“She is much more the dedicated maverick than the petulant, minxy diva”
Late 19th century: via Italian from Latin, literally
“Diva” is undoubtedly one of the best and most well-known songs that have been sung by Dana International, a world-renowned Israeli pop singer. The song tells the undying story of a famous female pop music singer – this is the story of one who is both a star and a celebrity; one who forever walks in the limelight of fame or notoriety. This singer is surrounded by millions of ‘fans’ – fans whose hearts “ache” to get nearer and closer to their one true love. The diva is never alone but she is – for all intents and purposes – an extremely lonely woman. If she were to look in the mirror, she would see only the reflection of a stranger. Beneath her painted and made-up face lies a very vulnerable human being, capable of both laughter and tears – she longs to be loved truly and for her own sake. The diva can be whatever she wants – an angel or a devil, depending on her moods. She is a queen; a goddess – the ultimate embodiment of beauty and love.
Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of King George III. Both the Duke of Kent and King George III died in 1820, and Victoria was raised under close supervision by her German-born mother Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. She inherited the throne at the age of 18, after her father’s three elder brothers had all died, leaving no legitimate, surviving children. The United Kingdom was already an established constitutional monarchy, in which the sovereign held relatively little direct political power. Privately, Victoria attempted to influence government policy and ministerial appointments. Publicly, she became a national icon, and was identified with strict standards of personal morality.
Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in 1840. Their nine children married into royal and noble families across the continent, tying them together and earning her the nickname “the grandmother of Europe”. After Albert’s death in 1861, Victoria plunged into deep mourning and avoided public appearances. As a result of her seclusion, republicanism temporarily gained strength, but in the latter half of her reign, her popularity recovered. Her Golden and Diamond Jubilees were times of public celebration.
As with many ancient Greek deities, there is more than one story about her origins. According to Hesiod‘s Theogony, she was born when Cronus cut offUranus‘s genitals and threw them into the sea, and she arose from the sea foam (aphros). According to Homer‘s Iliad, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione. According to Plato (Symposium, 180e), these two origins were of entirely separate entities: Aphrodite Ourania and Aphrodite Pandemos.
Because of her beauty, other gods feared that their rivalry over her would interrupt the peace among them and lead to war, so Zeus married her toHephaestus, who, because of his ugliness and deformity, was not seen as a threat. Aphrodite had many lovers—both gods, such as Ares, and men, such asAnchises. She played a role in the Eros and Psyche legend, and later was bothAdonis‘s lover and his surrogate mother. Many lesser beings were said to be children of Aphrodite.
Aphrodite is also known as Cytherea (Lady of Cythera) and Cypris (Lady of Cyprus) after the two cult sites, Cythera and Cyprus, which claimed to be her place of birth. Myrtle, doves, sparrows, horses, and swans were said to be sacred to her. The ancient Greeks identified her with the Ancient Egyptian goddessHathor.
Aphrodite had many other names, such as Acidalia, Cytherea, and Cerigo, each used by a different local cult of the goddess in Greece. The Greeks recognized all of these names as referring to the single goddess Aphrodite, despite the slight differences in what these local cults believed the goddess demanded of them. The Attic philosophers of the 4th century, however, drew a distinction between a celestial Aphrodite (Aprodite Urania) of transcendent principles, and a separate, “common” Aphrodite who was the goddess of the people (Aphrodite Pandemos).
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cleopatra VII Philopator (Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ; 69 – August 12, 30 BC), known to history simply as Cleopatra, was the last active pharaoh ofAncient Egypt, only shortly survived by her son, Caesarion as pharaoh.
Cleopatra was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Macedonian Greek[ origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great‘s death during the Hellenistic period. The Ptolemies, throughout their dynasty, spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian, which is the reason that Greek as well as Egyptian languages were used on official court documents such as the Rosetta Stone. By contrast, Cleopatra did learn to speak Egyptian and represented herself as the reincarnation of an Egyptian goddess, Isis.
Cleopatra originally ruled jointly with her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes, and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whom she married as per Egyptian custom, but eventually she became sole ruler. As pharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Julius Caesar that solidified her grip on the throne. She later elevated her son with Caesar, Caesarion, to co-ruler in name.
The song became the last entry entirely in a language other than English to win the Contest until 2007. The interval act and Dana’s reprise was the last time live music from an orchestra was used in the Contest, as the 1999 Contest lacked the necessary budget and was held in a venue not large enough to hold one. Dana is also currently the only transgender singer to have won the Contest.
The selection of Dana International’s song caused such controversy amongst conservative groups in Israel that upon her arrival in Britain, police escorts and security were required continuously. The performance consisted of Dana International, wearing a silver dress, being backed by four other female singers wearing black, and involved no dancing.
The song was performed eighth on the night, following Poland‘s Sixteen with “To takie proste” and preceding Germany‘s Guildo Horn with “Guildo hat euch lieb!“. At the close of voting, it had received 172 points, placing 1st in a field of 25. This was Israel’s third Contest victory and, as they had not entered the previous year’s Contest, they achieved the unusual distinction of having won a Contest the year after not competing.
After winning the contest, Dana International caused a stir by arriving to the presentation late after a long delay in changing into an extravagant costume designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier adorned with bird feathers before performing the reprise.
The song was chosen in an internet poll conducted by the European Broadcasting Union in 2005 as one of the 14 most popular songs in the history of the Eurovision, and was one of the entrants in the Congratulations 50th anniversary concert inCopenhagen, Denmark, held in October 2005. It was re-enacted by Dana International along with six dancers equipped with giant feathered fans and a live orchestra as the original footage was shown in the background. Diva came 13th in the final voting.
The song is an ode to the powerful women of history — with Cleopatra in fact being the only real figure named. Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory and Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty are also named.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sharon Cohen (Hebrew: שרון כהן), professionally known as Dana International(דנה אינטרנשיונל), born Yaron Cohen ירון כהן) is an Israeli pop singer of Yemenite Jewish ancestry. She has released eight albums and three additional compilation albums, positioning herself as one of Israel’s most successful musical acts ever. She is best known as the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 1998 in Birmingham with the song “Diva“.
Assigned male at birth, Sharon discovered that she was transgender at an early age, and came out as a trans woman when she was 13. She underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1993 and in that year released her first album, Danna International, upon which she based her stage name. After consolidating her initial commercial success with the albums Umpatampa (1994) and Maganuna (1996), she was selected in 1998 to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest with her song “Diva”; after winning the international competition, she came to public attention throughout Europe.
Following this up with the albums Free (1999), Yoter VeYoter (2001), HaHalom HaEfshari (2002) and Hakol Ze Letova (2008), she represented Israel in Eurovision a second time in 2011, this time with the song “Ding Dong“, which failed to make it into the final. The same year, she became a judge on the Israeli television music talent contest Kokhav Nolad.
Dana International has been credited with being one of the world’s best known trans women.
Though assigned male at birth, she identified as female from a very young age. She wanted to become a singer since the age of eight, when she watched Israeli singer Ofra Haza perform her song “Chai” in the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest. Although the family was quite poor, her mother worked to pay for her music lessons, and she stated that her childhood was happy. She came out as transgender at the age of 13.
Dana International took her stage name from a feminized version of a childhood friend Daniel, who died in a car accident.
1990–93: Dana International
At 18 years of age, Cohen (still legally male) earned a living as Israel’s first drag queen parodying many famous female singers. During one of her performances, she was discovered by Offer Nissim, a well-known Israeli DJ, who produced her debut single “Saida Sultana” (“My Name is Not Saida”), a satirical version of Whitney Houston‘s song “My Name Is Not Susan“. The song received considerable exposure and helped launch her career as a professional singer.
In 1993, Dana International flew to London for male-to-femalesex reassignment surgery and legally changed her name to Sharon Cohen. Returning home with her new name, that same year Cohen released her first album, titled Danna International, in Israel. Soon after, the album was also released in several other countries including Greece, Jordan, and Egypt (In Jordan and Egypt the album sold illegally). Sharon’s stage name Dana International comes from the title track of the album, and was originally spelled with two “n:s”. Danna International soon became a gold record in Israel.
1994: Umpatampa and Best Female Artist
In 1994, Dana released her second, Trance-influenced album Umpatampa, which built on the success of her debut and provided further hit singles. The album went platinum in Israel and has sold more than 50,000 copies to date. Because of her popularity and the success of this album, she won the award for Best Female Artist of the Year in Israel.
1995: Eurovision Song Contest
In 1995, Dana attempted to fulfill her childhood dream of performing in the Eurovision Song Contest. She entered the Eurovision qualifying contest in Israel with a song entitled “Layla Tov, Eropa” (“Good Night Europe”) which finished second in the pre-selections, but became another hit single.
In late 1995, Dana released an E.P. called E.P. Tampa with three new songs and four remixes and special versions of her earlier songs.
1996–97: Consolidating popularity
In 1996, Dana released her third album, Maganuna. Although this album was less successful than her previous efforts, it still reached gold record sales in Israel and included the hits “Don Quixote,” “Waving,” and the club favorite “Cinque Milla.” In 1997, Dana collaborated with the Israeli artist Eran Zur on his album Ata Havera Sheli, and together they sang the duet “Shir Kdam-Shnati (Sex Acher)” (“Pre-Bed Song (A Different Kind of Sex)”) which became a huge hit.
1998: Diva and mainstream spotlight
Dana was chosen to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest 1998 in Birmingham with the song “Diva“. Orthodox Jews and others with conservative views were opposed to her appointment and attempted to void her participation in the contest. However, in May 1998, Dana performed “Diva” at the Eurovision final and won the contest with 172 points. She became known internationally, and was interviewed by CNN, BBC, Sky News, and MTV among others mostly focusing on her life as a transsexual person before winning the contest. Dana’s own words “the message of reconciliation” were; “My victory proves God is on my side. I want to send my critics a message of forgiveness and say to them: try to accept me and the kind of life I lead. I am what I am and this does not mean I don’t believe in God, and I am part of the Jewish Nation.”
Dana released “Diva” as a single in Europe and it became a hit, reaching number 11 in the UK charts and the top ten in Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, and the Netherlands.
1999–2001: Stage falling, Streisand cover and new albums
In 1999, Dana released “Woman in Love”, a Barbra Streisand cover, but it was not the hit that “Diva” had been. In May 1999, Dana again participated in the Eurovision Song Contest held in Jerusalem. Dana was a part of the interval act and sang the Stevie Wonder song “Free”. She also presented the award to the winners of the contest but accidentally managed to steal their thunder. Whilst she was carrying the heavy trophy, one of the composers of the winning Swedish entry by mistake stepped on the long trail of her dress and she fell over on stage – in front of a television audience estimated be to one billion or more, making it one of the most memorable moments in the 50-year-long history of the contest.
She released her next album Free in Europe in 1999, which enjoyed moderate success. A few months later Dana moved back to Israel and started to work on different projects. Israeli and Japanese editions of Free were released in 2000. That same year, an Israeli documentary film was made about Dana called Lady D.
In 2001, after a break, Dana released her seventh album Yoter Ve Yoter (More and More). The album put her career in Israel back on track and provided two hits called “I Won” and “After All”, which eventually both went GOLD.
2002–06: Fading from the scene and Sony BMG incident
Dana was about to sign with a major label, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, for an international recording contract but something went wrong during negotiations. These were disagreements that led to Sony Music canceling the deal before it was completed. In 2002, she released another album, HaHalom HaEfshari (The Possible Dream), which was a minor chart success. In 2003, she released an exclusive 8-CD box set, containing all singles from The Possible Dream and a new house version of the hit single “Cinque Milla”, titled A.lo.ra.lo.la. A few years later, in 2005, Dana participated in the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest, held in Copenhagen, after “Diva” was selected as one of fourteen songs considered to be the best Eurovision songs. The song did not make it into the final top five but, Dana got the chance to perform both “Diva” and an old Eurovision favourite of hers; Baccara‘s 1978 entry “Parlez-Vous Francais?“. She also recorded the song “Lola” (sung in French), to which she released a video. This video can be found on the CD Hakol Ze Letova, released in 2007 as a bonus CD-rom video.
2007–11: Return to music and Eurovision comeback
After a few years away from show business, together with the relaunch of her official website, a first single of the upcoming album was released in March 2007: “Hakol Ze Letova” (“It’s All For the Best”). The second single to be released from the album, “Love Boy”, became the most played song on Israeli radio in a decade. It also gained a respectable place on the airplay of the Greek radio station FLY FM 89,7. The following album, also titled Hakol Ze Letova, was released on August 15, 2007. “At Muhana” was the third single and “Seret Hodi” (feat. Idan Yaniv) the fourth to be released from the album, which became a bestseller in many ONLINE STORES. The next single released from the album was “Yom Huledet”.
Dana also recorded the song “Mifrats Ha Ahava” (“The Love Bay”) for an Israeli version of the TV-show “ParadiseHOTEL“. She also collaborated with the Ukrainian duo NeAngely (Not Angels), recording “I Need Your Love” and releasing a video. In 2009, Dana starred in a mock reality show called Dana Kama/Nama for cellphone provider Cellcom
In April 2009, Dana performed in the opening concert of Tel Aviv-Yafo Centennial Year. She performed a cover version ofDanny Robas‘ song “Lo nirdemet Tel Aviv” (Tel Aviv Doesn’t Fall Asleep) in front of 250,000 people.
Also in 2009, Dana International joined the 7th season of “Kokhav Nolad” (the Israeli version of Pop Idol) as a judge, also joining the 8th one in 2010.
Dana made a guest appearance, as herself, in an episode of the second series of UK sitcom Beautiful People, which was set around her Eurovision appearance.
On March 8, 2011, Dana International won the Israeli National Final for Eurovision with the song “Ding Dong“, and represented Israel at Eurovision for a second time. However, she did not make it into the final; she was the first Eurovision winner not to do so.
2013–present: new singles, TV show and album
In April 2013, after a two-year break, Dana released a new single, “Ma La’asot”. It was released digitally worldwide on April 24, 2013. On May 29, Dana released a video clip for the song Loca, to promote the Gay Pride Tel Aviv 2013. Dana will perform on the main event for the Gay Pride on June 7. Her third single for that year, “Ir Shlema”, was released in July. Late in January 2014, Dana’s new music reality show “Yeshnan Banot” premiered. Dana is the main judge on the show, attempting to find Israel’s next girl group.
Also in 2014, Dana was the main attraction aboard the first Jewish boat to participate in the Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade. Dana stated, “I don’t believe in any religion, so I’m here as an Israeli, not as a Jew. But it’s time to end the persecution over religion or national reasons. Just cut out all that shit. That’s my message.” Previously, after she won the Eurovision song competition, a serious religious debate had been held as to whether, and how, Dana should pray in a synagogue, with one rabbinical authority concluding that Dana should be counted in a minyan as a man, but could not sing in front of the community since she was also a woman, according to the rabbi, and that would violate the Orthodox rule of kol isha.
Sixteen years after winning Eurovision, Israeli diva invited to take part in special program in honor of European song contest’s 60th anniversary.
Sixteen years after winning the Eurovision with her song “Diva,” Dana International has been invited to take part in a special program produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ahead of the annual European song contest’s 60th anniversary.
The Israeli diva will appear in the special show alongside some of the competition’s big winners over the years, which the network has yet to reveal.
The program is expected to be watched by more than 100 million people across Europe. In Israel, it will be broadcast on Channel 1.
Dana received the BBC invitation several days ago. She was asked to attend rehearsal on March 31, 2015.
The program, which will air shortly afterwards, will include performances of the Eurovision’s winning songs, as well as a special clip for each participant.
In 2005, Dana took part in “Congratulations,” the Eurovision’s 50th anniversary special, where “Diva” was chosen as one of the greatest songs in this history of the competition.
Dana International, pop diva: ‘I am the Israeli Cher’
‘It’s being on crutches, blind, lame, with your hands cut off and bald – and still alive.’
Interviewing Dana International is like walking barefoot on a floor littered with shards of broken glass. It probably feels that way because her branding as a diva was very successful, and because her poker face and the distance expressed by her body language when she walks into the apartment of her manager, Shay Kerem, convey that she does not open up easily and would rather be elsewhere.
At 45, Dana has reached a dangerous age for divas, but it is also an age that offers new potential. She’s been in the spotlight ever since winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998, prompting headlines worldwide for her childhood as a boy (she underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1993).
Deeper into the interview she reveals that she avoids smiling unnecessarily because it causes wrinkles. I get that she is actually a sweet woman, honest and very funny but cautious. She is probably also a bit concerned over the question of how she will maintain her status in the ever-changing world of pop music.
The changing new reality brought her to the realization that it was time to step off the fast track and devote her attention to her new reality show, “Yeshnan Banot” (“There Are Girls”) named after her rendition of a popular Israeli song. As the show’s super-mentor, she selects four women who will end up in a pop band she will be representing. The program, produced by Endemol Israel, will be shown three times a week on Channel 24 starting this week. Leon Rosenberg and male model Michael Lewis of torn underwear fame will host the show together with Dana. The judges will include legendary singer Yardena Arazi, director Tzedi Tzarfati, and Kerem, Dana’s manager. One of the show’s goals, according to Dana, is to help the genre of Israeli pop regain the respect it lost.
Why do you think pop music is neglected in Israel?
“For the same reason that women are neglected in Israel. Because we are in the Middle East. It is the climate, the culture, the fact that women here are not dressed nicely. We are not part of Europe. We are in a country that sanctifies sadness and mourning and bereavement to a terrible degree. Pop music was always in the background and it was very successful, but it never got its niche.”
Dana says that getting Yardena Arazi on board as a judge was a vital step. “Yardena is the queen mother of pop music,” Dana says. “Yardena and I are as different as heaven and earth. She performed during the time known as ‘the beautiful and modest Land of Israel.’ My time was a generation of breaking through the barriers. Now we have reached a generation of strong capitalism. Everybody wants to be a singer.”
Even though “Yeshnan Banot” is a reality show, Dana insists her approach to the path of success is different, and that she hopes to convey that approach to the girls as well. Her idea, she says, is that to attain fame, one has to sweat. “I think the long way is much healthier and makes you stronger. You have to put up with a lot of shit, a lot of nonsense. Everybody has to,” she says. “There is no such thing as an artist who does not have a hard time, and that’s true of even the most successful ones. I read an interview with Barbra Streisand. She hates to perform. Go figure. Take Britney Spears, for example. She has been a workhorse since the age of 12. She will never be Whitney Houston; she hardly opens her mouth in live shows, but she is Britney Spears and she conquered the world. Why? Because as she knew enough to keep her mouth shut, get on the Mickey Mouse Club and sleep only two hours a night, and she knew how to work until it blew up and she went crazy. But she did it by the book all the way.”
‘Love is wonderful — when you have time for it’
When I ask Dana what she learned from her past 20 years in her profession, she begins a heart-rending speech. “I remember how, when I was young, my mind was clean. Everything was innocent. The majority of a singer’s life is filled with anxiety. If I look at it from the sidelines, I’d say it was a miserable profession. I can go to do a show and my dog has just died and my mother is ill, and I have to look happy and waste my energy on keeping up that appearance. I have to smile all the time, sign autographs and be loving. And you have no love at home most of the time because you signed a contract with the devil, not with Cupid, that you’re building a magnificent career.”
But Dana admits that she has not given up on love. “I’m not looking for love, and I don’t miss it. I’ve had many loving relationships. To me, love is wonderful when you have the time and the emotional strength to devote to it. But life is wonderful and full even without it. I’m wild about my dogs — more than anything I’ve loved in my life, and I’ve loved quite a bit. At least half of all human beings don’t know how to raise children and aren’t cut out for it, and it’s a pity that they’re raising children.”
You don’t want children?
“I almost feel sorry for children who would have to be raised by me. I’d be in trouble if I had to get into a situation where I was tough and evil to a child. Because of how I am and what I went through at home, I’d have to have emotional braces so I could learn how to raise a child and love him the way he should be loved. But with the way I was and the way I am, it’s not worth it. I don’t have the responsibility, and I don’t think I deserve to raise children. Also, children adopt their parents’ lifestyle, and I’m too permissive.”
It’s been 15 years since Dana International won the Eurovision competition in 1998 and it seemed that she had proven to Israel and the world, for a moment at least, that we had a chance of becoming a sane, normal place. The breakthrough she accomplished for herself and for the LBGT community in Israel is beyond all question.
Do you think that artists should be more forthright about where they stand politically?
“If only they would! They have to. Saying what’s in their hearts is part of their personality. But we live in a country that doesn’t know how to respect different opinions. I understand artists who don’t want to risk their whole life’s work over a supportive sentence of whatever kind. There are several states within the State of Israel. Politics and Israelis is a scary thing. There are factors beyond music that it’s not a good idea to mess with. And sometimes I want, very badly, to say things.”
Recently, David Grossman attended the African refugees’ demonstration and spoke in their favor. Are there subjects about which you would be willing to express your opinion?
“Of course. Some things are basic: women’s rights, violence against women, and violence against children. When you are on Grossman’s level, you can say anything you want to. But if you’re asking about the refugees — I feel sorry for them. I’m sad that we, as a country, can’t take them in, whether it’s because of racism or the budget. And I hear people saying all the time that we have to deport them, and asking why they came. Humanity has not yet learned that black people are part of the human race. Like all the cultured countries, Israel imports a nation of slaves that is building our country for us.”
‘Madonna sold her soul to the devil’
Do you still feel close to club culture?
“Of course. All my life. That’s where I came from. Even when I’m 80, I’ll be listening to club music. It’s got nothing to do with age; it gives me energy. I start dancing right away.”
What about a career abroad?
“That’s much less important to me. I was miserable abroad. I was homesick, I missed Israel. It got away from me because it was so difficult. It didn’t give me joy or make me happy, and I discovered that I was content with much less. I could appear in the most magnificent hall in Berlin and come back from the show and feel depressed because in another five hours I had to get up to go to the airport and go through security. There are a thousand things you never think about when you only see the glitter.”
Are you jealous of the female pop singers who have made it big in the world?
“I decided that my career would be managed according to my temperament. Make no mistake — I work very hard. But I will never be Madonna. Madonna sold her soul to the devil. What she wanted was to be the most successful female pop singer on earth. That means that you’re working non-stop from morning till night. When Madonna produces a new show, she spends months and months on every hand motion, every stage light, every word that comes out of her mouth. I don’t have that kind of perfectionism or investment. I guess I am not as emotionally deprived”.
“If you were to tell me tomorrow that all I had to do was press a button and I would bounce around the world like Rihanna, I’d tell you: Absolutely not. The money and status are tempting, but the end result and the places where these girls get to and go crazy — there’s a reason they become alcoholics and drug addicts. You need to learn how to cope with success in just the same way that you need to learn how to deal with failure. There were days when I was ashamed to go out into the street because I was so successful. I didn’t want anyone to see me or compliment me.”
Is there any singer who is a model for you?
“In the world? Cher. It’s being on crutches, blind, lame, with your hands cut off and bald — and still alive. I see myself as the Israeli Cher.”
Finally, last but not least……this is how Dana International – the Uncontested Diva – sees herself and the world in which she lives –
“I’m standing for a liberal Israel, an Israel which accepts the human being no matter how you are, no matter how you look like and no matter what sex or race you are” -Dana International
“Suspicion” by Elvis Presley
Ev’rytime you kiss me
I’m still not certain that you love me
Ev’ry time you hold me
I’m still not certain that you care
Though you keep on saying
you really, really, really love me
do you speak the same words
To someone else when I’m not there Suspicion torments my heart
Suspicion keeps us apart
Suspicion why torture me
Ev’rytime you call me
and tell me we should meet tomorrow
I can’t help but think that
you’re meeting someone else tonight
Why should our romance just
keep on causing me such sorrow?
Why am I so doubtful
whenever you’re out of sight?
Darling, if you love me,
I beg you wait a little longer
Wait until I drive all
these foolish fears out of my mind
How I hope and pray that
our love will keep on growing stronger
Maybe I’m suspicious
’cause true love is so hard to find.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as “the King of Rock and Roll”, or simply, “the King”.
Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and when he was 13 years old, he and his family relocated to Memphis, Tennessee. His music career began there in 1954, when he recorded a song with producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records. Accompanied by guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, Presley was an early popularizer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues. RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who managed the singer for more than two decades. Presley’s first RCA single, “Heartbreak Hotel“, was released in January 1956 and became a number-one hit in the United States. He was regarded as the leading figure of rock and roll after a series of successful network television appearances and chart-topping records. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines that coincided with the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, made him enormously popular—and controversial.
In November 1956, he made his film debut in Love Me Tender. In 1958, he was drafted into military service. He resumed his recording career two years later, producing some of his most commercially successful work before devoting much of the 1960s to making Hollywood movies and their accompanying soundtrack albums, most of which were critically derided. In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in the acclaimed televised comeback special Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of highly profitable tours. In 1973, Presley was featured in the first globally broadcast concert via satellite, Aloha from Hawaii. Several years of prescription drug abuse severely damaged his health, and he died in 1977 at the age of 42.
Presley is one of the most celebrated and influential musicians of the 20th century. Commercially successful in many genres, including pop, blues and gospel, he is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music, with estimated record sales of around 600 million units worldwide. He won three Grammys, also receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame. Forbes named Elvis Presley as the 2nd top earning dead celebrity with $55 million as of 2011.
John Clark (Richard Gere) is a lawyer with a charming wife (Beverly, played bySusan Sarandon) and loving family, who nevertheless feels that something is missing as he makes his way every day through the city. Each evening on his commute home through Chicago, John sees a beautiful woman staring with a lost expression through the window of a dance studio. Haunted by her gaze, John impulsively jumps off the train one night, and signs up for ballroom dancinglessons, hoping to meet her.
At first, it seems like a mistake. His teacher turns out to be not Paulina (Jennifer Lopez), but the older Miss Mitzi (Anita Gillette), and John proves to be just as clumsy as his equally clueless classmates Chic (Bobby Cannavale) and Vern (Omar Miller) on the dance-floor. Even worse, when he does meet Paulina, she icily tells John she hopes he has come to the studio to seriously study dance and not to look for a date. But, as his lessons continue, John falls in love with dancing. Keeping his new obsession from his family and co-workers, John feverishly trains for Chicago’s biggest dance competition. His friendship with Paulina blossoms, as his enthusiasm rekindles her own lost passion for dance. But the more time John spends away FROM HOME v:shapes=”_x0000_i1025″>, the more his wife Beverly becomes suspicious. She hires a private investigator to find out what John is doing, but when she finds out the truth, she chooses to discontinue the investigation and not invade her husband’s privacy.
John is partnered with Bobbie (Lisa Ann Walter) for the competition, although his friend Link (Stanley Tucci) steps in to do the Latin dances. Link and Bobbie do well in the Latin dances, and while John and Bobbie’s waltz goes well, John hears his wife and daughter in the crowd during the quickstep, and is distracted by trying to find them. He and Bobbie fall and are disqualified, and John and Beverly argue in the parking structure. John quits dancing, to everyone’s dismay.
Paulina, having been inspired by John to take up competing again, is leaving to go to Europe, and is having a going-away party at the dance studio. She sends John an invitation, but he’s not convinced to go until his wife leaves out a pair of dancing shoes that she bought him. He goes and meets Beverly at work, convinces her that while he loves dancing, he still loves her just as much, and they dance. They go to the party and John and Paulina have one last dance before she leaves.
The end scene shows everyone afterwards: Link and Bobbie are now together; Chic, who was actually homosexual, dances at a club with his partner; Miss Mitzi finds a new partner, and they are happy together; John and Beverly are back to normal and dance in the kitchen; Vern, newly married to his fiancée, dances with her at their wedding; the private investigator that Beverly hired, Devine (Richard Jenkins), starts up dance lessons; and Paulina, with a new partner, competes at Blackpool, the competition that she had lost years before.
The moment I saw the telephone booth I decided to ring up my wife in Pune. I wish I hadn’t. But then you wouldn’t be reading this story. At that precise point of time I should have been just out of Mumbai harbour, sailing on the high seas, but my ship’s departure was suddenly postponed by a day as some cargo documents were not in order and whilst the ship-chandlers and agents were on the job, obtaining the necessary clearances, I decided to see a movie at the Regal cinema and then kill time window-shopping on Colaba Causeway.
Having enjoyed the afternoon show, I was lazily strolling down Colaba Causeway when I saw the telephone booth. I wasn’t carrying my cell-phone – never do when sailing. I looked at my watch: 6.45PM.
Priya, my wife, should be home in Pune by now. I dialed our home number. The phone at the other end started ringing. Five rings. No one picked up. Ten rings. Twenty. And suddenly it cut-off. I tried again. No one picked up. I tried her cell-phone – ten rings, cut-off, she didn’t answer.
Walking towards Marine Drive, I wondered why Priya was late coming home. Her office finished at five, and it was just half-an-hour’s scooter drive to our home. Priya was always home by 6 PM. 6.15 at the most!
I looked at my watch : 7.15PM. Suddenly I spotted another phone booth. There was a proliferation of these nowadays. I went in and dialed. No reply. I dialed again and again. Both our home landline number and her mobile number. I must have dialed both numbers at least ten times and every time the story was the same – ten rings and cut off.
As I walked by the sea in the enveloping darkness, strange thoughts began entering my brain. Maybe Priya had an accident. I wished I had never bought her that scooter. It was so dangerous driving a two-wheeler in the chaotic evening traffic of Pune. And Priya’s driving was so rash. I had warned her so many times about her reckless driving. But she just wouldn’t listen. Stubborn! That’s what she was. Like she insisted on buying the latest two-wheeler model with powerful pick-up, so she could zip around town. I’d suggested she use the car, but she said it was impossible for her to drive a car in the frenzied traffic on the narrow roads of Pune. And, of course, she was tired of traveling by bus. Besides it was below her dignity.
At first I was angry with her; then gradually my anger turned to anxiety. An accident. A distinct possibility. Maybe I was imagining things. Getting worried for nothing. Priya must be home by now!
