Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday Night

Had a weird week ... sore throat kept me home Tuesday, then a wild ear ache Wednesday, and a doctor's appointment Thursday ... so three sick days, each of which actually produced about a half-day's work. So got totally out of sorts, out of routine. The doctor is actually a nurse practitioner whom I chose when my previous Kaiser doctor, whom I affectionately called Doogie Howser, moved on to other career opportunities. Quite a character, my NP ... but I believe in primary care from NPs so I went with him.

He gave me a steroidal inhalant because he said my earache was from allergies and there was no infection.

He also put me on Zocor, so I am now officially on the other side of some kind of line because I have a pill that I will take daily for the rest of my life. Huzzah for modern medicine.

All of this is completely uninteresting.

What kept my interest last week was Herodotus ... I am reading the fabulous Landmark Herodotus because I figure it is the best way to submerge oneself in the consciousness of the ancients prior to my project of re-reading ancient history. Since I am being mildly maudlin in introspection ... it was in the Cluny in Paris in 2006 that something moved my consciousness and made me realize that it was time to return to the reading habits to which I subscribed before graduate student life beat the joy of reading out of me. Since then, I have read history period by period ... especially revolving around my favorites, to whit, Central Asian, early Islamic, and medieval European. I want to go back to the Cluny as a pilgrimage of thanking.

But I digress ... I digress from digressing ... reading Herodotus makes one remember that history was created by people whose perspective on the functionality of reality does not match ours. You have to keep that in mind in thinking about history. Yes, of course, there are human universals ... eating, stealing, screwing, war, aging ... I mention only the first five things that come to mind.

Aside ... it is all flowers tonight in the Saturday evening libation department ... we started our cocktails with an Aviation with violet and now we are on a Petit Prince ... both with organic sweet violets floating in the glass.

So in the midst of my physical travails, and the pressures of work ... Herodotus wrote this ... more to the point, I read what Herodotus wrote two and a half millennia ago:

Amasis [king of Egypt] retorted [to those who reproached him for spending a part of his day every day in drink and banter with his companions]: "when archers need to use their bows, they string them tightly, but when they have finished using them, they relax them. For if a bow remained tightly strung all the time, it would snap and be of no use when someone needed it. The same principle applies to the daily routine of a human being: if someone wants to work seriously all the time and not let himself ease off for is share of play, he will go instance without even knowing it, or at least suffer a stroke. And it is because I recognize this maxim that I allot a share of my time to each aspect of life.

Of course, we all know that is true ... ancient wisdom and all ... my mother tells me the same thing. But here's the difference ... we pay lip service to it today, that all work and no play makes Jack a dull person, but we have so industrialized our play that the seams between work and play no longer exist. Whether I work or play, I am in front of a computer. My one escape ... dog walks ... always have the option of the iPod, but never the iPhone which I would no more answer on a dog walk than I would deliberately bang myself in the shin.

In the ancient world, and in most of the world until very recently and only among the self-anointed, surviving occupied the better part of every day and every life. When things went awry, the world went to hell, and that meant death and misery. Play, then, was more deliberate and apportioned. A festival is for us a dalliance by choice ... shall I lounge about in my pjs or shall I rouse myself to go to the park and listen to the music while littering and feeling superior. But in the ancient world, the festival was a communal compulsion, an exit from the brutality of every day life.

They did not have kooky NPs to cure their momentary ills. They did not work remotely. They knew the sharp boundaries between survival and play ... life was overwhelmingly survival with a little bit of intense play.

We have the play in the midst of our self-absorption, and they had play as a rare fruit of having survived.

Oh well ... will I regret this in the morning. Dinner is ready. I will add photos if I get to it before the move to write moves again.

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