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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Depressive and the Holy Grail



Through conquering the dragon, the hero typically acquires some magical object: the pearl of immortality, the Golden Fleece, the Golden Apples, Medusa’s head, Gilgamesh’s herb of immortality, the impenetrable hide of the Medean lion, the cornucopia; the Grail. Samson finds honey in the conquered lion’s carcass. Enkidu and Gilgamesh obtain sacred cedar logs. Perhaps not so special to us, but Enkidu on his death bed eulogizes them: “There is no wood like you in our land.”i Moses and the Israelites attain the Promised Land, prefigured by the burning bush and the tablets of the law.

Do these images all represent one thing? For what might they stand as “objective correlative”?

Being indestructible seems one most common theme. The Chinese cintamani around which the dragons dance is an elixir of immortality. So is Gilgamesh’s herb. Utnapishtim informs Gilgamesh,
“There is a plant that looks like a box-thorn, it has prickles like a dog-rose, and will prick one who plucks it. But if you can possess this plant, you’ll be again as you were in your youth.”ii

When Herakles rescues Hesione from the sea monster, similarly, his stated reward is two immortal horses. The skin of the Nemean lion, or the blood of Fafnir, promise invulnerability, surely a related concept.

Draper: The Golden Fleece

Many of the prize objects seem to be made of gold: the fleece, the apples of the Hesperides, Fafnir’s hoard, Beowulf’s dragon’s golden cup. The value everyone everywhere places on gold, in turn, has much to do with its being an incorruptible, an “immortal” metal, resistant to oxidization. Cedar, Enkidu’s and Gilgamesh’s first prize, is evergreen—it does not die back in winter—and, says Wikipedia, it is “exceptionally durable and immune to insect ravages.” Again, a possible image of permanence. Honey has the same salient characteristic: kept for centuries, it will not spoil. Moses’s burning bush “burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed”—an immortal fire.

As for the Holy Grail, it heals fatal wounds; similarly defying mortality.

Sir Percival and Sir Ector have just battled, and given each other mortal blows. They are then brought into the presence of the grail:

... and forthwithal they both were as whole of hide and limb as ever they were in their life-days: then they gave thankings to God with great mildness. O Jesu, said Sir Percivale, what may this mean, that we be thus healed, and right now we were at the point of dying?iii

The head of Medusa, conversely, is an invincible weapon: it brings instant death. But it is a particular kind of death, being turned to stone. This also implies permanence; like the stone tablets of the Mosaic law. Perseus says to Phineas, in exposing to him the gorgon’s head: “I shall make of you a lasting memorial; you will always be seen, standing in my father-in-law’s palace.”iv

Burne-Jones: The Garden of the Hesperides

In the Golden Apples, found hanging on a branch at the place where the sun sets; in the Golden Fleece, found hanging on a branch at the place the sun rises; and perhaps in Moses’s burning bush; we see hints of solar symbolism. The golden objects here, given their locations, seem cognate to the golden sun. Very often, indeed, to achieve his quest, the hero must go to the place where the sun rises or sets: Jason, Herakles, Gilgamesh, Perseus. The sun too is a common image of immortality: sol invictus, the unconquerable sun. It rises again every morning.

The goal of the hero quest, then, is apparently something permanent, something eternal. What is permanent or eternal? God, yes, and heaven; Plato’s ideal forms, if you are a Platonist; and those qualities both Plato and Aristotle called the transcendentals: notably, the moral good, truth, beauty.

The sun is an especially apt correlative for the transcendental: not just because it is immortal for all practical purposes, but because it is the primary source of light and vision. It is to light or to sight what a transcendental is to value, or a Platonic ideal is to a particular object. A thing is of value because it is true, or good, or beautiful. Gold is a comparable image: as coinage, it is accepted as a universal exchange, an abstract symbol of value.

The solution to Samson’s riddle suggests that here honey is also a superlative, and so a possible stand-in for ultimate value:

“What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?” (Judges 14:18)
Honey is thus, at least implicitly, the measure of all sweetness. And so it was, in a world before sugar.

Given that the abused or emotionally betrayed child is deprived by their family experience of any sense of personal worth or any sense of meaning in their life, this quest for absolute value may be necessary to gain some solid ground on which to stand and then to build. With no relative ground of being supplied to them by those around them, such as most of us have from our upbringing, they must find the ultimate ground of being or remain at sea.

A challenging, a heroic task; not everyone is called to be a knight errant. But having attained it, they have attained something not just of personal, but of universal value. They are able to bestow this blessing, this soul-wisdom, on others. That makes the hero.