“Please can I use your mobile phone?” I asked a stranger sitting on the parapet on the seaface.
“Sure,” he said, “tell me the number. I’ll try.”
I told him. He dialed. Once, twice. Then with a knowledgeable look on his face he told me what I already knew, “No one is picking up.”
I looked at my watch : 7.45PM. I felt a tremor of trepidation. Instinctively I knew that something was wrong. I tried to calm myself and think rationally.
“Anything wrong?” the stranger asked looking intently at me.
“No,” I said trying to wipe out the anxiety on my face, smoothening my worried look into a grin. “I’m trying to get my wife.”
“Why don’t you try some other number? Her friend. Office,” he said holding out his cell-phone.
Yes. Her office. Priya’s office. How come I didn’t think of it before?
I dialed Priya’s office number.
“Hello,” said a male voice.
“I want to speak to Priya Ranade,” I said. “I’m her husband speaking from Mumbai.”
“Oh,” the voice said,” Just a minute.”
There was long pause. The silence was killing. Then suddenly the sound of someone picking up the phone.
“Hello, Mr. Ranade, Godbole here.” Godbole was Priya’s boss. “Your wife left at five, as usual,” he said. “In fact even we are winding up now. It’s almost eight.” I could her some conversation in the background. “Just hold the line please,” Godbole said. After a few seconds Godbole spoke, “You’re speaking from Mumbai, are you? Anything wrong? Any problem?”
“No one is picking up the phone at my house,” I said.” Even her mobile.”
“I see,” Godbole said. “Why don’t you check up with Ashok Pandit. They left office together. Maybe your wife is at his place.”
“Yes.” The word escaped my mouth.
“Just a second,” Godbole said. “I’ll give you Ashok Pandit’s residence number.”
“Thanks, sir. I’ve got it,” I said, switched off and looked beseechingly at the stranger.
“Go ahead,” he said, got up and walked away to give me privacy.
Almost immediately I dialed Ashok’s number. I knew it by heart. After all, Ashok was one of my best friends, besides being Priya’s colleague at office.
Anjali, Ashok’s wife, came on the line.
“Hi, Anjali. Vinay here.”
“From the ship?”
“No. From Mumbai.”
“No. Is Ashok there?”
“No. He’s not come back from office.”
“But it’s eight o’clock,” I said.
“Ashok told me he’d be late,” Anjali said. “Some important business meeting. Dinner with a client or something. He told me not to wait for dinner. Why don’t you try his mobile?” She sounded so nonchalant that I decided not to delve any further.
“I just rang up to say goodbye,” I said and hung up.
So this was what going on the moment my back was turned. Under the garb of platonic friendship. And to think I had left Pune only yesterday, and they were having a good time already.
It was only yesterday morning that Ashok had come to see me off on the Deccan Queen. I’d asked him to take care of Priya while I was away at sea. And do you know what he said? “Don’t worry. Vinay. I’ll take good care of Priya. I’ll look after her so well that she won’t even miss you.”
Sure! She wasn’t missing me! I should have known. The familiar way they talked to each other; their ‘harmless’ jokes. Platonic friendship my foot! I had been a fool blinded by trust. Deep down I felt terribly betrayed. I was so angry, so full of hate, that I could feel the venom rising within me. I cannot begin to describe the intense emotions I experienced, but a strange force took charge of me impelling me to act, propelling me toward the nearest taxi. “Dadar,” I told the taxi driver, “Poona Taxi Stand.”
Something vibrated in my hands. Shit! I had forgotten to return the stranger’s cell-phone. I should have turned back, returned the mobile, but I do not know what bizarre force overwhelmed me that I just switched it off.
Soon I was on my way to Pune, having hired an entire taxi to myself owing to the urgency of my mission. Also I did not want any company. As I closed my eyes in self-commiseration, I saw both halves of my life, my marriage and my career, side by side, as I had never seen them before, and I tried to fathom how I could be so stupid in one and so capable in the other.
The voice of the taxi-driver shook me out of my thoughts, “Sir, we’ll stop at the Food-Court before climbing the ghats. You can have a cup of tea or eat something.”
I decided to give Priya her last chance. I dialed her cell number. Our home number. It was the same story. Ten rings. No one picked up. I looked at my watch. 10 PM. I dialed Ashok Pandit’s home number. A few rings.
“Hello,” It was Ashok’s wife Anjali again.
“I want to speak to Ashok Pandit,” I said curtly.
“He’s not home,” Anjali said. I could sense the irritation in her voice. “Who’s speaking? Vinay? Why don’t you try his mobile?”
I tried Ashok’s mobile. ‘Out of coverage area’: a recorded message said. Must have gone to his farmhouse in Panshet.
There was no doubt about it now. Too much of a coincidence. Unfaithful woman. Devious friend. Making a cuckold of me. Having a good time at the farmhouse on the very night of my departure! As if they were waiting for me to go. Just imagine what they would be up to during my six month absence away at sea. I felt tormented by the torrent of anger flowing within me. There was no going back now. I had to get the bottom of this.
The taxi took two hours to reach Pune – the longest two hours of my life. As I entered my apartment block I noticed that Priya’s scooter was parked at the usual place.
So there had been no accident. My suspicions were true! I ran up the steps to my second floor flat.
There was no lock on the door. So she had come back. I rang the bell. Once. Twice. Priya opened the door. She was looking at me as if she had seen a ghost. I stepped inside and quickly went to the bedroom. There was no one there.
“What’s wrong?” Priya exclaimed. “Why have you suddenly come back?”
“Where were you?” I asked ignoring her question. “I’ve been ringing up all evening.”
“You were supposed to be sailing.”
“The sailing got postponed,” I said irritably. “Answer my question. Where were you? I rang up at least five times.”
“I was right here,” Priya said.
We stood facing each other. I saw a flicker in her eyes. I knew she was hiding something. Then she spoke, trying to keep her voice calm, “There is something wrong with our phone. Even Ashok said he couldn’t get me.”
“When?” I snapped.
“He came to check in the evening. I told him to make a complaint.”
“He came here? Why? You could have rung up on your mobile.”
“I lost my cell-phone.”
“I don’t know. Maybe in the office. Or on the way, the market.”
“You expect me to believe that! Lost cell-phone! Phone dead! And Ashok’s mobile out of coverage.” “Ashok. You rung up Ashok?”
“You think I am dumb. You liar, you cheat…..” I screamed incoherently in furious rage.
“What’s wrong with you?” Priya shouted. “You suddenly land up at midnight and….”
Before she could complete her sentence the telephone started ringing. I rushed and picked it up.
“Priya, what’s wrong with Vinay?” It was Ashok’s voice. “He’s been ringing Anjali from Mumbai. There is a missed call on my mobile too.”
“It’s me!” I said angrily to Ashok and put the phone down. And then I looked at Priya squarely in the eye and said, “And now what do you have to say? This phone suddenly comes to life. With Ashok at the other end. Ringing you at midnight! Wow! What coincidence!”
She had no answer. Adulterous cheat! Deep down I felt terribly betrayed.
I did not return to my ship. Just couldn’t. Everyone tried to convince me that I was imagining things. But I am not convinced. They took me to the telephone exchange. But tell me, do they repair faults at midnight? And next day Ashok turned up with Priya’s cell-phone claiming that it was found lying in the office conference room. And expected me to believe it!
Ashok swore that he was innocent in the presence of his wife. Priya did likewise. But deep down within me is sown the seed of mistrust, growing day by day. Proliferating. Burgeoning into a massive tree of suspicion.
I have to make a decision. Soon. Once and for all. Clear everything. This way or that way!
I’ve read somewhere. The underlying principle of decision-making in uncertainty: “Suspend judgment till all possibilities are considered.”
So till this very day I am living in a state of suspension, considering all possibilities. And the more I think, the more the possibilities grow. Oh yes! The possibilities are endless!
I’ve got the sack for deserting my ship. And risk being blacklisted even by other companies if don’t return to the sea fast. And worse – they’ve tracked down the stranger’s mobile cell-phone and have filed a theft case against me and I am out on bail.
But I’m still waiting. Doing nothing. My judgment suspended. While I consider all possibilities. Till I reach a conclusion.
My wife wants me to consult a therapist – get some counseling. She thinks I’ve gone crazy. Everyone think I’ve gone crazy. Do you?
Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French suspeciun, from medieval Latin suspectio(n-), from suspicere ‘mistrust’. The change in the second syllable was due to association with Old French suspicion (from Latin suspicio(n- ) ‘suspicion’).
The object of this blog is to bring forth the idea how ridiculous misplaced suspicion can be. It is, for all intents and purposes, the work of the Devil’s Workshop and only serves in displacing Trust and creates instead seeds of niggling doubt that gnaw away at the foundation of any relationship.
This essay is not about people suspected of having carried out a misdemeanor, felony or crime; it is not about guilty people “under suspicion” but it is, to a large extent, about trustworthy souls who are “above suspicion” (yet, probed under the microscope of mistrust and false speculation.)
The two stories (mentioned above) express the futility of suspicion – the suspicions of adultery, expressed by one partner for the other, prove to be totally unfounded and lack any proof of solid evidence of the same.
Seeds of suspicion are easily sown when the foundation of any relationship lacks the solid base of Trust. It’s true that Trust is like Virginity – once it is broken, it is irretrievably shattered with no hope of repair. But it is equally true that suspicion is extremely dangerous because it eats away at the foundations of Trust – it creates unnecessary misgivings and qualms where there ought to be none. If suspicion is given a free reign, it holds sway and there is little that can be done to stop it. The idea is NOT to give in to suspicion, unless there is solid evidence of it.
What better way is there to end this blog than with this highly appropriate song sung by Elvis Presley. Enjoy it…..keep your suspicions aside!
“Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley
We’re caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby
Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?
We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can’t build our dreams
On suspicious minds
So, if an old friend I know
Drops by to say hello
Would I still see suspicion in your eyes?
Here we go again
Asking where I’ve been
You can’t see these tears are real
We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can’t build our dreams
On suspicious minds
Oh let our love survive
Or dry the tears from your eyes
Let’s don’t let a good thing die
When honey, you know
I’ve never lied to you
Mmm yeah, yeah
The song peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 the week of April 22, 1978, making it Kansas’s only top ten Billboard Hot 100 charting single. The 45-rpm single was certified Gold for sales of one million units by the RIAA shortly after the height of its popularity as a hit single. More than 25 years later, the RIAA certified Gold the digital download format of the song, Kansas’s only single to do so certified as of September 17, 2008.
Background and writing
A last-minute addition to the track lineup for Point of Know Return, “Dust in the Wind” would also be its greatest success.
The guitar line for the song was written by Kerry Livgren as a finger exercise for learning finger picking. His wife, Vicci, heard what he was doing, remarked that the melody was nice, and encouraged him to write lyrics for it. Livgren was unsure whether his fellow band members would like it, since it was a departure from their signature style. However he did offer it to them and the song was accepted and then recorded.
“Dust in the Wind” was one of Kansas‘s first acoustic tracks; its slow melancholy melody and philosophical lyrics differ from their other hits such as “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Point of Know Return“. A meditation on mortality and the inevitability of death, the lyrical theme bears a striking resemblance to the well-known biblical passage Genesis 3:19 (“…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”), as well as to the famous opening lines of the Japanese war epic The Tale of the Heike (“…the mighty fall at last, and they are as dust before the wind.”) and from a book of Native American poetry, which includes the line “for all we are is dust in the wind.”[Also, the 1973 song, “Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression)” by Emerson, Lake & Palmer has repeated ‘dust’ and ‘wind’ themes, and uses exactly the same phrase “dust in the wind”.
The guitar track comes from two guitarists playing six-string guitars in unison, one in standard tuning and the other in Nashville tuning, to create a chiming sound similar to a twelve-string guitar. The instrumental bridge contains a distinctive melodic line and harmony for violin and viola.
“Dust in the Wind” is one of the many songs of contemporary times that has beautiful and meaningful lyrics.
The protagonist of this song contemplates on the transient and fleeting nature of Life. It is true that Life comes with no guarantees or with any certainties. The only certainty that comes with birth is death. All men are mere mortals and are born to die someday. The only thing that remains constant are the seas and the skies. No amount of money can buy Time. Time and Tide wait for no mortal. Life seems to fly by so fast that even a dream can’t be held onto for a moment; it flies by and remains as nothing but a curiosity. The fate of all human beings is “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” We come with nothing into this world and leave this world with nothing. Each human being is like a drop in the ocean – we are just one among a million others. Each one of us should learn the art of simplicity, modesty and humility. It is also a lesson to us all to treasure each moment of our existence on this Earth – it is through God’s Immense Grace that we are blessed with health and the Immeasurable Gift of Life. We should all – at some time or other – learn to count our blessings instead of wasting so many years of our lives on useless property disputes and legal wrangles, especially those battles concerned with one’s inheritance and money, in general – the latter only feeds Greed and serves no good purpose.
The bottom line here is simply this fact – LEARN TO APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE LONG BEFORE IT BECOMES SOMETHING THAT YOU HAD. LIFE IS JUST TOO SHORT FOR ANYTHING ELSE.
I wish I could be like the king
who said to his people: my friends
this is now the end
if we lose the battle
we shall live forever.
The people of the sun will remember this day
and give us immortality
long after I’ve gone
long after the sun.
I want to be like this king
But I can’t stand the pain
And I keep looking for all the faces I had
Before the world began.
I’ve only known desire and my poor soul will burn
into eternal fire
and I can’t even cry
A sphinx can never cry.
I am standing in the sun
I wish that I could be
A silent sphinx
I don’t want any past
Only want things which cannot last
And I can’t even cry
Through God knows how I try
A sphinx can never cry
And sphinxes never die.
I’m famous or am I infamous?
It doesn’t matter much any more
Phony words of love or painfully truth
I’ve heard it all before
Appraisal or critics and even politics
A conversation piece
A woman or a priest
It’s all a point of view. I am standing in the sun
The Great Sphinx is a large human-headed lion that was carved from a mound of natural rock. It is located in Giza where it guards the front of Khafra’s pyramid.
Legends have been told for many years about the Great Sphinx. These stories tell about the powers and mysteries of this sphinx. Some people even believe that there are hidden passageways or rooms underneath the Great Sphinx, but nothing has been found yet.
The beginning of one story about the Great Sphinx is written on a stele between the sphinx’s paws.
The story reads that one day, a young prince fell asleep next to the Great Sphinx. He had been hunting all day, and was very tired. He dreamt that the Great Sphinx promised that he would become the ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt if he cleared away the sand covering its body (the Great Sphinx was covered up to its neck).
The rest of the story is gone, so you will have to use your imagination to work out the ending. This stele was put up by the Pharaoh Thutmosis IV who lived around 1400 B.C.
This is part of the beard of the Great Sphinx. The beard was added during the New Kingdom– hundreds of years after the Great Sphinx was first carved.
It is the largest monolith statue in the world, standing 73.5 metres (241 ft) long, 19.3 metres (63 ft) wide, and 20.22 m (66.34 ft) high. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture, and is commonly believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafra (c. 2558–2532 BC).
Origin and identity
The Great Sphinx is one of the world’s largest and oldest statues but basic facts about it, such as when it was built, and by whom, are still debated. These questions have resulted in the popular idea of the “Riddle of the Sphinx,” alluding to the original Greek legend of the Riddle of the Sphinx.
Pliny the Elder mentioned the Great Sphinx in his book, Natural History, commenting that the Egyptians looked upon the statue as a “divinity” that has been passed over in silence and “that King Harmais was buried in it.”
The Sphinx has been a symbol of Egypt from ancient times to the present. It has inspired the imaginations of artists, poets, adventurers, scholars and travelers for centuries and has also inspired endless speculation about its age, its meaning and the secrets that it might hold.
A Description of the Great Sphinx
The Great Sphinx of Gizais an immense stone sculpture of a creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. The greatest monumental sculpture in the ancient world, it is carved out of a single ridge of limestone 240 feet (73 meters) long and 66 feet (20 meters) high.
The Sphinx sits in a shallow depression to the south of the pyramid of the Pharaoh Khafre (also known as Chephren) at the west bank of the Nile River near the city of Cairo.
The rock stratum out of which the Sphinx has been made varies from a soft yellowish to a hard grey limestone. The massive body is made of the softer stone, which is easily eroded, while the head is formed of the harder stone.
To form the lower body of the Sphinx, enormous blocks of stone were quarried from the base rock and these blocks were then used in the core masonry of the temples directly in front and to the south of the Sphinx.
Despite the hard quality of the stone of the head, the face is badly damaged, and not only by natural erosion. The nose is missing altogether and the eyes and the areas around them are seriously altered from their original state.
Some scholars believe that the Great Sphinx originally had a beard. Pieces of this beard discovered by excavation are in the British Museum in London and the Cairo Museum. These pieces, however, may be dated to the New Kingdom times of
The Sphinx is part of a complex of structures that also contains the Sphinx temple. This temple, like the Great Pyramid and the Oseiron temple at Abydos in Southern Egypt, may also date from Pre-dynastic times.
Napoleon’s artillerymen have been blamed for using the face of the Sphinx for target practice.
The History of the Sphinx
According to orthodox Egyptology the Sphinx was constructed in the 4th Dynasty (2575 – 2467 BCE) by the Pharaoh Khafre. However, an accumulating body of evidence, both archaeological and geological, indicates that the Sphinx is far older than the 4th Dynasty and was only restored by Khafre during his reign.
There are no inscriptions on the Sphinx, or on any of the temples connected to it that, that offer evidence of construction by Khafre. The so-called ‘Inventory Stele’ (uncovered on the Giza plateau in the 19th century) tells that the Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) – Khafre’s predecessor – ordered a temple built alongside the Sphinx, meaning of course that the Sphinx was already there, and thus could not have been constructed by Khafre.
A much greater age for the Sphinx has been suggested by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, based upon geological considerations. Schwaller de Lubicz observed, and recent geologists (such as Robert Schoch, Professor of Geology at Boston University) have confirmed, that the extreme erosion on the body of the Sphinx could not be the result of wind and sand, as has been universally assumed, but rather was the result of water.
Geologists agree that in the distant past Egypt was subjected to severe flooding. Wind erosion cannot take place when the body of the Sphinx is covered by sand, and the Sphinx has been in this condition for nearly all of the last five thousand years – since the alleged time of its 4th Dynasty construction.
If wind-blown sand were responsible for the deep erosion of the Sphinx, we would expect to find evidence of such erosion on other Egyptian monuments built of similar materials and exposed to the wind for a similar length of time. Yet the fact of the matter is, that even on structures that have had more exposure to the wind-blown sand, there are minimal effects of erosion, the sand having done little more than scour clean the surface of the dressed stones.
The purpose of the Sphinx is not known. Some orthodox archaeologists assume that it was a memorial to a Pharaoh or that it functioned as some sort of talisman or guardian deity. Other scholars, however, believe the Sphinx functioned as an astronomical observation device that marked the position of the rising sun on the day of the spring equinox in the time of Leo the Lion, which lasted from 10,970 to 8810 BCE. This interpretation is given support by the leonine shape of the Sphinx.
In 1798, when Napoleon came to Egypt the Sphinx was buried in sand up to its neck. Between 1816 and 1858, a series of adventurers and antiquarians, including Giovanni Caviglia, Auguste Mariette and Gaston Maspero, attempted to clear the sand from around the body of the Sphinx but were each forced to abandon the project due to the enormous amount of sand. Finally, between 1925 and 1936, the French engineer Emil Baraize was successful in clearing the sand to reveal the base of the Sphinx.
The Mystery of the Sphinx
Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) the ‘sleeping prophet’ had the ability to put himself into a deep trance. He stated in some of his trances that Egypt was the repository for records of the alleged civilization of Atlantis, about 10,500 B.C. This repository was an underground library, called the Hall of Records,” that contained the wisdom of Atlantis. Cayce claims that the Sphinx points in the direction of the “Hall of Records.” His reading states: “There is a chamber or passage from the right forepaw of the [Sphinx] to this entrance of the Hall of records, or chamber.”
In the 1980’s and 1990’s the Edgar Cayce Foundation conducted research in Egypt around the Sphinx to verify Cayce’s reading. Although researchers from all over the world have begun to look for this chamber with very sophisticated instruments, they have not found the Hall of Records.”
There are three passages into or under the Sphinx, two of them of obscure origin. The one of known cause is a short dead-end shaft behind the head drilled in the nineteenth century. No other tunnels or chambers in or under the Sphinx are known to exist. A number of small holes in the Sphinx body may relate to scaffolding at the time of carving.
The Pre-Dynastic era age of the Sphinx
Evidence suggesting a construction period for the Sphinx – greatly predating the 4th Dynasty – may perhaps be indicated by the astronomical significance of its shape, being that of a lion. Roughly every two thousand years (2160 to be exact), and because of the precession of the equinoxes, the sun on the spring equinox rises against the stellar background of a different constellation. For the past two thousand years that constellation has been Pisces the Fish, symbol of the Christian age. Prior to the age of Pisces it was the age of Aries the Ram, and before that it was the age of Taurus the Bull. It is interesting to note that during the first and second millennia BC, approximately the Age of Aries, ram-oriented iconography was common in Dynastic Egypt, while during the Age of Taurus the Bull-cult arose in Minoan Crete. Perhaps the builders of the Sphinx likewise used astrological symbolism in designing their monumental sculpture. Geological findings indicate that the Sphinx may have been sculpted sometime before 10,000 BC, and this period coincides with the Age of Leo the Lion, which lasted from 10,970 to 8810 BC.
Further support for this vast age of the sphinx comes from a surprising sky-ground correlation proven by sophisticated computer programs such as Skyglobe 3.6. These computer programs are able to generate precise pictures of any portion of the night sky as seen from different places on earth at any time in the distant past or future. Graham Hancock explains in Heaven’s Mirror that, “computer simulations show that in 10,500 BC the constellation of Leo housed the sun on the spring equinox – i.e. an hour before dawn in that epoch Leo would have reclined due east along the horizon in the place where the sun would soon rise. This means that the lion-bodied Sphinx, with its due-east orientation, would have gazed directly on that morning at the one constellation in the sky that might reasonably be regarded as its own celestial counterpart.”
Restoration of the Sphinx
Repairs to the Sphinx have been made over the centuries by the Pharaohs Tuthmosis IV and Ramesses II, and also during the Roman era. Restoration attempts have continued to the present time yet the Sphinx continues to deteriorate because of the relentless wind, humidity and the ever-increasing smog from nearby Cairo.
In the 1980’s, during a six-year period, more than 2000 limestone blocks were added to the body of the Sphinx and various chemicals were injected in the hopes of preventing its further deterioration. This treatment was not successful and in fact contributed to the deterioration. In 1988 the left shoulder crumbled and blocks fell off. Present attempts at restoration are under the control of the Supreme Council of Antiquities’ archaeologists.
Ra is the Sun God of Egypt. Many people call him “rah” but the correct pronunciation is “ray” (that’s why his name is also written as “Re”). He is considered the father of Gods, and was the most important and worshipped king of Gods.
Ra is usually depicted with the body of a human and the head of a falcon.
Ra’s wife is called Ratet and his daughter Hathor, aka Eye of Ra.
The Sun God
The sun was first worshipped as Horus, later as Ra. He is associated with the mid-day sun (other deities represent other positions of the sun).
The sun was the primary element of life in ancient Egypt and represented:
This is why sun deities were very important in ancient Egypt.
Father of Gods
Ra is known as the father and grandfather of Gods. He rose in the beginning of creation and spit forth the first godly couple:
Shu (symbolizes air)
Ra bore several other offspring; amongst those was his son, the king.
The Symbolism of Ra
Ra embodies the Egyptian beliefs of order and truth.
In Egyptian mythology, he signifies the cycle of birth, life and death. That’s why he is known as the father of creation:
Ra is perpetually resurrected in the mornings, he rides across the sky during the day and at sunset he is swallowed by the goddess Nut, only for her to give birth to him in the morning.
The most common symbol associated with the ancient Egyptian God Ra is the sun. He is depicted in a wealth of symbols, but they all are formed around the theory of Ra representing creation and nature. Most of his symbols were shared with other solar deities, mainly Horus.
In Egyptian art, Ra is usually seen as a man with a pharaoh’s crowns on his head and a sun disk above it.
Ra is often depicted with a falcon head, just like Horus.
The winged sun disk: the primary symbol of Ra, a very ancient symbol that signifies the “Sun of Righteousness with healing in his arms.” It also represents the creative elements of nature.
Wedjat: (aka utchat, eye of Ra, eye of Horus) is a sacred eye symbol (see below).
Phoenix: Ra rose in the shape of a phoenix from the primordial ocean of Nun and landed on a single mound of dry land and then let the sun’s rays shine forth.
Lotus Flower: Ra formed himself from the chaos of Nun and emerged from the lotus petals.
The History of the Sun God Ra
The ancient Egyptians have numerous Gods in there culture and they feel that the Gods walk among them, invisibly on Earth. Ra is the most central God of the Egyptian Pantheon and doesn’t dwell on earth, but watches his children and kingdom from the sky.
At sunrise, Ra is a young boy called Khepri, mid-day he becomes the falcon-headed man and at sunset he becomes an elder called Atum. He travels in a sun boat and had to be defended against Apep, a giant serpent that tries to eat the sun boat every night.
Ra changed greatly over the course of ancient Egyptian history. In dynastic times he was merged with Horus and became Re-Horakhty. He then ruled over sky, earth and underworld and was the creator of the world.
Ra developed through the second and fifth dynasty. In the fourth dynasty, pharaohs were known as “sons of Ra”. Ra was upheld the most in the fifth dynasty, where he became more associated with the king then the pharaoh. Kings erected pyramids that were considered solar temples and aligned them with the rising and setting sun in his honor.
During the Middle Kingdom, Ra was more and more combined with other deities like Osiris and Amun.
In the New Kingdom, Ra became more and more popular, which resulted in a kind of monotheism.
The worship of Ra as a religious and cultural figure has significantly deteriorated over years due to the rise of Christianity.
The Eye of Ra
The Eye of Ra
The name has changed over generations but the meaning is still the same. The Eye of Ra was once known as the Eye of Horus or Wedjat. It is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and the divine royal power. It is a powerful force that is linked with the fierce heat of the sun and was passed on to each Pharaoh. The Eye is considered the all-seeing eye and protects the king and thwart off evil.
This Egyptian symbol appears on the Great Seal of the United States, and on every United States dollar bill. The eye within the pyramid represents Ra awaiting rebirth. Even though he is enclosed in the pyramid his soul remained alive and watchful, as indicated by the open eye.
The ancient pyramid texts state: Perfect is the Eye of Horus. I have delivered the Eye of Horus, the shining one, the ornament of the Eye of Ra, the Father of the Gods.”
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Amanda Lear (née Tapp; born 18 June or 18 November in 1939, 1942, 1946 or 1950) is a French singer, lyricist, painter, television presenter, actress and former model.
In the mid-1980s Lear positioned herself as one of the leading media personalities in mainland Europe, especially in Italy and in France where she hosted many popular TV shows. She had also developed a successful painting career, regularly exhibiting her works in galleries across Europe for the next three decades, and continued to make music, earning minor hits such as “Incredibilmente donna” and “Love Your Body“. Amanda’s 1980s musical output saw her experimenting with different genres and trying to revive her career by re-recording earlier hits to various levels of success. 1980s also saw her release two books: an autobiography My Life with Dalí and a novel L’Immortelle.
Since the 1990s her time has been divided between music, television, movies and painting. Despite frequent album releases, she failed to achieve success on charts with her music. However, her television career remained successful, with Lear hosting numerous prime time TV shows, occasionally making guest appearances in French and Italian TV series. She has also performed acting and dubbing roles in independent as well as major film productions. In the late 2000s Lear would reinvent herself as a theatrical actress, performing in long-running stage plays in France. To date, she has sold over 25 million singles and 15 million albums worldwide. Lear is also a widely recognized gay icon.
Back in the sixties and Seventies, Amanda Lear was a stalwart of London’s demi-monde , an exotic name on the nightclub circuit. She was linked, as they say, with a string of rock stars, a kind of up-market groupie with her own cachet. Although never as well-known as Bianca Jagger or Marianne Faithfull, she was a regular fixture in the gossip columns. And then she disappeared. Unlike many of her friends from that period, she didn’t become a junkie or an embittered nobody, and she didn’t die. Instead she made it big in Italy.
When her name reappeared in the news last week, it was because her house in southern France, which contained a number of works by Salvador Dali, had burnt down. The house also contained her husband, Alain-Philippe Malagnac d’Argens and his 20-year-old friend, Didier Dieufis, a cat breeder. But in the reports the deaths of these two men seemed almost incidental, merely the surreal background to the main tragedy, the damage to a few surrealist paintings.
Thus the weirdness overshadowed the horror, as if to imply there was more to the story than a simple fatal accident. But then everything about Lear’s life appears to have been shaped by distortion and disbelief. Some observers have even gone so far as to suggest that not only was the former model and pop singer Dali’s devoted protégée , but also the late artist’s strangest creation.
Lear’s background remains a mystery. She has variously let it be known that her mother was English or French or Vietnamese or Chinese, and that her father was English, Russian, French or Indonesian. She may have been born in Hanoi in 1939, or Hong Kong in either 1941 or 1946. Once she said she was from Transylvania. And to this day, it is a matter of conjecture as to whether she was born a boy or a girl.
Lear came to notice in Britain shortly after she moved here from France in the mid-Sixties, when she hitched up with the Chelsea girl set that kept company with fashionable hangers-on. ‘The sort of people,’ says writer Jonathan Meades, ‘who once shared a line with someone who once shared a line with a Rolling Stone.’
