Monday, September 22, 2014

Calliope

Context of the Comic

The comic is in my vernacular from Aubrey de Selincourt's translation of Herodotus' Histories (Book IX, Chapter 16). If you are familiar with the recent 300 films, those movies proceed this comic. The movies cover the battles of Thermopile and Salamis, the final great battle is Plataea, which the above comic takes place before. The Thebans were Greeks allied with the Persians against the Spartan and Athenian coalition.

Herodotus is was titled the Father of History and later The Father of lies. Having read is book a few times, my own title for him the father of creating a genre without realizing it, but there are probably lots of scholars who can translate ancient Greek that would probably disagree with me, the commonly held belief is that Herodotus used sited Thersander to perpetuate a prognostication. If he knew he was writing history he only had epic poetry as a guide. The other logographer's before him, their work did not survive so there is little context to go on how much he was inventing history and how much he was espousing propaganda for Pericles during the Golden Age of ancient Greece.

By today's standards, Herodotus' work is about as historically accurate as the movie 300. There are a lot of weird and goofy stories that initially drew me to his narrative and are clearly false based on 21st century knowledge. Today, I mostly hear his named mentioned in news articles along the lines that go something like "We don't know much about (said topic) but Herodotus says ... (something that is clearly false)"

The above passage is a little unique for Herodotus because it sites the person who told him the story, there are a couple of other examples. Historians have typically considered these sorts of citations as ways justify a lie but in my own understanding I don't know why he would tell a story that draws sympathy for the enemy. I knew I wanted to illustrate this passage because when I read it, it gave me chills, the best I can say is that I felt truth in it. The passage reminded me of some more contemporary examples of well meaning people being trapped in doomed situations.

If understanding begins with imagination as Ibn Arabi and Karl Jung have said, to understand history can take a great deal of imagination and one always have to be skeptical in understanding the past. "Humans are meaning seeking creatures" though, history, whether scrutinized by the rigors of skepticism and cross examination or based on faith, plays a critical role in how the living understand the context of their lives in the grand scheme of things.

Reading the Parthenon Enigma by Joan Connelly, one thing I was surprised to learn was that both Marx and Hitler admired ancient Athens, I had though Western democracies applied their origins to the ancient past. We all want to think that we're on the right side of history and can cherry pick the facts to make us correct and truthful.

With that caveat, I below are some podcasts and personal reflections that I see a relationship similarities to the above comic.

Process
Working on this comic, I think about my friend who is a page designer with a big imagination, veterans who've been willing to tell me a little bit and a few people I've know with ptsd. My maternal grandfather died over in Vietnam when my mom was a child, she took us in 2010 to see his name on a wall in Washington DC, among many other names. She tried her best to steer her boys away from military service, not letting us play with GI Joes when we were little and throwing away the military recruitment cards when we were in high school.

In Herodotus' story the King Cyrus takes over a city and raises the young people as artists so they would not be strong enough to rebel, that's me, not the kind of person you want physically protecting you. I never totally bought that the pen is mightier than the sword, I don't think either has a monopoly. The sword can lead to dangerous cycle of destruction. The last time, from what I understand, that western civilization was in full blown war was World War 2 and today we are reaching a point where no one has any living memory of it, some have even theorized that history repeats itself once the majority of people who remembered that event die out. These are also the people who say that Mellenials are the same as the Greatest Generation. Today, many say that is not the case and with good reason, but it wasn't the older generations calling crowning the World War 2 generation "The Greatest Generation", is was the people born afterward, never knowing their parents and grandparents naive youth.

My own opinion on predicting the future I am left quoting the father of lies "Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects." - Herodotus

and

"Count no one happy until they're dead" - Herodotus.

As much I try to look as I like to take in all kinds of perspectives and see things from as many view points as I can humanly imagine. The first two about World War 2 and the last about the Rwanda Genocide, that's 10 year anniversary was largely dismissed by the American media, but dismissing Africa is a popular/unrecognized pastime for the West.

What Peace Time Forgets About Wartime

This podcast reminds me of Herodotus' quote "In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons."

A podcast by Dan Carlin - Logical Insanity The description is After many listener requests, Dan examines the issue of the morality of dropping the Atomic Bombs in the Second World War. As usual, he does so in his own unique, unexpected way.
Dan Carlin's podcasts are my horror movies, they scare the shit out of me, the scariest part of all is that they actually happened (as much as someone can describe the past and maybe not always in chronological order). His podcasts remind me of the quote "Men trust their ears less than their eyes." - Herodotus. Carlin does not call himself a historian, I would call him an epic poet.

C-Span Podcast on Rwanda Genocide - These least exciting podcast but still worth the listen. Jarod Diamond's book Collapse has a chapter that discusses the environmental/resource dimensions that ultimately escalated into the genocide.

Reflection
I have been working on this blog entry for some years. I started at an extremely low point in my life (a great time to be motivated to do something new). I thought and thought about history and tried to take more in, and thought and thought about all of the suffering that has happened again and again. I wrote this entry and then deleted it. Then I sent it to my brother for someone to bounce it off of. He has better things to think about like starting a family, he just had a daughter, a new generation in my family. It wasn't until I sent it to him and he told me the subject matter was "heavy" that I could begin to have some kind of desire to provide a solution, so he wouldn't feel as weighed down by the past as me.

After this very long post and some very long pod casts linked to it I wanted to talk about the title, Calliope. I worked on an abstract painting by the same name and both times working on a project with that name I felt that I was opening myself up to some very intense psychological forces, trying to understand the greater context of my place in the world but still knowing I am trapped in my own head. I had to accept some very extreme emotional highs and lows, something I don't know if everyone would be able to handle (I know I could barely handle it), I wanted to see the world beyond myself but know that to do so is all in my imagination. I wrote this blog as a draft and then deleted it. Then I rewrote it, left it up for a week until the balloon burst in my head. I went a little crazy for a week (probably from listening to Bob Sheer too closely and a line from Sun Tzu's Art of War about spies)."History is written by a mad man" as I have heard Dan Carlin say several times in his podcasts.

I don't have any real solutions other than some general advice about deal making and that countries like the United States need to embrace the primary value at All are created equal. Something my father said to me after years as a counselor is that "basically everyone is messed up." No one is perfect but everyone is deserving of some degree of dignity. Once people write others off is when they stop listening. Once you stop listening you stop communicating and begin inventing your own imaginary reality where everyone else is the problem and things will not be better until everyone sees the world as you do (whether that's thinking everyone should believe in global warming or everyone should be born again) and from my understanding of history that is when the sword over-powers the pen.

My conflict resolution professor said something that has stuck with me "trust is a difficult thing to build and an easy thing to destroy" - in more or less words (that was the best class I ever took), it taught me the real components, based on game theory, to make working collaborative solutions that often - being brave, being a good listener, being comfortable with your own values, not being threatened by others' values and using creativity to make mutually beneficial deals. I guess I'm an optimist though that really tries to see the best in all people (something that can be a lot of work at times) but knowing how the worst in people can come out.

Anyway, I have more than a million thought and perspectives but this project needs to come to an end. I would like to learn about and regurgitate to the best of my ability, but have to shut up at some point. I realize this is a long entry, long enough that my editor didn't even want to bother reading it (in fact I got 6 views when I posted it and I doubt anyone bothered to listen to my curated podcasts) but it is always helpful for me to have an open exchange with people (it helps me be refine and enhance my ideas), it's what gets me out of dream land and up in the morning. If you have any thoughts or opinions I encourage you to leave a comment.

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