Ovid describes Pythagoras as a hero in this sense:

Though the gods were far away, he visited their region of the sky, in his mind, and what nature denied to human vision he enjoyed with his inner eye. When he had considered every subject, through concentrated thought, he communicated it widely in public, teaching the silent crowds, who listened in wonder to his words, concerning the origin of the vast universe, and of the causes of things; and what the physical world is; what the gods are; where the snows arise; what the origin of lightning is; whether Jupiter, or the storm-winds, thunder from colliding clouds; what shakes the earth; by what laws the stars move; and whatever else is hidden.v

This all begins to sound mystical: the ultimate goal, after all, the perfect transcendental, must be God himself. Indeed, Sir Galahad, when he achieves the Grail, ascends to heaven:

And therewith he kneeled down to-fore the table and made his prayers, and then suddenly his soul departed to Jesu Christ, and a great multitude of angels bare his soul up to heaven, that the two fellows might well behold it. Also the two fellows saw come from heaven an hand, but they saw not the body. And then it came right to the Vessel, and took it and the spear, and so bare it up to heaven. Sithen was there never man so hardy to say that he had seen the Sangreal.vi
Knights of the Round Table

That may sound a little too ambitious for most of us. According to the legend, after all, a Galahad comes along only once a creation or so. More humbly, the typical depressive’s quest may achieve something like the second of Alcoholics Anonymous’s famous Twelve Steps: “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This more common grail may be an awareness that there really are transcendent values, and then some sense of what they are. The fundamentals of a religious faith.

On this rock, the depressive may build a life.

Significantly, when he achieves the grail, Sir Launcelot is healed of a “mental illness.” Now that he is lucid, Dame Elaine must explain matters to him:

Sir, said Dame Elaine, into this country ye came like a madman, clean out of your wit, and here have ye been kept as a fool.
Earlier:
These four men and these ladies laid hand on Sir Launcelot, and so they bare him into a tower, and so into a chamber where was the holy vessel of the Sangreal, and by force Sir Launcelot was laid by that holy vessel; and there came an holy man and unhilled that vessel, and so by miracle and by virtue of that holy vessel Sir Launcelot was healed and recovered.vii

Launcelot also has a dream in which the Grail is said specifically to heal an illness called “sorrow”: melancholy.

And so he fell asleep; and half waking and sleeping he saw come by him two palfreys all fair and white, the which bare a litter, therein lying a sick knight. ... All this Sir Launcelot saw and beheld, for he slept not verily; and he heard him say: O sweet Lord, when shall this sorrow leave me? and when shall the holy vessel come by me, wherethrough I shall be blessed? For I have endured thus long, for little trespass. A full great while complained the knight thus, and always Sir Launcelot heard it. With that Sir Launcelot saw the candlestick with the six tapers come before the cross, and he saw nobody that brought it. Also there came a table of silver, and the holy vessel of the Sangreal, which Launcelot had seen aforetime in King Pescheour’s house. And therewith the sick knight set him up, and held up both his hands, and said: Fair sweet Lord, which is here within this holy vessel; take heed unto me that I may be whole of this malady. And therewith on his hands and on his knees he went so nigh that he touched the holy vessel and kissed it, and anon he was whole; and then he said: Lord God, I thank thee, for I am healed of this sickness.viii
Rossetti: The Damsel of the Sangreal.

As for the Golden Fleece, note the story of its origin. It was the fleece of a golden ram (which later became the constellation Aries) sent by Nephele to save two children about to be sacrificed by their father.ix The ram saved them by carrying them off on its back. The fleece thus represents an aid for abused children; fit antidote for an abused childhood.

There is a similar reference in the legend of the Holy Grail. Once recognized, through his ability to sit on the Siege Perilous, as worthy of the grail quest, Sir Galahad is led to a tomb. 

Now, said the good man, go to the tomb and lift it up. So he did, and heard a great noise; and piteously he said, that all men might hear it: Sir Galahad, the servant of Jesu Christ, come thou not nigh me, for thou shalt make me go again there where I have been so long. But Galahad was nothing afraid, but lifted up the stone; and there came out so foul a smoke, and after he saw the foulest figure leap thereout that ever he saw in the likeness of a man; and then he blessed him and wist well it was a fiend. Then heard he a voice say Galahad, I see there environ about thee so many angels that my power may not dere thee. Right so Sir Galahad saw a body all armed lie in that tomb, and beside him a sword. Now, fair brother, said Galahad, let us remove this body, for it is not worthy to lie in this churchyard, for he was a false Christian man. And therewith they all departed and went to the abbey. And anon as he was unarmed a good man came and set him down by him and said: Sir, I shall tell you what betokeneth all that ye saw in the tomb; for that covered body betokeneth the duresse of the world, and the great sin that Our Lord found in the world. For there was such wretchedness that the father loved not the son, nor the son loved not the father; and that was one of the causes that Our Lord took flesh and blood of a clean maiden, for our sins were so great at that time that well-nigh all was wickedness. Truly, said Galahad, I believe you right well.x

The Grail exists, then—indeed, it seems perhaps Jesus himself came into world—to heal a lack of love between parent and child. That is the specific demon to be exorcised by the grail quest.

