Archive for the ‘ History ’ Category

Japanese Death Poems

Poetry is a fascinating thing.  Like most things we do not understand we are quick to dismiss it after our first encounter should it be a bad one we also tend to shun what we do not understand.  Poetry is much like the literary victim of prejudice in this regard.  I will admit, for the longest time I did not care for poetry there is too much that is far to abstract for my sheep like brain.  Dada poetry, to me, sounds like the language my Sims would wail hopelessly out of their cruelly shaped mouth before I would use the last of their hard earned simoleons to slot into place the last wall of their starkly lit tomb where I would then toy with their electronic lives like ants with a magnifying glass.

Every time I am made to sit through a Dada poem a Sim dies.

Haiku’s on the other hand are brief, artful and  poetic in the purest sense, at least to me.  A simple metaphor is all you need to make a scene come to life.

Sunset Seduces; each step brings me no closer the horizon flees.
-Unknown (to me)

In the death poem in particular, the essential idea was that at one’s final moment of life, one’s reflection on death could be especially lucid and meaningful and therefore also constituted an important observation about life. A very fitting setting for a Haiku in my opinion. The poems are often full of symbols of death, such as the full moon, the western sky, and images of the season in which the writer died.  With that in mind try out these few poems and feel free to add your thoughts to the comment section below.

Pampas grass, now dry,
once bent this way
and that.

– Shoro

The snow of yesterday             
that fell like cherry pedals        
is water once again.

-Gozan

Earth and metal…            
although my breathing ceases              
time and tide go on.

-Atsujin

Now you have been exposed to two very different kinds of poetry and I hope that at the very least it has helped you to keep your mind open about new and old forms of art alike.  Or take this lesson and apply it to all things, people are works of art too and just because you met one (insert race/religion/lifestyle) doesn’t mean the rest are the same as the first.  Keep your mind open and keep calm, everything will be alright!

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Money

Yeah, I finally watched Into the Wild, and though I haven’t read the book and I think I might want to.  On second thought, maybe I won’t.  This is a great coming of age story about a kid who is fed up with society, or was it his parents?  Wasn’t he complaining about love too?  Okay it’s a movie about a bit of a cry baby who ran away from everything he knew in hopes of reaching some nirvana like realization.  My apologies should this reach any of the McCandless or any other friends and family of Christopher McCandless.  Truth is I see a lot of myself in Chris, but in fear of letting this post turn into a review I will stop here and get on with it.

In the movie, (I can’t speak on the actual memoir as I have not read it) he obviously displays a distaste for money and all things materialistic. I suppose its fits my demographic as a broke post-grad, but I can see how he felt that way.  It is sometimes peaceful to think of a time when we didn’t have savings accounts and stocks to watch while the nation reaches some insurmountable fiscal cliff looming over our existence as a reminder of how irresponsible we are with money.  Almost is if the cliff is taunting us saying “if your country cant manage its money what hopes do you have of ever doing so.”  Think of a time when the folds of your mattress was your bank bank account and anyone could tell you that the going price for a milk cow was just two chickens and five bales of hay, at least, as long as if you throw in your daughters hand in marriage to seal the deal.

The truth of the discussion where we say that people in simpler times had less to worry about, is that we are in fact being spoiled little pricks.  Sure they didn’t have quite as many appointments to keep track of as us but they were busy worrying about real problems like: getting enough wood to not freeze next winter, being robbed by bandits, or dying from this plague or that.  Besides, since money has been around since 2000BC is pretty much a good thing, you know things like, the wheel, and the alphabet and pet dogs.

Originally, money was a form of receipt, representing a store of food the community might share. This could be anything really; sea shells, bones, or pieces of jewelry.  The problem with this is that your currency loses all value outside of your sphere of influence.  It would be like trying to buy groceries with that holographic Charizard you saved from your Pokemon cards.  To a collector it is worth something but not to anyone outside the collector sphere.  Eventually people started digging up shiny rocks and trading them instead of those other fads like ivory beads, or Pokemon cards.

