The Power Of Physical Gestures

We have forgotten the importance of physical gestures, and lost the power to use them effectively.  The modern man mumbles hesitatingly through his daily conversations with speech, intonation, and physical movements that betray his supreme lack of confidence and paralyzed will; his sentences are strung together with drooping, truncated, insipid copulas and expressions that are just as uninspiring as his limp-wristed gesticulations, his distended paunch, and his lack of musculature.  Grunting and stumbling have now replaced fluency of communication, grace of artistry, and the supple movement of a divine form towards a noble goal.  Since the words flowing from so many mouths now mean so little, we can expect the gestures of such speakers to echo the hollowness of their words.  It seems that T.S. Elio’s descriptive lines in “The Hollow Men” have become fact:

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The Horns Of Dilemmas

There are times to act decisively, times to observe events and await opportunities, and times to discuss.  There are also times to say nothing at all.  Aesop tells a story to make this point.  A monkey, he says, was once taken as a shipboard pet by a Grecian sailor.  When the sailor’s vessel approached Attica’s Cape Sounion, a storm arose and the ship capsized; all aboard ship were tossed into the sea, but a dolphin appeared and prevented the monkey from drowning.

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The Insanity Of The Daughters Of Proetus

Pliny’s Natural History (XXV.47) contains a passage that discusses hellebore, a medicinal plant that in ancient times was used to treat insanity.  One variety of hellebore, he says, is called melampodion, a name acquired from a shepherd named Melampus, who noticed that the plant had a purgative effect on his female goats (capras purgari pasto illo animadvertentem) once they had eaten it.  This milk, we are told, cured “the daughters of Proetus of madness.”  Pliny even describes a detailed ritual supposedly used to collect the plant.  But who were the daughters of Proetus?  What story is being referenced?

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Before Acquiring The Horse, One Must Build The Stable

In the year 357 A.D., twenty-seven years after the empire’s capital had been moved to Constantinople, the emperor Constantius II visited Rome.  He was awed by its architectural splendor, which at that time was still substantially preserved.  He visited the center of the city and the extensive suburbs; the sanctuaries of Tarpeian Jove, “transcendent to the same extent as heavenly things rise above those of earth” (quantum terrenis divina praecellunt); the extensive baths; the amphitheatres; the immortal Pantheon, “arched in high grandeur, like a smooth neighborhood” (velut regionem teretem speciosa celsitudine fornicatam), and whose lofty niches were still adorned with the statues of former emperors; the Forum of Peace; the Oleum; and all the other brilliant monuments of this venerable jewel of a city.

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The Wisdom Of Ibn Al-Muzarra

The writer and scholar Yamut Ibn Al-Muzarra’ (يموت ابن المزرع) was a native of Basra, Iraq.  In the words of his biographer Ibn Khallikan, he was known as “an accomplished literary scholar, and well-versed in history.”  His name (Yamut) was a source of some consternation for him as a young man, for it is the third-person active form of the Arabic verb “to die” (مات).  He apparently never fulfilled his obligation of visiting the sick in hospitals, for fear that his name would bring misfortune upon patients confined to bed.  “The name,” he said, “which l received from my father has been a great annoyance to me.  So when I go to visit the sick and am asked my name, I answer, ‘The son of Al-Muzarra,’ and suppress my real name.”

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On The Death Of Seneca

There is a preparatory plaster statue, very finely executed by Eduardo Barrón, on display at the Museo Nacional del Prado Museum in Madrid.  It is called Nero and Seneca, and it was completed in 1904.  Barrón never produced a final version in marble or bronze; and although it remains a preliminary study, it is a powerfully evocative depiction of two strong personalities.  Seneca points at a passage in an unrolled book before him, and is leaning towards Nero, evidently to make some pedagogic point.  The young Nero, whom Seneca had the misfortune to tutor, remains slouched in his chair, a clenched fist pressed against his temple in sullen opposition to the lesson his teacher is attempting to expound.

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Sentinels Of The River Of Life

One of the myths associated with the foundation of Rome was that of the reconciliation between the Romans and the Sabines.  This took place through the mediation of the Sabine women, who, after having been abducted by the Romans, grew tired of conflict and longed for peace.  The kings of the two tribes—Romulus for the Romans and Titus Tatius for the Sabines—held a conference at a location where a battle had recently been fought between the two sides.  Their purpose was to unify their two nations.

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The Meaning Of The Augury Of Safety

The Renaissance humanist Angelo Poliziano (1454—1494) composed a work called Miscellanies (Miscellaneorum Centuria Prima) that discussed various issues in classical literature, philology, and linguistics.  Now while this sort of work may not suitable for every taste, it is certainly congenial to mine.  What may be trifles to some, turn out to be treasure to others; and the meandering flow of critique and discussion may, like swift-moving mountain streams gurgling through sand and rock, reveal here and there some flecks of gold ore for our enrichment.

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Even A Small Cave May Hold Calamities

The decrees of Fortune may be postponed, but they can never be vacated.  He who imagines that he can avoid these rulings is like the man who exerts his limited control over a raft traveling on a swiftly-moving river; he may be able to organize the furnishings on his raft, but it is the river that decides his course.  It swirls him about in its currents and eddies; it pushes him against projecting rocks and rapids; and its flux holds him firmly in its aquatic grip.  Individual effort can arrest or divert this course, but only under certain conditions.  Most men are unable to summon the required exertions of will necessary to resist such implacable torrents.  We celebrate heroism because it is so uncommon, and because it represents, in some ways, a kind of conscious rebellion against Fortune’s unfeeling mandates.

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In Trying To Avoid One Harm, You May Cause A Worse One

Aesop tells the following tale called “The Son and the Painted Lion.”  A fearful old man was worried about his robust son’s enthusiasm for hunting wild game.  He imagined that the son’s courage might go too far, and result in serious bodily injury or death.  So he did everything he could to shelter and sequester his son; yet his fears grew constantly, even reaching the point where he began to dream about possible disasters.

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