Heaney's translation of this Anglo-Saxon epic tears the arm off of the monstrous version I had to read in high school. Ha ha. Seriously, though, HeaneHeaney's translation of this Anglo-Saxon epic tears the arm off of the monstrous version I had to read in high school. Ha ha. Seriously, though, Heaney's verses really flow and make for an engaging read, particularly for a poem. I also appreciated that the Anglo-Saxon/Old English was printed on the verso page, to accompany the English translation on the recto side. (Recto side aside, English translated into English? How wyrd.)
It was fun to read the original aloud on occasion, using my meager knowledge of Icelandic to help with pronunciation. The only change I would request in an updated edition would be more footnotes explaining the rationale behind the translation, since it is obvious, at least to me, that the compact and punchy quality of the Anglo-Saxon (check out the literal rendering on Wikipedia's Old English page to see what I mean) didn't carry over into the longer, free-flowing verses of the translation. When I briefly flirted with translating Tibetan into English, my graduate advisor suggested sticking as closely as possible to the cadence, word order, assonance, etc. of the original, while also rendering the meaning as clearly as possible in the new language. Heaney doesn't do that here, and it would be nice to see a translator make that attempt. That said, I don't plan on splitting anyone's helm over this translation, and if I had any gold torques to give to Heaney for his efforts, I most certainly would. ...more
“Yes, I know it’s not the truth, but in a great history little truths can be altered so that the greater truth emerges.” (pp.520–1)
I read thi3.5 stars
“Yes, I know it’s not the truth, but in a great history little truths can be altered so that the greater truth emerges.” (pp.520–1)
I read this at nodozejoze's encouragement while on a cross-country rail trip to visit in-laws in California. So instead of a substantial review, I have snippets sketched on Amtrak napkins:
Random Thoughts in Search of a Coherent Review
—Mystery—murder and otherwise —History—Niketas and other real, historical personages —Medieval bestiary—skiapods, fauns, unicorns, oh my! —Exploration of language, translation, communication, truth, deception, history, religion, faith —“sacred and profane experiences, high and low vocabularies, royal and common families, real and imagined miracles” —Candide crossed with Little Big Man —“green honey” and the Hashhashin —the Grasal/Grail—“what counts is that nobody must find it” —Baudolino & co. invented the grail myth!! —Baudolino’s mythic traits/archetypes —Is the whole thing tragic or comic?
In short, I liked it quite a bit, though, I suspect, not nearly as much as José, I mean, nodozejoze did....more
José recommended this book for me back in 1998 or '99, when we were browsing through the titles in the Gregory Village Shopping Center Goodwill in PleJosé recommended this book for me back in 1998 or '99, when we were browsing through the titles in the Gregory Village Shopping Center Goodwill in Pleasant Hill, CA. He also recommended The Gulag Archipelago, which I didn't take up and read until almost ten years later. I don't remember what I purchased (though I think it was a tattered Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon) but I know it wasn't either of his recommendations.
José's recommendations count though, and so this book was always on my radar. I finally found a trade paperback copy in the late 2000's, which promptly vanished into my fiction stacks, until I read an Archdruid Report post entitled "The Glass Bead Game," at which point I moved the book to the "to read" pile.
So what is it about? I was afraid you would ask that, because it really isn't about much. It is literary fiction, the novel for which Hesse won his Nobel Prize. It is science fiction, in the sense of describing a far future society on a far future Earth, if not in the sense of cowboys-in-space operas, alien invasions, or gritty corporate cyberstuff. It is a hagiography of one Joseph Knecht, Magister Ludi, written, or more correctly, edited, by an anonymous disciple. ...more
It isn't too much of an imaginative leap to the world of The Hunger Games from the political and social realities of the early 21st century USA. TakeIt isn't too much of an imaginative leap to the world of The Hunger Games from the political and social realities of the early 21st century USA. Take the contemporary fetish for "reality" television (or, more accurately, humiliation television), the open secret of USAmerican love of war (especially the at-a-distance, shock-and-awe variety), and the desire of many for televised capital punishment, and you have the Games themselves, more or less. As astute bloggers have noted elsewhere, from the perspective of nations and peoples on the periphery (those currently fighting riots over food prices and austerity measures) we in the U.S. already live in The Capitol with our relatively decadent lifestyles and ultra-shallow concerns. As the globe warms, cheap oil becomes difficult to obtain, and lifestyles impossible to sustain, it isn't hard to imagine this center contracting to its fictional locale in the Rockies while the remnants of the U.S. join the rest of the world in providing raw materials for the enjoyment of the few.