Lear went one better and developed a friendship with the Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones. It was through Jones, according to Lear, that she met Dali in 1965. He told her she had a ‘beautiful skull’. Yet the story that Meades heard, and which followed Lear around London, is that two years earlier Dali had paid for her sex-change operation, which was carried out in Casablanca by Dr Bourou, who was at the cutting edge of transgender surgery.
Lear has never confirmed these details, although she was happy to trade on the notoriety they generated. ‘It makes me mysterious and interesting,’ she said. ‘There is nothing the pop world loves more than a way-out freak.’
Later, however, she denied she was ever a man, insisting it was never anything more than a myth to gain publicity, a PR campaign whose architect, she said, was Dali. Or David Bowie. Or herself.
April Ashley, the transsexual who had once been George Jamieson, a Liverpudlian seaman, has long claimed she worked with Lear in the Fifties at Le Carrousel, a transvestite revue in Paris. In her book, April Ashley’s Odyssey , she recalls a man named Alain Tapp, whose stage-name was Peki d’Oslo, later to become Amanda Lear. According to Ashley, Dali met Peki at Le Carrousel in 1959.
Whatever the origin of the relationship, Lear and Dali were to remain close for the next two decades. ‘I knew nothing when I first met him,’ she admitted before Dali’s death. ‘He taught me to see things through his eyes.’ Between summer stints at Dali’s home in Cadaques, she would return to London. ‘I was a bit disenchanted,’ she observed, ‘because I had just left a genius and found myself passing the joint with someone in the King’s Road who was talking nonsense about changing the world.
Lear, who once acknowledged her interest in one-night stands with the comment ‘five hours is all you need with anyone’, went on from Jones to move in with David Bowie. In fact, Bowie is one of the few men whom Lear has ever referred to as a ‘lover’. Subsequently she was also linked with Bryan Ferry, having appeared as the cover girl on Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure album
For a brief period in the early Seventies, the glam-rock years, sexual ambiguity was highly fashionable. Lear represented what Freudians like to call the Other, and back then everyone who was anyone wanted a bit of the Other. But there was little space for Lear’s camp glamour in British subculture with the advent of punk.
By that time, though, she had reinvented herself as Euro Disco Queen. She credits Bowie with encouraging her to be more than a model, although she has said he was only attracted to her as an album cover. ‘I realised after a while that he was in love with a picture, not with me.’ Her first album was knowingly titled I Am A Photograph.
While she made little impact on the British charts, by the end of the Seventies she was a notable success in other parts of Europe with her brand of deep-voice disco pop. Lear’s assessment of her appeal was as cynical as it was clever.
‘In Italy I’m big because they’re all so sex-obsessed. In Germany I succeeded because they’ve been waiting for someone like Marlene Dietrich to come along ever since the war. I played on their need for a drunken, nightclubbing vamp. And I’ve won the gays, who are crucial because they have all the best discos, entirely because of the extraordinary legends about me.’
She also appeared naked in Playboy, in a series of photographs designed to end the rumours, and hosted a chat-show in Italy, where she enjoyed her most lasting fame. ‘I am,’ she explained, ‘the Italian Janet Street-Porter.’
With her ahistorical self-invention and ironic contempt for old-fashioned concepts like the ‘truth’, Lear has been in many ways the prototype of the postmodern celebrity age. Meades recalls her driving ambition to be famous, without any specific plans about what shape that fame should take: ‘She wanted to be famous for being Amanda Lear.’
Duncan Fallowell, co-author of April Ashley’s Odyssey, says that in his experience few transsexuals harbour dreams of being a ‘normal’ woman. ‘They aspire to this sort of glamourised ideal of womanhood.’ He also suggests that in making, as it were, a public spectacle of themselves, transsexuals often have a paradoxical need for an intensely private life.
Lear did find a private life with her husband, Alain-Philippe, a former record producer whom she married in 1979 in a ceremony in Las Vegas at which Twiggy and Sacha Distel were said to be the witnesses. Lear and Malagnac d’Argens settled in the small village of Saint-Etienne-du-Gres, not far from St-Remy-de-Provence.
When Meades visited the house in 1985, he described it as ‘a shrine to herself and, in a smaller way, to Dali’. He remembers Lear’s husband as a shy man who preferred to stay in the background, and Lear herself as very much in charge. ‘She didn’t drink or take drugs and she was very regimented about exercise. The impression I got was that she wanted to be in total control of her environment.’ But one woman who stopped by to see the couple was surprised to find such a domesticated setting. ‘She was really very homely.’
Having spent decades moving around, erasing herself as she went, Lear had found a permanent role at home. Now that home is in ruins and her husband is dead. While she was away on a brief trip to Italy, the life that she spent years carefully building, her real life, her private life, turned suddenly, and horribly, public.
TRYING TO PUT A LABEL ON AMANDA LEAR IS AN EPIC AND ARDUOUS BATTLE, LOST FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. FROM HER MYSTERIOUS ORIGINS AND DATE OF BIRTH TO THE LABYRINTH OF TURNS HER CAREER HAS TAKEN, THE LGBT IDOL AND MUSIC ARTIST HAS PROVEN HERSELF HARD TO PIN DOWN.
Je suis… Amanda! (I am…..Amanda!)
During a conversation in Paris at the iconic Hotel Meurice, Amanda Lear defined herself by her accomplishments. She has been a mouthpiece for the gay community. Her music from the Munich disco scene conquered the world, and she never slowed down after many decades in the show business (model, actress, writer, painter and TV presenter). I am curious to find out more about her flamboyant life, her latest adventure in theatre, and how she managed to defy time without being afraid to take on different roles.
London’s Swinging Sixties are over, Andy Warhol’s dead, and Studio 54 had shut his doors, but Amanda Lear is a woman with a strong and charismatic personality that never loses her focus and integrity. She may have been Salvador Dalí’s muse and had dated David Bowie, but she never lived in anyone’s shadow; she is the ultimate storyteller of her own life and an inspiring, self-made woman who can only be labeled with one word: Amanda.
Talking with a unique, deep, trademark voice that makes her songs strangely ambiguous and exciting, the first thing I notice about Lear is her enchanting smile, her pink birkin Hermès bag, and how incredibly fun she is. Sipping coffee and eating macaroons, she tells me her explicit video for “La Bete et la Belle” was shot in the same room where Salvador Dalí used to stay in when in Paris. She was excited to tell me how theatre recently filled her artistic career and after touring extensively with “Lady Oscar,” Amanda is now rehearsing for her upcoming show “Divina,” a comedy with costumes designed by her friend, Jean Paul Gaultier.
“It all started three years ago,” she says, “and it was love at first sight. My life will be on stage from now on and I hope to bring my show over to Italy and the UK as well, where, unfortunately, people still think of me solely as a singer.”
In her previous show, Amanda describes her role as “this hateful character just like Anna Wintour; did you see me on the catwalk for Gaultier? Doing it in front of her, Grace Coddington, and all those mean, fashion ladies have been a personal vendetta for me.” As outspoken as I expected her to be, this time around, she will play a successful TV presenter whose career is endangered. As the real Amanda, she will find her way back on top, reinventing herself. Amada as, “singing or hosting a TV show are just other ways to act. I never had a voice like Barbra Streisand; in fact, my career as a singer was more about acting than anything else.” When she talks about theatre, she does it with passion, but also with real commitment and respect. She says, “People need comedy at the moment. It is such a tragic, historical period so they pay to laugh, but I would love to play something more serious like Tennessee Williams as soon as my reputation as an actress grows.”
“When I act, I like to be someone else,” Amanda says, but also in terms of music, she changes her demeanor frequently. “There has always been music in my life. In France, they always put this label on me – ‘disco queen’ – and it bothers me because after so many albums, I would like to change and sing more melodic songs. People always like to shake their boots on the dance floor and that’s okay, but I titled my album, ‘I Don’t Like Disco’ for this reason.’”
To my surprise, she nonchalantly opens up about her new project, the first-ever Elvis Presley cover album recorded by a woman. I unexpectedly notice that she refers to herself in third person, just like Salvador Dalí used to do, and the conversation skips from music to her modeling career when I mention the song, “I Am a Photograph” and a vibe of glamour travels across our Louis XVI-style suite.
“It is one of the first songs I have ever written; when you do that job, photographers are always telling you what to do, and I felt frustrated because I like to express myself and you are nothing more than a piece of paper. David Bowie actually fell in love with me because of my picture on the cover of ‘Roxy Music,’ not with who Amanda really is. It is an awful job but you know, I was young and skinny,” Amanda says as she laughs with pleasure while recalling those New York City memories. “I was introduced to Diane Vreeland [columnist]. We talked business, but Vogue was only paying $15-$20 [per photo]. Lingerie pictures after 6 P.M., on the other hand, were paid double, so I said, ‘I go for it!’ I did not have this snobbish American mentality where everyone wanted to be featured in Vogue; I didn’t give a damn!” Besides, she was partying every night with Andy Warhol and friends at Max’s Kansas City, a gathering spot for musicians, poets, artists, and politicians. “Do you even think I could have been ready and spotless by 8 A.M. as they wanted me to be?”
Every part of Amanda’s life opens up a world of its own; but where did it all start? Ambiguity is a thick layer she has always worn and played with, but before even trying to remove it from our conversation, she honestly tells me about all these not-a-chance meetings. “Some people plan their career. I didn’t. Everything happened out of destiny. Destiny sent me Dalí, Bowie, Brian Ferry, Berlusconi back in Italy, do you see what I mean? I let destiny play its part without forcing anything. Thanks to Dalí, I met Warhol, Maria Callas, Rostropovich, people I’ve never dreamt I could meet.”
Amanda lived for 16 years with Dalí and Gala, and it was a perfect triangle. Dalí was in love with Gala. Amanda recalls, “They always say that I am Dalí’s widow but I am not! I am just the only survivor who is not dead or in prison to tell people about him.” As we laugh again, I try to understand who was “Le Dalí d’Amanda,” a book she wrote about her personal experience with the painter. Amanda says, “I met him when I was young, and he profoundly affected my life. He taught me how to provoke the media and make people talk about me. He was crazy all the time, and he looked like a rock star.” Amanda also clears something up on being his muse: “People do not understand that being a muse is a matter of being physically present. It is not about posing all day; it’s about sharing everyday life. He truly believed he was the best painter on earth, I told him I loved Picasso many times but he did not care, you know?” Could there possibly be anyone else she would have loved to meet? Amanda answers, “Leonardo da Vinci of course – he was such a mysterious and fascinating character like [Johannes] Vermeer. His [Leonardo] life is a dark question mark. And inventors like Einstein.”
Living a surreal life can make one want to change reality, and Amanda does it when she holds a brush. Her first real and constant love is painting. Recently, she had been involved in the exhibition on Salvador Dalí in Paris at the Centre Pompidou, and during the summer, “Visions”, was a retrospective of her own work at Milan’s Art Gallery. “It [paintings] never paid the rent,” she remarks sadly, “For me, it is like psychotherapy. Some people drink, others use drugs, and I paint. It helps me [in] dealing with my inner world, my rage, and my dreams and in order for me to keep a balanced life, I need to paint.”
I can almost picture her with Andy Warhol, discussing lithographic reproductions and Jeff Koons. She says, “He [Jeff Koons] does not even make one fucking drawing. Everything is so industrial at the moment and this is not art in my opinion. At least, Andy had an idea behind it. Painting is a very physical work, a long ritual, and I love it because you have to be alone in front of the white canvas. Show business, on the other hand, is all about teamwork.” What is Amanda’s favorite color? “Joachim Patinir’s blue. It drives me mad!”
Despite witnessing many changes in society, Amanda is not surprised by today’s obsession for youth and perfection, teenagers asking for a new nose on their birthdays, and even Madonna’s new pair of cheekbones. People heat up for news like Jodie Foster’s coming out.
“Many girls only care about the spotlight. They are manipulated and don’t want to take risks or deal with failure. This is why they all end up making the same music,” Amanda says. What does it feels like for a woman in a man’s world? “People always want you to stay the same way for the rest of your life. Why do we have to choose? Jean Cocteau was a director, a poet and a painter, but when I try to say this, people tell me ‘oh that’s different. He was a genius!’ It is frustrating when they limit you and this is why I titled one of my books, ‘I Am Not What You Think I Am,’” Amanda explains.
Would things be different in the next lifetime? She doubts it: “If I could choose, I would be a man. Women are still slaves in certain countries. For the next few centuries, I’d rather live as a man.” After joking about reincarnating into David Beckham, she continues, “Men though, do not understand that even a powerful woman has to be reassured and protected. We always feel unsafe, and this condition is terrifying.”
Childhood is an off-limits topic. “Nobody cares about it!” Amanda exclaims, “Am I 60? 70? It doesn’t matter. I don’t even celebrate my birthdays; it is a psychological thing pretending that age does not exist, but believe me it works.” Maybe absolute certainty is the reason why she emanates a bright energy that makes me feel like everything is possible. “I would have never believed it if someone told me that one day I’d sell millions of records. Can you imagine [that] with my voice? When I started on Italian TV, I couldn’t even speak Italian properly. It was ridiculous, and yet, it worked out. Now it is the same with theatre, but you never know in life. Maybe one day I will be a famous chef.”
I ask her how she would install an exhibition to represent herself. She says it would include one of her paintings, which is a huge self-portrait similar to the ones seen in royal castles. Amanda adds, “I hold a microphone in my hand as I wanted to say, ‘here is the disco queen you are talking about!’” It would also include a song, ‘The Sphinx,’ where Amanda sings about the desire to remain a mystery.
Sometimes, a closer look into an artist’s body of work can reveal the most intimate, 360-degree view of the artist’s mind, life, feelings, and identity. Most of the time, it happens while paying attention to a song that may not have been a global success, but it means the world to the performer. Amanda still remains as a mystery, “a conversation piece, a woman, a priest or a point of view” as the lyrics of “The Sphinx” indicates. However, there is nothing ambiguous about Amanda’s intentions when she looks into a person’s eyes and declares what really excites her is what tomorrow will bring.
“The Sphinx” – Amanda Lear
I wish I could be like the king
who said to his people: my friends
this is now the end
if we lose the battle
we shall live forever.
The people of the sun will remember this day
and give us immortality
long after I’ve gone
long after the sun.
I want to be like this king
But I can’t stand the pain
And I keep looking for all the faces I had
Before the world began.
I’ve only known desire and my poor soul will burn
into eternal fire
and I can’t even cry
A sphinx can never cry.
I am standing in the sun
I wish that I could be
A silent sphinx eternally.
I don’t want any past
Only want things which cannot last
And I can’t even cry
Through God knows how I try
A sphinx can never cry
And sphinxes never die.
I’m famous or am I infamous?
It doesn’t matter much any more
Phony words of love or painfully truth
I’ve heard it all before
Appraisal or critics and even politics
A conversation piece
A woman or a priest
It’s all a point of view. I am standing in the sun
“The Sphinx” is by far one of Queen Lear’s best songs – the lyrics included. A slow song – it still manages to convey all the vitality of grace and movement. The protagonist of the song is Amanda Lear herself. This is the mystical story of a person who is enigmatic obsessive but a Living Legend nonetheless. Lear has always been an extremely private and reserved individual – she wishes, till her dying day, to have lived a life shrouded in mystery. Yet, she wishes her name to be immortalized in the annals of Music History and so it shall undoubtedly be the case – I can foresee it even now! She compares herself to the Enigma that is the Sphinx. In her mind, the Sphinx thinks about the immortality of the spirit, long after one is dead and gone. The Sphinx is an inanimate object – while it can never cry; it can never die either. She displays humility when she states that she has known all the vices known to mankind – especially that of Desire and she concedes that she is a mortal in that respect. She has known of hypocrisy, deceit and betrayal in her own life and for these reasons, she would dearly like to sit herself down and have a good cry. But as a starlet and a celebrity, she has to forever put forth a smiling persona when she is in the public eye. She can never cry in public – but for sure, she will never die either – not for a million years, at least! She did very well indeed in comparing herself to the rock-solid Sphinx in that respect.
THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO AMANDA LEAR WITH MANY, MANY GRATEFUL THANKS FOR ALL THE WONDERFUL HOURS OF MUSIC.
Timid accountant Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor) is an auditor working out of New York. One night while working late in a boardroom he meets a charismatic lawyer, Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman), who befriends him over a joint. After a long conversation, Jonathan takes the subway home where he has a brief encounter with a blonde woman (Michelle Williams) while waiting on the train. Upon returning home he notices a pipe in his bedroom is leaking and leaving a stain.
Jonathan contacts Wyatt the next day and they play tennis after work. They meet again for lunch the next day and upon leaving, Wyatt takes Jonathan’s mobile phone instead of his own, forcing a trade. He mentions he will be in London on business for the next few weeks. When Jonathan realizes the phones have been switched he attempts to contact Wyatt but does not reach him. He is soon contacted by a woman (Natasha Henstridge) who asks if he is free that night. He informs her that he is and agrees to meet her. When she arrives, they proceed directly to a hotel room upstairs and have sex. In the morning, Jonathan realizes that Wyatt must be on some type of exclusive sex club list.
When Wyatt calls the next day, he encourages Jonathan to stay on the list. Jonathon has an encounter with an older woman (Charlotte Rampling) who explains more of the list’s rules: the initiator pays for the room, no names are exchanged; there is no rough play. Participants are always anonymous, although Jonathan later spots the older woman on the cover of Forbes. Over the next few weeks, he has anonymous encounters with several women.
One night after initiating another encounter, Jonathan is surprised to find that his partner is the blond woman he met while waiting for the train. He tells her that they had met once before, and instead of having sex, they order room service and talk for hours. The woman does not say her name, but Jonathan assumes that it begins with an “S” because of an S-shaped pendant on her handbag. The next day Jonathan rejects other callers from the list but when “S” calls again they agree to meet for dinner in Chinatown. They then proceed to a hotel where she requests some ice. When Jonathan returns to the room she is gone and there is blood on the bedsheets. Someone knocks him out from behind, but when he wakes up again the bed has been made. He contacts the police and explains to the Detective (Lisa Gay Hamilton) that “S” is missing but that he has little to no information about her. She doubts his story, thinking that he is delusional. Jonathan tries to trace Wyatt, but Wyatt’s boss and landlady claim not to know him.
Upon returning home Jonathan is surprised to find Wyatt waiting for him and demanding that he steal $20 million from an investment firm he will begin to audit in a few days. Jonathan agrees to do so, fearing for the safety of “S”. The following night at work, Jonathan receives a call asking if he is free. The woman calling is named Tina (Maggie Q), an investment banker who once introduced Wyatt to the exclusive sex club list. She reveals that Wyatt’s real name is Jamie Getz, and that they met when he was attending a private corporate event as a guest of Rudolph Holloway, an investment banker with whom Getz played tennis. Jonathan finds out through research that Getz murdered Holloway, strangling him with tennis strings, and also served three years in prison for insurance fraud and arson. Jonathan is later notified by the detective that a blond woman matching his earlier description was discovered dead. When he comes in to identify her, he sees that it is actually the first woman who called him, and that she was also strangled by tennis strings.
Jonathan goes on to complete a wire transfer to a bank in Spain in his name, but secretly adds Wyatt’s name as co-signer. When he returns home he notices that a picture Wyatt had sent of “S” being held captive was taken in his apartment before the pipe started leaking. He realizes that she must have been a conspirator and wisely avoids his apartment which explodes when the superintendent enters to fix the pipe.
Now in Madrid, Wyatt impersonates Jonathan and attempts to withdraw the funds from the bank, but he is denied access because of the co-signer. Jonathan approaches Wyatt outside the bank and agrees to help him withdraw the funds if Wyatt splits it with him. Swapping identities, Jonathan and Wyatt cash in the $20 million in two $10 million suitcases. (A deleted scene reveals that Jonathan encountered a black market operator in Chinatown, who offered a variety of items, including fake passports; Jonathan presumably obtained a passport with his image in the name of Wyatt Bose and used this in his scheme to obtain half of the money). After the transaction is complete, Jonathan offers Wyatt half of his money if Wyatt tells him where “S” is. Wyatt pretends to agree and lures Jonathan to an uncrowded area where he draws a gun on Jonathan. Before he is able to shoot Jonathan, Wyatt is shot by “S” who leaves quickly. Jonathan pursues her, leaving a dying Wyatt and the money behind. He begs her to talk to him but she’d rather call it off, apologizing to him as she did not know Wyatt’s intent to kill Jonathan. “S” gets into a cab and leaves as Jonathan watches her go.
In Madrid, Jonathan again crosses path with “S” and they exchange smiles. The film comes to a close as Jonathan walks to her and she stands waiting for him.
The film received substantially negative reviews from critics. Review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes reported that 14% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 96 reviews – with the consensus that the film is “a middling, predictable potboilerwith mediocre dialogue and ludicrous plot twists.” Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 31 out of 100, based on 23 reviews.
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $2.3 million in 2,001 theaters in the United States and Canada, averaging only $1,155 per theater and ranking #10 at the box office. As of September 22, 2009, the film has grossed $4,598,506 in the United States and Canada while grossing $13,114,439 in foreign countries adding to a total of $17,712,945.
From the husband-and-wife writing team of Judith Michael comes this potboiler which plays on one of the oldest fantasies in the book: What if you not only had a twin, but decided one day to trade places… just for a little while. What begins as a lark for sisters Stephanie and Sabrina quickly turns into so much more in this surprisingly satisfying read in which, perhaps not surprisingly, we are taught to be grateful for what we have for the grass is not always greener on the other side. For most of us, the perhaps unconscious thrill lies in the story of Stephanie, the twin whose life in suburbia has become almost stifling, especially when compared to that of her exotic, exciting twin sister, Lady Sabrina Longworth. Quicker than you can say, “Hey, what if we traded places?” Stephanie is living the high life, while Sabrina is trading cocktail parties for backyard barbeques. This is classic Judith Michael, who for several years stirred the imagination by taking classic cases of “what if” and spun them into fanciful, frothy books. “What if… you won the lottery?” (Pot Of Gold) “What if… you found out that your newly deceased husband had a rich, secret family he never told you about?” (A Ruling Passion) But with Deceptions, the novel that started it all, the authors crafted perhaps their best “what if” scenario by playing on a theme nearly every one of us has pondered at one time or another.
Sabrina and Stephanie Longworth are twins. Sabrina married a wealthy English aristocrat and divorced him. She now runs a successful antiques business in London. Stephanie married Garth Anderson, a scientist and university professor. She stays at home in the suburbs with their two children and envies her sister’s jet set lifestyle. Stephanie’s desire for a more exciting life is putting a strain on her marriage.
Stephanie gets Sabrina to switch places so she can have some fun but does not want Garth to know. Garth did not like Sabrina when he met her and thinks she is the cause of Stephanie’s dissatisfaction with her life. Sabrina quickly adjusts to Stephanie’s home life, and gets to know and like Garth. Stephanie finds she is good at the antiques business. But just before they are to switch back, Sabrina breaks her leg and the deception has to continue. Stephanie does not mind because she has started an affair with one of Sabrina’s friends. Nor is Stephanie upset when Sabrina confesses she could not say no when Garth wanted to make love. The longer Sabrina lives with Garth, the more she falls in love with him. Garth feels like he is falling in love with his wife all over again as she takes an interest in his work and encourages his dreams instead of wanting him to make more money.
Then Stephanie is killed when her lover’s yacht explodes. Sabrina cannot bring herself to tell Garth it was really Stephanie and she tries to carry on the deception because she loves Garth too much to have him leave her once he learns the truth.
The Parent Trap (1998 Version) takes place in the 1990’s, and contains a fun variety of comedy, drama, and romance. Eleven-year-olds Annie James and Hallie Parker (both played by Lindsay Lohan) meet at a summer camp and at first become great enemies. When sent to an “Isolation Cabin” as a punishment for their growing rivalry (the teasing and tricks they play on each other are actually quite funny), they discover through photos and facts that they are identical twins separated at birth. Annie lives in London with her mother (Natasha Richardson) and Hallie lives in Napa, California with her father (Dennis Quaid). They soon create a plan to switch places because of their mutual quest to meet their other parent. When Annie goes to California, she not only meets her father, but his new 20-year-old fiancée! Annie despises this woman’s often snotty attitude. The twins decide they must get their parents back together as soon as possible in fear that their father might marry this young, obnoxious woman.
The movie continues on with the clever twins creating many schemes and twists to have their parents fall in love once again. The Parent Trap was first created in 1961, with Hayley Mills playing both twins. If you loved that Disney classic, you will surprisingly appreciate the remake as well.
(The review of this Movie prepared by Lauren)
“People may forget what you said and they might forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
The moment that I read this profound statement somewhere, a long time ago, I was immediately struck by its depth of meaning and by the depth of truth hidden behind it. As I normally do in such cases, I deliberately moved this thought from my short-term memory store to my cupboard-full of long-term memories. I consider it as being a thought worth remembering and so should you. This statement can be seen from two different angles and two different perspectives: some people are benevolent; others are malevolent and downright wicked and evil – there can be no denying of this fact!
Benevolent people strongly believe in and actively practice on the basic principles of Good Words, Good Thoughts and Good Deeds – they bring out The Best in other people because they project their inner benevolence onto them, in no small way. What we then see is simply a reflection of this benevolence in the other person. However, some people are evil mischief-makers; they thrive on creating and perpetuating trouble, grave discomfort, worry, panic, anxiety, chaos and havoc. Such people are malevolent and it is a very good idea to maintain a sufficient distance from such mischief-mongering individuals. The latter thrive on deceit and its aftermath. Keep away from such people!
The act of deception ranges from fairly innocent pranks to deceit, as an act of downright evil, with grave consequences. The latter is an act of sheer malice, spite, viciousness and vindictiveness. The most common prank that immediately comes to mind is the innocent pranks and jokes that get passed around on the 1st of April of any given year (“April Fool’s Day.”) Such deception is carried out specifically in the spirit of true fun and enjoyment – it is not malicious, spiteful or vindictive in its very origin. Some acts of deception have even been known to have a happy outcome. Whatever the motive behind an act of deception, it is to be remembered that it is quite a different scenario when one is at the ‘receiving end’ of deceit. It is not a pleasant feeling to know that one has been “used,” taken for granted and in short, been taken for a fool. What most people tend to forget when they are in the act of deceiving another, is how they would feel themselves if they were in the other person’s place instead.
The message here is simple – don’t play “games” – don’t play with people’s feelings and emotions. An act of deception is still always an act of deceit – it can make the other have a felling of being let-down or it can be engendered as an act of betrayal. The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from strangers – it comes as ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ – it comes from persons posing as so-called friends.
Let me repeat – the message here is simple – don’t play “games” with other people’s lives, especially where it involves Love; don’t play with people’s feelings and emotions. It serves no good purpose. There comes a point when it is no longer funny.
In the end, what else is left to say except: “People may forget what you said and they might forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
As a potential customer on Amazon, let me advise you that it is always a good idea to be open-minded about one’s purchases. Go in with an open mind and with the least of expectations regarding the product and you’re less likely to be disappointed, in the long run. When I perused this item on this site, there were no customer reviews to guide me but there was a notification from Amazon, to the effect, “Only 1 left in stock; order soon!” The latter is a very good indication that an item is fast-moving and is likely to be fairly popular. Enigma is known for its mystical music; I, personally, have never heard of this group as having created any disco megamixes. This philosophy, at once, made this product enigmatic and well-worth a second glance. It seemed to be quite a risky purchase since it was an almost unknown quantity as CDs go – yet, I suppose that is part of the thrill of the chase. That’s how it came into my possession.
Let me spell it out clearly for you, if you are expecting the enigmatic tones and the mystical beats of Enigma, you are likely to be sorely disappointed. However, as Disco Megamixes go, this is as good as any other and to be honest, I love it! I tend to be a big fan of the Disco Era and this CD is highly reminiscent of that well-loved era. Since the performer is Enigma, the songs are all “cover versions” of the originals (naturally!) but they are very like the originals. Some popular items featured here are Donna Summer’s “Wanderer” and “Hot Stuff” “Love Train, The Hustle,” “I Will Survive,” of Gloria Gaynor fame, Blondie’s “Rapture,” Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough,” and it even features some favourite oldies such as “Y Viva España,” “Una Paloma Blanca,” Boney M’s “Rasputin,” “D.I.S.C.O.,” “Que Sera Mi Vida,” Copacabana” and Born To Be Alive.”
As a Disco mix, it is a non-stop, foot-tapping megamix and it will certainly make you want to get up and groove to the music. You can safely take my word for it – for any die-hard fan of the Disco Era, this is a ‘must-have.’ Go in with an open mind, when you make this purchase and you’ll soon see how your happiness levels spike. Well-worth it, is what I say!
No more champagne
And the fireworks are through
Here we are, me and you
Feeling lost and feeling blue
It’s the end of the party
And the morning seems so grey
So unlike yesterday
Now’s the time for us to say…
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don’t we might as well lay down and die
You and I
Sometimes I see
How the brave new world arrives
And I see how it thrives
In the ashes of our lives
Oh yes, man is a fool
And he thinks he’ll be okay
Dragging on, feet of clay
Never knowing he’s astray
Keeps on going anyway…
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don’t we might as well lay down and die
You and I
Seems to me now
That the dreams we had before
Are all dead, nothing more
Than confetti on the floor
It’s the end of a decade
In another ten years time
Who can say what we’ll find
What lies waiting down the line
In the end of eighty-nine…
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don’t we might as well lay down and die
You and I
I think that most of you must be wondering why this author has chosen a relatively sad song to write about, just as a New Day and a New Year dawns. We go about our lives and cheerily wishing each other – “A Happy and Prosperous New Year to you and yours;” “Here’s wishing you and yours a Fabulous New Year 2015” and so on and so forth. The good wishes that circulate around the world are endless and a mood of great cheer, contentment and happiness settles upon one and all, regardless of class, caste or creed. There is a great feeling of optimism – to the extent of being Utopian – there is a feeling of good faith all around that all is well with the world and that all will be well henceforth in the future years to come too. While it is all very well to be optimistic and idealistic, the few of us who wish each other well just like many others do, can’t help being realistic and pragmatic. From whichever angle you choose to view the situation, the answer that stares into one’s face is simply this – the fact remains that ALL IS NOT WELL WITH THE WORLD and it is not likely to be so in the near future unless we all make a concerted effort to make our world a better place to live in.
