…on Theo’s thirteenth birthday

This day, my best boy turns 13; which promises I can indulge myself for a year in its entirety howling, “thirteeeeeeen” in the style of Pullo and Vorenus:

Carnage and loyalty in Rome notwithstanding; thus ensues some inevitable cat cuteness:

Upon my arrival home from work (teeming with childlike and innocent frenzy the entire way home on the Underground because Gethyn had called me the minute he got into the car with him and I detected his delicious little kitten noises) I laid my eyes upon him and sang, “Theoooo!” He was a lovely kitten:

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He also attracted trouble; his little kitten wails once summoning us from the next room to discover that he knew not how to extricate his wee kitten head from in between the slats in the dining room chair; continuallly vaulting himself onto the poor Heating Engineer lying horizontally to try to carry out his work;  the time I cautioned Geth, “please close the bathroom door whilst running a bath or…” Thence was heard…SPLASH:

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Theo also has a penchant for being a tad self-indulgent; a jerk if you will:

He vaults onto the table whilst I am anticipating cleaning it; and in act of felid obstinance, elongates himself languorously; said performance wordlessly imparting this sentiment: “get stuffed, Mummy.” Jerk.

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He hollers his head off, bounds about like a felid cannonball, vaults onto my head, screams undeviatingly into my ear and when he rejoices in the certainty that I have wholly awakened, he reposes thus. Jerk.

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To my unutterable delectation, there also are his homages to my beloved RWE (he knows what makes his Mummy tick):

“Turn the cat upside-down…and how agreeable is the picture?”

“Consider whether you have satisfied your relations to father, mother, cousin, neighbour, town, cat, and dog; whether any of these can upbraid you.” SOMEBODY PET MY BELLY DAMMIT! NOW!!

And…he adores coffee!

“Is this a coffee which I see before me? The aroma toward my snout? Come, let me clutch thee!”

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My best boy also boasts numerous appearances on the esteemed and wonderful WEIT as well:

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So, today, I offer a happy day to my beautiful, coffee-slurping, Emerson-loving, pseudo-celebrity (h/t: JAC) and favourite jerk, whom I cherish.

And now I must away to pet his belly, dammit!

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…on heroism without Δίκη: Antigone versus Emerson

Gethyn and I have enjoyed some of our best discourse at the dinner table (is there a food correlation here?); and recently, we briefly discussed Emerson’s essay Heroism, wherein he (Emerson; not Geth!) observed that he had not witnessed, in literature, a person “so earnest and cordial and on such deep grounds of character” as Sophocles, who had only to ask Martius to spare the lives of he and his wife, Dorigen, following the conquest of Athens; he did not beg, and both were executed.

Here, was I obliged to dissent, and also immediately drew upon Classical literature (a love I share with my hero); Sophocles’ heroism was hardly unique in Classical literature; and my archetype: Antigone. Why did Emerson not extol the virtue of this woman: was Antigone under-appreciated owing to the irredeemably sexist sentiments of 19th century America and Europe; at the very least sexist: and possibly misogynistic?

And what is Emerson’s heroism? Succinctly, it is inherent, rather than schooled, it is not complacent, it is inexhaustible, it is persistent and above all, the hero must be true to him or herself and his or her beliefs (because this heroism speaks directly to the individual) and prepared to risk his or her own life for these ideals.  To wit: “The characteristic of a genuine heroism is its persistency.”  “Times of heroism are generally times of terror.”

Δίκη; or dike, or justice, along with an extensive collection of values, was prevalent in Greek tragedy; and is illustrated in this dialogue between sisters, Antigone and Ismene:

