FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #33

Fandango’s Provocative Question #33

It’s hard to talk about this stuff without sounding pious or self-righteous. Personally, I always wonder if I have a price too and it’s merely that no one has offered to pay it that I have managed to stay true to my fundamental beliefs. When you’ve never been tempted or at least not tempted enough, it is hard to know what your own boundaries truly are.

This question was plucked from my post, so to a large degree, I’ve answered it already. Still, it’s a valid question with many possible answers and even more questions that lie along its borders.

The question of whether morality is part of “God’s personal patch” versus being a basic human issue is old. It’s a question that goes to the heart of every religion and dogma — as well every set of personal beliefs. It’s older than our literature and for all I know, they were pondering some version of this in cave dwellings.

For at least most of my life, as a child, adolescent, and adult, I have believed that we are all born with a fundamental knowledge of good and evil, of right and wrong. It isn’t something we need to be taught. We know it. Actually, Genesis essentially says more or less the same thing.

In our bones, in our brains, in that strange space we have that is neither physical or “brain matter,” but rather a special place where we preserve our personal beliefs.

That we all know what is right and wrong from our earliest youth through all of life does not mean that we always adhere to it. We have all done the wrong thing, whether it was big and bad, or little but nonetheless, wrong.

The cynical saying that “Everyone has a price” means no matter what you believe — or why you believe it — if you are offered a good enough deal, you’ll fold and do the wrong thing. It insinuates that greed is ultimately the most powerful emotion of which man is capable.

I want to believe that this is untrue and some of us cannot be bought. But do I know that? Or have many of us never been offered a high enough price? After all, the payment doesn’t have to be money. It can be power: legal power or religious power. It can make us godlike or rich beyond the ability of our calculator to count.

Greed can be the lust for knowledge, power, drugs, or land, though somehow money seems to squeeze into the equation somehow.


To quote Gordon Gekko, “Greed is good.”


Do you agree that greed is good? Or only that greed is good within limits, to a certain extent, but not beyond? That it’s okay to be greedy as long as you don’t get excessive about it?

What is excessive?

Does it mean only if you aren’t killing or crushing other people to reach your greed level, it’s okay? Or are there other issues?

I don’t believe that greed is good. The concept that greed is good offends me. I understand why greed feels good, though. I understand everyone wants to be safe from hardship and live life in comfort and dignity. I don’t consider that greedy. More like survival with benefits.

I certainly don’t think survival is greedy until you have to murder other people to achieve it. At which point you need to put down the gun and think about it.

It’s the excessiveness of greed that’s the problem. Because once you’ve broken through the comfort barrier and moved into luxury, when is enough, enough? What amount of whatever is sufficient?

When everything the eye can see, a man desires and comfort has long been surpassed, at what point do you stop? Do you ever stop? Can you stop? When you have the greedy bit clamped between your teeth, is there an end to your run?


ALEXANDER LEARNS VIRTUE
Gold coins of Alexander of Macedon

When Alexander had flown on the back of an eagle to the gates of Heaven itself, he bangs on the door until finally, a wise man answers. Because he is a great and powerful leader, he demands the right to ask questions of the wise men. These are his questions:

“Who is wise?” asks Alexander.

“He who can foresee the future,” answers the wise man.

“Who is a hero?” asks Alexander.

“He who conquers himself,” replies another wise man.

“Who is rich?” asks Alexander.

“He who rests content with what he has,” the wise men respond.

Alexander depicted on an ancient synagogue wall

Following this question, there is a story Talmudic legend about Alexander (who was a Jewish hero — a story too long to explain here), a balance scale, and a human eye.

The eye is placed on one side of the scale. On the other side, are piled mountains of gold, gems, and all other riches. Yet the human eye is heavier, no matter how many riches are put on the other balance. Finally, one of the wise men sprinkles a bit of dust over the eye. From that moment, even a feather is heavier than the eye.

Until a man is dead and covered in earth, he will always desire more. Only death can end his greed.

“By what means does man preserve his life?” asks Alexander.

“When he kills himself.” (Talmudist notes: By this, the wise men meant when a man destroys within himself all passion.)

“By what means does a man bring about his own death?” asks Alexander, referring back to the previous question.

“When he clings to life.” (Talmudist notes: When a man holds onto his passions and belongs to them.)

“What should a man do who wants to win friends?” asks Alexander. This is his final question.