This is – for all intents and purposes – just another dawn; just another day and just another new year – like any other. Nothing concrete has changed for the better – there is still grave poverty, illiteracy and various forms of heinous crimes against humanity are still rampant in today’s day and age. Crimes can be committed against persons or property but all crimes are punishable by law. The crimes that are still rampant in contemporary times are assault, arson, battery, bribery, burglary, child abuse, child pornography, cyber crimes, conspiracies to overthrow governments, credit card fraud, disorderly conduct, domestic violence, drug cultivation, drug manufacturing, drug possession and drug trafficking, embezzlement, extortion, forgery, fraud, harassment, hate crimes, identity theft, insurance fraud, kidnapping, money laundering, murder, cruelty to human beings and animals, perjury, prostitution, rape and statutory rape, robbery, sexual assault, shop-lifting, solicitation, stalking, tax evasion, theft, pedophilia, necrophilia and various other forms of perversion, incest, vandalism, wire fraud, genocide, white collar crimes, vandalism, cyber bullying, ragging and terrorism are all thriving in today’s day and age. The question is what are we doing to better an already bad situation?
Work with public agencies and other organizations — neighborhood-based or community-wide — on solving common problems.
Makesure that all the youth in the neighborhood have positive ways to spend their spare time, through organized recreation, tutoring programs, part-time work, and volunteer opportunities.
Set up a Neighborhood Watch or a community patrol, working with police. Make sure your streets and homes are well lighted.
Builda partnership with police, focused on solving problems instead of reacting to crises. Make it possible for neighbors to report suspicious activity or crimes without fear of retaliation.
Clean up the neighborhood! Involve everyone – teens, children, senior citizens. Litter, abandoned cars, and run-down buildings tell criminals that you don’t care about where you live or each other. Call the city public works department and ask for help in cleaning up.
Ask local officials to use new ways to get criminals out of your building or neighborhood. These include enforcing anti-noise laws, housing codes, health and fire codes, anti-nuisance laws, and drug-free clauses in rental leases.
Work with schools to establish drug-free, gun-free zones; work with recreation officials to do the same for parks.
Develop and share a phone list of local organizations that can provide counseling, job training, guidance, and other services that neighbors might need.
Report a crime if you witness it or something you suspect might be a crime. Agree to testify if needed.
Learn about hotlines, crisis centers, and other help available to victims of crime. Find out how you can help those who are touched by violence to recover as quickly and completely as possible.
Recognize that it’s already your problem if violence is about to erupt in your neighborhood.
Consider an event that lets children turn in weapons, especially those that might be mistaken for real firearms, in exchange for public thank-yous, donated non-violent toys, books, or coupons from local merchants.
Start a discussion of neighborhood views on weapons in the home, use of toy weapons by children in play, children and violent entertainment, and how arguments should be settled.
Learn your state and local laws on firearms. Insist that these laws be enforced vigorously but fairly. Support police, prosecutors, judges, and other local officials who enforce laws designed to prevent gun violence.
Emphasize prevention as the preferred way to deal with violence. Ask what schools, law enforcement agencies, public health agencies, libraries, workplaces, religious institutions, child protective agencies, and others are doing to prevent, not just react to, violence. What policies do they have to prevent weapons-related violence? How can they help the community?
Volunteer to mentor young people who need positive support from adults. Programs ranging from Big Brothers and Big Sisters to Adopt-a-School include mentoring as a central ingredient.
Talk with children in the neighborhood about what worries or scares them and about where and how they have felt threatened by violence. Interview teachers, school staff, crossing guards, and bus aides.
Promote public service advertising that offers anti-violence programs and services. Get several groups to cooperate in this effort. Include programs to help kids headed for trouble.
Protect domestic violence victims (and their children) through policies as well as laws that offer them prompt and meaningful response to calls for help and appropriate legal recourse.
Organize to help clean and repair the parks and to report suspicious and illegal activity to the police. Well-kept play equipment and organized activities can attract people back to the parks in large enough numbers to discourage illegal activities. Residents should insist that local government maintain parks, immediately repairing vandalism or other damage.
Adopt a school. Help students, faculty, and staff to promote a sense of community in the school and with the larger community through involvement in a wide range of programs and activities.
Join with school and law enforcement in creating and sustaining safe corridors for students traveling to and from school. Help with efforts to identify and eliminate neighborhood trouble spots.
Help students through such opportunities as job skills development, entrepreneurship opportunities, and internships.
Encourage employees to work with students in skills training, youth group leadership, mentoring, coaching, and similar one-to-one and small group activities. Make your facilities available for these activities when possible.
Provide anger management, stress relief, and conflict resolution training for your employees. They can help build an anti-violence climate at home, at school, and in the community. You might gain a more productive working environment, too!
Speak up in support of funding and effective implementation of programs and other resources that help schools develop an effective set of violence prevention strategies.
Offer your professional skills in educating students on costs and effects of violence in the community (including their school). Public health personnel, trauma specialists, defense and prosecuting attorneys, and judges are among those with important messages to deliver.
Help employees who are parents to meet with teachers by providing flexible hours or time off; encourage employee involvement in sponsoring or coaching students in school and after-school activities.
Develop an anti-violence competition, including speech, dance, painting, drawing, singing, instrumental music, acting, play-writing, and other creative arts. Get youth to help suggest prizes. Make it a community celebration.
Report crimes or suspicious activities to police immediately. Encourage employees and families to do the same.
Establish business policies that explicitly reject violent behavior by employees or others on the premises.
Reportany crime immediately to school authorities or police.
Helpto strengthen links between school services and the network of community services that can help students and families facing problems.
Enlistchildren from elementary grades to senior high in solving the violence problems in the school and community. Encourage them to teach violence prevention to younger children, reach out to educate peers, work with adults on community-wide problems, and identify and tackle community conditions that they are concerned about.
While we don’t like to talk about it – or even think about it – crime is on the increase in America, and throughout the world. The number of burglars, muggers, auto thieves, robbers, purse snatchers and other crimes is growing at an alarming rate. Now you, as a resident, working with neighbors can help reduce the crime rate.
Organize and/or join a neighborhood program in which you and your neighbors get together to learn how to protect yourselves, your family, your home and your property.Working together, you can get the criminals off your block and out of your area.
Stay in groups.There’s safety in numbers and power through working with a group. You’ll get to know your neighbors better, and working with them you can reduce crime, develop a more united community, provide an avenue of communications between police and citizens, establish on-going crime prevention techniques in your neighborhood, and renew citizen interest in community activity.
Use the “Citizens Safety Projects”.They are set up to help you do this. It is a joint effort between private citizens and local police. Such programs have been started all over the country. Maybe one already exists in your community. These organizations don’t require frequent meetings (once a month or so). They don’t ask anyone to take personal risks to prevent crime. They leave the responsibility for catching criminals where it belongs – with the police. This is not a “vigilante” group: These groups gather citizens together to learn crime prevention from local authorities. You cooperate with your neighbors to report suspicious activities in the neighborhood, to keep an eye on homes when the resident is away, and to keep everyone in the area mindful of the standard precautions for property and self that should always be taken. Criminals avoid neighborhoods where such groups exist.
Learn what you need to know.Through cooperation with local law enforcement agencies, some of the things you will learn – and all free – are:
What to do in an emergency.
How to best identify a suspicious person.
How to identify a vehicle being used in a suspected criminal activity.
Signs to watch out for before entering a house or apartment that may be in the process of being burglarized.
What to do in case of injury.
What to do about suspicious people loitering on your street.
How to identify stolen merchandise.
How to recognize auto theft in progress.
How to protect your house or apartment.
How to recognize a burglary in progress.
How to protect yourself and family – and much more.
All you have to do is contact your neighbors and arrange a date, place and time for the first meeting.Hold the meetings at your home or that of a neighbor. Try to plan a time that is convenient to most of your neighbors – preferably in the evening. Then, call your local police department. They will be happy to give your group informal lectures, free literature – and in many instances, window stickers and I.D. cards.
Remember, police officers can’t be everywhere.Your cooperation with them is for the benefit of you, your family, your neighbors and your neighborhood.
What most people seem to forget is the very first thing that we can ALL do to better an already dreadful situation: we can all endeavour to become better individuals ourselves.
I have written extensively on this subject, since the inception of this blog – you would do very well in reading (and in re-reading) all the blogs, from the very beginning, for detailed information on how A BETTER TOMORROW can not only be made into a possibility, but it can be made into a reality – OUR REALITY.
It is easy, for us all, to blame the leaders and the politicians of a nation for failing to control the ever-inflating rise and frightening increase in the crime-rate, within any country worldwide. However, there is only so much that any one person can do. We cannot expect the world to change for us when we make little or no attempts at becoming better people ourselves.It is extreme arrogance, on our part, to expect the world to change for us – we need to take the initiative to be humble, modest and unassuming ourselves and we need to be the ones to change ourselves – from within – for the better first. Learn the Art of Benevolence, the Art of Forgiveness and the Art of Generosity of Spirit and you’ll be surprised, how soon, Peace of Mind and Joy are yours for the taking.
So, instead of making a lot of mundane resolutions in the New Year, the resolution that ought to be your Number 1 priority is on concentrating on becoming a better person yourself.
If each and every one of us were to make a concerted and determined effort in this regard, it would surprise you to know how we can make, in this way, the world a much better place to live in.
“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” – Josh Groban
It came upon a midnight clear
That glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold
Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled
And still the heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world
Peace on the Earth
Goodwill to men
From Heaven’s All Gracious King
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing
Hear the angels sing
Peace on the Earth
Goodwill to men
From Heaven’s All Gracious King
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing
Hear the angels sing
Hear the angels sing
Hear the angels sing
On a midnight clear.
Christmas Day in the Morning
By Pearl S. Buck
He woke suddenly and completely. It was four o’clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up and help with the milking. Strange how the habits of his youth clung to him still! Fifty years ago, and his father had been dead for thirty years, and yet he waked at four o’clock in the morning. He had trained himself to turn over and go to sleep, but this morning it was Christmas, he did not try to sleep.
Why did he feel so awake tonight? He slipped back in time, as he did so easily nowadays. He was fifteen years old and still on his father’s farm. He loved his father. He had not known it until one day a few days before Christmas, when he had overheard what his father was saying to his mother.
“Mary, I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He’s growing so fast and he needs his sleep. If you could see how he sleeps when I go in to wake him up! I wish I could manage alone.”
“Well, you can’t, Adam.” His mother’s voice was brisk. “Besides, he isn’t a child anymore. It’s time he took his turn.”
“Yes,” his father said slowly. “But I sure do hate to wake him.”
When he heard these words, something in him spoke: his father loved him! He had never thought of that before, taking for granted the tie of their blood. Neither his father nor his mother talked about loving their children–they had no time for such things. There was always so much to do on the farm.
Now that he knew his father loved him, there would be no loitering in the mornings and having to be called again. He got up after that, stumbling blindly in his sleep, and pulled on his clothes, his eyes shut, but he got up.
And then on the night before Christmas, that year when he was fifteen, he lay for a few minutes thinking about the next day. They were poor, and most of the excitement was in the turkey they had raised themselves and mince pies his mother made. His sisters sewed presents and his mother and father always bought him something he needed, not only a warm jacket, maybe, but something more, such as a book. And he saved and bought them each something, too.
He wished that this Christmas when he was fifteen, he had a better present for his father. As usual he had gone to the ten-cent store and bought a tie. It had seemed nice enough until he lay thinking the night before Christmas. He looked out of his attic window, the stars were bright.
“Dad,” he had once asked when he was a little boy, “What is a stable?”
“It’s just a barn,” his father had replied, “like ours.”
Then Jesus had been born in a barn, and to a barn the shepherds had come…
The thought struck him like a silver dagger. Why should he not give his father a special gift too, out there in the barn? He could get up early, earlier than four o’clock, and he could creep into the barn and get all the milking done. He’d do it alone, milk and clean up, and then when his father went in to start the milking he’d see it all done. And he would know who had done it. He laughed to himself as he gazed at the stars. It was what he would do, and he musn’t sleep too sound.
He must have waked twenty times, scratching a match to look each time to look at his old watch — midnight, and half past one, and then two o’clock.
At a quarter to three he got up and put on his clothes. He crept downstairs, careful of the creaky boards, and let himself out. The cows looked at him, sleepy and surprised. It was early for them, too.
He had never milked all alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He kept thinking about his father’s surprise. His father would come in and get him, saying that he would get things started while Rob was getting dressed. He’d go to the barn, open the door, and then he’d go get the two big empty milk cans. But they wouldn’t be waiting or empty, they’d be standing in the milk-house, filled.
“What the–,” he could hear his father exclaiming.
He smiled and milked steadily, two strong streams rushing into the pail, frothing and fragrant.
The task went more easily than he had ever known it to go before. Milking for once was not a chore. It was something else, a gift to his father who loved him. He finished, the two milk cans were full, and he covered them and closed the milk-house door carefully, making sure of the latch.
Back in his room he had only a minute to pull off his clothes in the darkness and jump into bed, for he heard his father up. He put the covers over his head to silence his quick breathing. The door opened.
“Rob!” His father called. “We have to get up, son, even if it is Christmas.”
“Aw-right,” he said sleepily.
The door closed and he lay still, laughing to himself. In just a few minutes his father would know. His dancing heart was ready to jump from his body.
The minutes were endless — ten, fifteen, he did not know how many — and he heard his father’s footsteps again. The door opened and he lay still.
His father was laughing, a queer sobbing sort of laugh.
“Thought you’d fool me, did you?” His father was standing by his bed, feeling for him, pulling away the cover.
“It’s for Christmas, Dad!”
He found his father and clutched him in a great hug. He felt his father’s arms go around him. It was dark and they could not see each other’s faces.
“Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing–”
“Oh, Dad, I want you to know — I do want to be good!” The words broke from him of their own will. He did not know what to say. His heart was bursting with love.
He got up and pulled on his clothes again and they went down to the Christmas tree. Oh what a Christmas, and how his heart had nearly burst again with shyness and pride as his father told his mother and made the younger children listen about how he, Rob, had got up all by himself.
“The best Christmas gift I ever had, and I’ll remember it, son every year on Christmas morning, so long as I live.”
They had both remembered it, and now that his father was dead, he remembered it alone: that blessed Christmas dawn when, alone with the cows in the barn, he had made his first gift of true love.
This Christmas he wanted to write a card to his wife and tell her how much he loved her, it had been a long time since he had really told her, although he loved her in a very special way, much more than he ever had when they were young. He had been fortunate that she had loved him. Ah, that was the true joy of life, the ability to love. Love was still alive in him, it still was.
It occurred to him suddenly that it was alive because long ago it had been born in him when he knew his father loved him. That was it: Love alone could awaken love. And he could give the gift again and again. This morning, this blessed Christmas morning, he would give it to his beloved wife. He could write it down in a letter for her to read and keep forever. He went to his desk and began his love letter to his wife: My dearest love…
Such a happy, happy Christmas!
The Little Match Girl
By Hans Christian Andersen
Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark, and evening– the last evening of the year. In this cold and darkness there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded, and with naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but what was the good of that? They were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn; so large were they; and the poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street, because of two carriages that rolled by dreadfully fast.
One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin, and off he ran with it; he thought it would do capitally for a cradle when he some day or other should have children himself. So the little maiden walked on with her tiny naked feet, that were quite red and blue from cold. She carried a quantity of matches in an old apron, and she held a bundle of them in her hand. Nobody had bought anything of her the whole livelong day; no one had given her a single farthing.
She crept along trembling with cold and hunger–a very picture of sorrow, the poor little thing!
The flakes of snow covered her long fair hair, which fell in beautiful curls around her neck; but of that, of course, she never once now thought. From all the windows the candles were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast goose, for you know it was New Year’s Eve; yes, of that she thought.
In a corner formed by two houses, of which one advanced more than the other, she seated herself down and cowered together. Her little feet she had drawn close up to her, but she grew colder and colder, and to go home she did not venture, for she had not sold any matches and could not bring a farthing of money: from her father she would certainly get blows, and at home it was cold too, for above her she had only the roof, through which the wind whistled, even though the largest cracks were stopped up with straw and rags.
Her little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! a match might afford her a world of comfort, if she only dared take a single one out of the bundle, draw it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. She drew one out. “Rischt!” how it blazed, how it burnt! It was a warm, bright flame, like a candle, as she held her hands over it: it was a wonderful light. It seemed really to the little maiden as though she were sitting before a large iron stove, with burnished brass feet and a brass ornament at top. The fire burned with such blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully. The little girl had already stretched out her feet to warm them too; but–the small flame went out, the stove vanished: she had only the remains of the burnt-out match in her hand.
She rubbed another against the wall: it burned brightly, and where the light fell on the wall, there the wall became transparent like a veil, so that she could see into the room. On the table was spread a snow-white tablecloth; upon it was a splendid porcelain service, and the roast goose was steaming famously with its stuffing of apple and dried plums. And what was still more capital to behold was, the goose hopped down from the dish, reeled about on the floor with knife and fork in its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl; when–the match went out and nothing but the thick, cold, damp wall was left behind. She lighted another match. Now there she was sitting under the most magnificent Christmas tree: it was still larger, and more decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door in the rich merchant’s house.
Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when–the match went out. The lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven; one fell down and formed a long trail of fire.
“Someone is just dead!” said the little girl; for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now no more, had told her, that when a star falls, a soul ascends to God.
She drew another match against the wall: it was again light, and in the lustre there stood the old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.
“Grandmother!” cried the little one. “Oh, take me with you! You go away when the match burns out; you vanish like the warm stove, like the delicious roast goose, and like the magnificent Christmas tree!” And she rubbed the whole bundle of matches quickly against the wall, for she wanted to be quite sure of keeping her grandmother near her. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety–they were with God.
But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl, with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against the wall–frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and stark sat the child there with her matches, of which one bundle had been burnt. “She wanted to warm herself,” people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she had seen; no one even dreamed of the splendor in which, with her grandmother she had entered on the joys of a new year.
Papa Panov’s Special Christmas
By Leo Tolstoy
It was Christmas Eve and although it was still afternoon, lights had begun to appear in the shops and houses of the little Russian village, for the short winter day was nearly over. Excited children scurried indoors and now only muffled sounds of chatter and laughter escaped from closed shutters.
Old Papa Panov, the village shoemaker, stepped outside his shop to take one last look around. The sounds of happiness, the bright lights and the faint but delicious smells of Christmas cooking reminded him of past Christmas times when his wife had still been alive and his own children little. Now they had gone. His usually cheerful face, with the little laughter wrinkles behind the round steel spectacles, looked sad now. But he went back indoors with a firm step, put up the shutters and set a pot of coffee to heat on the charcoal stove. Then, with a sigh, he settled in his big armchair.
Papa Panov did not often read, but tonight he pulled down the big old family Bible and, slowly tracing the lines with one forefinger, he read again the Christmas story. He read how Mary and Joseph, tired by their journey to Bethlehem, found no room for them at the inn, so that Mary’s little baby was born in the cowshed.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear!” exclaimed Papa Panov, “if only they had come here! I would have given them my bed and I could have covered the baby with my patchwork quilt to keep him warm.”
He read on about the wise men who had come to see the baby Jesus, bringing him splendid gifts. Papa Panov’s face fell. “I have no gift that I could give him,” he thought sadly.
Then his face brightened. He put down the Bible, got up and stretched his long arms to the shelf high up in his little room. He took down a small, dusty box and opened it. Inside was a perfect pair of tiny leather shoes. Papa Panov smiled with satisfaction. Yes, they were as good as he had remembered- the best shoes he had ever made. “I should give him those,” he decided, as he gently put them away and sat down again.
He was feeling tired now, and the further he read the sleepier he became. The print began to dance before his eyes so that he closed them, just for a minute. In no time at all Papa Panov was fast asleep.
And as he slept he dreamed. He dreamed that someone was in his room and he knew at once, as one does in dreams, who the person was. It was Jesus.
“You have been wishing that you could see me, Papa Panov.” he said kindly, “then look for me tomorrow. It will be Christmas Day and I will visit you. But look carefully, for I shall not tell you who I am.”
When at last Papa Panov awoke, the bells were ringing out and a thin light was filtering through the shutters. “Bless my soul!” said Papa Panov. “It’s Christmas Day!”
He stood up and stretched himself for he was rather stiff. Then his face filled with happiness as he remembered his dream. This would be a very special Christmas after all, for Jesus was coming to visit him. How would he look? Would he be a little baby, as at that first Christmas? Would he be a grown man, a carpenter- or the great King that he is, God’s Son? He must watch carefully the whole day through so that he recognized him however he came.
Papa Panov put on a special pot of coffee for his Christmas breakfast, took down the shutters and looked out of the window. The street was deserted, no one was stirring yet. No one except the road sweeper. He looked as miserable and dirty as ever, and well he might! Whoever wanted to work on Christmas Day – and in the raw cold and bitter freezing mist of such a morning?
Papa Panov opened the shop door, letting in a thin stream of cold air. “Come in!” he shouted across the street cheerily. “Come in and have some hot coffee to keep out the cold!”
The sweeper looked up, scarcely able to believe his ears. He was only too glad to put down his broom and come into the warm room. His old clothes steamed gently in the heat of the stove and he clasped both red hands round the comforting warm mug as he drank.
Papa Panov watched him with satisfaction, but every now and then his eyes strayed to the window. It would never do to miss his special visitor.
“Expecting someone?” the sweeper asked at last. So Papa Panov told him about his dream.
“Well, I hope he comes,” the sweeper said, “you’ve given me a bit of Christmas cheer I never expected to have. I’d say you deserve to have your dream come true.” And he actually smiled.
When he had gone, Papa Panov put on cabbage soup for his dinner, then went to the door again, scanning the street. He saw no one. But he was mistaken. Someone was coming.
The girl walked so slowly and quietly, hugging the walls of shops and houses, that it was a while before he noticed her. She looked very tired and she was carrying something. As she drew nearer he could see that it was a baby, wrapped in a thin shawl. There was such sadness in her face and in the pinched little face of the baby that Papa Panov’s heart went out to them.
“Won’t you come in,” he called, stepping outside to meet them. “You both need warmth by the fire and a rest.”
The young mother let him shepherd her indoors and to the comfort of the armchair. She gave a big sigh of relief.
“I’ll warm some milk for the baby,” Papa Panov said, “I’ve had children of my own- I can feed her for you.” He took the milk from the stove and carefully fed the baby from a spoon, warming her tiny feet by the stove at the same time.
“She needs shoes,” the cobbler said.
But the girl replied, “I can’t afford shoes, I’ve got no husband to bring home money. I’m on my way to the next village to get work.”
Sudden thought flashed through Papa Panov’s mind. He remembered the little shoes he had looked at last night. But he had been keeping those for Jesus. He looked again at the cold little feet and made up his mind.
“Try these on her,” he said, handing the baby and the shoes to the mother. The beautiful little shoes were a perfect fit. The girl smiled happily and the baby gurgled with pleasure.
“You have been so kind to us,” the girl said, when she got up with her baby to go. “May all your Christmas wishes come true!”
But Papa Panov was beginning to wonder if his very special Christmas wish would come true. Perhaps he had missed his visitor? He looked anxiously up and down the street. There were plenty of people about but they were all faces that he recognized. There were neighbors going to call on their families. They nodded and smiled and wished him Happy Christmas! Or beggars- and Papa Panov hurried indoors to fetch them hot soup and a generous hunk of bread, hurrying out again in case he missed the Important Stranger.
All too soon the winter dusk fell. When Papa Panov next went to the door and strained his eyes, he could no longer make out the passers-by. most were home and indoors by now anyway. He walked slowly back into his room at last, put up the shutters, and sat down wearily in his armchair.
So it had been just a dream after all. Jesus had not come.
Then all at once he knew that he was no longer alone in the room.
This was not a dream for he was wide awake. At first he seemed to see before his eyes the long stream of people who had come to him that day. He saw again the old road sweeper, the young mother and her baby and the beggars he had fed. As they passed, each whispered, “Didn’t you see me, Papa Panov?”
“Who are you?” he called out, bewildered.
Then another voice answered him. It was the voice from his dream- the voice of Jesus.
“I was hungry and you fed me,” he said. “I was naked and you clothed me. I was cold and you warmed me. I came to you today in everyone of those you helped and welcomed.”
Then all was quiet and still. Only the sound of the big clock ticking. A great peace and happiness seemed to fill the room, overflowing Papa Panov’s heart until he wanted to burst out singing and laughing and dancing with joy.
You know the story of the Three Wise Men of the East, and how they traveled from far away to offer their gifts at the manger-cradle in Bethlehem. But have you ever heard the story of the Other Wise Man, who also saw the star in its rising, and set out to follow it, yet did not arrive with his brethren in the presence of the young child Jesus? Of the great desire of this fourth pilgrim, and how it was denied, yet accomplished in the denial; of his many wanderings and the probations of his soul; of the long way of his seeking and the strange way of his finding the One whom he sought–I would tell the tale as I have heard fragments of it in the Hall of Dreams, in the palace of the Heart of Man.
In the days when Augustus Caesar was master of many kings and Herod reigned in Jerusalem, there lived in the city of Ecbatana, among the mountains of Persia, a certain man named Artaban. His house stood close to the outermost of the walls which encircled the royal treasury. From his roof he could look over the seven-fold battlements of black and white and crimson and blue and red and silver and gold, to the hill where the summer palace of the Parthian emperors glittered like a jewel in a crown.
Around the dwelling of Artaban spread a fair garden, a tangle of flowers and fruit-trees, watered by a score of streams descending from the slopes of Mount Orontes, and made musical by innumerable birds. But all colour was lost in the soft and odorous darkness of the late September night, and all sounds were hushed in the deep charm of its silence, save the splashing of the water, like a voice half-sobbing and half-laughing under the shadows. High above the trees a dim glow of light shone through the curtained arches of the upper chamber, where the master of the house was holding council with his friends.
He stood by the doorway to greet his guests–a tall, dark man of about forty years, with brilliant eyes set near together under his broad brow, and firm lines graven around his fine, thin lips; the brow of a dreamer and the mouth of a soldier, a man of sensitive feeling but inflexible will–one of those who, in whatever age they may live, are born for inward conflict and a life of quest.
His robe was of pure white wool, thrown over a tunic of silk; and a white, pointed cap, with long lapels at the sides, rested on his flowing black hair. It was the dress of the ancient priesthood of the Magi, called the fire-worshippers.
“Welcome!” he said, in his low, pleasant voice, as one after another entered the room–“welcome, Abdus; peace be with you, Rhodaspes and Tigranes, and with you my father, Abgarus. You are all welcome. This house grows bright with the joy of your presence.”
There were nine of the men, differing widely in age, but alike in the richness of their dress of many-coloured silks, and in the massive golden collars around their necks, marking them as Parthian nobles, and in the winged circles of gold resting upon their breasts, the sign of the followers of Zoroaster (Zarathustra.)
They took their places around a small black altar at the end of the room, where a tiny flame was burning. Artaban, standing beside it, and waving a barsom of thin tamarisk branches above the fire, fed it with dry sticks of pine and fragrant oils. Then he began the ancient chant of the Yasna, and the voices of his companions joined in the hymn to Ahura-Mazda:
“We worship the Spirit Divine, all wisdom and goodness possessing, Surrounded by Holy Immortals, the givers of bounty and blessing; We joy in the work of His hands, His truth and His power confessing. We praise all the things that are pure, for these are His only Creation The thoughts that are true, and the words and the deeds that have won approbation; These are supported by Him, and for these we make adoration. Hear us, O Mazda! Thou livest in truth and in heavenly gladness; Cleanse us from falsehood, and keep us from evil and bondage to badness, Pour out the light and the joy of Thy life on our darkness and sadness. Shine on our gardens and fields, shine on our working and waving; Shine on the whole race of man, believing and unbelieving; Shine on us now through the night, Shine on us now in Thy might, The flame of our holy love and the song of our worship receiving.”
The fire rose with the chant, throbbing as if the flame responded to the music, until it cast a bright illumination through the whole apartment, revealing its simplicity and splendour.
The floor was laid with tiles of dark blue veined with white; pilasters of twisted silver stood out against the blue walls; the clear-story of round-arched windows above them was hung with azure silk; the vaulted ceiling was a pavement of blue stones, like the body of heaven in its clearness, sown with silver stars. From the four corners of the roof hung four golden magic-wheels, called the tongues of the gods. At the eastern end, behind the altar, there were two dark-red pillars of porphyry; above them a lintel of the same stone, on which was carved the figure of a winged archer, with his arrow set to the string and his bow drawn.
The doorway between the pillars, which opened upon the terrace of the roof, was covered with a heavy curtain of the colour of a ripe pomegranate, embroidered with innumerable golden rays shooting upward from the floor. In effect the room was like a quiet, starry night, all azure and silver, flushed in the cast with rosy promise of the dawn. It was, as the house of a man should be, an expression of the character and spirit of the master.
He turned to his friends when the song was ended, and invited them to be seated on the divan at the western end of the room.
“You have come tonight,” said he, looking around the circle, “at my call, as the faithful scholars of Zoroaster, to renew your worship and rekindle your faith in the God of Purity, even as this fire has been rekindled on the altar. We worship not the fire, but Him of whom it is the chosen symbol, because it is the purest of all created things. It speaks to us of one who is Light and Truth. Is it not so, my father?”