Ant: Look—what’s Creon doing with our two brothers?
He’s honouring one with a full funeral
and treating the other one disgracefully!
Eteocles, they say, has had his burial
according to our customary rites,
to win him honour with the dead below.
But as for Polyneices, who perished
so miserably, an order has gone out
throughout the city—that’s what people say.
He’s to have no funeral or lament,
but to be left unburied and unwept,
a sweet treasure for the birds to look at,
for them to feed on to their heart’s content.
That’s what people say the noble Creon
has announced to you and me—I mean to me—
and now he’s coming to proclaim the fact,
to state it clearly to those who have not heard.
For Creon this matter’s really serious.
Anyone who acts against the order
will be stoned to death before the city.
Now you know, and you’ll quickly demonstrate
whether you are nobly born, or else
a girl unworthy of her splendid ancestors.
Ism: Oh my poor sister, if that’s what’s happening,
what can I say that would be any help
to ease the situation or resolve it?
Ant: Think whether you will work with me in this
and act together.
Ism: In what kind of work?
What do you mean?
Ant: Will you help these hands
take up Polyneices’ corpse and bury it?
Ism: What? You’re going to bury Polyneices,
when that’s been made a crime for all in Thebes?
Ant: Yes. I’ll do my duty to my brother—
and yours as well, if you’re not prepared to.
I won’t be caught betraying him.
Ism: You’re too rash.
Has Creon not expressly banned that act?
Ant: Yes. But he’s no right to keep me from what’s mine.
Ism: O dear. Think, Antigone. Consider
how our father died, hated and disgraced,
when those mistakes which his own search revealed
forced him to turn his hand against himself
and stab out both his eyes. Then that woman,
his mother and his wife—her double role—
destroyed her own life in a twisted noose.
Then there’s our own two brothers, both butchered
in a single day—that ill-fated pair
with their own hands slaughtered one another
and brought about their common doom.
Now, the two of us are left here quite alone.
Think how we’ll die far worse than all the rest,
if we defy the law and move against
the king’s decree, against his royal power.
We must remember that by birth we’re women,
and, as such, we shouldn’t fight with men.
Since those who rule are much more powerful,
we must obey in this and in events
which bring us even harsher agonies.
So I’ll ask those underground for pardon—
since I’m being compelled, I will obey
those in control. That’s what I’m forced to do.
It makes no sense to try to do too much.
Ant: I wouldn’t urge you to. No. Not even
if you were keen to act. Doing this with you
would bring me no joy. So be what you want.
I’ll still bury him. It would be fine to die
while doing that. I’ll lie there with him,
with a man I love, pure and innocent,
for all my crime. My honours for the dead
must last much longer than for those up here.
I’ll lie down there forever. As for you,
well, if you wish, you can show contempt
for those laws the gods all hold in honour.
Ism: I’m not disrespecting them. But I can’t act
against the state. That’s not in my nature.

In a broad sense, dike had myriad connotations, depending upon the conditions to which it was applied. The ancient Greeks were of the belief that good and moral — heroic? — acts were rewarded by the gods in much the same way as immoral acts were subject to retribution; the ancient Greek notion of justice was rather expansive and encompassed both reward and punishment.

Antigone is adamant in championing her intended actions to Ismene; and that the disposal of Polyneices’s body sans internment expected justice; that being provoking Creon by interring Polyneices. Ismene’s vision of justice differs from Antigone’s; she is true to herself in her utterance in this context; and their loss, as his sisters, is equally profound.

σοφός; or sophós, or wisdom, is another value present in this dialogue; the two (wisdom and justice) are frequently interwoven in discourse in tragedies and specifically this between Antigone and Ismene: wisdom versus foolishness, in either the quest for vengeance or the choice to remain silent and accept the current condition; not defying the State and Creon. Antigone further petitions Ismene’s senses of justice and goodness — ἐσθλός, and ξένος — loyalty to kin/guest-friends, and that action reaps godly rewards.

In The Politics, Aristotle avers that justice is relative to individuals; therefore, Antigone’s and Ismene’s senses of justice will inevitably diverge; and he further insinuates that justice should be perfectly corresponding. Given the structure of ancient Greek society, its philosophy and mindset towards women, would Antigone and Ismene — as Polyneices’ sisters who carried out different actions — be equal under the gaze of justice?

Antigone’s impassioned plea to her sister may be interpreted as reminiscent of Homeric monologues, which were noted to have engaged in the art of reason; if Ismene is nobly born and worthy of her ancestors, she will assist Antigone.

Antigone invokes the gods; a concept called ἄτη; or ate, or delusional behaviour: the notion of belief in divine intervention; and one may decipher this as Antigone proffering the gods also require justice. By the fifth century, humans in lyric poetry were possessed of the capacity to form and be chargeable for their own actions and self-determination; therefore, acceptance of this argument nullifies the probability of Antigone’s confidence in divine reward. Another worthwhile question: does Antigone experience vindication because her act was ultimately successful?

Ancient Greek values associated with Antigone’s beliefs and actions notwithstanding, her very beliefs and actions belie Emerson’s assertion of the absence of heroes in literature worthy of Sophocles; and furthermore, her heroism satisfies all criteria established by Emerson: it is in her nature, is unwavering, unconceited, speaks to her and she risks her life for justice.

