“We are what we repeatedly do.”
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
First, I learn that my body has turned against me. Then, my country went insane. It was not a good beginning to the week. So, I overdosed on valium and crawled into bed hoping I could escape into my fantasy world. No such luck. I could not sleep. For the remainder of the week, I refused to read a newspaper, open either my computer or cell phone or look at television. I did sober up one day and slip out of my room to see a movie, Dr. Strange. I thought it was appropriate.
The next week, I was forced to leave the house and begin the rounds of the specialists who poked and prodded me, stuck needles in several different parts of my body and rammed hoses down my nose and my throat while they rambled on with happy talk punctuated with brief descriptions of the pain I would suffer from the treatment they were so eager to provide me.
I tried to get my mind around why, at my age, I would want to submit myself to all that for the sole purpose of living a few extra years reading second-rate novels while I slowly lose my hearing, sight and mind anyway. I mean, it is not as though I am looking forward to the glories of a Trump presidency or watching the Bay rise to cover the Embarcadero or even the possibility of a 49r Super Bowl.
But they, the doctors, the specialists, five so far, whose separate offices are spread across the Great Valley, all seem to be excited about the coming battle. I think the cure may be more important to them than it is to me. They happily croon of the high probability of success and boost my morale by pointing out that the treatment I will go through is far less painful and demeaning than experienced by others with much more severe malignancies. I respond, that I am a hypochondriac, a coward, have an unbelievably low threshold of pain and begin whimpering when I drive by a hospital. I also pointed out I am a depressive held together with massive amounts of happy pills. They counter with promises of an unlimited supply of drugs of my choice to keep me pain-free and happy.
Amusingly, I guess, my problems with my throat and tongue they tell me are caused by HPV. It seems women relatively often develop cervical cancer from this form of STD. “But,” I told the doctor, “I haven’t gone down there in many years.” He explained that it can take 30 years or so for the tongue and throat cancer to develop. I thought this was a rather sad fact to contemplate. Even pleasure can be deadly. In my last T&T, I pointed out that shark bite causes fewer deaths than vending machines. Now I discover that oral sex is even more deadly than those predatory machines. Sometimes I read SciFi novels about humans who land on another world only to find the flora and fauna there to be deadly to humans. It seems as though we do not have to travel to distant planets to find that danger. Here on earth, it appears that just about anything can kill you, especially members of your own species and the machines they create supposedly for your convenience.
On a lighter note, after dropping HRM off at school in the mornings as I drive to Bella Bru for breakfast, I top a rise in the landscape that exposes a magnificent view of a huge stretch of the Great Valley (the Central Valley). For some quirky reason, much of human development disappears from view and I imagine it appears as it did to the indigenous peoples of the area or the first invaders from the East, vast and empty. I often wonder what those invaders from the East, the American so-called settlers thought when they saw what appeared to be that vast emptiness spread out below them. Certainly not simply a potential homestead and the romance of a new life, but also, and more likely, given the reasons for their migration, something that can be cheaply exploited, like a lion topping a hill and seeing what appears to be unlimited herds of gazelles grazing on the grass below.
The cold weather and rains have moved into the Golden Hills ending my swimming for the year and forcing us to spend more time in the house. It is Thanksgiving week vacation for HRM and he remains bubbly and bored spending more time on his computer than is probably good for him. Dick is occupied with caring for the dog, Pepe, who clearly has only a few days or weeks to live. It will be hard for him when the dog dies. I think he has been closer to it than to any person in his life. I, on the other hand, content myself with reading and drifting off to sleep and my dream life. I plan to spend the holidays in Mendocino with my sister. Nikki flies in to entertain HRM and Dick, I suppose, will get on with his grieving.
Twilight in the Golden Hills
B. MORE FROM TAHIR SHAH:
In previous issues of T&T, I have discussed a few of the books by travel writer Tahir Shah. They generally discuss Mr. Shah’s low cost, somewhat bumbling and humorous expeditions to locate non-existing or mythical places or people — King Solomon’s Mine’s, the Gonds of Gondwana Land, Indian magicians and most recently the last refuge of the Inca’s, Piatiti in the Madre de Deus cloud forest of Peru. I thought his inept explorations, often relying on the stories of odd individuals he meets along the way, were literary devices intended to make his obviously humorous travelogues more interesting. However, in doing some background research on the most recent of his works I am reading, The House of the Tiger King, I am no longer so sure about that.
In the book, Tahir is accompanied by a Swedish father and son team of documentary filmmakers, their backer, a mysterious Ukrainian banker named Yuri, and a Bulgarian film student named Boris. They prove to be even more incompetent at filmmaking than Tahir is at exploring, losing much of their film along the way. Nevertheless, they produced a full-length documentary of the expedition whose production values are abysmal even for an art form known for low productions standards. Nevertheless, having located the documentary on YouTube, I found it a fascinating accompaniment to the book.
For security, the expedition hires an American ex-Vietnam veteran living in Peru on a diet consisting primarily of psychedelics. He quits halfway through the voyage and steals most of the exposed film and all of the expeditions morphine. Also accompanying them is the Seventh-day-Adventist leader of a small Peruvian village in the area who insists that the fabled city of Piatiti exists and had been found by a headhunter living in another village in which the residents supposedly still hunts heads. The head-hunter, when they locate him, denies he found the city but later recants and agrees to join them if they agree that after the expedition they will take him to Cusco to visit a whore house and a disco. The Seventh-day Adventist also warns them that the evil spirits that guard the city will require a dead body in payment for letting them through. This prompts a trip across Peru and a midnight raid of a 4000-year-old cemetery containing thousands of ancient mummies in order to secure the required dead body — no, I am not kidding you. I will not tell you how it all turns out other than to let you know that in the end of both the story and the film the head-hunter gets his trip to Cusco.