Every new discovery in science or in culture may also be understood as a hero quest for truth; every decisive moral act a hero quest for the good, “heroic virtue,” as is said of saints; every inspired creative act may be considered a hero quest for the beautiful. The depressive, driven to this quest by personal circumstances, may be expert in this questing business. Hence, perhaps, as Aristotle observes, the great philosophers, or poets, or artists, or military leaders or lawgivers, are almost always melancholics.



iThe Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 7.


ii Ibid. Tablet 11.


iii Malory, Morte d’Arthur, Book 11, Chapter 14.


iv Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 5, ll. 215-250, Innes, trans.


v Ibid., Book 15, ll. 31-108.


vi Morte d’Arthur, Chapter 22.


vii Ibid., Book 12 Ch. 5


viii Ibid., Ch. 18.


ix Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 9, Chapter 34.




x Morte d’Arthur, Book x, Chapter 12.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Timbit






Tim Horton's, long a Canadian cultural idol (I have the word “icon” in this context. It is blasphemous), is now being crucified.

This is something new in Canada. We used to be kinder and more humane to our idols. It was something I liked about Canada.

The issue is that some Horton's franchisees, faced with a big legislated rise in the minimum wage, are financing it by reducing hours and benefits.

But what else can they do? Do people really think that money comes from thin air? If businesses are required by law to pay employees more, that money must come from one of four sources:

  1. Hire fewer workers (or reduce hours and benefits). 
  2. Raise prices. 
  3. Reduce profits. 

Hire fewer workers or reduce hours. This is the safest and least radical approach, and of course what Tim Horton's franchisees have chosen to do. And there is this big complaint about it.

Raise prices. Tim Horton's franchisees do not have this option. Prices are set by their franchise agreement. But even if they could, this is not a workable solution in many cases, and probably not in this one. You might be prepared to pay more for a cup of coffee. Fine for you, and you are free to do so. Leave a nice tip. But what about the poor? Poor people quite possibly cannot sustain the increased cost. Tim Horton's falls into the category of cheap luxuries: a cup of coffee, a donut, a little time relaxing with friends. In such a market, a slight change in price is devastating.

Result: no coffee or donuts for the poor. Not to mention that the franchisee loses everything, and the current employees are out of their jobs.

Reduce profits. No doubt this is what the protesters want franchisees to do instead. But there are just as many problems with this approach. To begin with, not all companies are making huge profits. A certain percentage regularly go bankrupt—quite a high percentage in the food and beverage field. Some studies say eight out of ten fail within their first year. That is a pretty good indication that margins are slim. Raise costs without raising revenue, and some further percentage are going to go bankrupt.

Ah, you say, but Tim Horton's at least is too big and too established to fail. Right. Like Sears. Like K-Mart. Like Eaton's. When was the last time you ate in a Howard Johnson's? Or at a Woolworth's lunch counter? Where margins are tight, things can happen blindingly fast.

Meaning fewer jobs and fewer services—the same effect as option one or option two above. In addition, reducing profits of course means reducing income of investors. Not applicable for many Horton's franchisees, which are probably sole proprietorships. Here, it is only some poor slob's life savings at risk. But for most large corporations trading on the markets, most stock is actually held by retirement funds of one sort or another. So you are not taking the money away from imaginary fat capitalists. You are taking the money away from pensioners.

Looking at these three options, the option chosen by the franchisees seems plainly the best one now available for all concerned. But better, clearly better, would be to not raise the minimum wage. If you do not like this result, blame the politicians.

“Minimum wage is not a living wage,” some argue, so it should be raised despite market forces. Probably right that it is not a decent wage for anyone who is a sole breadwinner. But those who make this argument overlook the fact that few households in Canada are actually sole-breadwinner households. For a kid still living with his parents, or for a couple's second income, or for a retiree with a slender pension, the pay at minimum wage can be vital. The simple proof of this is that people take the jobs. They would not if they did not find the money worth the work. With minimum wage laws, some people who need the money cannot get it. These will be poor people.

Consider this most common scenario: if you are uneducated, just out of high school, or trying to finance college or university, what job can you get with no experience? In what job can you realistically generate more income for your employer than you are costing him in wages?

In order to get young feet in doors, we have traditionally had apprenticeships and internships, often unpaid.

All very well for the wealthy; but then, the wealthy do not need this. They can afford to go to college and university and pay to get the skills for a job. What about the poor? They may well need to be making at least some money now. Low-paying jobs are what make this possible.

Minimum wage laws limit this opportunity. And poverty persists for another generation. And another. And another. And another.