“It is well said, my son,” answered the venerable Abgarus. “The enlightened are never idolaters. They lift the veil of form and go in to the shrine of reality, and new light and truth are coming to them continually through the old symbols.” “Hear me, then, my father and my friends,” said Artaban, “while I tell you of the new light and truth that have come to me through the most ancient of all signs. We have searched the secrets of Nature together, and studied the healing virtues of water and fire and the plants. We have read also the books of prophecy in which the future is dimly foretold in words that are hard to understand. But the highest of all learning is the knowledge of the stars. To trace their course is to untangle the threads of the mystery of life from the beginning to the end. If we could follow them perfectly, nothing would be hidden from us. But is not our knowledge of them still incomplete? Are there not many stars still beyond our horizon–lights that are known only to the dwellers in the far south-land, among the spice-trees of Punt and the gold mines of Ophir?”
There was a murmur of assent among the listeners.
“The stars,” said Tigranes, “are the thoughts of the Eternal. They are numberless. But the thoughts of man can be counted, like the years of his life. The wisdom of the Magi is the greatest of all wisdoms on earth, because it knows its own ignorance. And that is the secret of power. We keep men always looking and waiting for a new sunrise. But we ourselves understand that the darkness is equal to the light, and that the conflict between them will never be ended.”
“That does not satisfy me,” answered Artaban, “for, if the waiting must be endless, if there could be no fulfilment of it, then it would not be wisdom to look and wait. We should become like those new teachers of the Greeks, who say that there is no truth, and that the only wise men are those who spend their lives in discovering and exposing the lies that have been believed in the world. But the new sunrise will certainly appear in the appointed time. Do not our own books tell us that this will come to pass, and that men will see the brightness of a great light?”
“That is true,” said the voice of Abgarus; “every faithful disciple of Zoroaster knows the prophecy of the Avesta, and carries the word in his heart. `In that day Sosiosh the Victorious shall arise out of the number of the prophets in the east country. Around him shall shine a mighty brightness, and he shall make life everlasting, incorruptible, and immortal, and the dead shall rise again.'”
“This is a dark saying,” said Tigranes, “and it may be that we shall never understand it. It is better to consider the things that are near at hand, and to increase the influence of the Magi in their own country, rather than to look for one who may be a stranger, and to whom we must resign our power.”
The others seemed to approve these words. There was a silent feeling of agreement manifest among them; their looks responded with that indefinable expression which always follows when a speaker has uttered the thought that has been slumbering in the hearts of his listeners. But Artaban turned to Abgarus with a glow on his face, and said:
“My father, I have kept this prophecy in the secret place of my soul. Religion without a great hope would be like an altar without a living fire. And now the flame has burned more brightly, and by the light of it I have read other words which also have come from the fountain of Truth, and speak yet more clearly of the rising of the Victorious One in his brightness.”
He drew from the breast of his tunic two small rolls of fine parchment, with writing upon them, and unfolded them carefully upon his knee.
“In the years that are lost in the past, long before our fathers came into the land of Babylon, there were wise men in Chaldea, from whom the first of the Magi learned the secret of the heavens. And of these Balaam the son of Beor was one of the mightiest. Hear the words of his prophecy: ‘There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel.'”
The lips of Tigranes drew downward with contempt, as he said:
“Judah was a captive by the waters of Babylon, and the sons of Jacob were in bondage to our kings. The tribes of Israel are scattered through the mountains like lost sheep, and from the remnant that dwells in Judea under the yoke of Rome neither star nor sceptre shall arise.”
“And yet,” answered Artaban, “it was the Hebrew Daniel, the mighty searcher of dreams, the counsellor of kings, the wise Belteshazzar, who was most honoured and beloved of our great King Cyrus. A prophet of sure things and a reader of the thoughts of the Eternal, Daniel proved himself to our people. And these are the words that he wrote.” (Artaban read from the second roll:) ” ‘Know, therefore, and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore Jerusalem, unto the Anointed One, the Prince, the time shall be seven and threescore and two weeks.”‘
“But, my son,” said Abgarus, doubtfully, “these are mystical numbers. Who can interpret them, or who can find the key that shall unlock their meaning?”
Artaban answered: “It has been shown to me and to my three companions among the Magi–Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. We have searched the ancient tablets of Chaldea and computed the time. It falls in this year. We have studied the sky, and in the spring of the year we saw two of the greatest planets draw near together in the sign of the Fish, which is the house of the Hebrews. We also saw a new star there, which shone for one night and then vanished. Now again the two great planets are meeting. This night is their conjunction. My three brothers are watching by the ancient Temple of the Seven Spheres, at Borsippa, in Babylonia, and I am watching here. If the star shines again, they will wait ten days for me at the temple, and then we will set out together for Jerusalem, to see and worship the promised one who shall be born King of Israel. I believe the sign will come. I have made ready for the journey. I have sold my possessions, and bought these three jewels–a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl–to carry them as tribute to the King. And I ask you to go with me on the pilgrimage, that we may have joy together in finding the Prince who is worthy to be served.”
While he was speaking he thrust his hand into the inmost fold of his, girdle and drew out three great gems–one blue as a fragment of the night sky, one redder than a ray of sunrise, and one as pure as the peak of a snow-mountain at twilight–and laid them on the outspread scrolls before him.
But his friends looked on with strange and alien eyes. A veil of doubt and mistrust came over their faces, like a fog creeping up from the marshes to hide the hills. They glanced at each other with looks of wonder and pity, as those who have listened to incredible sayings, the story of a wild vision, or the proposal of an impossible enterprise.
At last Tigranes said: “Artaban, this is a vain dream. It comes from too much looking upon the stars and the cherishing of lofty thoughts. It would be wiser to spend the time in gathering money for the new fire-temple at Chala. No king will ever rise from the broken race of Israel, and no end will ever come to the eternal strife of light and darkness. He who looks for it is a chaser of shadows. Farewell.”
And another said: “Artaban, I have no knowledge of these things, and my office as guardian of the royal treasure binds me here. The quest is not for me. But if thou must follow it, fare thee well.”
And another said: “In my house there sleeps a new bride, and I cannot leave her nor take her with me on this strange journey. This quest is not for me. But may thy steps be prospered wherever thou goest. So, farewell.”
And another said: “I am ill and unfit for hardship, but there is a man among my servants whom I will send with thee when thou goest, to bring me word how thou farest.”
So, one by one, they left the house of Artaban. But Abgarus, the oldest and the one who loved him the best, lingered after the others had gone, and said, gravely: “My son, it may be that the light of truth is in this sign that has appeared in the skies, and then it will surely lead to the Prince and the mighty brightness. Or it may be that it is only a shadow of the light, as Tigranes has said, and then he who follows it will have a long pilgrimage and a fruitless search. But it is better to follow even the shadow of the best than to remain content with the worst. And those who would see wonderful things must often be ready to travel alone. I am too old for this journey, but my heart shall be a companion of thy pilgrimage day and night, and I shall know the end of thy quest. Go in peace.”
Then Abgarus went out of the azure chamber with its silver stars, and Artaban was left in solitude.
He gathered up the jewels and replaced them in his girdle. For a long time he stood and watched the flame that flickered and sank upon the altar. Then he crossed the hall, lifted the heavy curtain, and passed out between the pillars of porphyry to the terrace on the roof.
The shiver that runs through the earth ere she rouses from her night-sleep had already begun, and the cool wind that heralds the daybreak was drawing downward from the lofty snow-traced ravines of Mount Orontes. Birds, half-awakened, crept and chirped among the rustling leaves, and the smell of ripened grapes came in brief wafts from the arbours.
Far over the eastern plain a white mist stretched like a lake. But where the distant peaks of Zagros serrated the western horizon the sky was clear. Jupiter and Saturn rolled together like drops of lambent flame about to blend in one.
As Artaban watched them, a steel-blue spark was born out of the darkness beneath, rounding itself with purple splendours to a crimson sphere, and spiring upward through rays of saffron and orange into a point of white radiance. Tiny and infinitely remote, yet perfect in every part, it pulsated in the enormous vault as if the three jewels in the Magian’s girdle had mingled and been transformed into a living heart of light.
He bowed his head. He covered his brow with his hands.
“It is the sign,” he said. “The King is coming, and I will go to meet him.”
All night long, Vasda, the swiftest of Artaban’s horses, had been waiting, saddled and bridled, in her stall, pawing the ground impatiently, and shaking her bit as if she shared the eagerness of her master’s purpose, though she knew not its meaning.
Before the birds had fully roused to their strong, high, joyful chant of morning song, before the white mist had begun to lift lazily from the plain, the Other Wise Man was in the saddle, riding swiftly along the high-road, which skirted the base of Mount Orontes, westward.
How close, how intimate is the comradeship between a man and his favourite horse on a long journey. It is a silent, comprehensive friendship, an intercourse beyond the need of words.
They drink at the same way-side springs, and sleep under the same guardian stars. They are conscious together of the subduing spell of nightfall and the quickening joy of daybreak. The master shares his evening meal with his hungry companion, and feels the soft, moist lips caressing the palm of his hand as they close over the morsel of bread. In the gray dawn he is roused from his bivouac by the gentle stir of a warm, sweet breath over his sleeping face, and looks up into the eyes of his faithful fellow-traveller, ready and waiting for the toil of the day. Surely, unless he is a pagan and an unbeliever, by whatever name he calls upon his God, he will thank Him for this voiceless sympathy, this dumb affection, and his morning prayer will embrace a double blessing–God bless us both, the horse and the rider, and keep our feet from falling and our souls from death!
Then, through the keen morning air, the swift hoofs beat their tattoo along the road, keeping time to the pulsing of two hearts that are moved with the same eager desire–to conquer space, to devour the distance, to attain the goal of the journey.
Artaban must indeed ride wisely and well if he would keep the appointed hour with the other Magi; for the route was a hundred and fifty parasangs, and fifteen was the utmost that he could travel in a day. But he knew Vasda’s strength, and pushed forward without anxiety, making the fixed distance every day, though he must travel late into the night, and in the morning long before sunrise.
He passed along the brown slopes of Mount Orontes, furrowed by the rocky courses of a hundred torrents.
He crossed the level plains of the Nisaeans, where the famous herds of horses, feeding in the wide pastures, tossed their heads at Vasda’s approach, and galloped away with a thunder of many hoofs, and flocks of wild birds rose suddenly from the swampy meadows, wheeling in great circles with a shining flutter of innumerable wings and shrill cries of surprise.
He traversed the fertile fields of Concabar, where the dust from the threshing-floors filled the air with a golden mist, half hiding the huge temple of Astarte with its four hundred pillars.
At Baghistan, among the rich gardens watered by fountains from the rock, he looked up at the mountain thrusting its immense rugged brow out over the road, and saw the figure of King Darius trampling upon his fallen foes, and the proud list of his wars and conquests graven high upon the face of the eternal cliff.
Over many a cold and desolate pass, crawling painfully across the wind-swept shoulders of the hills; down many a black mountain-gorge, where the river roared and raced before him like a savage guide; across many a smiling vale, with terraces of yellow limestone full of vines and fruit-trees; through the oak-groves of Carine and the dark Gates of Zagros, walled in by precipices; into the ancient city of Chala, where the people of Samaria had been kept in captivity long ago; and out again by the mighty portal, riven through the encircling hills, where he saw the image of the High Priest of the Magi sculptured on the wall of rock, with hand uplifted as if to bless the centuries of pilgrims; past the entrance of the narrow defile, filled from end to end with orchards of peaches and figs, through which the river Gyndes foamed down to meet him; over the broad rice-fields, where the autumnal vapours spread their deathly mists; following along the course of the river, under tremulous shadows of poplar and tamarind, among the lower hills; and out upon the flat plain, where the road ran straight as an arrow through the stubble-fields and parched meadows; past the city of Ctesiphon, where the Parthian emperors reigned, and the vast metropolis of Seleucia which Alexander built; across the swirling floods of Tigris and the many channels of Euphrates, flowing yellow through the corn-lands–Artaban pressed onward until he arrived, at nightfall on the tenth day, beneath the shattered walls of populous Babylon.
Vasda was almost spent, and Artaban would gladly have turned into the city to find rest and refreshment for himself and for her. But he knew that it was three hours’ journey yet to the Temple of the Seven Spheres, and he must reach the place by midnight if he would find his comrades waiting. So he did not halt, but rode steadily across the stubble-fields.
A grove of date-palms made an island of gloom in the pale yellow sea. As she passed into the shadow Vasda slackened her pace, and began to pick her way more carefully.
Near the farther end of the darkness an access of caution seemed to fall upon her. She scented some danger or difficulty; it was not in her heart to fly from it–only to be prepared for it, and to meet it wisely, as a good horse should do. The grove was close and silent as the tomb; not a leaf rustled, not a bird sang.
She felt her steps before her delicately, carrying her head low, and sighing now and then with apprehension. At last she gave a quick breath of anxiety and dismay, and stood stock-still, quivering in every muscle, before a dark object in the shadow of the last palm-tree.
Artaban dismounted. The dim starlight revealed the form of a man lying across the road. His humble dress and the outline of his haggard face showed that he was probably one of the Hebrews who still dwelt in great numbers around the city. His pallid skin, dry and yellow as parchment, bore the mark of the deadly fever which ravaged the marsh-lands in autumn. The chill of death was in his lean hand, and, as Artaban released it, the arm fell back inertly upon the motionless breast.
He turned away with a thought of pity, leaving the body to that strange burial which the Magians deemed most fitting–the funeral of the desert, from which the kites and vultures rise on dark wings, and the beasts of prey slink furtively away. When they are gone there is only a heap of white bones on the sand.
But, as he turned, a long, faint, ghostly sigh came from the man’s lips. The bony fingers gripped the hem of the Magian’s robe and held him fast.
Artaban’s heart leaped to his throat, not with fear, but with a dumb resentment at the importunity of this blind delay.
How could he stay here in the darkness to minister to a dying stranger? What claim had this unknown fragment of human life upon his compassion or his service? If he lingered but for an hour he could hardly reach Borsippa at the appointed time. His companions would think he had given up the journey. They would go without him. He would lose his quest.
But if he went on now, the man would surely die. If Artaban stayed, life might be restored. His spirit throbbed and fluttered with the urgency of the crisis. Should he risk the great reward of his faith for the sake of a single deed of charity? Should he turn aside, if only for a moment, from the following of the star, to give a cup of cold water to a poor, perishing Hebrew?
“God of truth and purity,” he prayed, “direct me in the holy path, the way of wisdom which Thou only knowest.”
Then he turned back to the sick man. Loosening the grasp of his hand, he carried him to a little mound at the foot of the palm-tree.
He unbound the thick folds of the turban and opened the garment above the sunken breast. He brought water from one of the small canals near by, and moistened the sufferer’s brow and mouth. He mingled a draught of one of those simple but potent remedies which he carried always in his girdle–for the Magians were physicians as well as astrologers–and poured it slowly between the colourless lips. Hour after hour he laboured as only a skilful healer of disease can do. At last the man’s strength returned; he sat up and looked about him.
“Who art thou?” he said, in the rude dialect of the country, “and why hast thou sought me here to bring back my life?”
“I am Artaban the Magian, of the city of Ecbatana, and I am going to Jerusalem in search of one who is to be born King of the Jews, a great Prince and Deliverer of all men. I dare not delay any longer upon my journey, for the caravan that has waited for me may depart without me. But see, here is all that I have left of bread and wine, and here is a potion of healing herbs. When thy strength is restored thou canst find the dwellings of the Hebrews among the houses of Babylon.”
The Jew raised his trembling hand solemnly to heaven.
“Now may the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob bless and prosper the journey of the merciful, and bring him in peace to his desired haven. Stay! I have nothing to give thee in return–only this: that I can tell thee where the Messiah must be sought. For our prophets have said that he should be born not in Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem of Judah. May the Lord bring thee in safety to that place, because thou hast had pity upon the sick.”
It was already long past midnight. Artaban rode in haste, and Vasda, restored by the brief rest, ran eagerly through the silent plain and swam the channels of the river. She put forth the remnant of her strength, and fled over the ground like a gazelle.
But the first beam of the rising sun sent a long shadow before her as she entered upon the final stadium of the journey, and the eyes of Artaban, anxiously scanning the great mound of Nimrod and the Temple of the Seven Spheres, could discern no trace of his friends.
The many-coloured terraces of black and orange and red and yellow and green and blue and white, shattered by the convulsions of nature, and crumbling under the repeated blows of human violence, still glittered like a ruined rainbow in the morning light.
Artaban rode swiftly around the hill. He dismounted and climbed to the highest terrace, looking out toward the west.
The huge desolation of the marshes stretched away to the horizon and the border of the desert. Bitterns stood by the stagnant pools and jackals skulked through the low bushes; but there was no sign of the caravan of the Wise Men, far or near.
At the edge of the terrace he saw a little cairn of broken bricks, and under them a piece of papyrus. He caught it up and read: “We have waited past the midnight, and can delay no longer. We go to find the King. Follow us across the desert.”
Artaban sat down upon the ground and covered his head in despair.
“How can I cross the desert,” said he, “with no food and with a spent horse? I must return to Babylon, sell my sapphire, and buy a train of camels, and provision for the journey. I may never overtake my friends. Only God the merciful knows whether I shall not lose the sight of the King because I tarried to show mercy.”
There was a silence in the Hall of Dreams, where I was listening to the story of the Other Wise Man. Through this silence I saw, but very dimly, his figure passing over the dreary undulations of the desert, high upon the back of his camel, rocking steadily onward like a ship over the waves.
The land of death spread its cruel net around him. The stony waste bore no fruit but briers and thorns. The dark ledges of rock thrust themselves above the surface here and there, like the bones of perished monsters. Arid and inhospitable mountain-ranges rose before him, furrowed with dry channels of ancient torrents, white and ghastly as scars on the face of nature. Shifting hills of treacherous sand were heaped like tombs along the horizon. By day, the fierce heat pressed its intolerable burden on the quivering air. No living creature moved on the dumb, swooning earth, but tiny jerboas scuttling through the parched bushes, or lizards vanishing in the clefts of the rock. By night the jackals prowled and barked in the distance, and the lion made the black ravines echo with his hollow roaring, while a bitter, blighting chill followed the fever of the day. Through heat and cold, the Magian moved steadily onward.
Then I saw the gardens and orchards of Damascus, watered by the streams of Abana and Pharpar, with their sloping swards inlaid with bloom, and their thickets of myrrh and roses. I saw the long, snowy ridge of Hermon, and the dark groves of cedars, and the valley of the Jordan, and the blue waters of the Lake of Galilee, and the fertile plain of Esdraelon, and the hills of Ephraim, and the highlands of Judah. Through all these I followed the figure of Artaban moving steadily onward, until he arrived at Bethlehem. And it was the third day after the three Wise Men had come to that place and had found Mary and Joseph, with the young child, Jesus, and had laid their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh at his feet.
Then the Other Wise Man drew near, weary, but full of hope, bearing his ruby and his pearl to offer to the King. “For now at last,” he said, “I shall surely find him, though I be alone, and later than my brethren. This is the place of which the Hebrew exile told me that the prophets had spoken, and here I shall behold the rising of the great light. But I must inquire about the visit of my brethren, and to what house the star directed them, and to whom they presented their tribute.”
The streets of the village seemed to be deserted, and Artaban wondered whether the men had all gone up to the hill-pastures to bring down their sheep. From the open door of a cottage he heard the sound of a woman’s voice singing softly. He entered and found a young mother hushing her baby to rest. She told him of the strangers from the far East who had appeared in the village three days ago, and how they said that a star had guided them to the place where Joseph of Nazareth was lodging with his wife and her new-born child, and how they had paid reverence to the child and given him many rich gifts.
“But the travellers disappeared again,” she continued, “as suddenly as they had come. We were afraid at the strangeness of their visit. We could not understand it. The man of Nazareth took the child and his mother, and fled away that same night secretly, and it was whispered that they were going to Egypt. Ever since, there has been a spell upon the village; something evil hangs over it. They say that the Roman soldiers are coming from Jerusalem to force a new tax from us, and the men have driven the flocks and herds far back among the hills, and hidden themselves to escape it.”
Artaban listened to her gentle, timid speech, and the child in her arms looked up in his face and smiled, stretching out its rosy hands to grasp at the winged circle of gold on his breast. His heart warmed to the touch. It seemed like a greeting of love and trust to one who had journeyed long in loneliness and perplexity, fighting with his own doubts and fears, and following a light that was veiled in clouds.
“Why might not this child have been the promised Prince?” he asked within himself, as he touched its soft cheek. “Kings have been born ere now in lowlier houses than this, and the favourite of the stars may rise even from a cottage. But it has not seemed good to the God of wisdom to reward my search so soon and so easily. The one whom I seek has gone before me; and now I must follow the King to Egypt.”
The young mother laid the baby in its cradle, and rose to minister to the wants of the strange guest that fate had brought into her house. She set food before him, the plain fare of peasants, but willingly offered, and therefore full of refreshment for the soul as well as for the body. Artaban accepted it gratefully; and, as he ate, the child fell into a happy slumber, and murmured sweetly in its dreams, and a great peace filled the room.
But suddenly there came the noise of a wild confusion in the streets of the village, a shrieking and wailing of women’s voices, a clangour of brazen trumpets and a clashing of swords, and a desperate cry: “The soldiers! the soldiers of Herod! They are killing our children.”
The young mother’s face grew white with terror. She clasped her child to her bosom, and crouched motionless in the darkest corner of the room, covering him with the folds of her robe, lest he should wake and cry.
But Artaban went quickly and stood in the doorway of the house. His broad shoulders filled the portal from side to side, and the peak of his white cap all but touched the lintel.
The soldiers came hurrying down the street with bloody hands and dripping swords. At the sight of the stranger in his imposing dress they hesitated with surprise. The captain of the band approached the threshold to thrust him aside. But Artaban did not stir. His face was as calm as though he were watching the stars, and in his eyes there burned that steady radiance before which even the half-tamed hunting leopard shrinks, and the bloodhound pauses in his leap. He held the soldier silently for an instant, and then said in a low voice:
“I am all alone in this place, and I am waiting to give this jewel to the prudent captain who will leave me in peace.”
He showed the ruby, glistening in the hollow of his hand like a great drop of blood.
The captain was amazed at the splendour of the gem. The pupils of his eyes expanded with desire, and the hard lines of greed wrinkled around his lips. He stretched out his hand and took the ruby.
“March on!” he cried to his men, “there is no child here. The house is empty.”
The clamor and the clang of arms passed down the street as the headlong fury of the chase sweeps by the secret covert where the trembling deer is hidden. Artaban re-entered the cottage. He turned his face to the east and prayed:
“God of truth, forgive my sin! I have said the thing that is not, to save the life of a child. And two of my gifts are gone. I have spent for man that which was meant for God. Shall I ever be worthy to see the face of the King?”
But the voice of the woman, weeping for joy in the shadow behind him, said very gently:
“Because thou hast saved the life of my little one, may the Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace.”
Again there was a silence in the Hall of Dreams, deeper and more mysterious than the first interval, and I understood that the years of Artaban were flowing very swiftly under the stillness, and I caught only a glimpse, here and there, of the river of his life shining through the mist that concealed its course.
I saw him moving among the throngs of men in populous Egypt, seeking everywhere for traces of the household that had come down from Bethlehem, and finding them under the spreading sycamore-trees of Heliopolis, and beneath the walls of the Roman fortress of New Babylon beside the Nile–traces so faint and dim that they vanished before him continually, as footprints on the wet river-sand glisten for a moment with moisture and then disappear.
I saw him again at the foot of the pyramids, which lifted their sharp points into the intense saffron glow of the sunset sky, changeless monuments of the perishable glory and the imperishable hope of man. He looked up into the face of the crouching Sphinx and vainly tried to read the meaning of the calm eyes and smiling mouth. Was it, indeed, the mockery of all effort and all aspiration, as Tigranes had said–the cruel jest of a riddle that has no answer, a search that never can succeed? Or was there a touch of pity and encouragement in that inscrutable smile–a promise that even the defeated should attain a victory, and the disappointed should discover a prize, and the ignorant should be made wise, and the blind should see, and the wandering should come into the haven at last?
I saw him again in an obscure house of Alexandria, taking counsel with a Hebrew rabbi. The venerable man, bending over the rolls of parchment on which the prophecies of Israel were written, read aloud the pathetic words which foretold the sufferings of the promised Messiah–the despised and rejected of men, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
“And remember, my son,” said he, fixing his eyes upon the face of Artaban, “the King whom thou seekest is not to be found in a palace, nor among the rich and powerful. If the light of the world and the glory of Israel had been appointed to come with the greatness of earthly splendour, it must have appeared long ago. For no son of Abraham will ever again rival the power which Joseph had in the palaces of Egypt, or the magnificence of Solomon throned between the lions in Jerusalem. But the light for which the world is waiting is a new light, the glory that shall rise out of patient and triumphant suffering. And the kingdom which is to be established forever is a new kingdom, the royalty of unconquerable love.
“I do not know how this shall come to pass, nor how the turbulent kings and peoples of earth shall be brought to acknowledge the Messiah and pay homage to him. But this I know. Those who seek him will do well to look among the poor and the lowly, the sorrowful and the oppressed.”
So I saw the Other Wise Man again and again, travelling from place to place, and searching among the people of the dispersion, with whom the little family from Bethlehem might, perhaps, have found a refuge. He passed through countries where famine lay heavy upon the land, and the poor were crying for bread. He made his dwelling in plague-stricken cities where the sick were languishing in the bitter companionship of helpless misery. He visited the oppressed and the afflicted in the gloom of subterranean prisons, and the crowded wretchedness of slave-markets, and the weary toil of galley-ships. In all this populous and intricate world of anguish, though he found none to worship, he found many to help. He fed the hungry, and clothed the naked, and healed the sick, and comforted the captive; and his years passed more swiftly than the weaver’s shuttle that flashes back and forth through the loom while the web grows and the pattern is completed.
It seemed almost as if he had forgotten his quest. But once I saw him for a moment as he stood alone at sunrise, waiting at the gate of a Roman prison. He had taken from a secret resting-place in his bosom the pearl, the last of his jewels. As he looked at it, a mellower lustre, a soft and iridescent light, full of shifting gleams of azure and rose, trembled upon its surface. It seemed to have absorbed some reflection of the lost sapphire and ruby. So the secret purpose of a noble life draws into itself the memories of past joy and past sorrow. All that has helped it, all that has hindered it, is transfused by a subtle magic into its very essence. It becomes more luminous and precious the longer it is carried close to the warmth of the beating heart.
Then, at last, while I was thinking of this pearl, and of its meaning, I heard the end of the story of the Other Wise Man.
Three-and-thirty years of the life of Artaban had passed away, and he was still a pilgrim and a seeker after light. His hair, once darker than the cliffs of Zagros, was now white as the wintry snow that covered them. His eyes, that once flashed like flames of fire, were dull as embers smouldering among the ashes.
Worn and weary and ready to die, but still looking for the King, he had come for the last time to Jerusalem. He had often visited the holy city before, and had searched all its lanes and crowded bevels and black prisons without finding any trace of the family of Nazarenes who had fled from Bethlehem long ago. But now it seemed as if he must make one more effort, and something whispered in his heart that, at last, he might succeed.
It was the season of the Passover. The city was thronged with strangers. The children of Israel, scattered in far lands, had returned to the Temple for the great feast, and there had been a confusion of tongues in the narrow streets for many days.
But on this day a singular agitation was visible in the multitude. The sky was veiled with a portentous gloom. Currents of excitement seemed to flash through the crowd. A secret tide was sweeping them all one way. The clatter of sandals and the soft, thick sound of thousands of bare feet shuffling over the stones, flowed unceasingly along the street that leads to the Damascus gate.
Artaban joined a group of people from his own country, Parthian Jews who had come up to keep the Passover, and inquired of them the cause of the tumult, and where they were going.
“We are going,” they answered, “to the place called Golgotha, outside the city walls, where there is to be an execution. Have you not heard what has happened? Two famous robbers are to be crucified, and with them another, called Jesus of Nazareth, a man who has done many wonderful works among the people, so that they love him greatly. But the priests and elders have said that he must die, because he gave himself out to be the Son of God. And Pilate has sent him to the cross because he said that he was the `King of the Jews.’
How strangely these familiar words fell upon the tired heart of Artaban! They had led him for a lifetime over land and sea. And now they came to him mysteriously, like a message of despair. The King had arisen, but he had been denied and cast out. He was about to perish. Perhaps he was already dying. Could it be the same who had been born in Bethlehem thirty-three years ago, at whose birth the star had appeared in heaven, and of whose coming the prophets had spoken?
Artaban’s heart beat unsteadily with that troubled, doubtful apprehension which is the excitement of old age. But he said within himself: “The ways of God are stranger than the thoughts of men, and it may be that I shall find the King, at last, in the hands of his enemies, and shall come in time to offer my pearl for his ransom before he dies.”
So the old man followed the multitude with slow and painful steps toward the Damascus gate of the city. Just beyond the entrance of the guardhouse a troop of Macedonian soldiers came down the street, dragging a young girl with torn dress and dishevelled hair. As the Magian paused to look at her with compassion, she broke suddenly from the hands of her tormentors, and threw herself at his feet, clasping him around the knees. She had seen his white cap and the winged circle on his breast.
“Have pity on me,” she cried, “and save me, for the sake of the God of Purity! I also am a daughter of the true religion which is taught by the Magi. My father was a merchant of Parthia, but he is dead, and I am seized for his debts to be sold as a slave. Save me from worse than death!”
It was the old conflict in his soul, which had come to him in the palm-grove of Babylon and in the cottage at Bethlehem–the conflict between the expectation of faith and the impulse of love. Twice the gift which he had consecrated to the worship of religion had been drawn to the service of humanity. This was the third trial, the ultimate probation, the final and irrevocable choice.
Was it his great opportunity, or his last temptation? He could not tell. One thing only was clear in the darkness of his mind–it was inevitable. And does not the inevitable come from God?
One thing only was sure to his divided heart–to rescue this helpless girl would be a true deed of love. And is not love the light of the soul?