“He should flee from glory and despise dominion and kingship,” the wise men conclude.

At the end of the Judaization process, Alexander is a humbled dictator. Although the lesson does not make him a wise man, the Talmudic dialectics bring Alexander the Great down a notch or two, make him a better person and a more benevolent leader.


If anyone assured me that one can be moral and hold a strong belief system without a formal belief system, my mother did that. She believed in virtue — goodness for its own sake. She believed in dignity, kindness, fairness, and equality. She was not a racist although she was positive that education made you a better person. If there was a break in her “system,” education was it.

She loved beautiful things for their beauty, yet before she died, she gave away or sold all her jewelry and art.


In the end, I do not believe anyone of any faith is incorruptible. We all have a weak spot. Something about which we feel so passionate, we would give or do anything to achieve it.

Incorruptibility is a choice. To find out if you are incorruptible, you’d need to be tempted by whatever it is that means the most to you. You would have to make painful choices and would forever wonder if you were a fool for choosing virtue over greed, especially if you urgently needed what you refused.

If you do not have a God about whom you can say, “His laws made me do it,” you will probably feel even sillier than the religious man who at least believes he is following the route God laid out for him.

A non-believer has only his self by which to gauge the rights and wrongs of life. Standing alone is hard. A good life is a hard life.

And no one ever promised it would be easy.

HOW EGYPT’S ANCIENT CITY OF DIVINE CATS WAS REDISCOVERED – From National Geographics

For Tabby, the Cat Who Knows All

Clues from ancient texts guided European archaeologists in their long search for Bubastis, sacred to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet.

A copper statue of the cat goddess Bastet. Eighth to fourth centuries B.C.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARY EVANS/SCALA, FLORENCE

After declining and falling into ruin over the millennia, this mysterious city captured the imagination of 19th-century European scholars who flocked to the Nile Delta in search of it. Guided by intriguing hints from classical accounts, they wanted to find Bastet’s city, unearth her glorious temple, and gain a clearer understanding of how the cat goddess played such an important role throughout the long history of ancient Egypt.

© NGP, Content may not reflect National Geographic’s current map policy.
 

Divine felines

Traces of Bastet’s cult can be found as early as the 2nd dynasty (third millennium B.C.). Representations of the cat-headed deity became common in the Old Kingdom (ca 2575-2150 B.C.). She was initially regarded as a fearsome protector of the pharaoh and later of the dead.

Bastet’s feline associations began to change around the same time as cats (known as miu or miit—he, or she, who mews) were being domesticated in Egypt. Bastet became more closely linked with nurturing and protective aspects while the mighty lion-headed goddess of war, Sekhmet, took on the characteristics of ferocity and vengeance. From the second millennium B.C., Bastet’s appearance became less leonine, and she was consistently depicted as a domestic cat with a woman’s body.

Finding Bubastis

One of the most important sources about the city is found in the works of Herodotus. In his fifth-century B.C. tour of Egypt, the Greek historian provided a vivid description of Bubastis, the Temple of Bastet, and the fervor of her worship: “In this city there is a temple very well worthy of mention, for though there are other temples which are larger and build with more cost, none more than this is a pleasure to the eyes.”

He described the city’s beauty and the noisy revelers traveling in boats to Bubastis, “where they hold a festival celebrating sacrifices, and more wine is consumed upon that festival than during the whole of the rest of the year.”After the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, Bubastis was abandoned, and the memory of its location was lost for centuries.

French Connection

In the 18th century, European scholars began hunting for the places mentioned in ancient texts. To the French scholars who accompanied Napoleon on his 1798 expedition to Egypt, Herodotus’s account served as an inspiration to locate it. One of them, Étienne-Louis Malus, spotted features in the Nile Delta mentioned by Herodotus and found ruins nearby that he declared to be Bubastis. Lying northeast of Cairo, this site, known as Tell Basta, became the accepted spot where Bastet’s city once stood.

As the discipline of Egyptology expanded in the 19th century, so did interest in the site. During an 1843 visit there, the English archaeologist John Gardner Wilkinson lamented that Bubastis was being damaged and that the temple ruins had been quarried for stone. Eventually, an excavation was undertaken by Swiss Egyptologist Édouard-Henri Naville in 1887, centered on studying the Temple of Bastet.

