Saturday, February 11, 2017

Movie review: "Louder than bombs" versus "Rashomon"

Recently I saw a superb movie with French actress Isabelle Huppert, "Louder than bombs" (2015). It is about a deceased woman photojournalist who is remembered in very different ways by her widowed husband, her adult and recently married son, her shy teenage son, and her lover. It deals with memory, grief, identity, and with the different perspectives the same person can evoke in those around her, especially those who knew her well. Each one of us fights against one's own difficulties, believes in one's own hopes, and that clouds our remembrances of even the deepest relationships. The son may not understand a conflicted father who lived a problematic relationship with a disturbed person, the father may have not seen the depth of the love of his partner for the children. We do not know if each person's perspective is entirely true, only partially true or even a fantasized version of reality. Would a son actually prefer a make-belief story about a loving mother rather than face the truth about an uncaring one?

The movie immediately reminded me of "Rashomon" (1950) and how one can never know the truth about human relationships, perhaps we may not even know our true selves,  since we always embellish our thoughts about the role we have in the world and among others, afraid of the responsibilities we failed or the fact that we are all irrelevant or troublesome even to our relatives. Contradiction is an inevitable part of human being, because each one of us wants to draw a moral painting of our lives and how we lived.

I finish with some thoughts of Akira Kurosawa on the impact of the Rashomon script on his closest associates: "Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing. This script portrays such human beings–the kind who cannot survive without lies to make them feel they are better people than they really are. It even shows this sinful need for flattering falsehood going beyond the grave — even the character who dies cannot give up his lies when he speaks to the living through a medium. Egoism is a sin the human being carries with him from birth; it is the most difficult to redeem. This film is like a strange picture scroll that is unrolled and displayed by the ego. You say that you can’t understand this script at all, but that is because the human heart itself is impossible to understand. If you focus on the impossibility of truly understanding human psychology and read the script one more time, I think you will grasp the point of it."

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Esperanza en Español / Portugués / Inglés

Rosseti's "Pandora"
Al mirar una película hoy me dé cuenta de algo cuando alguien dijo "I hope". En inglés hope es un sustantivo y un verbo/una acción, pero en portugués y español uno diría "tener esperanza" o "estar con esperanza" o quizá "esperar", lo que es una acción pasiva. "Esperar" es más próximo del verbo "to await" que del verbo/acción "to hope". Para los Anglo-saxónicos la esperanza es una acción. Uno puede actuar en el sentido de las realizar. Los Latinos tienen esperanza y esperan que se concretiza o no. Debería la cultura latina ser más pro-activa con la esperanza?

"The mind is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity... The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope." Samuel Johnson

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pindar and Christina Perri sing of people as a Shadow of a Dream: Sports glory, defeat and loneliness

This week after Cristiano Ronaldo won his best player award I remembered two things: one, an ancient greek song about glory and defeat in Sports, and, second, a sad love song by an Italian-American singer, Christina Perri. What a coincidence that Cristiano and Christina share a male/female pair of the same Christian name!

Glory in sports always reminds me of one of the most celebrated ancient Greek poets, the singer Pindar. Almost all of his surviving poems are Victory Odes, songs made to celebrate the victors at Greek games such as the Olympics. In the ancient world, only the wealthy had time to practice sports, therefore the winners of the Olympics and other games were usually rich and they would receive more wealth and admiration upon their return as heroes to their towns. Pindar wrote his poems and songs to praise his employers, the victorious sportsmen, yet he did so with an elegance and beauty that remind us that life is a brief period full of struggles, that not everyone is a celebrated winner, and that the winners of excellence and glory achieve victory only after years of hard labor, grit and persistence.  That is why the sports winners are admired by the gods, their countrymen, and even the jealous defeated. Pindar’s most famous poem, the Pythian 8, dedicated to a famous wrestler, is believed to have been written in his old age and in just a few lines mentions all these motives of hardship and fame.