Eat at Tim Horton's today.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Donald Trump's Alleged Stormy Sex Life



Any port in a Storm?

Jonah Goldberg and David French are scolding conservatives in the National Review for not publicly condemning Donald Trump over his claimed affair with “Stormy Daniels.” This, they say, is hypocrisy. These now-silent conservatives are the same people who made a big deal over Bill Clinton's indiscretions, after all.

I profoundly disagree.

As a matter of fact, I remember my own reaction when the story of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky broke, said to the friend who told me: “It is none of our business.” I feel the same way about Trump.

A very bright red thick solid line must be drawn between, on the one hand, adulterous relationships between consenting adults, and, on the other, sexual assault and rape. Night, meet day.

In the former case, the overriding concern is that famous people, including famous politicians, deserve the same right to privacy that is insisted on for everyone else. The reporting of such things is the sin of calumny.

And, if any one of us is taken in adultery, the best response is that of Jesus: “then I too do not condemn thee. Go and sin no more.”

Yes, adultery is a sin; just as homosexual sex is a sin, or premarital sex is a sin, or masturbation is a sin, or using artificial birth control is a sin. But these are peculiarly private sins, matters between the individual, the sex partner or marital partner, and God. They are matters in which the community or society at large has no legitimate interest, and it is hard if not impossible for anyone to condemn them in another without hypocrisy. We are all sinners.

In Bill Clinton's case, the eventual issue was not the consensual sex with Monica Lewinsky. It was that he perjured himself in denying it; and he has also been accused of sexual assault and even violent rape against other women. Weinstein was guilty of sexual assault. Franken was guilty of at least very low-level, almost trivial sexual assault.

Trump, it seems, if the accusations are true, was guilty of being rich, powerful, male, and human.




The Ten Wonders of the World













Sinulog is today. My wife is going. She will not let me go, because it is too complicated and dangerous, she insists, for a foreigner.

Sinulog is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

This got me thinking: I have been around a bit. What are the other most beautiful things I have ever seen?

Here's my list; of the Wonders of the Modern World. Not in any order:

Sinulog – Cebu, Philippines. Catholic religious festival with parade, costumes, dances.

Mirinae Shrine – South Korea. Catholic shrine.

Ji Hua Shan – China. Buddhist sacred mountain, community of temples.

Sigiriya – Sri Lanka. Ancient mountain castle with architectural ruins, fresco, gardens.

The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries – Paris, France. Medieval Christian religious allegory.

Rose Windows, Notre Dame Cathedral – Paris, France.

Sistine Chapel – Rome, Italy.

Perth, Ontario, Canada. Perth stands in to some extent for the entire Canadian Shield, and for many small towns almost as beautiful. It was hard to choose between Perth and Westport.

Lower Town, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

Kyoto, Japan. Magnificent temples and classic gardens.

One could add individual art works, but then the list gets longer. Shout outs to Botticelli, Vermeer, William Blake, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Krishna Gopala or Radha Krishna cycle.

Perth








Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Helper



Siegfried at Regin's forge.

Joseph Campbell identifies, as a standard feature of hero legends, a guide or helper figure who appears near the outset of the hero’s quest to advise him or her.

For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass.i 
In fairy lore it may be some little fellow of the wood, some wizard, hermit, shepherd, or smith, who appears, to supply the amulets and advice that the hero will require. The higher mythologies develop the role in the great figure of the guide, the teacher, the ferryman, the conductor of souls to the afterworld.ii

He cites Theseus’s Ariadne, Dante’s Beatrice, or Faust’s Gretchen.

This figure, says Campbell, represents “the benign, protecting power of destiny”; “all the forces of the unconscious,” “Mother Nature herself.”iii But these seem only awkward circumlocutions to avoid using the word “God.” Nature does not have a will or an intent, nor is there any “destiny,” without some divine will to make it so.

Very well; God is present in the hero quest. In the Samson legend, his birth is even announced by an angel, who designates him as a hero. In the story of Moses, Yahweh God himself is the helper figure.

Moses and the burning bush. Bouts the Elder.


But so what? Have we learned anything? After all, if God exists, everything comes from God, or if you prefer euphemisms, “destiny” or “Mother Nature.” And God is always with us, in principle; especially, proverbially, in times of trial. So why the need in these legends for a particular figure simply to assert God’s presence? It seems there must be more to it than this.

But first, is Campbell correct that a helper figure is a standard feature of these legends? Surely he is. Have we not already seen such helper figures?

Recall the aged priest St. Gerebernus who accompanies St, Dymphna when she flees her father King Damon; and the secondary, less commonly remarked, figure of the court fool.iv

We have seen as well that these two are remarkably similar to Lear’s two companions in his wanderings, the fool and Kent: the one an artist, that is, an actor, comedian, musician, and juggler; and the other apparently a religious figure, surprisingly monotheist in a pagan milieu.