In London the press avidly followed the latest discoveries in Egypt. In 1887 the St. James’s Gazette reported on a lecture given by Édouard Naville on Bubastis: “[He] ascertained that the temple, which for a long time had been considered as hopelessly lost, not only existed in ruins but had already yielded most interesting inscriptions . . . and believed very valuable discoveries would be made there.”

Naville, it turned out, was right. Both his study and subsequent others have revealed that the shrine (which incorporated older structures) was begun by Pharaoh Osorkon II in the ninth century B.C. His dynasty reigned from nearby Tanis, thus increasing the importance of Bubastis in the region, and adding yet more luster to the Bastet cult.

The Bubastis treasure

In the fall of 1906, an amazing find was made near the excavation site. A railroad was being built near Tell Basta, and workmen hit on a treasure hoard buried near the remains of the temple.

Inscriptions on many of the objects date to the 19th dynasty during the New Kingdom (ca 1539-1075 B.C.), before Osorkon II’s reign and his restoration of Bastet’s temple. It is not clear why the hoard was buried. Some scholars speculate it could have been buried for safekeeping, either by looters who never came back for it or by priests to protect it.

The treasures were of great value at the time. A gold cup sculpted to resemble lotus petals bears the name of the 12th-century B.C. queen Tawosret, the consort of Pharaoh Seti II. Tradition holds she was the queen of Egypt during the Trojan War. Scholars believe that the queen Alcandra mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey was Tawosret.

Workers found another cache later that fall with more treasures, including gold armlets inscribed with the name of Ramses II. Aside from their beauty, these objects give great insight into the importance of Bubastis as a center of trade and commerce. Certain motifs on some of the objects are not Egyptian, and the presence of silver—unobtainable in Egypt—suggests extensive trade with Greece or kingdoms in Anatolia. Gold was brought from Nubia, its rarity associated with royalty.


“ Queens of Egypt” is open at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. through Summer of 2019.

Thank you National Geographics for offering some of the most worthwhile and satisfying news of the world! 

NINIANE, LADY OF THE LAKE – Reblog – Flint Johnson

TALLHWCH – The pursuit of history

The first mention of either the Lady of the Lake or Ninian (Niniane, Vivian, etc.) is to be found in the late work Prose Merlin.  Her character remains much the same through to Sir Thomas Malory, who simply makes the story more complex.  In all the stories that name her Ninian is a fully developed character.  She is the original owner of Arthur’s second sword and later becomes Merlin’s pupil.

However, as with many aspects of the Arthurian literary world, there are serious gaps in reasoning with her story, and these gaps suggest a very different origin for her.  For instance, Merlin somehow knows she will betray him, but teaches her anyway.  The romances explain that he does so because he loves her, but that sounds like more of a rationalization of something not understood than a historical fact that is.

The end of her story is that Niniane does trap Merlin in a cave the moment her studies are over.  He is left there, alive (again, no serious explanation).  It certainly is not out of malice for Arthur.  Niniane takes over as his counselor for the remainder of his reign and does her best to help him.  She is also one of the four women who take him to Avalon.  That is the extent of Ninian’s literary career.  Clearly, her original character and the transformation have been hidden by chance and misunderstandings.

Uinniau was a prominent ecclesiastic of sixth-century Britain who may have been Columba’s teacher.  He was known as Niniane in Welsh saints’ lives or Nynia by Bede.  However, much of Scotland has place-names derived from his proper name of Uinniau.  This Uinniau was known for three things mainly.  First, he was one of the most knowledgeable persons of his age.  Second, he was a great teacher who made his monastery of Whithorn was a primary center of learning in Britain.  Finally, it is known that he would occasionally go on a retreat to a nearby cave, known as St. Ninian’s Cave, which was several miles away from his monastery.

Niniane would eventually became the form by which Uinniau was exclusively known.  In fact, the process must have been an early one.  Bede, writing in 725, knew him only by that name.  It was an unfortunate circumstance that Niniane was a Celtic name, and the romance writers who would treat Arthur on the continent spoke Germanic and Latin languages.  The unfamiliarity with Celtic would lead to confusion over his gender, and he became a she there.

Arthur was an attractive figure in the literature of the Middle Ages, gravitating all manner of figures, motifs, and stories to him.  In previous blogs, I have mentioned the attraction of the Myrddin (Merlin) legend and the figure of Urien.  The same sort of fate awaited Uinniau.  Long before Arthur had become a figure of romance, Uinniau’s dominant name-form had become to Niniane.  For the Celtic speaker that was still a male name, but for continentals, it was female.