Heavy stuff for a young adult novel. Luckily it is leavened with enough young love, self-searching angst, and interesting plot twists to make it appealing to even the least politically and ecologically aware reader. I think the reason that novel has been so explosively popular, though, is precisely because it speaks to those concerns that our young people have about the world they are inheriting. They, after all, are the heirs to the long emergency, a future of climate change, powering-down, diminished opportunities, and other converging catastrophes. ...more
Ark is the sequel, or maybe more accurately companion, to Baxter's gripping Flood. It explores Ark One, the space colonization project alluded to inArk is the sequel, or maybe more accurately companion, to Baxter's gripping Flood. It explores Ark One, the space colonization project alluded to in the previous book, from the decades of preparation to the actual interstellar mission itself. Very thought-provoking, particularly for such a page-turner. ...more
I literally could not put this one down. Baxter presents an unfolding situation of such awesomeness and implacability (simply outside the scope of ourI literally could not put this one down. Baxter presents an unfolding situation of such awesomeness and implacability (simply outside the scope of our technoscientific fixes) that it staggers the imagination. The explanation for the titular flood was less than fully satisfying, but I think that misses the point. The planetary flood, with its inconceivable enormity, is a reminder to the reader that nature bats last, and that some problems are really predicaments (to use the terminology of John Michael Greer) which don't lend themselves readily (or at all) to solutions. While the book was not without its flaws, it has haunted me since I finished it. ...more
"He tried to think of something to say but he could not. He'd had this feeling before, beyond the numbness and the dull despair. The world shrinking d"He tried to think of something to say but he could not. He'd had this feeling before, beyond the numbness and the dull despair. The world shrinking down about a raw core of parsible entities. The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colors. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believe to be true. More fragile than he would have thought. How much was gone already? The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of its reality. Drawing down like something trying to preserve heat. In time to wink out forever." (93)
"There is no God and we are his prophets." (181)
A father and son. A dark, desolate, and desperate post-holocaust world. Ubiquitous ash, blackened trees, the corroding remains of civilization. A voyage from nowhere to nowhere. Slavery and cannibalism. A father and son.
Stark, poetic, interesting, but in the end not entirely satisfying. ...more
I was expecting something completely fluffy, but I was impressed early on by some of the research that was described. The book ranges from work in quaI was expecting something completely fluffy, but I was impressed early on by some of the research that was described. The book ranges from work in quantum physics (specifically, idea of the Zero Point Field) to biology to (inadvertent) homeopathy to the holographic model of the mind to psychic phenomena in gathering evidence to support its argument that this Zero Point Field is nothing less than the substrate of the "external" world and "internal" experience. Here's how McTaggart summarizes the consequences of this research and its implications:
The communication of the world did not occur in the visible realm of Newton, but in the subatomic world of Werner Heisenberg. Cells and DNA communicated through frequencies. The brain perceived and made its own record of the world in pulsating waves.
A substructure underpins the universe that is essentially a recording medium of everything, providing a means for everything to communicate with everything else.
People are indivisible from their environment. Living consciousness is not an isolated entity. It increases order in the rest of the world. The consciousness of human beings has incredible powers, to heal ourselves, to heal the world -- in a sense, to make it as we wish it to be. (p.225)
I still remember when José pulled this off his mythology shelf back in '95 and turned straight to the weird numerology section at the front of the booI still remember when José pulled this off his mythology shelf back in '95 and turned straight to the weird numerology section at the front of the book, where Campbell finds wonderful numerical correlations between the various systems of world mythology and the then-contemporary scientific understandings of the universe. At that point I knew I had to read this book, which meant that, true to form, I bought it almost immediately and promptly waited seventeen years to read it.
