Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Summing It Up

When we first starting talking about reading the times and not the eternities I have to admit I was kinda skeptical. I didn't totally understand the concept and I didn't really believe that it could be true. However, if I have learned anything in this class it is most definitely that the past does possess the present.

Through the presentation of the material and mostly through the group presentations, this concept has really hit home. I see the strories we have read in everyday life and see that each of our lives is influenced by those that came before us. As Brian said in his paper, there is no such thing as orginality.

I enjoyed reading each of the texts, because each one had a new idea to be considered and something new to apply to my life. However, Ovid was one of my favorite books that we read. I have always been a sucker for fairytales and I think this is why I enjoyed this particular book so much. Each story contained a transformation that, whatever truth it revealed, it could not happen without some kind of divine or magical intervention. I also enjoyed them because they were so short and every single one had a message and very action packed.

Overall I really enjoyed this class and the kind of creativity it allowed. I was impressed by my peers and my own ability to grasp the material and apply it to my life.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Group Presentations

I really enjoyed today's group presentations. The way the information was presented by both groups was very creative. I was very interested in what group 1 had to say about the idea of love. Jillian's was very creative and I especially enjoyed the rhyming that she did. While it was a more comic view of love it held as much truth as the others.

However, Zach's ideas on love spoke to me the most. I'm currently in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend living in Colorado. While Zach's ideas differ slightly from any of those discussed in the Symposium they still describe the kind of love that some of us experience. He mentioned holding the phone wishing it was their hand and knowing that if you look back once more you won't be able to get on the plane.

Each person's rendition of love was different than the last. What I got most from the presentation of group 1 is that our ideas on love our shaped most by our experiences. That is why each person's speech was different without them trying. Each person sees love based on the things that see and experience in everyday life.

Group 2 was very creative in the presentation of their material. They drove home the point that the past really does possess the present while getting the class involved.

So good job being the first two groups to go. Looking forward to the rest of the presentations.