He took the pearl from his bosom. Never had it seemed so luminous, so radiant, so full of tender, living lustre. He laid it in the hand of the slave.
“This is thy ransom, daughter! It is the last of my treasures which I kept for the King.”
While he spoke, the darkness of the sky deepened, and shuddering tremors ran through the earth heaving convulsively like the breast of one who struggles with mighty grief.
The walls of the houses rocked to and fro. Stones were loosened and crashed into the street. Dust clouds filled the air. The soldiers fled in terror, reeling like drunken men. But Artaban and the girl whom he had ransomed crouched helpless beneath the wall of the Praetorium.
What had he to fear? What had he to hope? He had given away the last remnant of his tribute for the King. He had parted with the last hope of finding him. The quest was over, and it had failed. But, even in that thought, accepted and embraced, there was peace. It was not resignation. It was not submission. It was something more profound and searching. He knew that all was well, because he had done the best that he could from day to day. He had been true to the light that had been given to him. He had looked for more. And if he had not found it, if a failure was all that came out of his life, doubtless that was the best that was possible. He had not seen the revelation of “life everlasting, incorruptible and immortal.” But he knew that even if he could live his earthly life over again, it could not be otherwise than it had been.
One more lingering pulsation of the earthquake quivered through the ground. A heavy tile, shaken from the roof, fell and struck the old man on the temple. He lay breathless and pale, with his gray head resting on the young girl’s shoulder, and the blood trickling from the wound. As she bent over him, fearing that he was dead, there came a voice through the twilight, very small and still, like music sounding from a distance, in which the notes are clear but the words are lost. The girl turned to see if some one had spoken from the window above them, but she saw no one.
Then the old man’s lips began to move, as if in answer, and she heard him say in the Parthian tongue:
“Not so, my Lord! For when saw I thee an hungered and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw I thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? When saw I thee sick or in prison, and came unto thee? Three-and– thirty years have I looked for thee; but I have never seen thy face, nor ministered to thee, my King.”
He ceased, and the sweet voice came again. And again the maid heard it, very faint and far away. But now it seemed as though she understood the words:
“VerilyI say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”
Acalm radiance of wonder and joy lighted the pale face of Artaban like the first ray of dawn, on a snowy mountain-peak. A long breath of relief exhaled gently from his lips.
Hisjourney was ended. His treasures were accepted. The Other Wise Man had found the King.
The Holy Night
By Selma Lagerlof
There was a man who went out in the dark night to borrow live coals to kindle a fire. He went from hut to hut and knocked. “Dear friends, help me!” said he. “My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.”
But it was way in the night, and all the people were asleep. No one replied.
The man walked and walked. At last he saw the gleam of a fire a long way off. Then he went in that direction and saw that the fire was burning in the open. A lot of sheep were were sleeping around the fire, and an old shepherd sat and watched over the flock.
When the man who wanted to borrow fire came up to the sheep, he saw that three big dogs lay asleep at the shepherd’s feet. All three awoke when the man approached and opened their great jaws, as though they wanted to bark; but not a sound was heard. The man noticed that the hair on their backs stood up and that their sharp, white teeth glistened in the firelight. They dashed toward him.
He felt that one of them bit at his leg and one at this hand and that one clung to this throat. But their jaws and teeth wouldn’t obey them, and the man didn’t suffer the least harm.
Now the man wished to go farther, to get what he needed. But the sheep lay back to back and so close to one another that he couldn’t pass them. Then the man stepped upon their backs and walked over them and up to the fire. And not one of the animals awoke or moved.
When the man had almost reached the fire,
the shepherd looked up. He was a surly old man, who was unfriendly and harsh toward human beings. And when he saw the strange man coming, he seized the long, spiked staff, which he always held in his hand when he tended his flock, and threw it at him. The staff came right toward the man, but, before it reached him, it turned off to one side and whizzed past him, far out in the meadow.
Now the man came up to the shepherd and said to him: “Good man, help me, and lend me a little fire! My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.”
The shepherd would rather have said no, but when he pondered that the dogs couldn’t hurt the man, and the sheep had not run from him, and that the staff had not wished to strike him, he was a little afraid, and dared not deny the man that which he asked.
“Take as much as you need!” he said to the man.
But then the fire was nearly burnt out. There were no logs or branches left, only a big heap of live coals, and the stranger had neither spade nor shovel wherein he could carry the red-hot coals.
When the shepherd saw this, he said again: “Take as much as you need!” And he was glad that the man wouldn’t be able to take away any coals.
But the man stopped and picked coals from the ashes with his bare hands, and laid them in his mantle. And he didn’t burn his hands when he touched them, nor did the coals scorch his mantle; but he carried them away as if they had been nuts or apples.
And when the shepherd, who was such a cruel and hardhearted man, saw all this, he began to wonder to himself. What kind of a night is this, when the dogs do not bite, the sheep are not scared, the staff does not kill, or the fire scorch? He called the stranger back and said to him: “What kind of a night is this? And how does it happen that all things show you compassion?”
Then said the man: “I cannot tell you if you yourself do not see it.” And he wished to go his way, that he might soon make a fire and warm his wife and child.
But the shepherd did not wish to lose sight of the man before he had found out what all this might portend. He got up and followed the man till they came to the place where he lived.
Then the shepherd saw the man didn’t have so much as a hut to dwell in, but that his wife and babe were lying in a mountain grotto, where there was nothing except the cold and naked stone walls.
But the shepherd thought that perhaps the poor innocent child might freeze to death there in the grotto; and, although he was a hard man, he was touched, and thought he would like to help it. And he loosened the knapsack from his shoulder, took from it a soft white sheepskin, gave it to the strange man, and said that he should let the child sleep on it.
But just as soon as he showed that he, too, could be merciful, his eyes were opened, and he saw what he had not been able to see before, and heard what he could not have heard before.
He saw that all around him stood a ring of little silver-winged angels, and each held a stringed instrument, and all sang in loud tones that tonight the Saviour was born who should redeem the world from its sins.
Then he understood how all things were so happy this night that they didn’t want to do anything wrong.
And it was not only around the shepherd that there were angels, but he saw them everywhere. They sat inside the grotto, they sat outside on the mountain, and they flew under the heavens. They came marching in great companies, and, as they passed, they paused and cast a glance at the child.
There was such jubilation and such gladness and songs and play! And all this he saw in the dark night whereas before he could not have made out anything. He was so happy because his eyes had been opened that he fell upon his knees and thanked God.
What that shepherd saw, we might also see, for the angels fly down from heaven every Christmas Eve, if we could only see them.
You must remember this, for it is as true, as true as that I see you and you see me. It is not revealed by the light of lamps or candles, and it does not depend upon sun and moon; but that which is needful is that we have such eyes as can see God’s glory.
With voiceover from Tom Conti, the film tells the story of Yishharu, an apprentice bull-leaper who has recently returned to Thera from Crete with his new wife, Pinaruti. They discover that Thera is beset by earthquakes and volcanic activity. Over the course of the story, the volcano erupts, throwing out ash and molten lava, and destroying the island. Although the couple survive the first stages of the disaster they are separated after Yishharu is left behind when Pinaruti and other islanders escape by boat. The nearby island of Crete is then engulfed by a giant tsunami which was triggered by the eruption, and Pinaruti is washed up on the shore of a nearby island.
Reception from critics was generally negative.
Zoe Williams, writing for The Guardian said: “The heavy-handed doomsday lighting made it look like the build-up to a joke on a Pot Noodle ad. The dialogue sounded like Holby City…The more dramatic the narration tried to be, the more mundane it sounded…The truth, I think, is that someone somewhere was looking for the new Pompeii, because we’ve all heard that one, and decided this was it: the second-best ancient disaster status clung doggedly to the project.[An equally unfavourable review in The Independent suggested: “The final explosion has been calculated to have been 40,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, and it would have been a great mercy if it had occurred 50 minutes earlier in Atlantis. That would have given us the bull-jumping – which was rather excitingly filmed – and spared us the catastrophe that followed.”
BBC One is to tell the dramatic story of the greatest natural disaster to shake the ancient world, a disaster that triggered the downfall of a civilisation and spawned a legend.
Around 1620 BC a gigantic volcano in the Aegean Sea stirred from its 19,000-year slumber.
The eruption tore the island of Thera apart, producing massive tsunamis that flooded the nearby island of Crete, the centre of Europe’s first great civilisation – the Minoans.
This apocalyptic event, many experts now believe, provided the inspiration for the legend of Atlantis.
Based on the work of leading scientists, archaeologists and historians, this drama immerses viewers in the exotic world of the Minoans.
Starring Reece Ritchie (The Lovely Bones; Prince Of Persia ) andStephanie Leonida (Yes; MirrorMask), Atlantis is the first British TV drama to use the virtual backlot production technique of the movie 300.
Incorporating the latest CGI technology, the film brings viewers face to face with one of history’s greatest disasters – from the precursory earthquakes through the eruption sequence to the pyroclastic flows and tsunamis.
The programme is a co-production with Discovery, BBC Worldwide,Pro Sieben (Germany) and France Deux (France).
In a companion documentary on BBC Two, historian Bettany Hughestraces the origins of the Atlantis myth and presents compelling evidence that the Thera eruption inspired Plato’s account of Atlantis.
Executive producer Ailsa Orr said: “Atlantis will immerse the viewer in a world they’ve never seen before, in a brand new, exciting way.
“The world of the Minoans and the disaster that wiped them out has been created using visual effects that have, to date, only ever been used in Hollywood movies.
“It offers our audiences a unique viewing experience – the closest they’ll ever get to one of the greatest natural disasters of all time.”
Notes to Editors
Atlantis is a BBC Northern Ireland Production.
Virtual backlot production technique of 300 means that the entire production is shot in a studio against green screen, mixing physical with virtual (CG) set builds. The technique provides unique creative control over the visual style of the film.
Michael Mosley (executive producer) executive produced many of the BBC’s high-end factual dramas, such as Pompeii – The Last Day, Supervolcano, Superstorm and Krakatoa: The Last Days.
Ailsa Orr (executive producer) is BBC Northern Ireland’s Head of Programmes and was the Producer behind Pompeii – The Last Day, Supervolcano, Hannibal and Superstorm.
Detlef Siebert (series producer) has a long track record in historical programmes. Most recently, he was the drama director on Auschwitz – The Nazis And the Final Solution, wrote and directed the drama-documentary The Somme – From Defeat To Victory, and series produced Nuremberg – Nazis On Trial.
Tony Mitchell (director) pioneered historical documentary dramas with Neanderthal and Ancient Egyptians and is one of the world’s top directors of CG-heavy drama, including Supervolcano, Primeval and Flood.
‘Lost’ City of Atlantis: Fact & Fable
By Benjamin Radford, Live Science Contributor | October 31, 201410:49pm ET
A 1669 map by Athanasius Kircher put Atlantis in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The map is oriented with south at the top.
Atlantis is a legendary “lost” island subcontinent often idealized as an advanced, utopian society holding wisdom that could bring world peace. The idea of Atlantis has captivated dreamers, occultists and New Agers for generations.
Unlike many legends whose origins have been lost in the mists of time, we know exactly when and where the story of Atlantis first appeared. The story was first told in two of Plato’s dialogues, the “Timaeus” and the “Critias,” written about 330 B.C.
Though today Atlantis is often thought of as a peaceful utopia, the Atlantis that Plato described in his fable was very different. In his book “Frauds, Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology” (McGraw-Hill, 2013) professor of archaeology Ken Feder summarizes the story: “A technologically sophisticated but morally bankrupt evil empire — Atlantis — attempts world domination by force. The only thing standing in its way is a relatively small group of spiritually pure, morally principled and incorruptible people — the ancient Athenians. Overcoming overwhelming odds … the Athenians are able to defeat their far more powerful adversary simply through the force of their spirit. Sound familiar? Plato’s Atlantean dialogues are essentially an ancient Greek version of ‘Star Wars.'”
As propaganda, the Atlantis legend is more about the heroic Athens than a sunken civilization; if Atlantis really existed today and was found, its residents would probably try to kill and enslave us all. It’s clear that Plato made up Atlantis as a plot device for his stories because there are no other records of it anywhere else in the world. There are many extant Greek texts; surely someone else would have also mentioned, at least in passing, such a remarkable place. There is simply no evidence from any source that the legends about Atlantis existed before Plato wrote about it.
For most of the past two millennia, no one thought much about Atlantis; it was just what it appeared to be: a fictional place mentioned in a fable by the ancient Greek philosopher. The idea that Atlantis was an actual lost historical location is a very recent idea, first proposed by a writer named Ignatius Donnelly in 1881. He believed that most of the important accomplishments of the ancient world — such as metallurgy, agriculture, religion and language — must have come from Atlantis. In essence, he argued that ancient cultures weren’t sophisticated enough to develop these things on their own, so they must have spread from some unknown advanced civilization. (It is similar to the widely discredited “ancient astronauts” idea, that Egyptians were not smart enough to build pyramids, and thus extraterrestrials must have helped them.)
Later writers elaborated on Donnelly’s theories, adding their own opinions and speculations. These included mystic Madame Blavatsky (in her 1888 book, “The Secret Doctrine”) and famous psychic Edgar Cayce in the 1920s and 1930s. Cayce, who put a fundamentalist Christian spin on the Atlantis story, gave psychic readings for thousands of people — many of whom, he claimed, had past lives in Atlantis. Unfortunately, none of the information was verifiable, and Cayce wrongly predicted that the continent would be discovered in 1969.
Charles Berlitz, author of many popular books on the paranormal and unexplained phenomena, researched Atlantis and wrote a 1969 book titled “The Mystery of Atlantis.” Berlitz, whose family created the famous language-learning courses, not only became convinced that Atlantis was real but also that it was the source of the Bermuda Triangle mystery, a subject he explored in his 1974 best-seller “The Bermuda Triangle.” Berlitz’s wild ideas about the Bermuda Triangle — and, by extension, Atlantis — were definitively debunked the following year by researcher Larry Kusche, author of “The Bermuda Triangle Mystery — Solved.” Thousands of books, magazines and websites are devoted to Atlantis, and it remains a popular topic in New Age circles.
The ‘lost’ continent
Despite Atlantis’ clear origin in fiction, many people over the centuries have claimed that there must be some truth behind the myths, and have speculated about where Atlantis would be found. Countless Atlantis “experts” have located the lost continent all around the world, based on the same set of facts. Candidate locations — each accompanied by their own peculiar sets of evidence and arguments — include the Atlantic Ocean, Antarctica, Bolivia, Turkey, Germany, Malta and the Caribbean.
Plato, however, is crystal clear about where his Atlantis is: “For the ocean there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, ‘the pillars of Heracles,’ (i.e., Hercules) there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together.” In other words, it lies in the Atlantic Ocean beyond “the pillars of Hercules” (i.e., the Strait of Gibraltar, at the mouth of the Mediterranean). Yet it has never been found in the Atlantic, or anywhere else.
No trace of Atlantis has ever been found, despite advances in oceanography and ocean floor mapping in past decades. For nearly two millennia, readers could be forgiven for suspecting that the vast depths might somehow hide a sunken city or continent. Though there remains much mystery at the bottom of the world’s oceans, it is inconceivable that the world’s oceanographers, submariners and deep-sea probes have somehow missed a landmass “larger than Libya and Asia together.”
Furthermore, plate tectonics demonstrate that it’s impossible for Atlantis to exist, as the continents have drifted and the seafloor has spread, not contracted, over time. There would simply be no place for Atlantis to sink into. As Ken Feder noted, “The geology is clear; there could have been no large land surface that then sank in the area where Plato places Atlantis. Together, modern archaeology and geology provide an unambiguous verdict: There was no Atlantic continent; there was no great civilization called Atlantis.”
Myth from misinterpretation
The only way to make a mystery out of Atlantis (and to assume that it was once a real place) is to ignore its obvious origins as a moral fable and to change the details of Plato’s story, claiming that he took license with the truth, either out of error or intent to deceive. With the addition, omission or misinterpretation of various details in Plato’s work, nearly any proposed location can be made to “fit” his description.
Science and science-fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp thoroughly discredited the Atlantis story in his 1970 book, “Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature,” noting that “you cannot change all the details of Plato’s story and still claim to have Plato’s story. That is like saying the legendary King Arthur is ‘really’ Cleopatra; all you have to do is to change Cleopatra’s sex, nationality, period, temperament, moral character, and other details, and the resemblance becomes obvious.”
The Atlantis legend has been kept alive, fueled by the public’s imagination and fascination with the idea of a hidden, long-lost utopia. Yet the “lost city of Atlantis” was never lost; it is where it always was: in Plato’s books.
Over 11,000 years ago there existed an island nation located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean populated by a noble and powerful race. The people of this land possessed great wealth thanks to the natural resources found throughout their island. The island was a center for trade and commerce. The rulers of this land held sway over the people and land of their own island and well into Europe and Africa.
This was the island of Atlantis.
Atlantis was the domain of Poseidon, god of the sea. When Poseidon fell in love with a mortal woman, Cleito, he created a dwelling at the top of a hill near the middle of the island and surrounded the dwelling with rings of water and land to protect her.
Cleito gave birth to five sets of twin boys who became the first rulers of Atlantis. The island was divided among the brothers with the eldest, Atlas, first King of Atlantis, being given control over the central hill and surrounding areas.
At the top of the central hill, a temple was built to honor Poseidon which housed a giant gold statue of Poseidon riding a chariot pulled by winged horses. It was here that the rulers of Atlantis would come to discuss laws, pass judgments, and pay tribute to Poseidon..
To facilitate travel and trade, a water canal was cut through of the rings of land and water running south for 5.5 miles (~9 km) to the sea.
The city of Atlantis sat just outside the outer ring of water and spread across the plain covering a circle of 11 miles (1.7 km). This was a densely populated area where the majority of the population lived.
Beyond the city lay a fertile plain 330 miles (530 km) long and 110 miles (190 km) wide surrounded by another canal used to collect water from the rivers and streams of the mountains. The climate was such that two harvests were possible each year. One in the winter fed by the rains and one in the summer fed by irrigation from the canal.
Surrounding the plain to the north were mountains which soared to the skies. Villages, lakes, rivers, and meadows dotted the mountains.
Besides the harvests, the island provided all kinds of herbs, fruits, and nuts. An abundance of animals, including elephants, roamed the island.
For generations the Atlanteans lived simple, virtuous lives. But slowly they began to change. Greed and power began to corrupt them. When Zeus saw the immorality of the Atlanteans he gathered the other gods to determine a suitable punishment.
Soon, in one violent surge, it was gone. The island of Atlantis, its people, and its memory were swallowed by the sea.
This is a summary of the story told by Plato around 360 BC in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias. These writings of Plato are the only specific known references to Atlantis. They have prompted controversy and debate for over two thousand years.
Atlantis, a likely mythical island nation mentioned in Plato’s dialogues “Timaeus” and “Critias,” has been an object of fascination among western philosophers and historians for nearly 2,400 years. Plato (c.424–328 B.C.) describes it as a powerful and advanced kingdom that sank, in a night and a day, into the ocean around 9,600 B.C. The ancient Greeks were divided as to whether Plato’s story was to be taken as history or mere metaphor. Since the 19th century there has been renewed interest in linking Plato’s Atlantis to historical locations, most commonly the Greek island of Santorini, which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption around 1,600 B.C.
Plato (through the character Critias in his dialogues) describes Atlantis as an island larger than Libya and Asia Minor put together, located in the Atlantic just beyond the Pillars of Hercules—generally assumed to mean the Strait of Gibraltar. Its culture was advanced and it had a constitution suspiciously similar to the one outlined in Plato’s “Republic.” It was protected by the god Poseidon, who made his son Atlas king and namesake of the island and the ocean that surrounded it. As the Atlanteans grew powerful, their ethics declined. Their armies eventually conquered Africa as far as Egypt and Europe as far as Tyrrhenia (Etruscan Italy) before being driven back by an Athenian-led alliance. Later, by way of divine punishment, the island was beset by earthquakes and floods, and sank into a muddy sea.
Did You Know?
In 1679 the Swedish scientist Olaus Rudbeck published “Atland,” a four-volume work in which he attempted to prove that Sweden was the original site of Atlantis and that all human languages were descended from Swedish. Though considered authoritative in his homeland, few outside of Sweden found Rudbeck’s arguments convincing.
ORIGINS OF THE ATLANTIS STORY
Plato’s Critias says he heard the story of Atlantis from his grandfather, who had heard it from the Athenian statesman Solon (300 years before Plato’s time), who had learned it from an Egyptian priest, who said it had happened 9,000 years before that. Whether or not Plato believed his own story, his intent in telling it seems to have been to boost his ideas of an ideal society, using stories of ancient victory and calamity to call to mind more recent events such as theTrojan War or Athens’ disastrous invasion of Sicily in 413 B.C. The historicity of Plato’s tale was controversial in ancient times—his follower Crantor is said to have believed it, while Strabo (writing a few centuries later) records Aristotle’s joke about Plato’s ability to conjure nations out of thin air and then destroy them.
In the first centuries of the Christian era, Aristotle was taken at his word and Atlantis was little discussed. In 1627, the English philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon published a utopian novel titled “The New Atlantis,” depicting, like Plato before him, a politically and scientifically advanced society on a previously unknown oceanic island. In 1882, former U.S. Congressman Ignatious L. Donnelly published “Atlantis: The Antediluvian World,” which touched off a frenzy of works attempting to locate and learn from a historical Atlantis. Donnelly hypothesized an advanced civilization whose immigrants had populated much of ancient Europe, Africa and the Americas, and whose heroes had inspired Greek, Hindu and Scandinavian mythology. Donnelley’s theories were popularized and elaborated by turn-of-the-20th-century theosophists and are often incorporated into contemporary New Age beliefs.
From time to time, archaeologists and historians locate evidence—a swampy, prehistoric city in coastal Spain; a suspicious undersea rock formation in the Bahamas—that might be a source of the Atlantis story. Of these, the site with the widest acceptance is the Greek island of Santorini (ancient Thera), a half-submerged caldera created by the massive second-millennium-B.C. volcanic eruption whose tsunami may have hastened the collapse of the Minoan civilization on Crete.
Thera is the ancient name for both the island of Santorini in the GreekCyclades and the name of the volcano which famously erupted on the island in the middle Bronze Age and covered Akrotiri, the most important settlement, in pumice and volcanic ash, thereby perfectly preserving the Bronze Age town.
The earliest evidence of settlement on the island at Akrotiri (named after the nearby modern village) dates back to the mid-fifth millennium BCE when a small fishing and farming community established itself on a coastal promontory. By the third millennium BCE the presence of rock-cut burial chambers, pottery and stone vases and figurines suggest a period of significant growth. The marble used for these vessels probably came from the nearby islands of Paros andNaxos and together with finds of Theran pumice stone (used as a polish abrasive) suggest the presence of inter-island trade. Wood and food goods were also probably exchanged at this time, not only throughout the Cyclades but also with the Greek mainland and Crete.
Around 2000 BCE the settlement expanded further, and a disused cemetery was filled and constructed upon – both the fill containing pottery shards from large amphorae and black/brown burnished pottery (Kastri style) finds suggest healthy Aegean trade relations were in existence. Being strategically well-placed on the copper trade route between Cyprus and Minoan Crete, Akrotiri also became an important centre for metal work, as is evidenced by finds of moulds and crucibles.
AKROTIRI’S PROSPERITY CAME TO A SUDDEN END WITH THE MASSIVE AND CATACLYSMIC ERUPTION OF THE ISLAND’S VOLCANO.
URBANISATION & DISASTER
From 2000 to 1650 BCE Akrotiri became more urbanised with paved streets and extensive drainage systems. Quality pottery was mass produced and decorated with lines, plants and animals. Metallurgy and other crafts (particularly those related to the maritime industries) became more specialised. In this period there is also evidence of repair and rebuilding projects following earthquake destruction.
Akrotiri’s prosperity came to a sudden end with the massive and cataclysmic eruption of the island’s volcano. Preceded by earthquakes of a magnitude of 7 on the Richter scale which destroyed the town and created 9m high tidal waves, the eruption itself probably occurred a few days later and released an estimated 15 billion tons of magma into the atmosphere, making it the largest volcanic eruption of the last 10,000 years. The entire island was buried in a thick layer of ash, Trianda on Rhodes was destroyed, 7cm of ash covered sites in northern Crete, Anatolia suffered from the ash fall-out and even ice-cores in Greenland demonstrate the far-reaching effects of the eruption. The precise date of the event is much debated amongst scholars with wildly different estimates vigorously defended in order to support various hypotheses for other events such as the destruction of Minoan palaces or Mycenaean imperialistic ambitions in the Aegean. The most agreed upon date ranges somewhere between 1650 and 1550 BCE (with ice-core and carbon-dating studies suggesting the earlier date).
Following the eruption of Thera, the town of Akrotiri was completely covered in volcanic ash and thereby remained extremely well preserved; for example, through negative casting it has been possible to identify usually perishable items such as wooden furniture, most commonly stools and beds. However, unlike at Pompeii where life seems frozen by the disastrous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, at Akrotiri there were no casualties found at the site and there is evidence of some attempt to clear rubble which suggests that there was a short gap between the earthquakes and the eruption and many residents had already abandoned the town before the final cataclysm. The site remained hidden from sight until its systematic excavation from 1967 CE.
The well-planned town has squares and wide streets. Buildings were of two or three stories with flat roofs supported by a central wooden column. Architectural features in common with those in the Minoan civilization include a large hall, lustral basins, ashlar masonry, horns of consecration and the occasional lightwell.
ARCHITECTURE & ART
Interestingly, almost all of the buildings excavated at Akrotiri have scenes painted on the interior walls in one or more of their rooms, illustrating that it was not only the elite who had such artwork in their homes. Fresco subjects and style were much influenced by the Minoan civilization – religious processions, goddesses, lilies, crocuses etc. and by the later Mycenaean civilization on the Greek mainland – griffins and boars’ tusks helmets. More local themes such as girls gathering saffron, seascapes and fishing activities were also popular as were exotic animals such as antelopes and monkeys. Many rooms were completely covered in painted depictions of landscape scenes attesting to a love of nature and creating a powerful visual impact which transports the viewer beyond the confines of the room.
In addition to Fresco subject matter, other finds such as Cretan and Mycenaean pottery, seal impressions using Minoan iconography, Minoan clay loom weights, Canaanite jars, the use of the Minoan Linear A script and items of Egyptian origin (e.g.: ivory and ostrich eggshells) attest to Akrotiri’s continued importance as an important trading centre with contacts throughout the Aegean.
Although the date of the event is difficult to fix, the effect of the disaster is clearly evident in physical archaeological remains but also in more intangible terms. It has been suggested that the eruption of Thera may be the origin of the Atlantis myth – the destruction of an island and with it the loss of an advanced civilization. From the point of view of Greeks in the so-called Dark Ages (from c. 1100 BCE) the Minoan/Mycenaean-influenced community on Thera may well have appeared as a golden age, a time when cultural and artistic achievements were greater than in the present time but in just a few days consigned to history by Nature’s whim.
A volcanic eruption that may have inspired the myth of Atlantis was up to twice as large as previously believed, according to an international team of scientists.
The eruption occurred 3,600 years ago on the Santorini archipelago, whose largest island is Thera. Santorini is located in the Aegean Sea about 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of modern-day Greece.
The massive explosion may have destroyed the Minoan civilization based on nearby Crete.
Writing in this week’s issue of the journal Eos,a team of Greek and U.S. researchers estimate that the volcano released 14 cubic miles (60 cubic kilometers) of magma—six times more than the infamous 1883 eruption of Krakatau (Krakatoa).
Only one eruption in human history is believed to have been larger: an 1815 explosion of Tambora, in Indonesia, which released 24 cubic miles (100 cubic kilometers) of magma.
The researchers, partially funded by the National Geographic Society, obtained the new data by conducting the first seismic survey of the seabed near Santorini. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)
Previously, scientists had been forced to guess the size of the eruption based on ash deposits found in Turkey, Crete, Egypt, and the Black Sea.
A Hundred Feet Thick
Using techniques similar to those employed by oil companies to search for offshore deposits, the research team found a ring of volcanic deposits extending all the way around the Santorini archipelago.
The deposits averaged 100 feet (30 meters) thick and extended about 19 miles (30 kilometers) in all directions, says Haraldur Sigurdsson, a volcanologist at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, who led the research.
During the eruption, the material that formed the deposits would have plunged into the sea as pyroclastic flows—hot, fast-moving mixtures of gas, ash, and molten rock. As these hit the water, they would have kicked up massive tsunamis.
“In a very similar setting, [the milder] Krakatau produced 100-foot [30-meter] tsunami waves,” Sigurdsson said.
Other pyroclastic flows would have been comprised of pumice—a frothy rock so light it floats.
These flows, known as overwater flows, would have zoomed across the sea in scalding waves of debris, eventually hitting land many miles away.
An overwater flow from Krakatau killed more than a thousand people on the coast of Sumatra, 25 miles away from the site of the eruption.
The devastation caused by Santorini—once a single island—would have been far worse.
“We have to scale the effects of both the tsunami and overwater pyroclastic flows to the Santorini eruption,” Sigurdsson said.
His team, he adds, will soon begin studies in Crete and western Turkey looking for the remnants from such flows.
Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, an emeritus professor of geology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, notes that the strength of the eruption also depends on its duration.
“We don’t know whether this came out in one flow or a number,” he said.
There is some archaeological evidence, he adds, that people returned to the devastated area and started rebuilding, only to be blasted anew by the next round of activity.
Whether it occurred in one large blast or in a series of smaller events, the eruption produced massive devastation.
In his book Volcanoes in Human History, de Boer links the eruption to the demise of the Minoan civilization.
The seafaring Minoan culture was based on Crete, which is only a few dozen miles from Thera. At the time of the eruption, they dominated that part of the ancient Mediterranean.