The Greek bard reminds his listeners that winning is more than mere boasting. Very few are the lucky ones who became wealthy without effort of their own, and for some heroes victory is bittersweet for they return home and may find that a loved one died and will not celebrate their victory. The poet also sings that one’s victory is the defeat of many others, and just like in wrestling the glory raises up some men and crushes others into the ground. For those who fail to win often the aftermath is miserable and their previous supporters, perhaps not even their mothers, give them any comfort or celebration party:

“He who boasts gets tripped, in the fullness of time, by his own violence. (…) At home, though, the hero Adrastus’ fortune will be the opposite. For he alone of the army of Danaoi will have to gather the bones of a son who died. (…) Justice stands beside the sweet-singing victory procession. I pray that the gods may regard your fortunes without envy. For if anyone has noble achievements without long toil, many think he is wise, that his life is well. But that is not ordained to be for men. It is a god who grants fortune; raising up one man and throwing down another. Enter the struggle with due measure. (…) Returning to their mothers, sweet laughter does not rouse delight in them: hidden in alleys, they avoid their enemies, bitten by misfortune.”

Meanwhile the glorious victor celebrates his success, the respect and admiration of everyone is even more important than the material wealth gained.  Yet if the winner is wise, his happiness is disturbed by the knowledge that victory is a fleeting moment in the here and now, and often victory will quickly be followed by a defeat, when everyone will forget his past achievements.

“But whoever has as his lot something beautiful in the here and now, in a time of great splendor, such a man soars driven by his aspirations, lifted high in the air by his feats of manliness, thinking of that which is greater than wealth. In a short time the delight of mortals grows, but just as quickly it falls to the ground, shaken by adverse opinion. Creatures of a day are we. What is someone? What is a no one? Man is the dream of a shadow. But whenever the radiance of Zeus comes, a bright light and gentle life pleases him.”

This is probably Pindar’s last work, he would have been an old man by now, and he sees that both successes and misfortunes are transient and ephemeral. Joy is insubstantial, the dream of a shadow. Men is the creature of a day, nothing more than fleeting dream. Only the worship of religion and the gods, “the radiance of Zeus” gives lasting wisdom and guides our lives. Perhaps this is a lesson for athletes and also sports’ fans today – we must find higher meaning in our lives, rather than just watching silly games. Both famous people and the unknown ones will all be forgotten one day. In fact, Pindar’s most famous line “Man is the dream of a shadow” echoes the thoughts of other Greek tragedians such as Aeschyllus (“The race of mortals thinks only for today and is no more to be relied on than the shadow of smoke.”), Sophocles (in his play Philoctetes, the hero Neoptolemus does not realize he fought against a mere phantom, the shadow of smoke) and even of the Bible, in particular the book of wisdom, the Ecclesiastes (“Who knows what is good for mortals while they live the few days of their vain life, which passes by like a shadow?”). St. James said our life is but a vapor.

That is Pindar’s song: one day we are a great success, another day we are a humiliated loser. How many athletes and coaches today can say they shared this feeling before? Everyone. Cristiano Ronaldo must have felt this feeling and he even shared a tragedy mentioned by Pindar for once he won a game with Portugal’s team, only to find out that his father had passed away.

All of us, normal people, non-athletes, surely shared the same feeling many times. How many times did we look in the eyes of our spouses, partners or even our parents, just to find a feeling of deception and disappointment? Christina Perri sings exactly of this in her chilly song “The Lonely”. Perri wrote the song about her relationship with no one, "nobody or with this ghost of somebody": “Crying off my face again. The silent sound of loneliness wants to follow me to bed. I'm the ghost of a girl that I want to be most. I'm the shell of a girl that I used to know well.”

The major losers today are the unloved ones. Our society is particularly obsessed with those who are less beautiful, unloved and lonelier, and that is why we invented the internet, Facebook and many of the social media, so we feel more in-contact and less alone by ourselves. Probably in the ancient world, such as Pindar’s time, this kind of loneliness was not as common, because people stayed in their hometown and close to their families all their lives. Only a few brave ones would move alone to other cities to study for college and find jobs. Today even people as young as freshmen college students will have felt feelings of loneliness, abandonment, lack of love and rejection, all of this at an age as young as 18!