There is also such a figure, easily missed, perhaps, in Hamlet; although there seems to be only one of the two: Yorick, who was a mentor to Hamlet in his youth.

“I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times.” (Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 1)

Yorick is, yet again, a court jester. And he is a guide, surely, to Hamlet in his assumed role as feigned madman. “A whoreson mad fellow,” as one of the gravediggers describes him.

Young Hamlet with Yorick. 1868.

Interesting: three legends, three court jesters.

There seems to be no clear parallel of Father Gerebernus in Hamlet; no religious guide. The ghost of Hamlet’s father might seem to qualify; but it is unclear whether he is a helpful guide or a demon and the ultimate source of the problem. The latter seems more likely. What about Yorick, now dead and so having a solid connection with the spiritual world, serving both functions? He might because of this circumstance combine both figures. Hamlet does appeal to him for supernatural aid, as one might commend oneself to Saint Dymphna or Saint Gerebernus:
Now get you to my ladyʼs chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that. (Act 5, Scene 1)

But so far this is all Shakespeare. Are there similar guides in the hero legends?

Indeed, we seem to find the same two figures in the world’s first known epic, the story of Gilgamesh. Assuming that Utnapishtim, the immortal old man who lives beyond the sea of death, is more the goal of the quest than a helper at the threshold, Gilgamesh comes upon two guides in seeking him: first Siduri, the “gentle girl who sits by the sea”; then Urshanabi, the ferryman who “rows the seas of death.”v Both give directions, help, and advice.

And Siduri is apparently an artist, just as are the court fools we find in Shakespeare. 
She crafted the first gold bowl
while peeking at the sun
through a slit across her face veil.
Urshanabi is a priestly figure, a psychopomp (guide of souls to the afterlife), the one who ferries souls across the sea of death. “He is one who plays with deadly snakes,” says Siduri. As Gerberinus serves as confessor for Dymphna, so Urshanabi scolds Gilgamesh for impiously breaking sacred columns and handling sacred stones.

We seem to find the same two in some of the Greek hero legends. Heroes are typically guided and aided by the twin figures Athena and Hermes. According to Apollodorus:

With Hermes and Athena as his guides Perseus sought out the daughters of Phorkys who told him where to find the Nymphai (Nymphs) who kept certain treasures of the gods‒winged sandals, the kibisis (a sack), and the helmet of Hades … He [Perseus] also received from Hermes a sickle made of adamant … [After his quest was complete:] Perseus gave the sandals, kibisis, and helmet back to Hermes, and the Gorgonʼs head to Athena. Hermes returned the aforementioned articles to the Nymphai.vi
Athene helps Perseus kill Medusa

When he completed his quest, according to Ovid, “he built three turf altars to three gods, the left to Mercurius [Hermes], the middle Joveʼs [Zeusʼ], the right the warrior queenʼs [Athenaʼs], and sacrificed a cow to Minerva [Athena], to the wing-foot god [Hermes] a calf and to the king of heaven [Zeus] a bull.”vii These three seem neatly to correspond to Urshanabi, Utnapishtim, and Siduri.

Athena is, like Siduri, an artist, patroness of the arts. Ovid in particular makes this plain, in describing a weaving contest between her and Arachne. The piece she weaves goes far beyond mere craft:

…. There, shades of purple, dyed in Tyrian bronze vessels, are woven into the cloth, and also lighter colours, shading off gradually. The threads that touch seem the same, but the extremes are distant, as when, often, after a rainstorm, the expanse of the sky, struck by the sunlight, is stained by a rainbow in one vast arch, in which a thousand separate colours shine, but the eye itself still cannot see the transitions. There, are inserted lasting threads of gold, and an ancient tale is spun in the web. 
Pallas Athene depicts the hill of Mars, and the court of the Aeropagus, in Cecrops’s Athens, and the old dispute between Neptune and herself, as to who had the right to the city and its name. There the twelve gods sit in great majesty, on their high thrones, with Jupiter in the middle. She weaves the gods with their familiar attributes. The image of Jupiter is a royal one. There she portrays the Ocean god, standing and striking the rough stone, with his long trident, and seawater flowing from the centre of the shattered rock, a token of his claim to the city. She gives herself a shield, a sharp pointed spear, and a helmet for her head, while the aegis protects her breast. She shows an olive-tree with pale trunk, thick with fruit, born from the earth at a blow from her spear, the gods marvelling: and Victory crowns the work. 
Then she adds four scenes of contest in the four corners, each with miniature figures, in their own clear colours, so that her rival might learn, from the examples quoted, what prize she might expect, for her outrageous daring. One corner shows Thracian Mount Rhodope and Mount Haemus, now icy peaks, once mortal beings who ascribed the names of the highest gods to themselves. A second corner shows the miserable fate of the queen of the Pygmies: how Juno, having overcome her in a contest, ordered her to become a crane and make war on her own people. Also she pictures Antigone, whom Queen Juno turned into a bird for having dared to compete with Jupiter’s great consort: neither her father Laomedon, nor her city Ilium were of any use to her, but taking wing as a white stork she applauds herself with clattering beak. The only corner left shows Cinyras, bereaved: and he is seen weeping as he clasps the stone steps of the temple that were once his daughters’ limbs. Minerva surrounded the outer edges with the olive wreaths of peace (this was the last part) and so ended her work with emblems of her own tree.viii
It is, in short, a masterpiece.