In this collection of reworked lectures, and his final book (I think), Campbell provides a fascinating take on the perennial philosophy and presents it as a means of bridging the divide between the languages and worldviews of religion and science. According to Campbell, the problem is that neither side understands the metaphorical aspects of mythical language and symbolism and so mistakenly take literally that which is intended to point to a lived experience of the sacred and not to express a fact about history, biology, etc.
Here are some of the things Campbell had to say that really blew me away:
One cannot predict the next mythology any more than one can predict tonight's dream; for a mythology is not an ideology. It is not something projected from the brain, but something experienced from the heart, from recognitions of identities behind or within the appearances of nature, perceiving with love a "thou" where there would have been otherwise only an "it." (p.17)
[A] true prophet ... knew the difference between his ethnic ideas and the elementary ideas that they enclose, between a metaphor and its connotation, between a tribal myth and its metaphysical import. For when the inner eye is awakened and a revelation arises from inner space to meet impressions brought by the senses from outer space to the mind, the significance of the conjunction is lost unless the outward image opens to receive and embody the elementary idea: this being the whole sense of the transformation of nature in art. Otherwise, nothing has happened; an external event has been merely documented and a cultic, ethnic centricity given as the last word of religion, with naturalism the end and beginning of art. (34)
The first step to mystical realization is the leaving of such a defined god for an experience of transcendence, disengaging the ethnic from the elementary idea, for any god who is not transparent to transcendence is an idol, and its worship is idolatry. Also, the first step to participation in the destiny of humankind today, which is neither of this folk not of that, but of the whole population of this globe, is to recognize every such local image of a god as but one of many thousands, millions, even perhaps billions, of locally useful symbolizations of that same mystery beyond sight or thought which our teachers have taught us to seek in their god alone. (44)
[M]ythic figurations are the "ancestral forms," the insubstantial archetypes, of all that is beheld by the eye as physically substantial, material things being understood as ephemeral concretions out of the energies of these noumena. Traditional forms of tools, dwellings, and weapons have their justification in such everlasting models. Rituals are direct expositions of their life-sustaining patterns. Temples and the narratives of myth are hermetic fields within which those apparitions known as gods and goddesses, demons, angels, demigods, incarnations, and the like, typify in the guise of charismatic personalities the locally recognized vortices of consciousness out of which all aspects of the local theatre of life derive their being. The figurations of myth are expressive, therefore, as those of dream normally are not, of range of universal, as distinguished from specifically individual, concerns. (56)
[E]ternity being by definition outside or beyond temporality, transcendent of all categories, whether of virtue or of reason (being and nonbeing, unity and multiplicity, love and justice, forgiveness and wrath), the term and concept "God" is itself but a metaphor of the unknowing mind, connatative, not only beyond itself, but beyond thought. So that all can be said of it, whether as touching time or eternity, has to be in the way of an "as if" (als ob): philosophically and theologically ... through the analogy of a rationally inferred First Cause, and mythologically ... in the way of a psychologically affective image transparent to transcendence. (57)
One cannot but ask: What can ... tribal literalism possibly contribute but agony to such a world of intercultural, global prospects as that of our present century? It call comes of misreading metaphors, taking denotation for connotation, the messenger for the message; overloading the carrier, consequently, with sentimentalized significance and throwing both life and thought thereby off balance. To which the only generally recognized correction as yet proposed has been the no less wrongheaded one of dismissing the metaphors as lies (which indeed they are, when so construed), thus scrapping the whole dictionary of the language of the soul (this is a metaphor) by which mankind has been elevated to interests beyond procreation, economics, and "the greatest good of the greatest number." (58)
There is a Hindu tantric saying, nāvedo devam arcayet, "by none but a god shall a god be worshipped". The deity of one's worship is a function of one's own state of mind. But it also is a product of one's culture. Catholic nuns do not have visions of the Buddha, nor do Buddhist nuns have visions of Christ. Ineluctably, the image of any God beheld ... will be of a local ethnic idea historically conditioned, a metaphor, therefore, and thus to be recognized as transparent to transcendence. Remaining fixed to its name and form, whether with simple faith or in saintly vision, is therefore to remain in mind historically bounded and attached to an appearance. (67)