That change from male to female, from independent ecclesiastic to intelligent layperson was where Uinniau became a different literary figure.  Once Uinniau was a part of the Arthurian universe, his reputation for intelligence would have drawn him to the already established Merlin; in an irony of history, a lunatic (Myrddin) became the teacher of one of the best-read people of the age (Uinniau).  Once that transformation was accomplished, the latent aspects of Uinniau’s memory easily made their way into Arthurian the tales, and Merlin was trapped in the cave Uinnau had used as a refuge.

I won’t pretend to know how Ninian became the Lady of the Lake.  However, she would not have begun her Arthurian career that way.  She would have started off as Merlin’s pupil and successor with the qualities of her historical precursor intact.  She was associated with a lake only by Robert de Boron, an author that I have discovered in my research was not one to stick with his traditional sources.  It is possible he knew of some Celtic tale which he used to enhance Uinniau’s mythology.  It is equally possible he used something more contemporary.  That part of the history of the Lady of the Lake we may never know.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

One of my favorite mysteries, leaving enough unanswered questions to hold my interest. If you have never visited TALLWCH, check it out: http://tallhwch.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/niniane-the-lady-of-the-lake/

See on: tallhwch.wordpress.com

TEMPLE TRACKS #writephoto – Marilyn Armstrong

MEMORIES IN STONE
AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL MINI MYSTERY
#WRITE PHOTO

You could see where the temple had been. The ground was slightly raised forming what appeared to be a circle. If you looked carefully, you could see the tip of a pillar poking out of the ground. Not full evidence of what lay beneath the ground, but certainly some strong hints.

Every time I pass that place along that old road, I wondered what lay beneath the soil.

Then, one summer, a group descended on the area and began to very carefully dig. They found the pillars of a church, but when they dug further, they discovered the pillars of the church stood on the pillars of a Roman temple. Not merely pillars, but statues and a mosaic floor that was nearly perfect.

There was more.

The deeper they dug, the more they found. The Roman temple rested on pillars of something so ancient, no one was quite sure what it was and below that, what appeared to be tombs, possibly neolithic.

The ground was clearly regarded as sacred to every people who had lived here. Now, of course, it was an archaeological park with a small fee required to enter the area.

It was seeing history reveal itself in layers, and as each layer was lifted, it was taken to a museum. When finally, the reached bedrock, they brought back a couple of pillars and a covering so that this special, sacred space, could be remembered.

What memories were part of the ground, the air, the stones?  Why this spot? Many guesses, but no answers. The ones who knew were long-buried.

THURSDAY PHOTO PROMPT – Sue Vincent – The Daily Echo

WAY-STONES, MILESTONES: WAY-STONE #writephoto – Marilyn Armstrong

Thursday photo prompt: Way-stone #writephoto


When we first moved to Uxbridge, the woman who sold us our house drove us around and the first thing she brought us to see was the Uxbridge Way-Stone. Erected and etched in the early 1600s, it was part of the marking made along Native trails, many of which later became New England’s roads. Milestones are our way-stones and they were common — still are, if you know where to find them — on the quiet paths.

Way-stone in the woods

Mostly, they point the way and distance to Boston. Some are no longer readable. Not as old as this way-stone, but old enough to have had their etchings wash away, then disappear into the stone.

We don’t have the length of history chronicling the centuries of North America that you will find in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, but this doesn’t mean no one was here. This wasn’t an empty land waiting for “energetic” Europeans to show up and make it whatever it is today.

No later than 1767

Lacking official written “history,” it simply means no one wrote books and saved them and whatever cities existed, they were not built from stone.

There’s a strong possibility that far earlier than the officially earliest known “cities” — Jericho circa 10,000 years, give or take a few millennia — there were other cities.  Maybe Atlantis? Probably built from wood or mud or from disposable materials that were movable.

Not built from an enduring substance, Jericho managed to survive, although it was built from mud. There was just enough stone included to form and shape to the ancient structures.

Jericho exists. It’s not big, but it is a city. Okay, maybe more of a large village. It’s also the only place in the area you can get blood oranges before the rest of the crop comes in. The first time I ate a blood orange I wasn’t sure it was an orange. Orange on the outside, it was blood-red on most of the insides. Otherwise, they taste just like other oranges.