Term Paper

Immortality is a reoccurring theme throughout many modern fantasy novels. The character who possesses this specific trait struggles throughout the story with the many conflicts that arise from being immortal. These include watching all the people they love die, dealing with humanity far longer than anyone should have to, and deciding whether they will live as a superhero or a regular Joe. Clearly, there are lots of decisions to be made and lots of obstacles to overcome, when someone is going to live forever. However, things get significantly easier when it is only your soul that is everlasting. The soul remembers the many experiences it’s had, but the mind doesn’t. One such theory was created by Pythagoras and recorded by Ovid in his Metamorphosis. Pythagoras gave this theory its name, metempsychosis.
Many eastern religions are associated with the idea of an immortal soul. These religions come in many shapes and sized, but one of the most commonly known is Buddhism. It is common knowledge that two of the simplest elements of Buddhism are karma and reincarnation. In their most basic principles these two elements are intertwined. Karma is the actions, thoughts, and words of any one man. How the man uses these elements, whether for good or bad, influences his reincarnation in his next life. Quite simply, if he has good thoughts, words and actions he will move up, and if they are bad he will move down. The act of reincarnation takes place after the person dies, but it is not simply a physical rebirth of the person as something else. The Buddhists believe that each person possesses an immortal soul and this is what is being reborn in a different form each time the person is reincarnated (Tsuji).
The theory of metempsychosis is closely related to the eastern belief of reincarnation, but it does differ slightly. In chapter 15 of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Pythagoras states the theory of metempsychosis as: “Everything changes, nothing dies: the spirit wanders, arriving here or there and occupying whatever body it pleases, passing from a wild beast into human being…but is never destroyed” (“Metamorphosis”). Pythagoras believed that the soul stayed the same, but simply took other forms (“Metamorphosis”). This is where the idea of metempsychosis differs from that of reincarnation. In Buddhism and other eastern religions, the karma of a human or animal determined what its soul was destined to be in its next life. However, in metempsychosis there is no such thing as karma. The soul is not bound by any of its previous actions in its next life. In metempsychosis the soul doesn’t really have a goal in mind; it just simply wanders from one body to the next as it pleases. In reincarnation, though, the soul is trying to reach an ultimate goal of enlightenment; it must perpetrate good actions and thoughts to climb up the next rung of the ladder. The Buddhist soul is forever bound by the actions in all its lives.
In Ovid’s Metamorphosis Pythagoras takes his theory one step further and uses it to express and support his belief in vegetarianism. Pythagoras sees each soul as an equal. There is no such thing as a human’s soul and a cat’s soul, but only an immortal soul. Following this train of thought, if someone was to kill and eat a cow, or any other animal, they would essentially be eating a kindred spirit. A being that is so like them, that they would essentially be practicing cannibalism. Pythagoras instead advises that we stick to the abundance of fruit and plants that surround us. In this way we can avoid the self-destructive act of killing our own kind. He even takes it one step further and demands that sacrifices come to an end. He says that humans have involved the divine ones in their crimes against humanity, and that we are crazy to think that any god delights in the suffering of any living thing. In the last paragraph of his section on vegetarianism Pythagoras sums up his anguish by saying “When you place the flesh of slaughtered cattle in your mouths, know and feel that you are devouring your fellow-creature.”
Every theory has merit, but they don’t ever seem to ring true until they point at which they are somehow demonstrated. Ovid understood this and so within the same book that he included Pythagoras’s ideas on metempsychosis and vegetari anism, he also included examples; in the form of stories, of just how powerful these theories can be. One of these stories is the story of Callisto and it goes something like this: Callisto is the very beautiful, favorite, virgin nymph of the goddess Diana. Callisto is so beautiful that she catches the eye of Jupiter himself, but Jupiter knows that she will never consent to lay with him. One day after a long day of hunting Callisto decides to nap under a tree and Jupiter sees this as his chance to have her. He appears to Callisto as Diana so that she will trust him and allow him near her. Callisto is fooled by Jupiter’s disguise and only becomes frightened when he grabs her so she cannot move. Although she fights with everything she has Callisto is no match for Jupiter himself and he proceeds to rape her. The rape deeply scars Callisto and after nine months when Diana and the other nymphs discover the pregnancy that resulted from the rape, they banish her from the only home she has ever known. By this time Juno has caught wind of Callisto’s pregnancy and she is in such a rage that she decides that as soon as Callisto’s child is born she is going to punish Callisto for what she has done. Callisto soon gives birth to a boy called Arcas, after which Juno keeps her promise and turns Callisto into a bear. Callisto spends the next 15 years wandering the forest unhappily in her new form. Until one day her now grown son is hunting in the forest and sees her. He=2 0knows nothing about his mother, so naturally he tries to kill her. Only by the intervention of Jupiter, who caused all the problems in the first place, is this killing stopped. Jupiter takes mother and son and sends them up into the stars as the great bear and the small bear (Hughes, 42-48).
It is true that Callisto only changed form with the help of a god, but Pythagoras’s theories still apply. In the form of a bear Callisto still had human thoughts and emotions; her soul was still the same as before. Also, Arcas had believed in the preservation of all souls and that killing any other life form was a great crime, he most likely would not have tried to kill his mother. If Jupiter had not decided to intervene on the part of Callisto, and save her from her son’s spear, than a great tradegy would have occurred; a son would have killed his mother. This is exactly the kind of tragedy that Pythagoras wants us to avoid.
Another great example of this theory is the story of Pentheus; although he is not quite as lucky as Callisto. Pentheus was the king of Thebes and when the great seer Tiresias came to tell of a new god, Bacchus, Pentheus was the only man who refused to believe in this new god. Despite Pentheus’s dislike for Bacchus, the whole town of Thebes celebrates in his honor and Pentheus is so angry that he demands his royal guard to find and arrest Bacchus. The guards return, not with Bacchus, but with his high priest. T he priest tells a great story about Bacchus, but Pentheus still does not believe and sends the priest to his dungeon. Finally Pentheus decides to go see about this new god for himself and begins to climb the mountain consecrated to Bacchus. Halfway up the mountain he comes to a clearing, which he enters and he finds a group of women performing the naked mysteries. The women spot him, but they do not see a man because Bacchus has transformed Pentheus into a boar. The women run at him and the first to throw a spear into him is his own mother. The women continue to tear him limb from limb, while he screams, but they hear only the squeals of a boar (Hughes 171-187).
This story is a true tragedy. A mother kills her son while he screams for mercy, but she cannot hear him because he no longer has the form of her beloved child. If she had believed in the immortal soul, perhaps her son would have been spared and perhaps she would have been spared being the orchestrator in his brutal killing.
Metempsychosis carries many implications both in the moral and spiritual senses. While it may not influence significant change in the life of the reader, it certainly can be considered food for thought. If nothing else, the concept can be considered morally motivational. Like all spiritual concepts, it is based upon influencing people into better decisions, and promoting peace. Regardless of the moral and social implications of this concept, it undoubtedly makes for some very interesting and thought provoking stories.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche was one of my favorite stories from the Golden Ass. It spans 3 chapters and I finished all three chapters at once, unable to put the book down before I finished the story.

Cupid goes against his mother's wishes and weds and beds Psyche himself. One thing that I found most interesing about the story was Psyche stay in the empty castle. She has nothing other than voices and magic to keep her company, but she seems happy enough. She had always wanted to marry and it seems that just being in the state makes her content. I was fascinated by the way that Psyche is able to fall for cupid without ever seeing him. His voice and his love is enough. It is the makings of a true love story. In the end Psyche is tricked by her wicked step sisters (Cinderella anyone?) and she loses her beloved Cupid. When Psyche is under Venus's control she is given many impossible tasks, but repeatedly other gods take pity on Psyche and help her complete said tasks. It again shows the power of love. The love Psyche has for Cupid inspires others and I think helps her case when all appears lost.

As doctor sexton promised there are lots of pictures on the web of Cupid and Psyche. Here are just a few that I found:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Golden Ass

I have started reading the Golden Ass, the last book we are reading for this class. As I read through it I am totally entranced by the story it has to tell. The story is mainly a story about Lucius and his adventures after he is accidently turned into an ass. However, woven throughout the story there are many other interesting and engaging stories.

