum to finish this challenge well.

Finally, oh finally! I drew a poem, my first poem of the challenge so far in 11 choices. What are the odds of that?  Perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket!

Written in 1847 as a song from one of his longer poems The Princess, Tears, Idle Tears, a lyric poem, was composed in blank verse and is said to be one of the few poems where Tennyson conveys his personal sentiments in his works.  Tennyson claims he wrote it after a visit to Tintern Abbey, which was abandoned in 1536 and for him held "the passion of the past, abiding in the transient."  He said, it was "full for me of its bygone memories ......"

Tintern Abbey
courtesy of Saffron Blaze

Tears, Idle Tears by Alfred Lord Tennyson

     Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

      Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

      Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awaken'd birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

      Dear as remember'd kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

Wow! I remember really liking this poem when I was younger but now it seems all melancholy and sad and depressing.  But really, should have I expected more from Tennyson based on my familiarity with one of this other poems (and one of my absolute favourites!), The Lady of Shallot? ---- lots of crying out and isolation and cracking and curses ...... no, why am I at all surprised?

Tinturn Abbey (inside)
source Wikipedia

So, now for my rather amateur analysis ....... the first aspect of the poem that stood out for me was his initial confusion.  He doesn't recognize the tears or connect them with anything at first.  They come from deep within him.  Does that highlight man's propensity to live a rather shallow life?  --- to live in the moment without ever doing any deeper self-examination?  And does it also highlight how capricious time is; that it slips away without us even noticing?

The autumn setting gives the poem a melancholy feel as summer has passed, and the passing of summer means less sunshine and happy times, and the death of leaves and greenery as the scenery turns from bright colours and greens to a burnished and faded scene.

Regret is an obvious theme and Tennyson takes us to the underworld, which I assume is really the memories of the dead whom he loved, yet these memories bring him sadness. He is not focusing on the happiness experienced during those times, but the loss of them.

These memories now seem very far away to him, so much so that the very experiences he participated in now appear strange to him.  The casement is shrinking in his vision, perhaps the approach of death?

At least, he feels the memories are dear and sweet, but he acknowledges the death of those times, a death that has happened before he himself has died.  There is nothing uplifting in his remembrance.

Farringford, Tennyson's residence of the Isle of Wright
source Wikipedia

Good heavens!  Yes, lots of tears and despair and sinking and sadness and strangeness and dying.  It would be fascinating to travel back in time and find out just what was going on in Tennyson's life and head when he wrote it.

Next up for my Deal Me In Challenge is a children's classic called Teddy's Button by Amy LeFeuvre.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

September ~ Big Changes and the Food Blog has Launched!!!

A September Day (1935)
George Henry
source Wikiar

When summer's end is nighing
       And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
       And all the feats I vowed
       When I was young and proud.


So here's an end of roaming

       On eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
       For summer's parting sighs,
       And then the heart replies.

Selections from a rather mournful end-of-summer poem by A E Housman but it fits with my mood as the slow summer days slip into the cool evenings of September.  I'm feeling rather nostalgic as autumn will soon be approaching and my life will be changing for a number of reasons. While my job for the last number of years has been amazing, and fulfilling, and interesting, it's time to move on and I'm not quite sure what I want to do. I'm an accounting clerk by trade, as much as I enjoy it, it's not my natural inclination but what is?  What would I really enjoy doing?  Food blogging?  Freelance writing?  Property management?  All these options have popped into my head lately but I think I'll have to wait and see where I'm taken before I know for sure.

The start of the Rockies
heading west ....
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
As for August happenings, we went for a roadtrip through the Rocky Mountains, past Calgary and eventually ending up in Regina, which took us through three Canadian provinces, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.  Call me biased, but my favourite part of the trip was the drive through B.C.  Honestly, it's so beautiful and in many places, so untouched.  Except for the summer forest fires, of course, and we actually ended up driving through one near Golden, B.C.  We were stopped on the highway for quite awhile, while helicopters flew overhead, dipping their buckets in the river and dumping them on the fire.  We could actually see a few flames through the trees as we went by.  Yikes!  Rather scary! Our drive through the Rockies was wonderful as their stony peaks stretched to the sky ---- I can imagine how spectacular they are all covered in snow.