Jericho today

Why does Jericho continue to exist? Because it is built on an oasis. In the very dry region that is the Middle East, if you are up on the mile-high hill of Jerusalem, you can see Jericho. It’s the green patch in the desert. Jericho lives on because it has water. I suspect in this country, tribes moved with the weather in the dry areas of the country but built more solidly where there was water.

I wonder what the history of America would be if Native Americans had written it rather than their European conquerors? I’m sure the story would be more interesting, rich with symbols and location which were well-known then, but have since vanished.

Just a thought. Native Americans lived for many thousands of years on this continent. The water remained clean. They left behind a world as beautiful as the one into which they were born. No piles of rubble, no ruins. They lived well and gently with the land. Not necessarily in peace, but without destroying their mother.

Europeans arrived and five-hundred years later, there’s considerable likelihood that we have effectively destroyed the earth.

Who were the savages?

LET IT BE – Marilyn Armstrong

As did many others, I thought a few people might develop a conscience and a spine and not put Kavanagh on the Court. We thought someone might use their head for something other than a hat rack and realize jailing children was immoral. We thought they might hear the kids who had not been shot at their own school, hear their voices.

They didn’t do any of these things.

So we have an immoral drunkard Supreme Court Justice, babies in jail, lots of dead kids, and jailed babies many of whom may never find a home.

It didn’t happen. No spines, no consciences.

There’s only one thing left. Vote.

Please vote. Make sure all the people you know who can vote and have their heads outside their asses vote too. Drive people who need a lift to the voting place.

To put it simply, this is it. We’re out of time. The world has a dozen year to repair itself before we can’t stop the descent of Earth into…? I don’t even know what we will be if we can’t stop the planet’s destruction, but sometimes, being old has some advantages. I won’t live to see the end.

Pogo – Walt Kelly – 1971w

We can’t fix everything, but we can give it our best shot. We can do our best to try to talk to people who are still able to listen — and there aren’t many of them left. Everyone is dug into position. I don’t think there are a lot of minds we can change. If nothing else, these past two years have ossified the minds of everybody. We all need to unfreeze our minds. A lot of things need changing — fast — and we have to forget there is a box and think in new and different ways.

To all my younger friends, everyone does the best they can with the world they inherit. No generation gets a map showing you how to fix things. For each of us, the world is a different place with unique issues. What worked for us probably wouldn’t work today. Moreover, even when you get it right, your “right” isn’t permanent.  You can pass the “right” laws and un-pass them before your not-yet-born kid makes it to kindergarten. There is no forever.

Governments and countries are not forever. There is no Roman Empire, though it lasted a long time. FYI, the Roman Empire began with the crowning of Gaius Octavian Thurinus in 31 B.C. and fell to the German Goths in A.D. 476, for a total of 507 years. The Byzantine Empire, Rome’s eastern half, did not fall until the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453.

What happened to the Assyrians and the Babylonians? How about the Philistines or the Greeks? Or, for that matter, the British? Empires and governments come and go and this country is very young. If we were to end right now, we wouldn’t even make the historical timeline. We haven’t been around long enough.

Nothing is permanent. Not governments,  politics, religion, or morality. Not culture or society. We reinvent ourselves over and over. Good times, bad times. That’s just how it goes.

My generation can’t fix it. I’ll vote as I have always voted: liberal and democratic. But after that, it’s up to other people. If they don’t vote, we will lose. History happens. Each of us is part of it, like it or not. Be a good part of history. Do the right thing. Vote. We have a planet to fix.

And don’t forget to think before you vote!

I’ve been waiting to find intelligent life on earth. I’m still waiting.

#WRITEPHOTO – THE SMALLEST CIRCLE – Marilyn Armstrong

#Writephoto – The Smallest Circle


The stones stood as they had stood for a millennium. Perhaps longer. No one knew. There were stories. Rumors. Legends.

Myths.

Despite the disastrous ending of the Druids, the worshippers lived on. Quietly, softly. Sometimes hidden in the folds of Christianity and always deep in moss and woodland, they found their way to the tiny circle to greet the dark and full of the moon, and the sun rising on an equinox.

Photo: Sue Vincent

The stones wore down through wind and weather, yet they stood and we came to stand with them. We came though times changed. Finally, we could be ourselves and worship in our way.

Time, wind, and weather will have their way. Times will change and we will become what we must to worship as we should. As long as the stones stand, as long as the woods enclose us, we endure.

We will always find our way to the circle — this or any circle — and be true to our ourselves and our truths.