Lucius is a natural story teller and so he latches on and relates the stories of others that he comes across. Each story has its own magic and its own lessons to relate. It reminds me of Ovid. It really is a collection of stories like Ovid and it is just as enjoyable of a read as Ovid was.

My favorite story so far, though, is the story of Lucius himself. His misfortune in turning into an ass is comical and his subsquent adventures all have lessons in them. The term that comes to mind is in fact, metempsychosis. Seeing what happens to Lucius when he is in the form of an ass, shows people that you need to be careful who you are abusing. None of the people know that the ass the are abusing is in fact a human and i'm sure if they knew that they would have treated him slightly differently. I guess it shows you just have to be careful what you are doing and treat every living being with the respect that you would show a fellow human being.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Retelling of Arethusa

So my story is the story of the woman Arethusa. Arethusa is a very beautiful woman, but she hates that her beauty attracts men. She is in to much more manly things like hunting. One day she is out hunting and its very hot. She sees this amazing pool of clear water and decides to go for a swim. She strips down and enters the cool water. After swimming for awhile she sees a ripple in the water and runs to the bank. The god Alpheus comes out of the water and asks her where she is going. Her clothes are on the opposite bank of the stream so she decides to abandon them and runs away from Alpheus. He chases for a very long time, but he won't give up so Arethusa calls on Diana for help. Diana creates a fog to cover Arethusa, but Alpheus still won't give up looking for her. He is about to find her when Diana helps one more time and turns Arethusa into a stream. However, Alpheus returns to the form of a stream as well and mixes with Arethusa's water. Diana once again intervenes and opens a gorge for Arethusa who enters it and is free of Alpheus finally. She travels underground for a while before returning to the world again.

The transformation of course is the change of Arethusa into a stream. We have talked a lot about the extremes of human emotion that Ovid includes in his stories. In this story the extreme emotion is lust. A lust that consumes Alpheus so that he will not give up having Arethusa.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Imaginary Life

The main connection in The Imaginary Life by David Moulaf is to Plato’s Symposium. When he first arrives in Tomis, Ovid hates it and can see no beauty in his place of exile. He dreams of Rome and the life he had there writing poetry and appreciating the arts. He sees these people he has come to live with, almost, as inferior to him. They have no time for the arts and when he tries to teach the grandson Latin, the boy is an unwilling participant in the process. When he first comes to Tomis he has two main complaints. One, there is no color and he constantly talks about the colors he remembers and loved from his time in Rome. Second, he cannot communicate. None of the people in Tomis speak Roman and he has not yet learned their language. For the first time in his life he is very much alone.
Then one day something amazing happens. Ovid is out on the steppes taking a walk and suddenly he sees a flash of color. He soon discovers that it is a single scarlet poppy growing out on the steppes. He is so overcome with joy at the sight of this tiny flower that he sits on the ground to observe it. He says “I love this poppy. I shall watch over it.” Ovid has come to the first rung in the ladder of love. He has found an inanimate, like a rock, and come to love it as he would a person. This was discussed in both the Symposium and A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud. After he discovers his poppy, his tone about the place around him changes. He talks more of the small joys he finds everyday in his life in Tomis. One of these times is when he accompanies them for the first time on the hunt and he experiences the running of the grave mounds. He has climbed the next rung of the ladder and he sees that everything possess some kind of beauty.
His final rungs of the ladder are attained with the coming of the child. Ovid is immediately taken with the child the first time he sees him. Ovid obsesses over the Child and his thoughts are only of him for several seasons. Finally the child is captured and Ovid climbs another rung of the ladder. Ovid himself says the Child is not beautiful and never really describes a physical characteristic about the Child that would cause him to be pleasing to the eye. However, Ovid loves him and cares for him because he can see the Child’s inner beauty; the beauty of his soul. He is fascinated by the way that the Child sees the world and sees the uniqueness and thus the beauty in the Child’s view.
At the end of the book, it seems that Ovid has climbed to the last rung of the ladder and grasped the idea of true beauty. Ovid lies dying in the grass watching the child at the nearby stream and describes the scene. Although he is describing the scene to us, he seems to understand that beauty is a concept to be grasped and not an idea or anything of a physical nature. Ovid dies having understood the idea of true beauty.
Another connection to The Imaginary Life is in the theme of the class; all that is in the past possess the present. This is seen in two main ways throughout the novel. One is Ovid looking back on his own life. Throughout the book Ovid looks back on his childhood and reflects on the way it influenced his later life and even his exile. He talks about his father’s disapproval driving him from the farm and his brother’s death bringing the unwanted burden of heir to him. Most importantly he talks of a child he knew as a boy his father’s ranch. He is convinced that the child he found in the woods is the same the child as the one from his boyhood. This is part feels so attached to the Child; he was part of his past. The other way Ovid talks expresses this theme is through is talk of the future. First, he talks about how he now sees how far Rome has come from a place like Tomis. He recognizes Tomis as a starting point and sees that places like it have been shaped into great cities like Rome. He says that he is “the product of generation after generation of wishing to thus.” He also talks of the future and often reflects on what kind of person the reader is and he often makes references to the reader as possibly a god. He understands the concept that each generation influences the next.