Lake Louise, Alberta
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
We also stopped in two lovely spots in Alberta ---- Lake Louise and Banff.  The scenic beauty of them was breathtaking but so were the number of tourists, although I suppose that's what you'd expect in the height of summer.  Drumheller, Alberta is the site of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, a well-known tourist attraction that has over 130,000 fossils, numerous dinosaur skeletons and replicas of those great beasts. It was fascinating, especially to see the best preserved remains of the largest armoured dinosaur in the world, the Borealopelta markmitchelli which was found in Alberta (here's a Guardian article about him).  He's quite an imposing looking specimen and I wouldn't want to meet him anywhere!

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
After Calgary, the prairies stretched out endlessly ........ and I mean endlessly ......  I drove for hours and was bored out of my mind.  Endless (ooops, did I say that already) wheat fields, and straight roads and huge bugs that squashed against your windshield and the front of your car, only to have hordes of wasps swarm the car to eat the guts when you stopped.  Sorry to be so graphic but - Ugh!!!  Later I was told I had passed through the Alberta Badlands and they certainly lived up to their name. Saskatchewan was much better, with clusters of trees here and there (but even bigger bugs) and some nice houses tucked into them.  Coming from an area that has mountains and hills and valleys and trees (soooo many trees) and rivers and lakes and the ocean, it was a very different experience.  However, on the way back I enjoyed the scenery, so I obviously became used to the flat prairie landscape.  But lest you think I'm too hard on my provincial neighbours, I'll share a most wonderful trait from the prairies that we lack on the west coast of B.C. ......... friendliness and politeness.  I was shocked to have workers in stores actually acknowledge my existence when I walked in, make eye contact, greet me politely and ask how I was before they very gladly served me.  Gasp!  Where were the stares and the glowers and the resentment that the worker would actually have to move and serve me, and that was only after having to insert oneself in front of them to get their attention?  The Vancouver area needs a severe lesson in customer service.  In any case, the trip, although quick, was fun and interesting and I was glad to be able to see more of Canada than I'd ever seen before.

Oh, and my garden news ....... zucchinis and cucumbers are doing well, a good harvest of blueberries and figs, my potatoes are ready to be dug, my cabbage, collard greens and kale are still growing, and I should have some plums, quince and apples ready soon.  It was a good year for growing!

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

I was fortunate to get another short island vacation and was finally able to read!  I finished Shadow of the Moon, a wonderful book by M.M. Kaye about the Sepoy rebellion in India in 1857 and the focus of Cirtnecce's wonderful read-along, began to read The Republic, Dead Souls, and Plutarch's Lives.  I've also begun a re-read of The Iliad, which I'm highly enjoying.

As for September, I'm going to be looking into some job opportunities, trying out a gym my friend recommended that has a type of boot camp, and finding another yoga studio because the one I was going to closed down and I am missing my yoga.  I'm also going away on a few trips, one to the island and one to Calgary, so I'm still somewhat of a gad-about.  I also started a course in ancient Greek and I must say, I'm really enjoying it.  It's tough but it's fun to get back to studying and being diligent.

Reading in September?  Well, as much as I'm enjoying my ancient literature, I'd like to add something else to the mix.  What?  Honestly, I'm not entirely sure.  I am going to start reading Crime and Punishment for sure.  Otherwise I have The Last Chronicle of Barset to finish up and I was just reminded about my trek through Zola's The Rougon-Marquart series where I'm on the fifth book, The Dream.  Oh, and Augustine --- I'll continue with his City of God and hopefully make some headway.  So there ---- I have a very unpredictable reading schedule for September.  We'll see where I end up.

And now for the biggest shock of the post, our food blog is actually launched!  Woo hoo! I thought it would never happen at times, but we buckled down, did a big last push and Voilà!  So please check it out at Journey to the Garden and let us know what you think.  Your comments would be most welcome!