The weaving contest: Velasquez.

Hermes, in turn, is the Greek cognate to Urshanabi: Hermes Psychopompos, the figure who guides souls to the spirit world.

Both Hermes and Athena guide and help Herakles as well. In his quest for Cerberus, Hermes leads Herakles to the underworld. Athena guides him back. The Temple of Zeus at Olympia featured twelve metopes showing the twelve labours of Herakles. Athena is shown in four of them. She gave Herakles the noisemakers with which he startled the Stymphalian birds. She helped him support the sky when he sought the apples of the Hesperides. She intervened to end his killing spree during his madness.ix Both perform similar services for Odysseus.

Athena is divine patron of the arts, of military valour, and of wisdom. These fields do not obviously intersect. But interestingly, they are three fields Aristotle cited as typically populated by the melancholy: artists, heroes, and philosophers.x This may reveal Athena’s true interests and her true character.

In the Völsunga Saga, Siegfried/Sigurd again has two helpers and guides in overcoming the dragon Fafnir. The first is Regin, a smith, who “had all wisdom and deftness of hand. … he has the ability to work iron as well as silver and gold and he makes many beautiful and useful things”xi—an artist. Regin crafts Siegfried’s invincible sword, then gives him vital advice on how to proceed. The second helper is the god Odin, who appears as an old man to amend and complete Fafnir’s advice. Odin is cognate to the Greek Hermes. 

Then said Regin, “Make thee a hole, and sit down therein, and whenas the worm comes to the water, smite him into the heart, and so do him to death, and win thee great fame thereby.”
But Sigurd said, “What will betide me if I be before the blood of the worm?” 
Says Regin, “Of what avail to counsel thee if thou art still afeard of everything? Little art thou like thy kin in stoutness of heart.”
Then Sigurd rides right over the heath; but Regin gets him gone, sore afeard. 
But Sigurd fell to digging him a pit, and whiles he was at that work, there came to him an old man with a long beard [Odin], and asked what he wrought there, and he told him. 
Then answered the old man and said, “Thou doest after sorry counsel: rather dig thee many pits, and let the blood run therein; but sit thee down in one thereof, and so thrust the worm’s heart through.”xii

Siegfried is able to kill Fafnir, following this advice.

Siegfried kills Fafnir.

The artist figure gives his advice first, then retreats. The psychopomp figure next appears, with more complete knowledge. Just as with Siduri and Urshanabi.

This may be another reason why the Fool mysteriously disappears before the end of King Lear. His artistic vision only goes so far: it is Kent, the religious figure, who treads the complete path.

In Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, Sir Launcelot’s grail quest begin when he is unjustly accused of infidelity by his wife Guinevere. The trauma drives him instantly insane. Again here, we see the common pre-modern understanding that madness comes from trauma, and specifically from an experience of emotional betrayal.

She [Guinevere] said: False traitor knight that thou art, look thou never abide in my court, and avoid my chamber, and not so hardy, thou false traitor knight that thou art, that ever thou come in my sight. Alas, said Sir Launcelot; and therewith he took such an heartly sorrow at her words that he fell down to the floor in a swoon. And therewithal Queen Guenever departed. And when Sir Launcelot awoke of his swoon, he leapt out at a bay window into a garden, and there with thorns he was all to-scratched in his visage and his body; and so he ran forth he wist not whither, and was wild wood as ever was man; and so her an two year, and never man might have grace to know him.xiii
Now turn we unto Queen Guenever and to the fair Lady Elaine, that when Dame Elaine heard the queen so to rebuke Sir Launcelot, and also she saw how he swooned, and how he leaped out at a bay window, then she said unto Queen Guenever: Madam, ye are greatly to blame for Sir Launcelot, for now have ye lost him, for I saw and heard by his countenance that he is mad for ever. … Alas, madam, ye do great sin, and to yourself great dishonour, for yehave a lord of your own, and therefore it is your part to love him.xiv

After two years of wandering, Sir Launcelot, still mad, happens upon a tree in which are hanging two swords and two shields. “Upon a tree, there hung a white shield, and two swords hung thereby, and two spears leaned there by a tree.”