I end with the links to two translations of Pindar’s poem and Christina’s beautiful song:

http://chs.harvard.edu/CHS/article/display/5307

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0162%3Abook%3DP.%3Apoem%3D8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m18idutgCWc

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Trotando por las iglesias de Santiago de Chile


En Santiago hace casi siempre buen tiempo. Todos los domingos de mañana la municipalidad cierra el paso de vehículos cerca del rio Mapocho para actividades de recreo, la Ciclorecreovía, lo que crea excelentes condiciones para correr en seguridad y frente a los locales más bellos de la ciudad. Solo corro una vez a la semana y no me gusta estar a competir para mejorar tiempos o distancias. Sin embargo, hace unos meses decidí que podría hacer mis recorridos más entretenidos y juntar dos actividades agradables: correr y visitar nuevos locales. ¡Así corro siempre un circuito diferente! Hoy público un foto-álbum de mis visitas a las lindas iglesias de Santiago:

Foto-álbum:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/themillionhistory/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1109421029156041

Dicen los cuentos que todos los hombres sufren de una angustia profunda. Solo se conoce la tranquilidad por breves momentos al ver el amanecer del sol o un bello atardecer. Yo añadiría que entrar en una iglesia es como un contrapunto humano a la luz solar, como una experiencia de crepúsculo, silencio y sombras apaciguadoras en un mundo de movimientos y ruidos. Las iglesias son edificios que reúnen el mejor arte, ingenio arquitectónico, belleza y las más profundas emociones humanas. No me canso nunca de visitar iglesias, sea aquí en Chile, en Portugal, Italia u otros países. Además, son locales frecuentados por una comunidad viva, personas que viven sus alegrías y tristezas ahí. Es como un peregrinaje dentro de mi propia ciudad. Hago unos 10-20 km de recorrido total (suma de ida y vuelta). Desde septiembre hasta hoy ya visité cerca de 25 locales religiosos en esta hermosa ciudad de Santiago. Muchas veces otros fieles o los curas me ayudan tomándome fotos y soy siempre muy bien recibido.

Inicio siempre el recorrido frente al Parque de las Esculturas de Providencia (ver foto). Utilizo aún un par de tenis / zapatillas que adquirí al terminar la universidad en julio de 2002 en un Jumbo de Portugal por el módico precio de 9 euros. Son tenis milagrosos. Los uso continuamente hace más de 14 años y ya han caminado y corrido por cuatro continentes, incluyendo diversas partes de Europa, Estados Unidos, Chile, Australia y China!

Comunas visitadas: Providencia, Santiago, Recoleta, Independencia, Vitacura, Las Condes, Quinta Normal.

Calendario de visitas (con links a sitios web):
2016
25 septiembre: Iglesia de San Isidro Labrador
2 octubre: Congregación del Buen Pastor, Iglesia y Convento de La Merced
8 octubre: Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo Guzmán, Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago, Parroquia El Sagrario, Iglesia y Convento de Recoleta Franciscana
9 octubre: Iglesia y Convento San Francisco
30 octubre: Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento o Iglesia de los Sacramentinos, Iglesia de San Isidro Labrador (revisita)
1 noviembre: Iglesia de la Divina Providencia
6 noviembre: Iglesia de San Ignacio, Iglesia del Colegio Universitario Inglés y Hermanas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús
13 noviembre: Iglesia de San Agustín
20 noviembre: Iglesia de la Gratitud Nacional y Centro Salesianos Alameda
27 noviembre: Catedral Castrense de Chile o Catedral Militar de Chile, Iglesia de San Ramón de Providencia
4 diciembre: Iglesia de los Santos Ángeles Custodios, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
8 diciembre: Iglesia de la Vera Cruz, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Del Carmen o Iglesia Matriz de las Hermanas de la Providencia
11 diciembre: Iglesia de San Juan Evangelista
18 diciembre: Capilla de la Casa de la Ciudadanía, Colegio Salesiano El Patrocinio de San José, Iglesia de la Epifanía del Señor y Población León XIII, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Victoria
25 diciembre: Iglesia Jesús Nazareno, Capilla del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Universidad Autónoma de Chile), Iglesia Católica Ortodoxa de la Santisima Virgen Maria