The first task of any systematic comparison of the myths and religions of mankind should therefore be ... to identify [the] universals (or, as C.G. Jung termed them, archetypes of the unconscious) and as far as possible to interpret them; and the second task then should be to recognize and interpret the various locally and historically conditions transformations of the metaphorical images through which these universals have been rendered. (99)
The universally distinguishing characteristic of mythological thought and communication is an implicit connotation through all its metaphorical imagery of a sense of identity of some kind, transcendent of appearances, which unites behind the scenes the opposed actors on the world stage. (110)
The metaphors of any mythology may be defined as affect signs derived from intuitions of just this play of the Self through all the forms of a local manner of life, made manifest through ritualized representations, pedagogical narratives, prayers, meditations, annual festivals, and the like, in such a way that all members of the relevant community may be held, both in mind and in sentiment, to its knowledge and thus moved to live in accord. (113)
[I]t is the function of the priest to represent the claims of life in the world, ethics against metaphysics, the art of living in the knowledge of transcendence without dissolving into it in a rapture of self-indulgence.... Like the priest, the artist is a master of metaphorical language. The priest, however, is vocationally committed to a vocabulary already coined, of which he is the representative. He is a performing artist executing scripts already perfectly wrought, and his art is in the execution. (121)
The author, famous/infamous for his appearance in the film What the Bleep Do We Know?, begins with a fascinating premise-that the only metaphysical inThe author, famous/infamous for his appearance in the film What the Bleep Do We Know?, begins with a fascinating premise-that the only metaphysical interpretation of quantum physics that accounts for all data is monist idealism. This monist idealist interpretation of quantum physics is akin to the worldview of Advaita Vedanta, in which there is, absolutely speaking, one fundamental reality-Mind/Conciousness (the Sanskrit word is Atman or Brahman, depending on whether one approaches it from the perspective of the individual or the whole). This nondual, nonlocal fundamental reality is apprehended dualistically as the subject of experience (the noumenal world of the individual mind) and the object of experience (the phenomenal world of individual objects). Goswami's most interesting thesis is that the quantum level of mind is that empty silence wherein free choice and novel creativity occur, whereas the classical level of mind is the conditioned chatterbox that operates on habit and repetition; this "two truths" approach allows his model to include and transcend the insights of behaviorism, etc.
As I said, this is a fascinating interpretation, and one that resonates with the philosophical-religious worldview that has been called the perennial philosophy. Alas, this book is not as well written as I would have liked; sometimes the parables he relates don't connect meaningfully to the material at hand and at other times each paragraph seems only slightly related to those preceding and following. As well, the prose is often stilted and occasionally even embarassing (although, in his defense, he is a professor of physics and not creative writing). He only spends 1/3 of the book developing his thesis, a big mistake when you are rocking the boat so thoroughly. Another problem with this book is that the last 1/3 is a completely unnecessary (in my opinion) application of this interpretation to the spiritual path. There are scores of better books on the religious/spiritual practice of nondualism, so why bother? Is it to give the imprimatur of science to something that had previously been merely religious, and therefore suspect? Or is to fill pages?
In short, Goswami's book expresses an interesting idea, although it is not always an interesting read....more
This book challenges the reader to re-think almost everything they understand about "lost" Christianity. Needleman does not present another work on GnThis book challenges the reader to re-think almost everything they understand about "lost" Christianity. Needleman does not present another work on Gnosticism, Christian contemplation, esoteric teachings, or hidden gospels; instead he indicates that a change of heart (an almost ontological change, and not merely one in thought and emotion) is necessary for even the most rudimentary Christian teachings to take root and become REAL in a person's lived experience.
Professor Needleman's writing is superb, with insightful (DEEPLY insightful) comments abounding (in some places, I flagged one or two sentences per paragraph, which is rare). The only "drawback" is that it is up to the reader to find the spiritual guidance necessary to maintain the Question, to develop the unity of purpose needed to realize the Christian gospel (or any other wisdom teachings, for that matter). At least I have a clearer notion of what I am seeking and of what I need to make my Buddhist and Christian spiritual practices REAL.
