With an uncertain future and a present so bleak, the past, naturally, might offer an ideal refuge for the disenchanted. And a chance as well to re-evaluate our prevailing hip and oh so “sophisticated” views and attitudes. There have been many exciting discoveries of late.
So we have the news of another successful excavation which has unveiled ancient clay statuettes of fertile goddesses in Haft Tape which also point to the existence of a 3500-year-old temple in the vacinity.
This latest discovery comes in the heel of the recent excavation that led to the unearthing of four winged goddesses that flew over
Add to these, the earlier DNA confirmation of the (now indisputable) existence of warrior women in ancient Persia and the ongoing work in what is known as the Burnt City, and we have here some electrifying tidbits that promise to revolutionize our view of a civilization some 5000 years old.
I am not holding my breath, though. What is so disheartening is that despite having everything in front of us, a key ingredient for serious work appears missing from our midst. I mean, if you thought I was crossed with intellectuals generally, you should hear what I really think about us Iranians in particular.
Read a few books and attend college for a few years, and judging by the babble, you’d think the universe owes us. So superior and condescending. As a general rule, never hesitant to belittle and demean everyone and everything that doesn’t tickle our fancy (of the moment).
And incessantly upset about being misunderstood by those “backward” and “unwashed,” millions. To top these already winning attitudes, we also have now the plague of Mammon worship which effectively means only one thing.
Instead of safeguarding and seriously engaging our heritage, there is massive, shameless plunder and destruction of our ancient artifacts.
So it annoys me. Everything has been annoying me lately.
And I read Iranian blogs and look at the reading habits of our trendy elites and I wonder about our future. Always ready to jump at the latest paradigm. Quick to translate—very poorly—the convoluted foreign phrases which make the already ornate Farsi prose that much more inaccessible.
And all without, in some sense, first attempting to appropriate in to the outlook those fundamental pre- prerequisites—awe and wonder—of engaging the world as is given us. As if a few modern gadgets and high-rises and fancy books offer us a way out.
Anyhow, the problem is not exclusively “ours.”
So I thought we might have at a couple of short, old readings tonight. You, of course, have probably seen the alarming talk about all the natural and man made disasters signaling the impending Second Coming of Jesus.
And all the rumored anxiety sort of moved me to go back and re-read my favorite historian Thucydides. Excerpts of his take on omens, disasters, plagues, and some of the social consequences of pessimism:
The same summer, at the beginning of a new lunar month, the only time by the way at which it appears possible, the sun was eclipsed after noon. After it had assumed the form of a crescent and some of the stars had come out, it returned to its natural shape. ..
Not many days after their arrival in
But while the nature of the distemper was such as to baffle all description, and its attacks almost too grievous for human nature to endure, it was still in the following circumstance that its difference from all ordinary disorders was most clearly shown. All the birds and beasts that prey upon human bodies, either abstained from touching them (though there were many lying unburied), or died after tasting them. In proof of this, it was noticed that birds of this kind actually disappeared; they were not about the bodies, or indeed to be seen at all. But of course the effects which I have mentioned could best be studied in a domestic animal like the dog.
By far the most terrible feature in the malady was the dejection which ensued when any one felt himself sickening, for the despair into which they instantly fell took away their power of resistance, and left them a much easier prey to the disorder; besides which, there was the awful spectacle of men dying like sheep, through having caught the infection in nursing each other. This caused the greatest mortality. On the one hand, if they were afraid to visit each other, they perished from neglect; indeed many houses were emptied of their inmates for want of a nurse: on the other, if they ventured to do so, death was the consequence. This was especially the case with such as made any pretensions to goodness: honour made them unsparing of themselves in their attendance in their friends' houses, where even the members of the family were at last worn out by the moans of the dying, and succumbed to the force of the disasters. Yet it was with those who had recovered from the disease that the sick and the dying found most compassion…
An aggravation of the existing calamity was the influx from the country into the city, and this was especially felt by the new arrivals. As there were no houses to receive them, they had to be lodged at the hot season of the year in stifling cabins, where the mortality raged without restraint. The bodies of dying men lay one upon another, and half-dead creatures reeled about the streets and gathered round all the fountains in their longing for water. The sacred places also in which they had quartered themselves were full of corpses of persons that had died there, just as they were; for as the disaster passed all bounds, men, not knowing what was to become of them, became utterly careless of everything, whether sacred or profane. All the burial rites before in use were entirely upset, and they buried the bodies as best they could. Many from want of the proper appliances, through so many of their friends having died already, had recourse to the most shameless sepulchres: sometimes getting the start of those who had raised a pile, they threw their own dead body upon the stranger's pyre and ignited it; sometimes they tossed the corpse which they were carrying on the top of another that was burning, and so went off.
