Hero-villain stories are among the most beloved in European mythology. This episode explores the strange Slavic story of Ivan and Koschei the Deathless, the origins of King Arthur and the wizard Merlin, the journey of Odysseus as he resists the beautiful songs of the Sirens, and finally, Sigurd and his battle with the dragon Fafnir.
What does oligarchy mean? In the third episode of “Timothy Snyder Speaks,” historian and author Timothy Snyder explores the meaning of oligarchy, where it came from, how it endangers us — and how it connects the United States and Russia.
From the Aristotelian perspective, “human sexuality is defined as a biological capacity for the procreation of human life. It is a biological imperative, existing solely for one purpose, namely human reproduction.
.. O’Murchu continues:
The ensuing sexual morality considered all other forms of sexual expression to be contrary to nature and sinful in the eyes of God. And since procreation was the primary goal, any suggestion of pleasure or human fulfillment from sexual intimacy was considered an aberration.
From a Catholic perspective it is worthy of note that marriage was not elevated to the status of a sacrament till the Council of Trent in the 16th century.
.. During and after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Catholic Church seemed to realize the inadequacy of the Greek view of marriage—solely for procreation—and began to recognize another obvious element to the definition of marriage: intimacy and mutual support.
.. Conservatives are so afraid of false expression (and they are right), and liberals are so afraid of unhealthy repression (and they are right), that it is going to take us a while to discover our sexual center and balance.
James Comey is about to be ubiquitous. His book will be published next week, and parts may leak this week. Starting Sunday, he will begin an epic publicity tour, including interviews with Stephen Colbert, David Remnick, Rachel Maddow, Mike Allen, George Stephanopoulos and “The View.”
.. Yet anybody who’s read Greek tragedy knows that strengths can turn into weaknesses when a person becomes too confident in those strengths. And that’s the key to understanding the very complex story of James Comey... Long before he was a household name, Comey was a revered figure within legal circles... But he was more charismatic than most bureaucrats — six feet eight inches tall, with an easy wit and refreshing informality. People loved working for him... If you read his 2005 goodbye speech to the Justice Department, when he was stepping down as George W. Bush’s deputy attorney general, you can understand why. It’s funny, displaying the gifts of a storyteller. It includes an extended tribute to the department’s rank and file, like “secretaries, document clerks, custodians and support people who never get thanked enough.” He insists on “the exact same amount of human dignity and respect” for “every human being in this organization,”.. Above all, though, the speech is a celebration of the department’s mission... Many Justice Department officials, from both parties, have long believed that they should be more independent and less political than other cabinet departments. Comey was known as an evangelist of this view... Comey sometimes chided young prosecutors who had never lost a case, accusing them of caring more about their win-loss record than justice. He told them they were members of the Chicken Excrement Club.. Most famously, in 2004, he stood up to Bush and Dick Cheney over a dubious surveillance program.
But as real as Comey’s independence and integrity were, they also became part of a persona that he cultivated and relished... Comey has greater strengths than most people. But for all of us, there is a fine line between strength and hubris.
The Trump administration is certainly giving us an education in the varieties of wannabe manliness.
- There is the slovenly “I don’t care what you think” manliness of Steve Bannon.
- There’s the look-at-me-I-can-curse manliness that Anthony Scaramucci learned from “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
- There is the affirmation-hungry “I long to be the man my father was” parody of manliness performed by Donald Trump.
- There are all those authentically manly Marine generals Trump hires to supplement his own.
- There’s Trump’s man-crush on Vladimir Putin and the firing of insufficiently manly Reince Priebus.
With this crowd, it’s man-craving all the way down.
.. example, 2,400 years ago the Greeks had a more fully developed vision of manliness than anything we see in or around the White House today.
.. For them, real men defended or served their city, or performed some noble public service. Braying after money was the opposite of manliness. For the Greeks, that was just avariciousness, an activity that shrunk you down into a people-pleasing marketer or hollowed you out because you pursued hollow things.
The Greeks admired what you might call spiritedness. The spirited man defies death in battle, performs deeds of honor and is respected by those whose esteem is worth having.
.. The classical Greek concept of manliness emphasizes certain traits. The bedrock virtue is courage. The manly man puts himself on the line and risks death and criticism. The manly man is assertive. He does not hang back but instead wades into any fray. The manly man is competitive. He looks for ways to compete with others, to demonstrate his prowess and to be the best. The manly man is self-confident. He knows his own worth. But he is also touchy. He is outraged if others do not grant him the honor that is his due.
.. That version of manliness gave Greece its dynamism. But the Greeks came to understand the problem with manly men. They are hard to live with. They are constantly picking fights and engaging in peacock displays... So the Greeks took manliness to the next level. On top of the honor code, they gave us the concept of magnanimity. Pericles is the perfect magnanimous man (and in America, George Washington and George Marshall were his heirs). The magnanimous leader possesses all the spirited traits described above, but he uses his traits not just to puff himself up, but to create a just political order... The magnanimous man has a certain style. He is a bit aloof, marked more by gravitas than familiarity. He shows perfect self-control because he has mastered his passions. He does not show his vulnerability. His relationships are not reciprocal. He is eager to grant favors but is ashamed of receiving them... The magnanimous man believes that politics practiced well is the noblest of all professions. No other arena requires as much wisdom, tenacity, foresight and empathy. No other field places such stress on conversation and persuasion. The English word “idiot” comes from the ancient Greek word for the person who is uninterested in politics but capable only of running his or her own private affairs... Today, we’re in a crisis of masculinity. Some men are unable to compete in schools and in labor markets because the stereotype of what is considered “man’s work” is so narrow. In the White House, we have phony manliness run amok... Of all the politicians I’ve covered, John McCain comes closest to the old magnanimous ideal. Last week, when he went to the Senate and flipped his thumb down on the pretzeled-up health care bill, we saw one version of manliness trumping another. When John Kelly elbowed out Anthony Scaramucci, one version of manliness replaced another.
The old virtues aren’t totally lost. So there’s hope.
Much of the teaching and culture that has emerged in recent Christianity has much more to do with Greek philosophy and Roman mythologies than the Gospel. This is not all bad, but we must acknowledge these influences. The ego is naturally attracted to heroic language, and so we focused on the heroic instead of transformation: Zeus instead of Trinity, Prometheus and Ulysses instead of the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah.
.. The scandalous thing about Jesus is how free he is. He is not a ritualist, legalist, or into any form of priestcraft. The things we usually associate with religion are not what Jesus emphasizes—at all.
Translating Aristophanes’ comedies can be a right bugger. As early as the first century AD, the highly educated culture-hound Plutarch warned against reciting Aristophanes at a dinner party – an early version of doing the Monty Python dead parrot sketch for your friends – because each guest would need a personal tutor to explain the political references and obscure vocabulary.
.. One dismayed modern critic proposed that Aristophanes must have had a stroke that had affected his sense of inhibition, because his late plays were so filled with genitalia, excreta, and multiform things to do with both.
.. The director Peter Hall, when he put on Lysistrata in the 1990s, explained that he decided to put his cast in masks not because ancient theatre always used masks, but because the play was so rude he couldn’t imagine doing it face to face with a modern London audience.