2017
1 enero: Convento y Iglesia de la Recoleta DominicaIglesia La Viñita y Santuario Nuestra Señora de MontserratCementerio General de Santiago en la Recoleta, Colegio Padres Dominicos
8 enero: Iglesia de la Preciosa SangreIglesia de Santa Ana
15 enero: Iglesia de San Lázaro, Centro Él Agora y Colegio Filipense, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Vicaria de la Esperanza Joven, Iglesia de Santa Ana (revisita), Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo Guzmán (revisita)
22 enero: Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento o Iglesia de los Sacramentinos (revisita), Parroquia San Rafael Arcángel, Colegio María Auxiliadora de Santiago, Iglesia del Santísimo Sacramento en Av Manuel Antonio Matta cerca de Gendarmería de Chile, Colegio Hispano Americano, Iglesia de Carmen en Carmen con Coquimbo, Iglesia de San Juan Evangelista (revisita), Iglesia San Miguel Arcangel
5 febrero: Iglesia Evangélica Presbiteriana, Basílica del Corazón de María/Santuario San Judas Tadeo, Iglesia de San Isidro Labrador (revisita), Iglesia San Miguel Arcangel (revisita)
12 febrero: Capilla del antiguo Lazareto de San Vicente de PaulIglesia de la Estampa de Nuestra Señora del CarmenIglesia del Carmen de San RafaelIglesia del Milagroso Niño Jesús de Praga
18 febrero: Colegio Santa Úrsula de Vitacura
26 febrero: Iglesia de las Agustinas (Moneda con Nueva York)
4 marzo: Iglesia Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles (Las Condes)
11 marzo: corrida por la Costanera y Av San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer junto al rio Mapocho hasta la Casa Piedra
25 marzo: Colegio El Carmen Teresiano, Parroquia San Francisco de Sales
1 abril: Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción, Velatorio de la Resurrección
9 abril: corrida por Apoquindo, pasando por el Mall Costanera, Escuela Militar, Plaza Turquia, Centro Cultural Las Condes, Mall Alto Las Condes, Av Padre Hurtado, y terminando en la Iglesia Santa María de Las Condes donde las familias y niños celebraban el Domingo de Ramos; regreso trotando a Providencia
14 abril: viernes santo, Iglesia San Juan Apóstol
16 abril: domingo de pascua, Iglesia Siloé de las Naciones, Iglesia Corpus Domi, Colegio San Sebastián, Colegio Maristas, Iglesia San Capuchinos / Parroquia San Antonio de Padua / Casa Provincial de Capuchinos de Chile, Colegio San Antonio, Misión Cristiana, Iglesia San Saturnino / Plaza Yungay, Museo de la Memoria, Santuario Cristo PobreBasílica de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes / Gruta de Lourdes
19 abril: dia del censo - Iglesia Católica Ortodoxa de la Santisima Virgen Maria
23 abril:
abril

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trump and the role of executive versus ceremonial rulers

During the last US presidential elections several pundits expressed concerns over whether Trump represented a returning trend towards the populist and authoritarian politicians that took over Europe and Latin America for several decades. Honestly, I do not believe such reasons for alarm, since the US has constitutional checks and balances in the Senate and Congress that should counteract a President that goes too far in his agenda.

However, for me the greatest surprise of the election was that some of the promises of Trump are so unrealistic that they sound a bit like the projects of ancient Roman emperors or Chinese rulers. After all, it must be in the mind of many that the proposed Mexican wall would be many times bigger than Hadrian’s Wall and quite comparable in size to the Chinese wall.

The fact that so many candidates in different countries decide to go for the election of head of state for reasons of fame and prestige with vague slogans like “make the country great again” makes me think that there are some advantages to countries in which the maximum head of state plays a mere ceremonial role. The reason is that the head of state is required to be a part of many ceremonies, such as receiving other heads of state, which can distract him from the harder tasks of ruling. Therefore some countries elect a head of state which has mostly a ceremonial function, while keeping some core powers that can be used to balance abuses from others (such as being able to dismiss a dysfunctional government and calling for new elections). The President gets to keep fame and the right to major speeches during all the important holidays, while the real decision power and unpleasant details such as negotiating a parliamentary majority are left to a prime minister or head of government.

A good thing about this is that candidates that are passionate about fame, but bored by the actual negotiations of real politics run for the Presidential election and get the right to do their harmless speech a few times a year. Politicians who actually have a project for the country will run for Prime Minister and get a less prestigious role, but a much more relevant one and with all the onerous tasks of negotiations and administration. This could be seen as Political Economy case of a separating equilibrium – offer two different contracts to politicians and each candidate will choose the role that suits them best. If America had such a system, then they could have fame-seeking Trump as President and Hillary as Prime Minister.