When Thera erupted, the Minoans would have been clobbered by tsunamis, overwater pyroclastic flows, and fires from oil lamps knocked over by the eruption’s shockwave.
Famine, plague, and a destruction of the Minoans’ shipping economy would also have followed, de Boer says.
The eruption may also have had an enormous impact on Mediterranean mythology.
“I have no doubt that every myth is based on some event, and so is the myth of Atlantis,” the University of Rhode Island’s Sigurdsson said. “An event of this magnitude must have left its imprint.”
Sigurdsson also sees traces of Santorini in a Greek poem called the Theogony,composed by Hesiod about 800 years after the eruption.
The poem describes an epic battle between giants and the Greek gods and includes imagery of a great battle far out at sea.
Hesiod must have picked up the story as folklore handed down from survivors close enough to see the event but not close enough to know what happened, Siggurdsson says.
“He uses all the terminology one would use in describing an eruption,” he said. “The people who lived close enough to see that it was a volcano were all killed. [The rest] could only describe it in supernatural terms.”
Each Monday, this column turns a page in history to explore the discoveries, events and people that continue to affect the history being made today.
The world map might look differently had the Greek volcano Thera not erupted 3,500 years ago in what geologists believe was the single-most powerful explosive event ever witnessed.
Thera didn’t just blow a massive hole into the island of Santorini – it set the entire ancient Mediterranean onto a different course, like a train that switched tracks to head off in a brand new direction.
Minoan culture, the dominant civilization in the Mediterranean at the time, crumbled as a result of the eruption, historians believe, changing the political landscape of the ancient world indefinitely. Environmental effects were felt across the globe, as far away as China and perhaps even North America and Antarctica.
The legend of Atlantis and the story of the Biblical plagues and subsequent exodus from Egypt have also been connected to the epic catastrophe.
Dwarfed the atomic bomb
Historians and archaeologists have had trouble deciding on the year Thera erupted, with dates ranging anywhere from 1645 BC to 1500 BC. Studies of ash deposits on the ocean floor have revealed, however, that when the volcano did blow, it did so with a force dwarfing anything humans had ever seen or have seen since.
There are no first-person accounts of what happened that day, but scientists can compare it to the detailed records available from the famous eruption of Krakatoa, Indonesia, in 1883.
That fiery explosion killed upwards of 40,000 people in just a few hours, produced colossal tsunamis 40 feet tall, spewed volcanic ash across Asia, and caused a drop in global temperatures and created strangely colored sunsets for three years. The blast was heard 3,000 miles away.
Thera’s eruption was four or five times more powerful than Krakatoa, geologists believe, exploding with the energy of several hundred atomic bombs in a fraction of a second.
An absence of human remains and valuables like metal suggest that the Minoan residents of Santorini predicted the eruption and the island was evacuated, but the culture as a whole did not fare as well.
Based on the nearby island of Crete, the powerful Minoan civilization declined suddenly soon after Thera blew its top. Tsunamis spawned by the eruption would have swamped its naval fleet and coastal villages first off, historians think. A drop in temperatures caused by the massive amounts of sulphur dioxide spouted into the atmosphere then led to several years of cold, wet summers in the region, ruining harvests. The lethal combination overran every mighty Minoan stronghold in less than 50 years.
In just a short time, their peaceful, efficient bureaucracy made way for the warring city-state system of ancient Greece to dominate the Mediterranean. The Aegean would turn out to be a fundamental building block for the history of Europe, and the Minoan decline changed its early foundation completely.
Thera didn’t just alter the cultural make up of Europe, it has kept adventurers and treasure hunters busy too.
When the Greek philosopher Plato described the lost city of Atlantisover a thousand years after the volcanic eruption, he may have been referring to Thera folklore passed down in Greece over many generations and exaggerated like a game of broken telephone.
The eruption has also been loosely linked with the Biblical story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt. The effects of Thera’s eruption could have explained many of the plagues described in the Old Testament, including the days of darkness and polluting of the rivers, according to some theories.
On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound
I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead
You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
After nine days I let the horse run free
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
there was sand and hills and rings
The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love
You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
A Horse with No Name
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“A Horse with No Name” is a song written by Dewey Bunnell, and originally recorded by the band America. It was the band’s first and most successful single, released in late 1971 in Europe and early 1972 in the US, and topping the charts in several countries. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Due to the song’s resemblance to the work of Neil Young from the same time period, it is occasionally mistaken for being written and sung by Young.
America’s self-titled debut album was released initially in Europe with only moderate success and without the song “A Horse with No Name.” Trying to find a song that would be popular in the United States and Europe, “A Horse with No Name” was originally called “Desert Song” and was written while the band was staying at the home studio of Arthur Brown, in Puddletown, Dorset. The first two demos were recorded there, by Jeff Dexter and Dennis Elliott, and was intended to capture the feel of the hot, dry desert that had been depicted at the studio from a Salvador Dalí painting, and the strange horse that had ridden out of an M.C. Escher picture. Writer Dewey Bunnell also says he remembered his childhood travels through the Arizona and New Mexico desert when his family lived at Vandenberg Air Force Base. “A Horse with No Name” was recorded at Trident Studios in Soho in London and released as the featured song on a three-track single in the UK, Ireland, France, Italy and the Netherlands in late 1971. On the release “A Horse with No Name” shared the A-side with “Everyone I Meet Is from California”; “Sandman” featured on the B-side. However, its early-1972 two-track US release did not include “Sandman”, with “Everyone I Meet Is from California” appearing on the B-side.
Despite the song being banned by some U.S. radio stations (including one in Kansas City, Missouri) because of supposed drug references to heroin use, the song ascended to number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and the album quickly reachedplatinum status. The song charted earlier in the Netherlands (reaching number 11) and the UK (reaching number 3) than it did in the United States. The interpretation of the song as a drug reference comes from the fact that the word “horse” is a common slang term for heroin.
The song’s resemblance to some of Neil Young‘s work aroused some controversy. “I know that virtually everyone, on first hearing, assumed it was Neil”, Bunnell says. “I never fully shied away from the fact that I was inspired by him. I think it’s in the structure of the song as much as in the tone of his voice. It did hurt a little, because we got some pretty bad backlash. I’ve always attributed it more to people protecting their own heroes more than attacking me.” By coincidence, it was “A Horse with No Name” that replaced Young’s “Heart of Gold” at the #1 spot on the U.S. pop chart.
The song has also been ridiculed for its banal, oddly phrased lyrics, including “The heat was hot”; “There were plants, and birds, and rocks, and things”; and “‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.” Penn Jillette asked the band about their lyric, “there were plants, and birds, and rocks, and things” after a show in Atlantic City, where America opened for Penn & Teller. According to Jillette, their explanation for the lyric was that they were intoxicated with cannabis while writing it. In a 2012 interview, Beckley disputed Jillette’s story, saying, “I don’t think Dew was stoned.”
Heroin is an opioid drug that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance, known as “black tar heroin.”
In 2011, 4.2 million Americans aged 12 or older (or 1.6 percent) had used heroin at least once in their lives. It is estimated that about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it.
How Is Heroin Used?
Heroin can be injected, inhaled by snorting or sniffing, or smoked. All three routes of administration deliver the drug to the brain very rapidly, which contributes to its health risks and to its high risk for addiction, which is a chronic relapsing disease caused by changes in the brain and characterized by uncontrollable drug-seeking no matter the consequences.
How Does Heroin Affect the Brain?
When it enters the brain, heroin is converted back into morphine, which binds to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors. These receptors are located in many areas of the brain (and in the body), especially those involved in the perception of pain and in reward. Opioid receptors are also located in the brain stem, which controls automatic processes critical for life, such as blood pressure, arousal, and respiration.
Heroin overdoses frequently involve a suppression of breathing. This can affect the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can have short- and long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma and permanent brain damage.
After an intravenous injection of heroin, users report feeling a surge of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by dry mouth, a warm flushing of the skin, heaviness of the extremities, and clouded mental functioning. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Users who do not inject the drug may not experience the initial rush, but other effects are the same.
Researchers are also investigating the long-term effects of opioid addiction on the brain. One result is tolerance, in which more of the drug is needed to achieve the same intensity of effect. Another result is dependence, characterized by the need to continue use of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Studies have shown some deterioration of the brain’s white matter due to heroin use, which may affect decision-making abilities, the ability to regulate behavior, and responses to stressful situations.
What Are the Other Health Effects of Heroin?
Heroin abuse is associated with a number of serious health conditions, including fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, and infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV (see box, “Injection Drug Use and HIV and HCV Infection”). Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, constipation and gastrointestinal cramping, and liver or kidney disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health of the user as well as from heroin’s effects on breathing.
In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin often contains toxic contaminants or additives that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage to vital organs.
Chronic use of heroin leads to physical dependence, a state in which the body has adapted to the presence of the drug. If a dependent user reduces or stops use of the drug abruptly, he or she may experience severe symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms—which can begin as early as a few hours after the last drug administration—can include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), and kicking movements (“kicking the habit”). Users also experience severe craving for the drug during withdrawal, which can precipitate continued abuse and/or relapse.
Besides the risk of spontaneous abortion, heroin abuse during pregnancy (together with related factors like poor nutrition and inadequate prenatal care) is also associated with low birth weight, an important risk factor for later delays in development. Additionally, if the mother is regularly abusing the drug, the infant may be born physically dependent on heroin and could suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a drug withdrawal syndrome in infants that requires hospitalization. According to a recent study, treating opioid-addicted pregnant mothers with buprenorphine (a medication for opioid dependence) can reduce NAS symptoms in babies and shorten their hospital stays.
Prescription Opioid Abuse: A First Step to Heroin Use?
Prescription opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Research now suggests that abuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin abuse.
Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin. Some individuals reported taking up heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids.
Many of these young people also report that crushing prescription opioid pills to snort or inject the powder provided their initiation into these methods of drug administration.
Injection Drug Use and HIV and HCV Infection
People who inject drugs are at high risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis C (HCV). This is because these diseases are transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids, which can occur when sharing needles or other injection drug use equipment. (HCV is the most common blood-borne infection in the Unites States.) HIV (and less often HCV) can also be contracted during unprotected sex, which drug use makes more likely.
Because of the strong link between drug abuse and the spread of infectious disease, drug abuse treatment can be an effective way to prevent the latter. People in drug abuse treatment, which often includes risk reduction counseling, stop or reduce their drug use and related risk behaviors, including risky injection practices and unsafe sex.
Treating Heroin Addiction
A range of treatments including behavioral therapies and medications are effective at helping patients stop using heroin and return to stable and productive lives.
Medications include buprenorphine and methadone, both of which work by binding to the same cell receptors as heroin but more weakly, helping a person wean off the drug and reduce craving; and naltrexone, which blocks opioid receptors and prevents the drug from having an effect (patients sometimes have trouble complying with naltrexone treatment, but a new long-acting version given by injection in a doctor’s office may increase this treatment’s efficacy). Another drug called naloxone is sometimes used as an emergency treatment to counteract the effects of heroin overdose.
Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artistEddie Deezen.
Rock music is one of the great art forms of the twentieth century. But a sideline for those of us who love rock music, like the many movie fans who try to figure out or “interpret’ what the filmmakers were trying to say in their movies, is trying to figure out what the songwriters were trying to say in their songs.
In this activity, no greater challenge comes than America’s classic tune “A Horse with No Name.” A pleasant, catchy, albeit haunting song, it was America’s very first single and was also to be America’s biggest hit. A number one chart topper in several countries, the song was certified gold in 1972. It remains America’s most identified song, almost the group’s “theme song.” But what is “A Horse with No Name” about, exactly? What does it mean?
The folk/rock group America originally consisted of three members: Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek. The band was formed in England and the members were sons of U.S. servicemen. The group found success early, when the members were barely out of their teens.
America’s first album, redundantly titled America, was released initially in Europe in 1971 with only moderate success. This album did not contain “A Horse With No Name.”
Trying to find a song that would be popular in both America and Europe, they came up with a song about the desert. “A Horse with No Name” was originally titled just that: “Desert Song.” The song was written while the band was staying at the home studio of Arthur Brown in Puddletown, Dorset. The first two demos of the song were recorded there, by Jeff Dexter and Denis Elliot.
According to the song’s writer, Dewey Bunnell, the song was composed to capture the hot, dry feeling of the desert (he was just 19 when he wrote it). Bunnell said he remembered his childhood travels through the Arizona and New Mexico desert when his family lived at Vandenburg Air Force base.
He said he was trying to capture the dry feeling of the desert that had been pictured in a Salvador Dali painting in Arthur Brown’s studio/home. Bunnell said he was also writing about “the strange horse” that was ridden in an M.C. Escher picture.
Bunnell added to the story of the song’s genesis as recently as 2008, saying, “It was a travelogue in my mind, an environmental song to some degree. We were part of the hippie era to save the earth, and I’ve always been attracted to nature and the outdoors.”
Originally, the band thought “A Horse with No Name” was too corny and it actually took some convincing to get them to play it. The song had its public debut at the Harrogate Music Festival to a great audience response. After several performances and a TV show, “Desert Song” was officially retitled “A Horse With No Name.” It was released in March of 1972, became a #1 hit, and stayed at the top of the charts for three weeks. The debut album America was re-released to include the song and quickly went platinum.
The song was actually banned on some U.S. radio stations because of its title and lyrics. “Horse” is a common street term for heroin. Dewey Bunnell and the other members of America completely denied any drug reference connected with the lyrics.
The popular song was also ridiculed by several critics for its banal, oddly-phrased lyrics, i.e. “The heat was hot,” “There were plants and birds and rocks and things,” “‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain,” etc.
The song was also knocked for being a Neil Young ripoff. Many actually thought it was a Neil Young song. Bunnell understood this criticism and never tried to hide the fact that he greatly admired Neil Young. “I never shied away from the fact that it was inspired by him,” said Bunnell. Ironically, “A Horse With No Name” replaced Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” at #1 on the charts.
Randy Newman once said the song was “about a kid who thinks he’s taken acid.”
Comedian Richard Jeni joked, “You’re in the desert, you got nothing else to do. Name the freakin’ horse!”
Like it or not, “A Horse with No Name” remains a rock classic around the world. Tune in to any “’70s weekend” on an oldies radio station and you will most certainly hear its strange, haunting lyrics.
Interpretation of “A Horse with No Name” – as understood by this author
The way I see it, the lyrics of this song have little or nothing to do with heroin addiction.
It seems to be a very apt description of life, in contemporary times, in any thriving metropolis of the world, be it New York, Tokyo, Rio, Paris or Mumbai. Life in any metropolis of the world is suitably described by the pop music group, ‘America’ as being akin to life in the “desert.” The scenario in any big city of our times is one of bleakness, starkness and impersonality. A city has a lot of attractions such as luxury hotels, malls, fancy supermarkets, multiplexes, etc. A “horse” is a common farm animal that is seen quite often in cities too – it is a mundane and ordinary sight to see a horse at the head of a cart or a carriage, or to see people (mostly children) queued up and waiting for their turn to take a horse-ride in the vicinity of a park or of amusement-grounds, such as a ‘band-stand.’ There are so many millions of people in big cities that they have undoubtedly become as common and ordinary a sight as that of a horse or even a dog – these people tend to be so engrossed in their own lives and problems; they are so overcome by daily stresses that they have no time – nor are they bothered – to find out even who their immediate neighbours are. For them, these neighbours have no name or a unique identity. People who lead their lives within any megalopolis have, a long time ago, lost all traces of their own unique personalities in the larger picture of life in a big city – in that sense, a person has become as banal and common-place as a “horse with no name.”
In another context, an implied meaning of the song likely lies in the narration of a story of a man who finds himself lost in the desert. After as short a period as 9 days, the man is in a daze of dehydration from the scorching, punishing heat of the desert. The desert, being such a stark and unforgiving landscape, made this man lose all sense of an identity. Within 9 days, it seems highly likely that he died – all alone and forgotten – just like a horse who has lost its way in the merciless clutches of the impersonal desert. It still refers to the larger picture of people who lose their way in the labyrinth of life in a big city where loneliness, callousness, indifference and impersonality are the order of the day. Rather than try to survive the fall into an abyss (life in a megalopolis), or rather than trying to look for a way out of a complicated maze (a complicated situation or problem), many a youth, in today’s world, have turned to drug addiction – as a way of seeking a modicum of peace, comfort and solace in a world that no longer cares.
Dhanpat Rai, better known by his pseudonym Munshi Premchand, was a famous Indian author and poet who ushered into the Modern Hindi and Urdu literature with his writings. His first novella, Asrar e Ma’abid was first published in Awaz-e-Khalq, an Urdu Weekly, after which he became associated with an Urdu magazine Zamana, writing columns on national and international events. The writer is mainly recognized for his creations that always contained a social message and raised voice against the social evils pertaining in the Indian society. His creations brought the era of realism in the Indian literature at that time, when only fantasy fictions and religious writings were dominating it. Premchand embodied the social purpose and social criticism in his characters that are subjected to the different circumstances and act accordingly. The great novelist is ranked among the greatest authors of the 20th century in India.
“The Temple and the Mosque” – A Tale by Munshi Premchand (as penned by this author)
Chaudhary Itrat Ali was a prominent landowner of the district. His ancestors had served the officials of the British Raj in many different ways. As a reward for past services, a jagir (land) was granted to them and this jagir flourished with Chaudhry sahib at the helm. Very soon, Chaudhry saheb was seen as the most affluent and eminent man in the entire district. British officials made it a point to pay a courtesy call on Chaudhry saheb whenever they came by on an inspection tour of the area. Chaudhry saheb being a proud man himself would never call upon visiting dignitaries, not even upon the commissioner. He considered it quite below his dignity to be a “yes man” to anything and everything that such dignitaries might utter.
A scholar of Arabic and Persian, Itrat Ali scrupulously followed the “Sharia” and considered the greed and lust for money as being a sin. He was known to say his prayers five times a day and to fast for thirty days during the holy month of Ramzan. He read from the Quran daily. He was a staunchly religious man, yet his mind was in no way tainted by religious narrow-mindedness. Despite rain or even hail, he insisted on taking an early morning dip in the holy Ganga, as part of his daily, unfailing routine. He would leave at five o’clock each morning and walk for two miles to reach the riverbank. He would fill his silver flagon with holy water and would only drink that water during the rest of the day. Even a Hindu sage or an ascetic could not be considered to have more reverence for the holy water of the Ganga as Chaudhry saheb. Every week, his entire house would be plastered with cow dung.
Chaudhry Itrat Ali’s secular beliefs extended beyond all of this; a pandit (priest) would be seated in his garden citing from the Holy Scriptures all the year through. He welcomed sanyasis into his home with a whole-hearted open-mindedness and devotion – to the extent that it is doubtful that Rajas and Maharajas of the past extended the same hospitality and respect to these passing holy mendicants, as Itrat Ali himself. All manner of holy men and mendicants – whether Hindu or Muslim – were welcomed hospitably at the wealthy house of Chaudhry saheb.
For the muslim fakirs, food was specially prepared in his own kitchens and every day, more than a hundred people would sit down for a communal dinner. Chaudhry saheb, renowned for his splendid generosity in the district, owed not a single cowrie to any moneylender and in fact, his fortunes flourished further with each passing day.
Chaudhry saheb had a Rajput Man Friday called Thakur Bhajan Singh. The latter was at least six feet tall, broad-chested, fearless and an absolute expert at wielding the cudgel. Chaudhry saheb trusted Thakur Bhajan Singh implicitly with his life and he even took Bhajan Singh along with him to Mecca when he went there to perform Haj. Chaudhry saheb was not without his fair share of enemies; all the neighbouring landlords were jealous of his power and fame. These enemies hesitated to mistreat their own subjects because of Itrat Ali’s awesome reputation of taking up the cause of the underdog.
Many a time had Bhajan Singh rescued his master’s life by the skin of his teeth – so eager was he to jump into the fray. Bhajan Singh was like a pet ram that was just waiting to be let off the leash so that he could run and hammer someone over the head. Chaudhry saheb was constantly worried that Bhajan Singh would get into a brawl. As far as Bhajan Singh himself was concerned, he truly worshipped the ground on which Chaudhry saheb walked. Chaudhry saheb was to him akin to a king, master and even like God Himself – so much was the true love and faithful devotion that Bhajan Singh espoused for Itrat Ali.
Meanwhile, the fanatics among the Muslims, wasted no time in hatching conspiracies against Chaudhry saheb. They believed him not to be a true Muslim at heart. They could not understand why Itrat Ali wanted to drink the holy water of the Ganga on a daily basis; they failed to understand why he should extend such warm hospitality to visiting mendicants and ascetics and further wondered why a pandit was invited daily to his home to read from the Holy Scriptures. These conspirators decided to put an end, once and for all, to Chaudhry saheb’s devout “Hinduism.” They hatched a plot to inflict a crushing defeat on the Hindus by attacking the Hindu Temple on the occasion of Janmashtami. The Hindus, according to the Muslims, ought to be taught properly that they could no longer hope to receive Chaudhry saheb’s kindness, homage and patronage. If Chaudhry saheb intervened in this matter, he would be taught a lesson too. These people could no longer stomach the outright audacity, on the part of Itrat Ali, in patronizing the Hindus so openly and warmly.
It was on a dark night that the auspicious occasion of Janmashtami was being celebrated at the temple. Thousands had gathered to watch the celebrations. A toothless, old man was singing the dhrupad on his tanpura. The congregation of devotees, sitting with their dhol and manjira were anxiously waiting to start singing the devotional songs. It was a very festive atmosphere.
Suddenly, a group of Muslims wielding lathis arrived and started lustily stoning the temple. The Hindus were caught off-guard and utter chaos and bedlam followed. A few Hindu men stepped out of the temple to inspect the commotion; they were lathi-charged by the cudgel-wielding Muslims. Caught completely unguarded and unequipped for such a thorough assault, some Hindus ran frantically to hide in the temple; others fled helter-skelter in the opposite direction.
Chaudhry Itrat Ali soon heard the news of the ensuing mayhem; he sent Thakur Bhajan Singh out to investigate the ongoing commotion. He instructed Bhajan Singh that he was allowed to give a slap or two to the trouble-makers if they continued to misbehave but that there should be no bloodshed whatsoever.
Being a warrior at heart, Thakur Bhajan Singh, was gnashing his teeth like a caged-animal and was waiting impatiently to be called upon to rush into the fray. These instructions from Chaudhry saheb were like a silent prayer that had been answered. With his trusty cudgel slung over his shoulder, Bhajan Singh loped off towards the temple. On reaching his destination, he found that the Muslims had wreaked havoc inside the temple.
A red tide of fury assailed the senses of Bhajan Singh. With a loud cry of rage, he set about heartily beating the trouble-makers inside the temple. He was one man against fifty others but he fought like a tiger. He felt that Lord Krishna Himself had come to his aid.After all, in the fight to preserve the sanctity of their religion, men are known to have performed many wondrous deeds.
Chaudhry saheb was very worried that Thakur Bhajan Singh would undoubtedly spill someone’s blood in his impetuous rage and fury. This thought made Itrat Ali hurry after Bhajan Singh.
A scene of havoc and destruction met the eyes of Chaudhry saheb at the temple. Some people, who were still capable of moving, were fleeing for their lives; some others were moaning or crying out loudly in pain. Just as Chaudhry saheb was about to call out for Thakur, a stricken man came running from somewhere and fell down in front of him. Itrat Ali found that the world was darkening before his eyes, so shocked was he. He had recognized the fear-stricken man as none other than Shahid Hussain, his son-in-law and sole heir.
Rushing forward to hold Shahid who was almost crumbling to his knees, Chaudhry saheb called out urgently to Thakur to get a lantern. Itrat Ali struck his forehead in grief and anguish and stated that Thakur had snuffed out the light from his life. Mortified and filled with shame, Thakur was trembling from head to foot when he replied to his master that he swore, on all the Gods, that he had not recognized Shahid Hussain. Chaudhry saheb went on to state that he was not blaming Thakur; after all, no one had the right to trespass on God’s Temple. Thakur had always been ever-willing to lay down his life for his master but that day it was as if God Himself had chosen Thakur to devastate and destroy him.
Thakur stood rooted to the spot unable to meet the eyes of Itrat Ali from which tears were freely streaming down. He was overcome by guilt, immense regret and remorse. Thakur Bhajan Singh proclaimed that his honour had been tarnished forever. Bhajan Singh felt that he was the proverbial serpent that his master had been nurturing in his bosom.
Bhajan Singh, at that moment, pulled out a dagger, hoping to wash the disgrace from his soul by spilling his own blood. Chaudhry saheb snatched the dagger from Thakur’s hands before further damage could be done. He told Thakur to control himself; after all, this was what Fate had in store for him. It was not Thakur’s fault. Chaudhry saheb hypothesized that if it had been him who had been taken in by Satan’s blandishments; if it had been him who had violated and desecrated the temple and profaned the idol and even if Thakur had recognized his master and killed him, even then would Chaudhry saheb forgive him for taking his life.
Itrat Ali stated, “There is no sin greater than insulting another man’s religion. God knows I hold nothing against you, though right now, I feel as if my heart will break and the shock of this tragedy will never ebb. If I had been in your place, I would have done exactly as you did. I know that my family will taunt me, my daughter will ask me to avenge the death of her husband, the entire Muslim community will bay for my blood, I will be called a kafir; perhaps some devout young man may even decide to kill me – but I will not turn my face away from what is true and right. The night is still dark. Run away from here and hide in one of the old barracks on my estate. Look over there, some Muslims are heading this way. Some of my family members too are with them. Run, run!”
Bhajan Singh stayed hidden on Chaudhry saheb’s estate for a full year. He was being pursued equally by the Muslims and by the police. Still, Chaudhry saheb continued to keep him safely hidden from the prying eyes of the world. He bore stoically the taunts directed at him by society, the reproaches and insults flung at him by his family, as well as the charges of the police and the ensuing threats from the mullahs. He never disclosed, despite all of this, the secret of where he had hidden Bhajan Singh. As long as he was alive, Itrat Ali, was not prepared to surrender a trusted and loyal servant into the hands of the pitiless law authorities. Bhajan Singh remained safely hidden even though the barracks on his estate were raided several times. Some bigoted Muslims even tried to corner his household servants but to no avail.
Late one winter’s night, Thakur Bhajan Singh came secretly to meet Chaudhry saheb. He stated to his master that he was sick and fed up of continuing to live this ‘hole-and-corner life’ and that if his master permitted it, he would present himself to the magistrate and then whatever was written in his fate would take place. Chaudhry saheb staunchly refused any such foolhardy action; he could never stand by and knowingly throw Thakur to the dogs. Itrat Ali was afraid that the police would turn and twist the truth to suit their own hidden purposes and Thakur would lose his life for no good reason. Thakur had on so many occasions put his life in jeopardy for his master that now Chaudhry saheb felt that he would be extremely ungrateful, if he failed to save Thakur’s life that day. He told Thakur not to utter another word on the subject again.
Thakur proclaimed that he had heard that some people had stopped associating with Chaudhry saheb. To this statement, Itrat Ali rejoined that it was always a good idea to keep one’s enemies at bay.
Bhajan Singh spent a restless night in an agony of self-reproach and early the next morning, he surrendered himself before the district magistrate.
Chaudhry saheb was astounded when he heard this news. Thakur could not be saved unless an advocate was found to plead his case. If his case were to be pleaded, it would cause an uproar in the Islamic community. The canons of Islam would sling fatwas at him from all directions. Itrat Ali was in a dilemma; yet his Muslim colleagues were all keen to seek the death penalty for the offender. A fund was set up for this purpose. Mullahs appealed to the people from mosques to contribute generously to the fund. People went from door-to-door in search of donations. Muslim lawyers took the opportunity to have their fair share of the limelight. They poured in, in hordes, from the neighbouring districts, to take part in what had rapidly become a jihad – a crusade to preserve the sanctity of their religion.
Chaudhry saheb, in the meanwhile, decided that he ought to be afraid of no one, while protecting the life of an innocent man. Thakur was completely innocent in the eyes of the law, yet Itrat Ali decided to leave his home and live in the city for a while.
For six months, Chaudhry saheb’s life revolved around court proceedings. He was forced to do things that he had never done in the past and would never commit again in the future. He flattered the clerks and fraternized with other petty officials, suffered silently the airs and arrogance of the lawyers, gave gifts and bribes to the officials till he finally succeeded in freeing Thakur from the clawing clutches of the scaffold. The news spread like wild fire and caused an uproar in the entire district. People started taunting Chaudhry saheb and began to mock at him for putting a spoke in their plans of a death penalty for Thakur.
Yet Chaudhry saheb’s actions seemed totally distorted when seen through the prism of communal hatred – the Muslims were outraged and screamed for the blood of the offender; the Hindus, on the other hand were jubilant. The Muslims felt that Chaudhry saheb had lost all vestiges of the faith that he had been born into. The Hindus felt that it was time to perform a purification rite (”shuddhi”) on Chaudhry saheb to cleanse his soul of any remaining impurities. This caused the mullahs to increase the volume of their preaching and the Hindus too raised the flag of Hindu solidarity and unity.
A consciousness of being a Muslim took root in the heart of every Muslim and the spirit of Hinduism imbued the heart of each Hindu. Thakur, impetuous and easily aroused as he was, totally lacked any religious sentiments, but he too was swept away in this wave of religiosity. He became the self-appointed leader of the Hindus. Thakur became now hell-bent upon picking quarrels in the name of religion. If he did not succeed in coercing the Muslims, he forced the chamars – the lowest of the low castes – and performed the shuddhi purification rites on them, even against their will.