This led to coinage, where gold, silver, and copper were melted down and stamped for assurance of value.  There lies two problems with this.  First is that counter-fitting was easy as mixing gold with any old substance   Take some gold, mix it with bronze, lift the stamp, and make your own coin and -profit.  Second is that it relied on the three metals keeping the relative same price.   These days, precious metals change like Colorado weather, take a look http://www.goldprice.org/

In response, paper money was introduced and soon you have fait money, which is what most modern countries deal with today.  Fait money is currency given value by the government who issues it.  Which is why paper money from WWII was stamped “HAWAII” so that if Japan took the islands from us we could void all the currency in Hawaii.  Think of it as insurance in case the Emperor tried to buy our supplies from us with our own money.

You have to think of Money like the tool that it is.  One to keep track of worth and to unify people by giving them something everyone want to trade with, not just Pokemon cards.  True it can be hard to scrounge up at times.  Yet like the apple seed, if you invest in it and give it the right attention you can profit from it as well.

Underneath it All

What does Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Game of Thrones all have in common?  Well, aside from each being a fantastic amalgamation of fiction they all have the same  roots.  Check it out.

Any fan of Tolkien knows that Middle Earth was in part inspired by Germanic  mythology, more specifically sagas.  Yes kids it’s the word of the day, say it with me now, saga!  Tolkien and Wagner both have adapted Volsunga Saga and rightly so because it rightly displays why Odin would beat Zeus’s adulterous ass with one eye…well…gone.

Close enough.

Sagas are stories about ancient Scandinavian history, they are chock-full of viking voyages, viking battles, family feuds between vikings. It like taking reality TV show where all the contestants are given axes and told to survive a winter in Iceland.  The result is a medieval warrior society surprisingly more humane than The Hunger Games.  At least in 10th century Iceland the penalty for killing someone was to either offer compensation to the family of the victim, or to be put in “time out” for a few years where they could still raid all the Europeans they wanted but if they were found in Iceland they were fair game for bands of homeland militias who made it their business to kill you.

Sagas are defined as non-realistic epic work of fiction, yet, these tales were passed down by story tellers who used the stories to make their history lessons more enjoyable.  King Harald of Norway is a consistent character in most sagas and even most battles and word events like the conversion to Christianity are reflected in the sagas making them a useful tool to historians.  This blend of fact and fiction makes for truly bad ass protagonists wielding magic who were tied to real and everyday problems.

Your average sage might read a little like this:

Thord was an unmatched fighter and had two brothers Brynjolf and Thorkel. They were drinking one winter day and soon became outrageously drunk. Unable to think clearly they decided on a game called “hit the horse rider on the head”. The game was fairly simple, involving the use of large objects to cause injury and dislodge riders on the local road. It started out with small branches and rocks but quickly graduated to objects only liftable by men of their time. Brynjolf, to prove his position as the strongest of the brothers decided to use a horse from a neighboring farm, for his next and last turn in the game. At that exact, ill fated  moment, another neighboring farm’s son who no one liked due to his crazy insistence that there was more to life than money, killing and honor, happened to be passing by the spot where the brothers were playing their game. Brynjolf threw the horse as hard as he could at the passing rider and hit Hamund in the side of the head as he rode by, killing him at once. Brynjolf named witnesses to the killing and sent a messenger to Grim Bardsson, the rider’s father in Mork to tell of the accident and offer compensation, giving Grim self-judgment. Then he buried the boy.

Take Egil Skalgrimmson for example, as one of the first immigrants to Iceland after a blood fued with the king of Norway, was like the George Washington of Iceland.  He is described in his exploits as being very hard to wound and he was thought to have magical powers because of this.  When his grave was excavated he was found to have Paget’s Disease, where the skeleton of the person inflicted grows indefinitely.  That’s right, Egil was the viking version of the super villain who finally delivers the killing blow to Superman.

Egil also enjoys long walks on the beach.