The documentary film can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNEvq6bQ4-A. For maximum amusement, I suggest reading a portion of the book, then watching the corresponding part of the film before going on to the next portion of the book.
I can assure you that after watching the film and reading the book you will be left with that most perplexing of all questions bedeviling humanity — Why?
The following continues a review of those eras of human history about which I have developed a fondness. In this case, it is the era I call the First Centuries, from 300 BC to 300 AD.
After the death of Herod the Great and the division of his Kingdom among his four heirs, the seething dissatisfactions among groups and polities along the Western shore of the Middle East began to boil over. Let us begin by listing some of the contending factions, many of whom disliked each other.
There were the various ethnic groups, the Nabateans, the Judeans, the Galileans, the Arameans, the Phoenicians, and the Egyptians including the ethnic Hebrews who resided there for about 500 years and the Theraputea. To the North in what is now Syria and Central Turkey groups of Hellenized Hebrews lived among the various tribes as did those Hebrews that lived in southern Mesopotamia. Then there were the Hellenes who were everywhere and of course the Romans who ruled them all. Among the Hebrews, few if any had ever even visited Judea and their ethnic cousins and co-religionists that lived there. It can be imagined that until the missionaries from Judea after the Maccabean revolution and Herod’s missionary management reforms armed with the Septuagint these peoples had little understanding of the various accretions to the laws and legends that had occurred over the hundreds of years of separation.
In was in Judea itself, however, that the most significant sectarian factionalism occurred. There we had:
The Sadducees, the minders of the temple and the Judean nobility who managed and profited from the sacrifices in the temple (Judaism was a sacrificial based religion like that of all the other Semitic tribes in the Middle East at the time.) They had been reorganized by Herod when he built the temple.
The Pharisees, I guess you could call them the canon lawyers. They focused on explaining and interpreting the various rules found in the sacred writings.
The Essenes, they can best be analogized to the Albigensians of the Middle Ages, semi-monastic communities. But. where the Albigensians frowned on sex, the Essenes were obsessed with bathing, the parentage of the chief priest of the temple, and the pettifogging way of the Pharisees.
The Baptists, begun by John as a merger of Hellenic cynicism (rejection of civilization and a return to the wild) and the bathing obsession of the Essenes, raising it to the level of a requirement for joining the group perhaps equal to circumcision.
The Zealots (the Sicarii faction of which were the ISIL of the time) dedicated to overthrowing Roman domination and Hellenic moral relativism.
None of these groups liked each other very much but they all hated the Romans although it is uncertain whether they hated them more than they hated each other.
There were probably also other groups active at the time in Jerusalem politics including a bit later the Jesus Church or faction. I guess we should now take a slight detour to discuss the phenomenon of Jesus who although is less important to our story than Paul and the Pharisees (Rabbis) was a necessary transition.
To be continued.
A. Quigley on Top:
When lecturing before the of Defense Institute in the 1970’s Professor Quigley was asked, how much support did he believe the dissenters in this country were getting from the Communists?
I’m sure the Communists are supporting the dissenters. But the Communists are of no importance. The Communist Party in this country was destroyed. Read Shannon’s history. It is extremely likely that by 1960 one of the chief sources of funds for the Communist Party in this country was the FBI spies who had joined it. And the chief financial support of the Communists from about 1920 to about 1950 was Wall Street. Why? I do not know. If you’re interested, look up the story of The Institute of Pacific Relations; it was financed by Lee Higginson & Company of Boston, Frederick Vanderbilt Field of New York, and other big money interests.
When these people cut off this money, about 1949, the Communists were pretty much finished. Their only other source of money was Moscow, and Moscow has never been generous with funds for local Communist Parties, which they believe should support themselves. According to an FBI estimate, I believe, the Communists in this country are down to about 15,000 members. Take Angela Davis. She is emotionally alienated from our society, and for good reasons, but this has little to do with communism, even if she is a member of the Party. This is why I say ideology is not really important in dissent. People become Communists not because they like the ideology, but because they wish to demonstrate their opposition, just as young people let their hair grow and won’t polish their shoes or wear neckties.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
It is not how you make your life that matters, but what you believe your life to be.
C. Today’s Poem
Dropping the Bow, by Andrew Schelling provides a selection from King Hala’s Gaha-kosa(“Book of Songs”), the original of which consists of 700 poems (approximately 200 BCE to 200 CE) Despite being penned by hundreds of different poets, the poems are all of the same meter, and contain approximately thirty-two syllables. Most of them deal with love. As selected and translated by Schelling, they are brief, usually erotic, and often emotionally charged, as this one by Hala himself:
with the blink of an eye
his love vanished
A trinket gets
into your world
you reach out and it’s gone
“The object explained a great deal. The man was an Aghori sadhu. My interest in the trophy heads of the Naga headhunters had led me to the Aghoris. Their beliefs are close to those of traditional shamans. The Aghoris said to have the power to overcome evil spirits, were traditionally confirmed cannibals. Their libations, which once included human blood, are drunk from the bowl of a human skull. But to an Aghori, the skull is far more than a simple drinking vessel. It contains the spirit of the deceased. The soul remains the Aghori’s prisoner until the skull is cremated. Such jinns, spirits, are tamed and put to work by the sadhu in his world of shadows.”
Shah, Tahir. Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Incredible Journey into the World of India’s Godmen. Arcade Publishing.