What can it mean?

Launcelot takes one of the swords, and with it strikes one of the shields, making a loud noise. A dwarf appears and wrestles him for the sword. Then a knight all in red appears, and fights him for it.

Once Launcelot falls, however, they prove themselves helpers, not enemies. The dwarf says to the knight, 
Sir, …, it is not worship to hurt him, for he is a man out of his wit; and doubt ye not he hath been a man of great worship, and for some heartly sorrow that he hath taken, he is fallen mad; and me beseemeth, said the dwarf, he resembleth much unto Sir Launcelot.
The knight responds:
…Whatsomever he be, said that knight, harm will I none do him.xv
So they put him on a litter, take him to the knight’s castle, and nurse him back to health. He slowly recovers, and eventually rises to do battle with a great boar. The boar can no doubt be taken as a guardian figure; the hero quest has begun. Here as elsewhere, the hero quest is presented as the proper and healthful response to the experience of mental illness generally. Launcelot goes on from this to eventually find the grail.

So, have we met our two helper figures? Two swords, two shields, two helper figures, the dwarf and the red knight?

Not so fast. Launcelot, after all, struck only one of the shields with only one of the swords; he was, then, summoning only one of the helpers. There is an implication here of more to come. And more comes. In vanquishing the boar, he receives terrible wounds, and again passes out. He is found by a holy hermit, who again nurses him back to health.

And here, surely, we have our Gerberinus, our religious figure.

This suggests that the red knight and the dwarf, who respond to the first shield, are collectively the artist figure, aka the court jester. Not an obvious connection to make, perhaps; but dwarves were often employed as court jesters. Once healed by the hermit, Launcelot stumbles into a city and is adopted, being still somewhat mad, as a court jester by the local king. As the sign of his office, he is invested with a red cloak.
And then Sir Castor sent for the fool–that was Sir Launcelot. And when he was come afore Sir Castor, he gave Sir Launcelot a robe of scarlet and all that longed unto him.

This seems to retroactively identify the red knight—as a court jester.

Athena helps Herakles

Here too, as elsewhere, the artist appears first, the dwarf and red knight, then the psychopomp, the hermit, takes over.

For Jason and the Argonauts, there is an obvious helper figure in Phineus; a prophet, someone with spiritual second sight: “Phineus who above all men endured most bitter woes because of the gift of prophecy which Letoʼs son had granted him aforetime.”xvi Phineas gives the Argonauts detailed directions to Colchis and the Golden Fleece, outlining the dangers they will face on the way, and how to overcome them. He is their guide, then, for the entire trip.

There is nothing here to clearly identify Phineas as an artistic type; except that he is not on good terms with the gods, having revealed too many of their secrets to mankind. That sounds more like the rebellious artist than the priest. Like Siduri, the primordial artist in the Gilgamesh tale, he lives on the shore of the sea; he does not cross over. He does not go with the Argonauts on their journey, but describes their destination from afar. He paints the picture, as it were.

And there is here a second guide and helper: Medea. She is, explicitly, a priestess, a priestess of Hecate. Her advice and help is vital once Jason has reached the far side of that great sea, the other side.

Tiresias: Fuseli


If we then consider Oedipus Rex, we find a figure very similar to Phineas there, an old man with second sight, who guides Oedipus on his quest—in this case, unhappily. It is Tiresias, the all-purpose prophet of Greek legend. Also like Phineus, he is blind—blind, that is, to the physical world, the better to see without distraction the invisible spiritual world.

And in the Oedipus cycle, again, there is a second helper figure: Antigone. She is not formally a priestess, but, like Kent, she is conspicuous for her religious sentiments. When her brother Polynices dies, she violates the law to mourn for him, arguing that the divine law supercedes human law. “I owe a longer allegiance to the dead than to the living,” she explains to her sister. “In that world I shall abide for ever.”xvii To her, it seems, the spirit world is the real world. She ministers to her brother, and then also to her father, Oedipus.

So why are these helper figures here? Because, surely, they indicate the two reliable aids and supports for the abused and the depressed: the two great spiritual disciplines, the two great guides for the perplexed: religion and art. Modern psychiatry and psychology are not included, of course. They did not yet exist. Should they be? Have they offered anything better?

The Gilgamesh epic calls Siduri, the archetypal artist, “The girl who gives men lifesaving drinks”; “whose drinks refresh the soul.”xviii That, surely, aptly describes the proper effect of art. She warns Gilgamesh that, in undertaking the hero quest, he is “staring at the sun.” An interesting image; particularly since the epic has at this point just described Siduri, the artist, as one who has “peeked at the sun” in order to fashion her golden bowls. Artists, then, are those who have seen the transcendent, and reflect or reveal it in their work. They live on the shore of the eternal sea; and so are authorities for those of us who undertake hero quests. Every work of art is a glimpse of eternity.