Curiously, the Western Roman Empire had learned this before their demise in the 5th century. After Theodosius, his descendants became prestigious Emperors with a glory similar to the Pope. However, the real source of power lay with the magister militum, which was a professional general in charge of the army plus negotiating taxation, administration and budgets.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween: My favorite word in Portuguese means Sorrow

One word for the day of the lost, the departed, the abandoned and the grieving.

All languages are special but the saying goes that one’s feelings are always stronger in one’s native language. Language theory says that different cultures add more words to their vocabulary according to the objects and feelings that are more frequently used by the people. As one word becomes too much in use, its meaning is deemed to be too general and people create more specific words to denote more precise meanings and create a more complete communication. Say, for example the word computer originated in the English/American culture which created such objects first, but, as the term became too widespread, new words appeared to differentiate objects with different usages: computers became desktops, laptops, playstations, notebooks, readers, smartphones and smartwatches. Words are also "borrowed" from other cultures with whom we have trade (for example, "boutique" or "rouge" are borrowed from French). Some words come into disuse and disappear or "die" from the vocabulary, remaining perhaps only as archaisms, left to poems, novels, dictionaries and museums.

Well, the same principle applies for the feelings or immaterial ideas that each culture expresses. Cultures where people more often feel nostalgia, happiness, gloom or indecision will create more words to denote more specific emotions. If a culture stops expressing certain emotions or discusses them less often, then the words for such emotions will disappear from daily use.

In Portuguese my favorite word is “mágoa”, which could be translated as “sorrow” or "burden". Portuguese use “mágoa” to denote a feeling of sadness and grief that is often not so extreme (unlike depression or suicidal thoughts), but it is felt permanently and lingers with you for a long time, often for one’s entire life. The loss of a loved one or a bitter painful disappointment early one's life and yet never entirely forgotten could be said to be "mágoa" or a deep wound inside one's heart. "Mágoa" is a feeling of discordant emotions, an inner conflict, it can both be sad and beautiful, as something forever lost and yet even with its pain you wished it here always with you. The word can also be used in a less common way as "resentment" or "feeling deception".

“Mágoa” comes from the Latin “macula” which means “stain” or "flaw" (do not confuse macula with dracula, dracul and vampire lore). However, popular tales also say that the word “mágoa” originates from the combination of the Portuguese words for bad water (“má agua”) and what is bitterer than drinking the devil’s water? That is why I both love the meaning, feeling and sound of this word. What could be more tragically beautiful than a feeling so acutely yours that it lingers a lifetime, it penetrates deeply as an unwashable stain,  it bleeds like a wound that never fully scarred, and yet it sounds just like water, the most precious thing of all? "Mágoa" denotes lasting sorrow and yet it resonates as beautiful as water, a symbol of life and hope. The British poet Auden in prison once remarked "Thousands have lived without love, not one without water." I believe many live despite their "mágoas". Some scholars believe that the deep origin of the words "mágoa" and "mácula" comes from the Proto-Italic (smatlo) or from the Proto-Indo-European (smhatlo) and Ancient Greek (σμάω, smáō), which means "wiping, cleansing". Therefore all these burdens and "mágoas" cleanse us from the grief and deceptions we all lived through.

All Latin languages have one or two words from the root “macula” and yet Portuguese has seven! Therefore one could say Portuguese feel seven times the sorrows of other western Europeans. In several countries, however, the word descendants of "macula" do not mean sorrow at all, like in Portuguese. In Spanish and English "macula" means the iris or the oval stain of ink inside the eye. In Portuguese "mácula", besides the anatomical meaning, is most commonly applied to mean sin. See why I absolutely love such a word? If the eyes are the doors to the soul, then they must also be the mirror of our sorrows and sins.

One can see the descendants of the Latin root “macula” in nearly any Romance language and even some other European languages: Asturian (mancha), Catalan (malla, macula), Czech (machule), English (macula, mail, macle, mackle, macule, macchia, maquis), French (maille, macule), Friulian (magle), Galician (mágoa, mancha), Italian (macchia, macula), Occitan (malha), Sicilian (macchia), Slovak (machuľa), Spanish (mancha, macula, mangla), and Venetian (macia).