I’m sorry, I’m getting side tracked, I got your hopes up about relate able pop culture, thinking that you would find the first sentence fun and instead used the opportunity to plug away on a history lesson.  What is truly unique to sagas isn’t the dark pagan mysticism, the unique culture, or the lure of ancient society but the great span of time they cover.  Sagas often tell a story that spans across three generations or more, lineage gets developed and characters come and go.  Scandinavian story tellers used these tales to explain anything from landmarks to alliances to the rules of the land.   immortalizing Egil Skalgrimmson in his Saga makes sure that all Icelanders will remember their heritage and some lucky few will be able to identify  a relative by his appearance in the tale.  And in the end a dwarf just isn’t a dwarf without his family name, his time honored crest or his reputation for being able to drink more ale than anyone you know.

Fame and Tranquility Can Never Be Bedfellows

As I meticulously comb through Christmas presents I tend to sort them into logical piles, such is my nature to bring order to chaos.  The piles range in neatness with the necessities like socks carefully packed away to the returns shamelessly stuffed in an old grocery bag.  But there is always the presents that don’t fit either.  You know the ones, thoughtful gifts if a little off base, or maybe just plain weird presents that are too unique to part with.  This is the fashion in which I received The Philosophy Book; it is best described as timeline of the study.  On of my favorite quotes I have read yet is “Fame and tranquility can never be bedfellows.”

Pictured here: Brittney Spears.

You see, man has been pondered thoughts about socialization since 4th century BC when Aristotle hastily claimed that a person must be social before any other philosophers could weigh in.  He said that only the godly and the beastly flourish alone.  So  introvert readers, which one are you?
Hundreds of years later a French philosopher by the name of Michel De Montaigne came along during the French Wars of Religion 1562–98 during which the Catholics and Protestants were at it yet again.

You see Michel was reflecting on his country’s harsh behavior,  he got to observe a great deal of political unrest in his time and followers of religions who were adopting a ‘mob mentality’ in his opinion. Notice that the result wasn’t just one war but a whole generation of sporadic outbursts that even had the power to draw England and Spain into the fight.  So Michel thought that tranquility depends upon the detachment from others opinions and seeking fame is gaining glory in the eyes of others, thereby seeking their opinions.  This theory would mean that if we seek fame we cannot reach detachment/tranquility, so fame and tranquility can never be bedfellows (such a fun word and never the place to use it).  This type of logical thinking is great to keep us on our minds sharp as brain-diamonds. Something like this will stick with me all day, and I find myself thinking about it waiting for the bus,  cooking dinner, at the gym etc.  Things like: “I agree monsieur, but surely that isn’t all it takes to be tranquil” or  “Do you  mean to apply this as a lifestyle, or simply mapping out social interactions on a whole?” and  “If we replace ‘fame’ for ‘anger’ and flip the sentence structure it sounds like something Yoda would say.”

Yocrates

Turns out Michel isn’t the only one to think about this  either.  Nietzsche has touched the topic and Richard Cecil says “Solitude shows us what we should be; society shows up what we are”
Cecil does seem to have a point, every time I go to Walmart I’m reminded how creepy, gross, and unhealthy we really are and there aren’t too many eligible bedfellows at Walmart either.  Don’t get mad I’m just telling it like I see it. I hope It’s not too soon in this blog’s life to tell jokes at others expenses. OH, you know what? I’m actually not
going to care what others think and just relax. Yep, it’s my blog and I kinda like doing things the way I’m doing them.

I like to eat dessert before dinner.

I like  anything Jim Henson.

and sometimes I like to find new and exciting ways to attach bread to cats.

If only I can haz such a mathematical cat

But I digress…

Philosophy is the love of wisdom, and studying it really does make us wiser, or more logical at the least.  So if you find yourself really liking logical thinking then consider doing something involving math, like computer science, because that is logical as Spock. If that’s not your thing maybe you can learn a language, also a logic task. So it would seem this entry is a bit of a tease. If you saw the title and thought I might unlock the ethics of fame and tranquility like dear Monsieur Michel De Montaigne, I’m afraid I will never be able explain the reasoning as well as he did. But you’re in luck, his work is carefully preserved forever on pen and paper and you can look up his essay “On Solitude”. Or if you want to troll me in a philosophical argument stick around, I will be writing a whole lot more of these under the “Musings” category and maybe “Observations” too, but definitely not the “Fiction” one. That category is reserved  for philosophical debates about Star Wars…

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