Breakfast with Pandora caters to everyone interested in ancient Greek and comparative mythology, good stories, the craft of writing, food, theology, education, and other humane things. Ask a question at teenage underscore heroes at yahoo dot com.
"Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls come tumbling down."
I sang this song as a child-- don't know where I first heard it-- but have very seldom read or heard the actual story, which is in the Book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Old Testament.
Today I heard the story, and I was struck with the contrast between the ethos of the ancient Hebrews, and that of the ancient Greeks.
Both cultures have their stories about walls and conquering cities, and they couldn't be more different.
The Hebrew story is about a group of refugees from Egypt who are looking for a place to settle, and who believe that their God has given them the slim corridor of land between the east coast of the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
There are already people who live here, and they must be conquered. So God sets out to let the Hebrews conquer these people, many of whom live in the city of Jericho.
God, being kind of weird, doesn't let the Hebrews take the city of Jericho by a conventional siege. Instead, he tells the priests of the religion to blow trumpets and walk around the city. After a certain number of ear-shattering blasts, the walls of Jericho fall down, and the warriors of the Hebrews can fight the city dwellers on equal footing.
In Greek mythology, there's another city that needs to be conquered, that has very high, unconquerable walls: Troy. In fact, the warriors of Greece take 10 long years before they realize these walls are not going to come tumbling down.
So instead, the Greeks devise a plan that involves faking their own departure from the beaches next to Troy, and leaving behind a trick, the Trojan Horse. This tall, wooden, hollow sculpture contains armed Greek warriors, and, when the Trojans ill-advisedly take the horse inside their walls, the Greeks inside wait till nightfall and then leap out, open the gates for their fellows, and Troy is lost.
Two great cities, two great ways to conquer them.
My sense is that these two methods of conquering cities show two strikingly different ways of looking at the world and at divinity.
The Hebrews knew in their bones that God was with them. Not all of them, of course, because theirs is a history of running after false gods and being called back by their prophets. But in their scriptures there is an unwavering sense that even and especially when the going is the roughest, God is with them.
In fact, it is when they rely on God that good things happen. The whole point of life is to be in communion and community with this (weird) God who creepily wants to be part of human life. Even in war, this God says, you've got to interface with me and highlight that you need me.
The Greeks had no such confidence. They looked at the world the way it appears: random. They were much more realistic than the Hebrews. Their gods had conflicting desires and their own agendas that sometimes included humans and sometimes not. They certainly prayed to their gods to help them, but then they went on and did what they had in mind to do.
The Greek gods-- by the admission of their own poets-- did not even have power always to help humans. Even Zeus, Mr. Sky and Lightning God, was not omnipotent, but bowed to the power of the Fates.
The Greeks relied on their ingenuity and hoped that Fate was on their side this time, because they knew that it often wasn't.
So the Hebrews had this sense of God as close by and caring, while the Greeks thought the gods were distant and (pretty much) uncaring.
It strikes me that most people today fall somewhere on the Greek-Hebrew confidence-in-God spectrum.
Many people live life as if it's random. A lot more really hope and pray God is on their side. And a few very confident people know God's in control.
I think it's extraordinary that any group of people such as the Hebrews could have cooked up such an idea that God is more interested in being with us than even we are in being with him. I love that idea and that's the type of God I believe in and think is real.
The Greeks get a gold star from me for perceiving the world as it empirically is. I love them for that. Their system of divinity really and truly gets it right for what seems to be occurring on the surface of life. The Hebrews get my vote for seeing something that seems to be under the surface and requires faith to believe.
This is a beautiful, spine-tingling performance of "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" arranged by the incomparable Moses Hogan.
I recently rediscovered a fun fact while doing some research for a new project on Myers-Briggs and Greek divinities: telling successful lies is considered a godlike quality in Greek mythology.
Honesty, in other words, is not the best policy when you're a participant in the Greek story culture.
Image: re-caption this in the comments if you wish. It's my own caption and a work in progress.
Makes sense, since the main ethical principle of the Greeks was, "Do good to your friends, and evil to your enemies." Unlike in Christianity, values are not generalized in the ancient Greek world. Everyone knew how to love their neighbor, and they mostly did-- until someone crossed them.
Divinities were not moral paragons, either. They lied to suit their aims, and took great pleasure in disguising themselves as humans and telling big whoppers to their mortal victims.
Of the heroes, however, the talent of lying was predominantly attributed to Odysseus. He was a fine prevaricator, and used lies to get out of various scrapes.
Which got me to thinking: which Myers-Briggs types make the best, shall we say, storytellers? Do those types correspond with the types of the divinities who are the best liars in Greek mythology?
I took a quick look at a thread here, where people seem to have discussed everything under the sun concerning Jungian personality. Who are the best liars? The results, over 6 pages of shooting the virtual breeze: ENFJ 2, INTJ 1, ENTP 7, ESTP 2, ENTJ 3, ENFP 3, ESFJ 1, ISTP 1, INFP 1.
Which should validate the post of a predictably fair-minded and justice-oriented ENFJ, who said,
All the answers here are going to reflect nothing more than personal experiences, and lying is a trait that has a lot to do with morality. Depending on how that line is drawn there for an individual, any type could fall into this category, and we do. Nobody in his or her life has told the truth 100% of the time.
Fair point. Still, the fact that ENTP won the sweepstakes is significant for Myers-Briggs and Greek mythology. That type is characterized by Hermes, Prince of Thieves and King of Deception. If you have read the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, you know that he loves to lie and gains great benefit from it.