Nor was this the only form of lawless extravagance which owed its origin to the plague. Men now coolly ventured on what they had formerly done in a corner, and not just as they pleased, seeing the rapid transitions produced by persons in prosperity suddenly dying and those who before had nothing succeeding to their property. So they resolved to spend quickly and enjoy themselves, regarding their lives and riches as alike things of a day. Perseverance in what men called honour was popular with none, it was so uncertain whether they would be spared to attain the object; but it was settled that present enjoyment, and all that contributed to it, was both honourable and useful. Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them. As for the first, they judged it to be just the same whether they worshipped them or not, as they saw all alike perishing; and for the last, no one expected to live to be brought to trial for his offences, but each felt that a far severer sentence had been already passed upon them all and hung ever over their heads, and before this fell it was only reasonable to enjoy life a little.
Such was the nature of the calamity, and heavily did it weigh on the Athenians; death raging within the city and devastation without.
Do yourselves a favour and read the whole thing.
And in an old box recently, I found a fragment of ancient Hymn about the Second Coming. Sorry about the long post. But, a few lines for your viewing pleasure as I am sure none of us could feel truly fulfilled departing this good earth without at least having seen one genuine Manichean hymn as it appears to us today.
The opening lines of the hymn concerning the Second Coming (Middle Persian with Parthian words):
’w mn gw, šhry’r, ’ry’m’, ’wwm ’bhwm, pws ‘y fryhstwm, ’br
zm’n ‘yt ’mdyšnyh, k’ pd ’bdwmyh ’’yy, bwzygr wzrg, wcyh’gwm,
gw ’br h’n zm’n ’wš nyš’n’n.
[ō] to at in/ [man] ‘think’/ [gōw] ‘speak say’/[shahryār] ‘lord, king’/[aryāmān] ‘friend’ epitaph of Jesus/…/[abhum-] reveal/ [pus] ‘son’/[Ī] ‘who,which’/ [frihstom] ‘dearest’/ [abar] higher /[zamān] ‘time’/ [Ī]+suffix pronoun second sing./ [āmadishnih] ‘coming’/ [ka] ‘when, if’/[pad] ‘in, along, through, on account of’/ [abdomih] ‘end’/
[ay] ‘come’/[bozegar] ‘saviour’/ [wuzurg] ‘great’/[wizehag] Teacher/ [gōw]…/[abar]…/[han] ‘that’ ‘the’/ [zamān] ‘time’/ [ushi] ‘consciousness’/ [nishān] ‘sign’…
The following translation of the fragment from the Gnostic Society Library:
Hymn on the Second Coming of Jesus
- Manichaean Hymn in Persian with Parthian words.
Speak to me, Lord and Friend, and reveal to me, Son
of the most beloved, the time of your coming, when
you will appear at the end.
Oh great Redeemer, my Teacher, speak of that time and its signs.
The speakers, the righteous and chosen ones, who must live
in the Realm of the Lie, Do not accumulate herds and belongings.
Therefore they are persecuted.
Ha, this irate potentate! How long will he continue to rule?
How long will the poor and the Family of Peace be persecuted?
Tell me what reward the wise and righteous ones that are now
persecuted will have.
You of compassionate race, tell of the coming subjugation of
the sinners who are now exalted.
The strong and valiant Son of the Most Beloved taught me what
I asked him:
That time, the coming years and periods, will be different from now,
because of the ensuing battles.
For they (the years) shall flow like water in the rivers,
Now that time is near at hand.
The covetous heretics that now rejoice
shall you then vanquish, you Wrathful One.
They will be persecuted, as they have persecuted,
And they shall do penance for their offences.
Then shall those who have wept be joyful,
And those who now laugh weep.
He who is grieved and belongs to the Family of Peace
Shall be rewarded with prosperity and protection.
Then the righteous religion shall hold sway over the false teachings and nations.
Then shall the springs of Living Water open their mouths in praise.
Lament, give honor and praise, for the time is near,
Of which these are the signs.
... the anointed.
The vihidan(?) of the Ruler are called.
Persecution and suppression shall then be recompensed by eternal life.
And many more where this came from.
Needless to say, that we have access to these fragments and are able to decipher them is in no small measure due mostly to the tireless efforts of the likes of Mary Boyce; a Boyce whose single rotten strand of hair-- as one of our many flowery expressions go-- is worth the output of dozens of the rest of us, obnoxious, self-centred, full-of-it you know who!
See what I mean? This post itself is a perfect illustration of why even (and especially) I annoy me.