And now I must away to order my Antigone tribute

Antigone by Sophocles directed by Ivo van Hove

“Antigone” at the Barbican, 2015

…on “but now we are a mob”

What an astonishing video this is!

Its uncomplicated, emotive — and true! — message, which brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye: society oppresses the spark of creativity; for we exist submissive to that which we are inculcated to regard as our “responsibilities;” those things which are wonted of us: work, school, religion, norms, mores, etc.

We gaze not forward; however, back, and regard what we are instructed to honour with a disproportionate deference.

“The book, the college, the school of art, the institution of any kind, stop with some past utterance of genius.”

“…if the man create not…cinders and smoke there may be; but, not yet flame.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar

“It seemed strange that the people should come to church. It seemed as if their houses were very unentertaining, that they should prefer this thoughtless clamor. It shows that there is a commanding attraction in the moral sentiment that can lend a faint tint of light to dulness and ignorance, coming in its name and place.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Divinity School Address

And here, this ingeniously compelling video; I admonished Gethyn if he does not weep tears of sadness then joy, he is not human.

Open yourself. Receive inspiration. Create.

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What better expression of creativity than a child’s drawing of a cat!

…oh dear; I swore I would never do this!

A exchange in which I found myself engrossed with a friend prompted some introspection; and this is where I oppose myself; for, I had heretofore sworn this forum would not be one for political discourse. Especially about Donald Trump. Ewww.

Both my friend and I read Emerson and delight in sharing his perceptivity with each other, applying his wisdom to life and our lives and even appreciating a diverting side, when we assign his sagacity to humourous events in both our histories and presents. I, as an Emerson devotee, have categorically refused to relegate his words to Donald Trump (ewww); for to do so — for me — would be to mar a genius which I treasure.

I am no admirer of Donald Trump (ewww); I loathe him, find him malevolent and toxic, and even entreated a friend, who is a Psychiatrist, to analyse him for me (she says she cannot ascribe a diagnosis to him; that he is just a f***wit). That notwithstanding, I am of the sentiment that Trump-bashing, merely for the sake of it — as opposed to legitimate criticism — is misplaced; his misdeeds are numberless enough: attacking free speech and freedom of the press, misogyny, ostracising entire groups and nations, disregard and disdain for the planet and the law; and these are infinitely more distressing than his physical appearance and want of gentility. I decry attacking for the mere sake of attacking.

And, onto Emerson: I concede there exist myriad observations appropriate for this individual (ewww) and his ilk; and I presently contradict myself again by disseminating three such sentiments here.

On the mechanics of arrival: “Power first, or no leading class. In politics and in trade, bruisers and pirates are of better promise than talkers and clerks.”  Manners

On a deficiency of any semblance of virtue; and the simple presence of what may be perceived as power: “It is a spontaneous fruit of talents and feelings of precisely that class who have most vigour, who take the lead in the world of this hour…”  Manners

And lastly, on megalomania: “Fear, when your friends say to you what you have done well, and say it through; but when they stand with uncertain timid looks of respect and half-dislike, and must suspend their judgment for years to come, you may begin to hope. Those who live to the future must always appear selfish to those who live to the present.”  Character

See? I do capitulate to congruence and pertinence; however, when I read Emerson, I discern kindness, decency, intellect and happiness and I connect with it; and I informed my friend that for me, attaching his genius to malevolence feels wrong.

I am satiated with politics; everyone wishes to deliberate politics and some are inordinately single-minded, they discuss little else. Trump-bashing (sans legitimate critique) is tedious, as it seems, presently, to be perpetrated merely for the sake of virtue signalling or because one has little else to say. I witnessed this unfettered hate for eight years directed toward President Obama and despised it; I detest that “my side” behaves similarly; we are finer than this and it is, besides, hypocritical, as we did not approve when it came for us.

And, we exist in our own upheaval and disquiet here in the UK, with a government I oppose as much as their policies (Brexit and austerity to name but two); and whilst I don’t bury my head in the sand about world politics, I maintain this business should not roll from my tongue with every utterance, as there are more meaningful and lofty dialogues to be experienced.

And lastly, on Emerson: he contemplated of religion (the same is true of politics; in fact, replace the former with the latter): “What low, poor, paltry, hypocritical people an argument on religion (insert “politics”) will make of the pure and chosen souls!…”  Prudence

This is the last I will say on the subject…

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Cato, Cicero and Caesar: Roman politics are not nearly so abhorrent to me