Hermes: not your father's messenger of Zeus.
But to return briefly to our justice-minded ENFJ, if you are an ENTP reading this, does that mean I am going to pounce on the first thing you say and accuse you of lying? Is personality type destiny?
Hmmm, no. But if you claim to have invented flying boots, I will be, shall we say, skeptical.
Last night we were wracking our brains trying to figure out something that everyone, including stepson, could watch on Netflix instant streaming. Nothing was working. We finally settled on "The Man with One Red Shoe," an eighties remake of "The Tall Blonde Man with One Black Shoe," but stepson went on strike and retreated to his room.
He was right. "Red Shoe," an early Tom Hanks vehicle, didn't take us anywhere, and we stopped watching after about an hour.
Photo from here. Click and see a bunch of other similar photos. Enjoy!
These movies resemble each other not at all: "The Third Man" is a British film noir based in post-World War II Vienna, starring Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, and the excellent Trevor Howard. I won't give anything away about the plot, just that an American investigates the death of his best friend, and suspense ensues. It is a great story written by novelist Graham Greene, and an absolutely breathtaking piece of art, a window to a lost world. I forget how charismatic Orson Welles was-- even in the first shot we see of him halfway through the film, he's riveting.
Everyone in "Third Man" turns in a terrific performance, including the people of Vienna, many of whom are used in speaking parts and as extras in the movie. The city itself, devastated as it was by the war, also stars as a character brought to life by the eccentric, vivid cinematography that revels in the city's shadows, textures, and crazy geometry.
Loved that there is plenty of German in the film with no subtitles. It allowed me to test my understanding of the language and feel as if I had been transported to a different place. Don't worry: all the essentials are in English.
"The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" is on the other side of the spectrum. It is a documentary about a flock of South American parrots-- origins not exactly known-- that lives in San Francisco and forages for food on the slopes of the famous hill that is also home to the iconic Coit Tower.
"Parrots" stars a number of birds that will steal your heart, as well as Mark Bittner, the school-of-hard-knocks caretaker of the birds who steals the heart of-- well, you should watch the movie to find out.
It is stepdaughter's firm statement that she likes pictures of birds better than actual birds, but "Parrots" may be the best of both worlds. The film lavishes its attention on close-ups of these gorgeous and very charming "cherry-crowned conures," neon red and green cuties described with loving gentleness by Bittner.
If you've never been to San Francisco or Telegraph Hill, you might be surprised to see the lush, jungle-like environment within San Francisco's concrete confines that the birds inhabit and where Bittner lives like some solo ornithologist in the trackless Amazon. The area is very small, however, as the filmmaker, Judy Irving, attempts to show with numerous shots of helicopter flybys. Still, when you are with Bittner feeding the birds, it seems as if the place is a world away.
A lovely film that will lower your blood pressure, unlike "The Third Man."
Late news flash: I am so going to crush my opposition in my fantasy baseball league.
And what's the reason for that? An Internet expert who calls himself Grey Albright.
Wait. Before you move on to the next blog in your queue, understand that this post is more than about fantasy baseball. It's about generosity in the digital age.
Image from here, with a chuckle for any of you trying to decide on a name for your fantasy baseball team.
For any who are new and still interested: Fantasy baseball is a sport where you and your friends pick a team of players you think will do well in the real world. The players accumulate their real statistics (home runs, batting average, stolen bases, etc.) and you count them in your fantasy world. The team with the best stats, and, in general, the player with the best predictive ability, wins.
Fantasy baseball is universally considered to be the most difficult of the fantasy sports to do well. There are so many games, so many players, so much unpredictability. You've got to spend quite a bit of time on research, daily, to do well.
Hence the need for experts who sum it all up for you, and hopefully in an entertaining way.
For my first four years of fantasy baseballdom, I was mostly a fan of Matthew Berry. He is the most recognizable star in the fantasy world, and he is a funny, opinionated guy who makes it fun to follow the game and the stats that go along with it. But he is now a happily married man, and he is kind of over being right about his predictions. He is, for this sport, an emeritus.
Grey is the owner of Razzball.com, a fantasy sports blog that showcases his considerable writing talents and his formidable fantasy baseball acumen.
Grey is hungry to get his predictions right and prove others wrong. He writes hilarious pieces that have a clear chip on the shoulder. To like Grey, you have to like outrageous puns, sly pop culture references, and name-drops of old-school ball players who were fun to watch back in the day.
You also have to like good advice.
In addition, Grey has developed a large tribe of contributors and followers who write, comment, and hand out fun apps and tools (such as Excel spreadsheets) to help the rest of the tribe win.
Even better-- probably the best part of the site-- Grey strives to answer every commenter's fantasy question himself. Even the dumb ones (as I raise my hand).
All of this, by the way, is free. There is a ton of fun, information, advice, entertainment, and enjoyment on the site, and Grey charges nothing for it except that there are some advertisements on the left and right column of the blog. A la public radio, you can make a contribution if you want, but it's not in your face.
I appreciate the heck out of that.
It is now widely becoming accepted that content, on the Internet, is king. The people who win in Internet business are those who actually have something interesting to say or show, rather than just sell. Gary Vaynerchuk, Internet marketing guru, just came out with his latest video saying, once again, that the people who are generous with their talent are going to succeed in the long term. If Mr. Vaynerchuk is right, I see big things for Grey.
So a slice of tiramisu goes out to Grey Albright, guy who still has something to prove. All fantasy baseballers (<-- his mom's term) are in your debt.