A Saskatchewan Sunset
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Republic ~ Book II

The Republic
Jean-Leon Gerome
source Wikiart

Book II:

Pleasure (1900)
Eugene de Blaas
source Wikiart
Glaucon protests that Socrates has not made a reasonable enough explanation of why Justice is preferable to injustice.  First, he says, there are three classes of good:

  1. Pleasures that are enjoyed for themselves
  2. Good that is valued because of its consequences
  3. Good that is desirable both for itself and what comes out of it.
Really it seems that Glaucon believes Justice would fit into the second category, a type of in-between good.  

Then he tells a story of a shepherd called Gyges and his magic ring that helped him to become king (see Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book I).  If one could act however one wanted without threat of punishment or recrimination, wouldn’t everyone act thus?  Why should Glaucon be just if he can get away with being unjust? (Essentially he is asking: What is Justice on the level of an individual?)  It’s only our fear of getting caught that holds us to the course of Justice, and Justice itself is a social construct.  The Social Contract theory implies that people don’t really want to be just but because chaos would result from such a “free-for-all” society and therefore we enter into a “social contract” where we give up free reign on our desires for a greater good; certain rules are imposed on an individual that aren't part of their nature for a common good. 

King Candaules of Lydia (1858)
Jean-Leon Gerome
source Wikiart

Socrates proceeds in a round-about manner.  Instead of directly commenting on how Justice works in an individual, he instead begins to examine how the same Justice works broadly within a state and then will apply what he discovers to the soul of man.  And thus Plato starts to establish his Republic.  The Republic begins with the need for a community ……. the need we have for each other for the basic provisions in life: food, clothing, shelter.  In the Republic, everyone has a trade or purpose, a division of labour that works best to run the city efficiently.  Right now, the city’s basic needs are met with simplicities, and no luxuries such as furniture, artists, meat, courtesans, perfume, etc. To Socrates, this city is true and healthy.  It’s important to note that in English, we use the word “soul” but the Greek word is actually “psuche” [ψυχή] (the root word for psyche) which can be used in a variety of different ways, such as: mind, self, individual, etc.  (Soul = that part of the human being which is not the body).

The Soul Breaking the Bonds ...
Pierre-Paul Prud'hon
source Wikiart
Glaucon is perplexed.  What about the luxuries?  What Socrates has described only meets basic animal needs.  Socrates allows Glaucon his desires and adds in his wishes, but emphasizes that adding meat and sweets will cause inflammation and surely the physicians will be in more demand --- he was obviously initially advocating vegetarianism for health.  Interesting ….   In any case, all these luxuries will increase competition, and therefore eventually war is inevitable.  Socrates will not say whether war is good or bad, he only examines the effect it will have on the Republic.  The city will therefore need an efficient soldier but they too must be specialists in their field. However, they must also exhibit a certain temperament, one that is combative and even aggressive, yet tempered by courage of spirit and controlled by rational behaviour.  Given their character and profession, they must be trained carefully to ensure they do not harm their own people.  How is that to be done?  Through education.  They must be trained to be hostile to their enemies and benevolent to their people, not indiscriminate with their behaviour.

Socrates now critiques the education of children.  In spite of the reverence given to the poets Hesiod and Homer, Socrates believes that the stories they have created will damaged the foundation of a good republic.  How can the gods be both good and bad?  Anything divine must be wholly good and it is impossible for it to be bad, therefore (Homer, in this case) is telling tales that are “impious, self-contradictory, and disastrous to our commonwealth.”  All such stories should be censored in a healthy city.  Also, death should never be depicted as something to be feared, so the Guardians of the city are not afraid to die in their defense of it; their defensive behaviour is part of the promoting of Justice and we do not want to impede them being just.

I had to admire Socrates in this section.  Even though he at first appears to advocate a simplistic city that he feels is the most healthy and functional, he bows to Glaucon’s wishes for luxuries, perhaps realizing that it would not be sensible to attempt to eradicate these human desires, and therefore, gives up his “perfect” city for one that is more realistic.  Plato is realizing the flaws in human nature and attempting to work within them.  Quite wise, I would say.

⇐ Book I                                                                                                       Book III ⇒