The Portuguese have seven different kinds of stains either to express abstract feelings or real stains such as those caused by blood or ink: mancha, malha, mágoa, mácula, macla, mangra, maquis. Both Portuguese and English had a tradition of navy and sailing from its medieval and renaissance times. Perhaps their vocabularies drew on words heard in ports all over Europe. Travel opens the windows to the eyes, the ears and the heart! It is interesting to note that several of the Portuguese and English words derived from "macula" had its origin in medieval French and yet those words came into disuse in its original French culture.

What do you think readers? The famous singer, Amália Rodrigues, once sang that Fado was born from the bosom of a sailor on whose lips died a sorrowful song full of wasted desires and nostalgia. Amália also had the feeling that Portuguese women felt burdened with sorrows, seeing their husbands and children leave on sea trips or immigrate to distant countries. Fado may have been at first born in ports and sang by sailor men, but it eventually bloomed in the voices of sorrowful women, with hair and dress as black as ravens, that sang despairingly their heartfelt emotions of abandonment and loneliness. I leave you now to listen to Amália, whose voice means so much more than its words:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YriVM8sC7M

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Evoking a love memory from the Iliad while listening to Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey often makes reference that she studied philosophy and considered becoming a poet, which is something that reflects on her lyrics from the very first albums. Her song “Off to the races” quotes a cute line from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, “Light of my life, fire of my loins”. Another song “Body Electric” is an obvious allusion to the Walt Whitman’s poem.

However, for me the most special poetic moment is how Lana evokes a bit of Homer in her song “Videogames”. I say evoke instead of quote, since I do not think there is any intention of quoting the Greek bard. Rather, I would say it is my interpretation and emotional feeling of those lines that reminds me of a similar theme in the Iliad. Obviously, Lana has already stated that Videogames is a happy song about living with a boyfriend that was focused on games.

In my favorite line Lana sings “They say that the world was built for two, Only worth living if somebody is loving you”. This line evokes in me a scene when Achilles watches Patroclus leave for battle. Achilles reminds his friend not to put himself in danger for he values him above all else: “Once you push the Trojans from the ships, come back. (…) Make sure you come back here again, once your saving light has reached our ships. Let others keep on fighting”. Achilles then prays that rather everyone else would die if only he and Patroclus would live: “Oh, Father Zeus, Athena, and Apollo— if only no single Trojan or Achaean could escape death, and just we two alone were not destroyed, so that by ourselves we could take Troy's sacred battlements.”

While the words used to express this feeling are way different from Lana’s, I would say both reflect a relationship that is felt so strongly that it overcomes everything else! In “Videogames” the line is just a metaphor for the desire to be special and loved in a way that the world feels warmer just for you. In the Iliad – which curiously refers to War Games – Achilles expresses to Patroclus that their bond is stronger than their ties to other men and without him he cares little for this world. That is why later on the death of Patroclus seals Achilles fate, for he knows that joining the war again will lead him to an early death. The death of Patroclus is Achilles’ death sentence because it deprived him of the joy of life. Later when Achilles is weeping over his friend’s dead body, he confesses his friend was dearer to him than his own father and he rather hoped for his own death than his friend’s loss: “But now thou liest here mangled, and my heart will have naught of meat and drink, though they be here at hand, through yearning for thee. Naught more grievous than this could I suffer, not though I should hear of the death of mine own father (…) For until now the heart in my breast had hope that I alone should perish far from horse-pasturing Argos, here in the land of Troy, but that thou shouldest return to Phthia, that so thou mightest take my child in thy swift, black ship from Scyrus, and show him all things”.

Recently, a friend quoted on Facebook the famous line by Star Trek’s character Spock “The Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. I immediately replied “Not so. Sometimes one can love one thing or one person so strongly that the whole world matters less. In the Iliad Achilles says that he would rather wish all the Greeks died if only Patroclus would live. That is how much he loved him!” And now I ask you my friends/readers, who do you resemble the most – Spock or Achilles? Lana Del Rey sounds like an Achilles type of person.

The photo above shows Achilles mourning the dead Patroclus”, a scene from the front panel of a Roman sarcophagus that is currently at the museum of Berlin.