Chaudhry saheb’s other servants were also caught up whole-heartedly in this rising wave of fanaticism. Muslims who were never once seen as even standing in front of a mosque, now went in to pray five times each day and Hindus likewise, who had never even seen the interior of a temple, now took to offering prayers in the morning and evening. The town had a majority of Hindus but they used to be disorganized and scattered till Bhajan Singh, the acknowledged strongman of the neighbourhood, became the head man. Previously, the Muslims, though fewer in number, could easily overpower the Hindus, but now the Hindus had put up a united front and had consolidated their strength. This put the Muslims in a very awkward position.
As another year passed by, the auspicious occasion of Janmashtami once again presented itself. The Hindus had not forgotten their bitter defeat at the hands of the Muslims. Clandestine preparations, for open warfare, had been going on for many months. Devotees had been gathering in the temple since early morning. Each man wielded a cudgel and some had even hidden a dagger in their waist-band. It had earlier been agreed that ample provocation would be needed before a fight with the Muslims broke out. As a departure from tradition, a grand procession was planned that year.
Lamps had been lit. The Muezzin had given his call for the evening prayer. The procession set off with a lot of fanfare, glitter and pageantry. There were elephants and horses, flags and pennants, drums and trumpets. Bhajan Singh, along with a posse of strong, young louts, swaggered at the head of the procession.
When the Jama Masjid came into sight, the youth steadied their lathis on their shoulders and the stragglers moved closer to form a tight-knit group. A hurried, whispered consultation took place and then the drums beat louder and louder and the cries of jubilation rang out louder than ever before. The procession soon reached abreast of the mosque. A Muslim stepped out of the mosque and requested the head of the procession to stop the drums as it was time for the evening prayer. Bhajan Singh retorted that the drums would not be stopped in any circumstance; the Muslims could stop their prayers if they felt uncomfortable. The Muslim told Bhajan Singh to stop taking on false airs on the strength of the patronage that he enjoyed from Chaudhry saheb. The Muslim went on to threaten Thakur that this time the Muslims would inflict a crushing defeat on the Hindus and teach them a lesson, once and for all. Thakur was not to be outdone. He replied that his men had not come armed with the illusion of Chaudhry saheb’s strength; they were driven by the strength of their own convictions. He stated that this was a matter of religious principles.
In the meantime, some other Muslims came out of the mosque and demanded that the drums be stopped immediately. Instead the drums beat louder and louder. One thing led to another and the situation rapidly went out of control. A mullah called Bhajan Singh a kafir, an infidel. Thakur lunged for the man’s beard and pandemonium broke out. Fighting started in earnest and all those who fancied themselves as heroes joined in the fray. With a roar of rage, Thakur entered the mosque and started beating up whoever he could lay his hands upon. Utter chaos and havoc ensued and it was difficult to say who held the field that day. Hindus maintained that it was a complete defeat. Muslims felt that they had delivered such a crushing blow to the Hindus that they would find it impossible to raise their heads again.
In the midst of these raging controversies, one thing became amply clear – Thakur had supernatural strength; the Hindus believed that he was a reincarnation of Lord Hanuman, the greatest of all warriors. The Muslims believed that if Thakur had not been there, not a single Hindu could have escaped with his life.
The festival of Janmashtami was over. Chaudhry saheb sat puffing on his huqqah. His brow was furrowed and sparks of intense rage shot from his eyes. He could not tolerate the fact that God’s house had been defiled. Couldn’t they have fought in the grounds around the mosque? Needless and ample blood had been shed in God’s abode. Such disrespect and irreverence shown to a mosque!A Temple is God’s abode as much as a Mosque is. If a Muslims who has profaned a temple is liable for punishment, then shouldn’t a Hindu who has desecrated a mosque be also liable for the very same punishment?
And to think that Thakur Bhajan Singh was the perpetrator of this infamy! Chaudhry saheb’s loyal and trusted servant was the one who had taken the life of his son-in-law. He would not have defended Thakur’s case, if he had known that he was capable of this atrocity. He ought to have let Thakur hang for his sins. Why then had Chaudhry saheb allowed himself to be so harassed, ridiculed and so burdened with debt? Thakur was undoubtedly an extremely faithful servant who had saved many a time Chaudhry saheb’s life. But this day, he had violated God’s House and for that he needed to be punished. The everlasting, burning fires of Hell itself would be a fitting punishment for such a grave sin. He who violates God’s House, blasphemes against God Himself.
As each minute passed, Chaudhry saheb’s anger grew more and more inflamed. Suddenly, Thakur came and stood in front of his master. Itrat Ali gave his servant a furious glance and demanded to know if he, as a Hindu, had had the audacity to enter the mosque. Thakur evaded the issue by replying that the mullahs had pounced on them. Chaudhry saheb forced Thakur to say the truth; the latter was then forced to admit that when the Muslims inside the mosque started throwing stones at them, they had to enter it to catch those men. Chaudhry asked Thakur if he was not aware that a mosque was the House of God. Did Thakur also not know that the mosque was as sacred as a temple? Thakur was dumb-struck. According to the philosophy of Chaudhry saheb, if a Muslim were to defile a temple, he would be liable for execution. If a Hindu were likewise to defile a mosque, the Hindu deserved the same punishment as the Muslim – it was as simple as that.
Chaudhry saheb was furious at Thakur’s blasphemy. He told Thakur that despite the fact that he had killed his own son-in-law, he had found an advocate to plead his case. Itrat Ali sincerely believed that his son-in-law deserved death for the sin that he had committed by desecrating the temple. He had believed that Thakur was right in meting out the punishment of death on his son-in-law. However, now Thakur himself was guilty of committing the same sin. Chaudhry saheb would have felt true happiness if a Muslim had had the good fortune of dispatching Thakur to the burning fires of Hell that day. Instead, Thakur had survived the onslaught like a shameless and miserable wretch. It was the duty of every Muslim, according to Chaudhry saheb, that the man, who desecrates God’s Place of Worship and disrespects Him, would have his head chopped off. That is God’s Edict. Just because a thief remained unpunished, it did not imply that he was still not a thief. Chaudhry saheb was fuming and he asked Thakur to admit that he had indeed shown disrespect to God.
Thakur hung his head in shame. He could not disclaim his guilt. Chaudhry saheb’s sheer goodness removed all traces of intransigence from his soul. Itrat Ali asked Thakur if he was now prepared to accept the same punishment that he had meted out on another man. Thakur replied that he had killed his master’s son-in-law unknowingly and by accident. Chaudhry saheb told Thakur to understand that if Thakur had not murdered his son-in-law that day, then Itrat Ali would have taken the law into his own hands and killed Shahid Hussain himself. Itrat Ali was bent on taking revenge for the sacrilege that Thakur had committed against God. Did he want retribution at the hands of his beloved master or at the hands of the law? The court would sentence him to a few years of imprisonment; Chaudhry saheb would kill Thakur. The latter was his friend and he held no grudge against him, yet he had to kill Thakur. Even though this action would cause him great pain and distress, Chaudhry saheb’s faith decreed it to be so.
Uttering these soulless words of revenge, Chaudhry saheb drew out his sword and stood in front of Thakur. It was a strange sight. Thakur was a god-like youth standing in front of a bent old man, with silvery-grey hair, who was brandishing a sword. Thakur could very well have knocked the old man down with one stroke of his cudgel but he stood still. He felt a deep respect for this old man in every fibre of his being. However, he could never have imagined that Chaudhry saheb was such a strictly religious man.
Like so many others, Thakur was under the mistaken notion that deep down in his heart Chaudhry saheb was a Hindu. The thought of violence against the man who had suffered so much to save him from the hangman’s noose had never entered his mind. He was absolutely fearless and like all truly brave men, he was also completely without guile or deceit. At this moment, he felt remorse, not anger. The thought of death brought sorrow, not fear.
Chaudhry stood brandishing the sword in front of Thakur. His mind was in a dilemma of indecision – his religion dictated that he kill this man; his goodness dictated that he let him go.
Thakur could see the dilemma raging in Chaudhry saheb’s head. He told his master that his compassion and benevolence would never allow his hand to be raised against him. He would never be able to kill a servant who he had raised and nurtured himself. But Thakur’s head was his, for the taking. He had saved this head in the past, now he could take the same head whenever it so pleased him. The next morning, Chaudhry saheb could send someone to Thakur’s house to collect what was rightfully his. If Thakur were to give it to him now, a full-scale riot would break out in the town. In the privacy and sanctity of his own home, no one would know who had killed Thakur. The latter asked his master for his forgiveness in case he had unknowingly hurt him in any way.
This year (2005) happens to be the 125th birth anniversary of great litterateur and writer Premchand. He was born on 31st July 1880 in a small village called Lamhi, about 4 kms. from Benaras (also called Varanasi). Premchand left deep imprint on Hindi and Urdu literature. It is heartening news that during his 125-birth anniversary the U.P. Government is going to convert his house in Lamhi into a museum. It would be though late but a fitting tribute to his memory. He was born in a Kayast family. Kayasts generally were employed in Mughal courts on administrative posts and thus had a tradition of learning Persian and Urdu. His father’s name was Munshi Ajaib Lal. His father died when Premchand was 15 years old.
Premchand writes about his early life as simple and like levelled field in which one finds small holes here and there but no mountains, hillocks or dense jungles. His early life was spent in rural surroundings. He learnt Persian in first eight years and then began to learn English and passed his Entrance examination from Benaras. He began his literary life from 1901, beginning of the twentieth century.
He learnt Urdu and Persian from a Maulavi in his village. This was how Kayast children began their education and it was for this reason that there was deep impact of composite culture on his mind. The real name of Premchand was Dhanpat Rai and he began to write through pen name Nawab Rai which, on account of problems with the British Government for writing stories and novels with revolutionary fervour, he changed to Premchand and his writings survived under this name which will remain immortal both in Hindi and Urdu literature.
Like all great writers he was not satisfied with the status quo and began to write with the fervour of a social reformer. His very first novel was “Asrar-i-Ma’abid” (Secrets of places of worship). In this novel he exposes the secret life of priests who exploit the poor masses and take advantage of their miseries and superstitious beliefs born on account of their illiteracy and backwardness.
Munshi Premchand was attracted towards Arya Samaj movement precisely because it was a social reform movement, to begin with. He also campaigned for widow marriage and himself married a widow after separation from his first wife. In his later years Premchand was not happy with mere social reforms and was deeply influenced by Marxism and he clearly expresses his revolutionary views in his work on Mahajani Tahzib i.e. the bourgeois culture. This crucial turn in his life came in early thirties. He also inaugurated the first Progressive Writer’s conference in Lucknow in 1936 convened by Sajjad Zahir and others.
Premchand was in Government service but did not compromise his views on freedom struggle. He was greatly influenced by Gandhiji and regularly wrote essays supporting freedom struggle in an Urdu magazine called Zamana then published from Kanpur under the editorship of his friend Dayanarain Nigam. In the beginning he used to contribute to Zamana under the name of Nawab Rai but when he was caught by the British intelligence service and had to give an undertaking to the district collector not to write against government he killed Nawab Rai and began writing under the name of Premchand which gave him permanent fame.
Premchand’s ideas of aesthetics were shaped by his social and revolutionary commitments. He never fell for decadent literary trends. When Zamana published special issue on the Lucknawi poet Aatish (a poet of Lucknow school product of declining period of Lucknow’s feudal culture) Premchand protested against his friend Nigam and urged him not to waste pages of his magazine on such poets. His inaugural address to Progressive Writers’ Association (PWA) Conference also reflects his ideas about revolutionary aesthetics. He criticises classical ides of aesthetics as the only valid concept of aesthetics and proposes that a peasant women working in the field and suckling her child is as aesthetic as classical portrayal of beauty.
He criticises static trends in literature and wants to induce dynamic spirit, spirit for change and social transformation. Thus he writes literature is reflection of its time. Those emotions and sentiments which stir people’s heart are there to stay. In the time of decline people either talk of love (ashiqi) or Sufism or bairag and if literature reflects these sentiments it surely represents declining trend. Thus Premchand stands for commitment to social change and transformation.
Premchand’s well known stories like Idgah, Kafan, and novel Gaudan are not only literary masterpieces but also show deep impact on his mind of India’s composite culture referred to as “ganga-jamni tehzib i.e. the culture of the land between the two rivers of Ganges and Jamuna which was essentially composite culture and this culture was result of the rich contribution of two communities i.e. Hindus and Muslims. In fact until 19 th century Persian and Urdu both the languages were considered as the languages of ruling elite be they Hindus or Muslims.
Premchand was deeply committed to communal harmony right from an early age. His attraction to Arya Samaj had no communal leaning. It was, as already pointed out, result of his commitment to social reforms in Hindu society. His stories like Idgah, Hajj-e-Akbar and Mandir Masjid indicates his commitment to communal harmony.
Idgah is a moving story of an orphan child brought up by his grandmother and how the poor child, a Muslim, who goes to Idgah fair on the Id day buys a clippers (chimta) for her grandmother as her hands often get burnt while making chapattis while his other friends buy toys and sweets with the money given to them by their parents. When his friends mock at him for buying clippers he defeats all of them in argument and proves the superiority of what he has bought. The story is not only deeply human but also shows knowledge of Premchand about the Islamic festival. Premchand is able to authentically portray the Muslim sentiments on this important festival.
Another story Hajj-I-Akbar also shows Premchand’s humane approach to his characters, Hindus or Muslims without a trace of prejudice. Hajj-I-Akbar is the story of poor old Muslim women whose ambition is to go for Hajj and she saves small amounts of money from her income as a domestic worker and finally is able to gather enough money to buy her ticket for hajj. That year it happens to be hajj-I-akbar (i.e. the great hajj as the day of hajj falls on Friday). Muslims consider it a great luck if they can perform hajj-I-akbar. The old woman is very happy that Allah has given her that great opportunity. When she is all ready to go and she learns that her Hindu neighbour who is poor like her is seriously ill and has no money to buy medicine. She is likely to die if she is not able to get money. Though she is all ready to go for hajj-I-akbar, she gives away all money to save her neighbour’s life and considers it a real hajj-I-akbar. It is deeply moving story.
Premchand was greatly committed to communal harmony. He was greatly annoyed by communal propaganda by some communal forces. Whenever any book, article or pamphlet was published by communalists, he will promptly reply. He wanted Hindus and Muslims to understand each other better and leave in peace. Whenever he found some Hindu attacking Muslims he would strongly condemn it. He was very close to CR.Das of Bengal in this respect.
In an article “Qahtur Rijal” (Famine of Men) he published in Nigam’s Zamana,he wrote that in the matter of Hindu-Muslim unity one cannot exonerate Hindus. He also had a grievance that Hindus did not properly appreciate the motives of the Khilafat movement. Hindus always looked at it with suspicious eyes, not from the eyes of Gandhiji. He called Muhammad and Shaukat Ali as Ram and Lakshman ki jodi (couple). He was great opponent of shuddhi movement and he did not spare anyone, howsoever great, in this respect.
He wrote a drama on Karbala to promote Hindu-Muslim unity. This drama has five acts and 43 scenes and it has a Hindu character Sahas Rao who sacrifices his life along with his group in support of Imam Husain. Sahas Rao is convinced that the Imam is on the path of truth. Though it may not be a historical fact but Premchand wrote this drama for promoting Hindu-Muslim unity. He wrote several stories like “Nyay” which is based on the event in the life of the Prophet of Islam and shows Prophet’s emphasis on justice.
He also wrote a story “Mandir-Masjid” which is very important from the perspective of Hindu-Muslim unity. It is the story of a Muslim Zamindar Chaudhary Ishrat Ali who is hated by Muslims and a Muslim mob attacks a Hindu mandir on the day of Janmashtami. Ishrat Ali sends his loyal servant Bhajansingh to face the Muslim mob and in this fight Ishrat Ali’s own son-in-law is killed at the hands of Bhajansingh. Bhajansingh wants to commit suicide for fear of retaliation by Ishrat Ali but Ishrat Ali saves his life and tells him that his son-in-law deserved that punishment as he attacked a sacred Hindu temple. Bhajansingh is arrested for killing his son-in-law but Ishrat Ali defends him.
But when Bhajansingh comes back after being released he is made a hero by Hindu communalists who attack a Muslim mosque on next Janmashtami festival and unfortunately Bhajansingh is among them. Ishrat Ali had placed faith in him and even had pardoned him for his son-in-law’s murder. He is greatly disturbed by Bhajansingh’s betrayal of faith and thinks of killing him. Bhajansingh realises his mistake and tells Ishrat Ali you saved my life and now you have every right to kill me. You get my head tomorrow and no one will know who killed me.
This story also leaves deep impact on reader’s mind. His great Novel Gaudan is a masterpiece and shows how deep Premchand’s knowledge and understanding of India‘s rural and urban society of his time. He analyses with master stroke the complex relationship between feudal lords and peasantry on one hand, and between workers and modern capitalists, on the other. This novel also is very realistic picture of composite culture of north India.
Premchand was a great writer by any account and his writings are as relevant today as they were when written. We can call him critical realist as he is deeply dissatisfied with his society and he looks at his society critically. His greatness lies as much in his commitment as in his creative talent and aesthetic craftsmanship. Premchand’s example shows that for a great literature commitment is as necessary as aesthetic creativity.
Premchand (pronounced [mʊnʃi preːm t͡ʃənd̪] (31 July 1880 – 8 October 1936), better known as Munshi Premchand, Munshi being an honorary prefix, was an Indian writer famous for his modern Hindustani literature. He is one of the most celebrated writers of the Indian subcontinent and is regarded as one of the foremost Hindustani writers of the early twentieth century. Born Dhanpat Rai Srivastav, he began writing under the pen name “Nawab Rai”, but subsequently switched to “Premchand”. A novel writer, story writer and dramatist, he has been referred to as the “Upanyas Samrat” (“Emperor among Novelists”) by some Hindi writers. His works include more than a dozen novels, around 250 short stories, several essays and translations of a number of foreign literary works into Hindi.
“Intoxication” – A Tale by Munshi Premchand (as penned by this author)
This story has been written in the first person.
Ishwari, my friend, was the son of a wealthy and a powerful landlord. I, Bir, on the other hand, was the son of a poor and lowly clerk who owned no property and who in fact, was a wage-earner and labourer. Ishwari and I were constantly having heated debates. I would speak very derogatorily about landlords calling them fierce predators, blood-sucking leeches and power-hungry parasites. Ishwari was in a weaker position and had no real arguments to defend himself. He would only go so far as to state that any society always has a system of hierarchy and that all humans are not born equal. It was difficult to prove the correctness of these arguments, based on either human or ethical principles. While I sometimes became very harsh, critical and hurtful concerning this subject, Ishwari forever remained good-natured about it all.
Ishwari always spoke rudely to the servants – he had plenty of the callousness, inconsideration, heartlessness and arrogance that is to be found in the wealthy. He lost his temper for the most trivial of things. He had no patience with laziness or indolence of any kind. Yet, with his friends and especially with me, he was always empathetic, sympathetic, kind-hearted and gentle. Perhaps in his position, I too would have developed this callous attitude because my love for the people was based not on principle but on my personal circumstances. In my position, Ishwari, would most likely remain lordly because he loved pleasure and luxury.
I had decided not to go home for the Dassehra holidays. I didn’t have the money for the fare and I didn’t want to trouble my family by asking for it. I was concerned about my studies for the upcoming exams. I didn’t want to stay alone in the boarding house either. So, when Ishwari invited me to his house, I accepted without hesitation. Despite Ishwari’s wealth, he is hard-working and intelligent and I felt that I would be able to study well in his company. Ishwari took the time to caution me not to denounce landlords in any way while I stayed at his home. Things would get complicated and his family would feel hurt. All landlords – and labourers alike – feel that God has made the workers so that they might serve the land-owners. If I were hence to state that there exists no basic difference between landlords and workers, it would be the end of the landlords.
Ishwari felt strongly that I would change my attitude when I got to live with his wealthy family members. I pointed out that he was mistaken in this notion. Ishwari remained silent on this point and just as well, otherwise, I would have felt offended.
I had never traveled by the intermediate class, let alone the second class. The train was due at 9 p.m., yet in our eagerness to get going, we arrived at the station in the evening. We walked around for a bit before proceeding for food at the cafeteria. It did not take the cooks long to figure out from my dress and demeanor who was the master and who the hanger-on, yet I resented their insolence. Ishwari paid for the entire meal and gave the cooks a handsome tip of eight annas. Yet I expected them all to wait on me with the same alacrity and humility and I was much disappointed when it was not the case. I didn’t enjoy the meal and these distinctions took all my attention. When the train came, the cooks saluted Ishwari but they did not deign to give me so much as a glance. I began to express vocally my resentment to Ishwari telling him that it was due to the large tip that he had got this unstinting respect. Ishwari felt however that good manners and politeness were ingrained into the mind of any worker.
Our train – a mail train – set out from Prayag and stopped at Pratapgarh. A man opened the compartment door and I immediately shouted out to him in Hindi and then in English that this was the second class compartment and that he should descend at once. The man spoke contemptuously to me and came and sat down on the middle berth. I was overwhelmed by embarrassment and settled for silence instead.
At dawn, we reached Muradabad. Two respectable gentlemen and five peasants, enlisted as free labourers, were waiting at the station to welcome us. The peasants lifted our luggage and the two respectable gentlemen walked behind us. One was a Muslim called Riyasat Ali and the other was a Brahmin named Ramharakh. They both looked at me inquiringly as if to ask what a crow was doing in the company of a swan. We were like chalk and cheese – so noticeable was the difference in each of our statuses.
Riyasat Ali asked Ishwari if I was his room-mate. Ishwari wholeheartedly agreed; he stated with alacrity that it was only due to me that he stayed on in Allahabad to study. Ishwari claimed that he had compelled me to join him at his home despite several urgent and expensive telegrams, to the contrary, that had supposedly arrived from my home. The two gentlemen looked downright astonished and had to make a visible effort to look impressed. To the statement that I dressed very simply, Ishwari stated that I only wore khadi since I was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi. He claimed that I was actually a prince who had set fire to all his fine clothes and that my estate produced a princely amount of two hundred and fifty thousand a year. Ishwari dispelled all their doubts by stating that they should not be misled by appearances which actually seemed to give the impression that I had just emerged from an orphanage. Ramharakh stated respectfully to this statement that the rich rarely exhibit such a temperament of simplicity and humility and that one could never tell just be looking at me. Riyasat Ali compared my simple appearance to that of the Maharaja of Changli. I felt embarrassed by this shower of praise, yet for some reason, these white lies did not seem absurd to me in the least. Each such sentence seemed to bring me closer to this imagined glory and I reveled in it.
Two thoroughbred horses were waiting to transport us. In my childhood, I had ridden horses that were used only to transport goods. I was quaking with fright and took the time to ride at a slow pace, lest I broke several of my limbs. Ishwari seemed to understand my plight.
Ishwari’s home was not a house but a fortress. It had a gate as large as a mausoleum and a watchman stood at the door. There were numerous servants and a tethered elephant. Ishwari introduced me to his father and to several other relatives giving the same white lie of who I actually was. Everyone, including the servants and even the family members, started showing me great respect. They were landlords, yet they were rustics and despite their great wealth they were humble enough to consider a police constable as an officer. Several of them started addressing me respectfully as, “Huzoor.” Ishwari himself started referring to me as Kunwar Sahib.
Later, I questioned Ishwari privately as to why he was intent on poking fun at me. He replied that such a trick was necessary otherwise no one would even bother to give me the time of day.
Just then, the barber arrived to press the feet of the ‘two tired princes.’ Ishwari insisted that the barber should press my feet first, while I lay on a string bed. Rarely if ever has anyone pressed my feet. I used to always tell Ishwari that this practice was the whim of the aristocrats and the arrogance of great men. Yet, here was I pretending to be from the manor born!
Ishwari’s family was traditional minded. At ten o’clock, we were summoned for the night-time meal. We went first to bathe. I left my dhoti lying on the floor, just as Ishwari did. I felt ashamed to rinse out my own dhoti, with my own hands, even though this was my usual practice at home. We went inside. In the hostel, we used to sit at the table with our shoes on. Here, it was necessary to have one’s feet washed before eating. The water- bearer washed Ishwari’s feet and then I held out my feet to be washed likewise. Where had all my earlier high-fangled ideas gone?
I had planned to concentrate on my studies in the countryside but here the whole day was spent instead in entertainment of some kind or the other. We went on the river in a barge; we hunted birds or went fishing; we watched wresting matches and played chess. Ishwari would make egg omelettes in our room while we were constantly surrounded by an army of servants. All one had to do was to wag one’s tongue and the work got done. A man helped us to have a bath; when one lay down another servant appeared to fan one.
Mahatma Gandhi’s princely disciple not only became famous, I was honored and respected both inside and outside the house. Everything had to be done in a timely fashion and exactly as per the Kunwar Sahib’s wishes lest he get offended or annoyed. I had become, or been forced to become, even more demanding and exacting than even Ishwari himself. Ishwari might make his own bed with his own hands, but how could his guest, the prince, spread his own bedding? It was asking for too much and I was far too grand for that.
One day, exactly such an occurrence arose. Ishwari was delayed in the house, perhaps talking to his mother. It was already past my bed-time and no servant had showed up to lay out my bedding. How could I, the prince, be expected to lay out, with my own hands, my bed? When a servant, a presumptuous fellow, who had been held up with household chores, came running at ten-thirty, to finally make my bed, I gave him such a “telling-off” that he would remember it.
Another day, the lamp was not lighted even though it was already dusk. The lamp was lying on the table, but how could the prince be expected to light it? I was getting highly agitated and irritated at this obvious oversight. The newspaper was lying on the table but I couldn’t read it because no one was present to light the lamp for me. I was getting very angry with each passing minute. When Riyasat Ali entered the room, I rebuked him sharply and spoke so rudely and insolently to him, that he himself – a respectable gentleman – lit the lamp for me with trembling hands.
A Thakur, a capricious fellow, but a prime devotee of the Mahatma, came by one day. He always showed me great respect but was shy about asking me about anything. One day, finding me alone, he asked me respectfully, with folded hands, if we would get self-rule once the landlords left. I answered grandly that the landlords knew no better than to suck the blood of the poor. If they did not give up their land willingly, it would have to be seized from them. I stated that my family was ready to transfer all their land to the labourers, as soon as we had self-rule.
I was sitting with my feet on a chair. The Thakur took to pressing my feet. He referred to me as “your honour” and asked me humbly for a job on my estate. I promised him that as soon as I was in a position of authority and inherited some property, I would have him learn driving and make him my chauffeur.
I heard later that the Thakur took lots of opium that night; beat up his wife and got ready to fight with the village moneylender.
The vacation was finally over and Ishwari and I set out for Prayag. Many villagers came to bid us farewell. The Thakur accompanied us to the station. I acted my part well till the end, leaving the imprint on each heart of courtesy and divinity appropriate to the God of Wealth that I was. I would have liked to have given a substantial tip to the servants but how could I afford it? When the train arrived it was packed beyond imagination. This was the last train and there was not an inch of breathing space in the second class. The intermediate class was in an even worse condition. We could not miss this train by any means and boarded with great difficulty into the third class. Our grandeur made an impression but I was very upset by this sort of discomfort after all the pleasures and luxuries that we had enjoyed. There was barely place to move in the compartment.
Some educated men, in the third class compartment, were praising the British rule. They praised the sense of justice and fair rule of the British where courts had even ruled against kings.
A man with a big bundle on his back was traveling to Calcutta. He was very uncomfortable and kept going and standing by the doorway, in the hopes of getting some fresh air. I was sitting just by the doorway. Inadvertently, the bundle kept rubbing against my face, again and again. I was getting increasingly annoyed because it was, as it is, difficult to breathe and to top it all, this rustic kept standing right in my face, as if determined to suffocate me. For some time, I tolerated this horrific inconvenience. Then I suddenly flew into a rage. I caught hold of the man, by the throat, pushed him back roughly and slapped him hard, twice across the face. The man objected, naturally, and asked me why I was intent on slapping him when he too had paid the same fare as me. I glared at him and in response gave him two or three more slaps.
A commotion arose in the compartment and reproaches rained on me from all sides. They started telling me that if I was such a great and ‘delicate’ man, why did I not travel by first class instead? Another stated that he would not hesitate to slap me back if I so much as dared to raise a hand against him. Another asked me if I, a rich man, had completely lost my humanity – after all, this poor man was just trying to get a breath of air. Another villager claimed that it seemed possible that I could not even get a clerkship, yet I was so unfeeling and arrogant.
Ishwari said then in English, “What an idiot you are, Bir!” And now, my intoxication seemed to be wearing off a little bit.
The “intoxication” in this story refers to the absurdity of snobbish ways.
It is a story of how simple-minded, poor or middle-class people can get to be hypocritical, superficial and fickle-minded in the face of sudden and great wealth. It tells us how society will forever be ridden with a class system and that indeed, in this system of hierarchy, all human beings are not born equal. The rich shall forever feel that it is their right to exploit workers, servants and labourers and in turn, the latter consider it their lot and their fate to serve the rich, even when some of the tasks that they are forced to perform are menial and demeaning.
It is a story that tells us how the hostilities and communal hatred and violence between Hindus and Muslims are a politically-motivated game where the politicians gain from promoting a policy of “Divide and Rule.” In reality, Hindus and Muslims can co-exist peacefully and can be gainful neighbours to each other.
In the end, the protagonist of the story, Bir, realizes what a laughing stock he has made of himself. He had become as power-hungry, lustful and greedy as the landlords themselves who he was so fond of verbally denouncing. This intoxication had made him into a typical “nouveau riche” (newly rich) person and he had undoubtedly made a complete fool of himself. He experiences a sense of anti-climax and realizes that he must be down-to-earth and accept his lot in life cheerfully. If he wanted to be treated as a rich man, he should have either been born into wealth or he ought to work hard to earn that kind of wealth, in the first place.
This is not the first time that the intoxication and scent of money and the lust for power and status has led to a complete detrimental change in a person’s character and personality. It will certainly not be the last time when the uncontrollable
greed for gold leads an individual to make a total fool of himself.