I am definitely going to reread this book. Highly, highly recommended....more
**spoiler alert** I was reading something online about the Earth's "hum" when I came across this fascinating article by engineer and "pyramidiot" Robe**spoiler alert** I was reading something online about the Earth's "hum" when I came across this fascinating article by engineer and "pyramidiot" Robert Bauval . In it he explains that the Great Pyramid was constructed in such a way that it might have translated this frequency into something suitable for human listening; in other words, the pyramid may have been designed to "sing," making it the world's first multimedia monolith. I was so amazed at this revelation that I fired the e-mail off to my good friend, Rev. José M. Tirado, who shares my fascination with both ancient wonders and contrarians. Within minutes his reply indicated that I needed to read a book called The Giza Power Plant.
Although certain that the local library would not have a copy of this oddball book, I was taken aback when the online catalog pointed me right to it and indicated that it was available to request and check out locally. I placed my request, and once the book arrived at the library, I figured out why they were able to get a copy. It turns out that author Christopher Dunn lives in Danville, IL, which is about 45 miles from here, and so the public library owned a copy. My attitude toward coincidences is that they all are meaningful, and so the proximity of the author cemented my desire to read this book.
Dunn begins with a pretty interesting question, one rooted in his decades of experience in manufacturing: why is the Great Pyramid of Cheops so precise in its construction? He explains at some length that the precision found in the measurements of the pyramid, including the surveying and alignment of the base, with variances of less than a hundredth of an inch over a length of hundreds of feet, is beyond the level of precision expected of contemporary construction. As an aerospace machinist with over 30 years of practical experience, Dunn cannot simply brush aside this question; he makes it clear that for the folks like him, those responsible for translating the ideas of engineers into physical artifacts, the standard theory about the purposes and construction of the Great Pyramid just don't hold water.
He also asserts that there is abundant evidence of the use of machine tools at Giza and he shows quite a few images that seem to support his contention. Thin parallel grooves in shaped stone look like the marks left by a power drill. Intersecting curved surfaces in stone bowls indicate the use of lathe-like machine tools, and not easily blunted copper implements and scouring compounds. Dunn marshals some pretty intriguing evidence in his chapter on the use of machine tools in ancient Egypt and discusses the positive responses he's gotten from machinists, engineers, and others involved in hands-on manufacturing. This chapter was probably the most compelling in the book, because it does seem to me, a total layman, that he's on to something.
However, while his ideas on machine tooling in ancient Egypt are pretty intriguing, I found his overall hypothesis--that the Great Pyramid was a vast machine intended to produce power through resonance with Earth's "hum"--a lot less convincing, though no less fascinating. In brief, he asserts that the pyramid was a power plant that converted the Earth's hum into a source of clean, renewable energy. He doesn't just make this up out of whole cloth either; on the contrary, he provides a lot of circumstantial evidence that, if nothing else, does seem to indicate the inadequacy of the current explanation of the pyramid as a tomb. The granite-lined "King's Chamber" with its overlying vaults and entry-way is seen as a sort of "sound box" whose abundant quartz crystals resonate and amplify the humming earth below. The "Queen's Chamber" was a reaction chamber providing a source of hydrogen as a medium for the accumulated energy; Dunn notes the presence of various salt encrustations and a foul smell in this chamber that would be consistent with the presence of acid-base reactions. He even explains the mysterious shafts running up through the pyramid at an angle (a design feature inexplicable to modern manufacturers, since constructing the shafts on the horizontal would have been much, much easier); one shaft acted as wave guide to collect microwaves from space, focused them through granite lens that has been mistaken for a sarcophagus, and sent them out the other shaft as high-powered output.
It's a fascinating idea but it is not without its problems, obviously. Where are machine tools used in the construction, for example? I've seen museum cases filled top to bottom with Bronze Age implements but not one ancient Egyptian Black and Decker power drill. Where is evidence of the power usage (apart from the hypothetical power tools)? How was the power transmitted? (On one page, Dunn shows a bizarre "eye of Horus"-like satellite reflecting the beamed power back down to Earth, but thankfully doesn't really try to explain that.) Why did the human race completely lose its collective memory of this level of advancement?
This was a very interesting book which was incredibly well written (particularly since its writer is from Danville; in his defense, he is English by birth) and very fun to read. Dunn is an articulate voice for the seldom heard perspectives of those "on the ground" in the worlds of machining and manufacturing, and he raises some valuable and not easily dismissed questions about our knowledge of the ancient past....more