Ushanabi, the religious figure, on the other hand, has actually himself crossed over to the other side of that sea. In principle, he is the greater and the later guide.

Here we plainly have suggestions for the treatment of depression.


iCampbell, op. cit., p. 69.

ii Ibid., p. 72.

iiiIbid.

ivone account that includes the court jester is given at http://people.wku.edu/sally.kuhlenschmidt/whimsy/dymphna.htm

vEpic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 10, Kenneth Sublett, trans.

viApollodorus, Library, 2. 37 & 46, Aldrich, trans.

viiOvid, Metamorphoses Book 4, ll. 740 ff Melville, trans.

viiiIbid., Book 4, ll. 70-102 Kline trans.

ixhttps://www.thoughtco.com/the-goddess-athena-helps-hercules-117193

x“Through what is it that all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the arts turn out to be melancholics (μελαγχολικοι)?” “Many other heroes seem to have been similarly afflicted, and among men of recent times Empedocles, Plato, and Socrates, and numerous other well-known men, and also most of the poets.” Problem XXX.

xiVölsunga Saga, Chapter 14, William Morris trans.

xiiVölsunga Saga, Chapter 18.

xiiiMalory, Morte d’Arthur, Book 11, Ch. 8.

xivIbid., Ch. 9.

xvIbid.

xviApollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 2. 179 - 434 RC Seaton trans.

xviiSophocles, Antigone.

xviiiEpic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 10.


Fake Fake News News






National Post has published a piece from Bloomberg News taking umbrage over Trump's “Fake News” Awards.

The piece is, alarmingly, presented not as opinion, but straight news. But get this for a nice, balanced, objective lede: “President Donald Trump announced the recipients of his so-called Fake News Awards, on Wednesday, his latest attack on the press that has drawn objections from within his own party.”

Near the top, it notes “Trump’s announcement came as two senators from his own party excoriated him for his incessant attacks on the free press.”

“The free press”? Why this qualifying adjective? Is there another press in the US, well-known to readers, large and worthy of mention, that is not free?

No. Surely the implication is that any criticism of the press, or any part of the press, is an attack on press freedom.

If you think so, and want to argue so, you do not believe in mere freedom of the press. You believe in dictatorship of the press.

It then complains that Trump has called on journalists to be fired for “minor” mistakes.

Doesn't calling the unspecified mistakes “minor” there sound like an expression of opinion more than objective reporting? Shouldn't it be substantiated in some way?

The article then asks:
The “Fake News Awards” announced on the Republican National Committee website and touted by President Donald Trump pose a conundrum: Does it really count if the news organization admits error?

Everyone makes mistakes – and the point is not to play gotcha. News organizations operate in a competitive arena and mistakes are bound to be made. The key test is whether an error is acknowledged and corrected.
Since they ask, yes, it does count. It would be worse, no doubt, if the error were never acknowledged. But people rely on the media, the press, to be authoritative. They are supposed to have layers of editors and fact-checkers to ensure that it is. That is what the people are paying their quarter, or their dollar, for—that reliability. Otherwise they could get all their news on the streetcorner. If an error nevertheless gets printed, that is certainly worthy of condemnation, just as if GM put out a car that burst into flames when the brake was applied. A later recall does not erase the fault.

Moreover, if the error is something that any layperson would expect to have been caught by even a cursory fact-check before publication, we have the right to suspect it was a deliberate case of fake news. The danger is that, at best, the papers no longer check the factuality of assertions they agree with. Then they will run a correction if (and only if) they are caught out. Oops. But no matter—the damage is often already done.

The National Post piece then gets down to specifics. It objects that the story of Trump removing a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King from the Oval Office—an event that never happened—was not fake news, because “This is is reference to a tweet by a reporter – which was quickly corrected. Do tweets really count as ‘news’? This did not appear as a news article.”

This rebuttal is itself fake news. The assertion was not only in a tweet; it was included in a pool report at the time, and in Time magazine's own news article. Time's own website writes: “A TIME story that included the error was corrected.” And here is the actual correction:

Correction: An earlier version of the story said that a bust of Martin Luther King had been moved. It is still in the Oval Office.

So let's see: how did the present author manage to know something that was just not true? How did Bloomberg never fact-check? How did the National Post, in turn, never fact-check? One begins to get suspicious.

The notorious koi story is a similar case. CNN released a video showing Trump dumping food into a koi pond, and this was widely reported as boorish behaviour. The video did not show that Trump was simply following the lead of Japanese PM Abe.

The NatPost piece's defense, again, is that this was “just a tweet.”

However, a quick trip to Snopes shows that actual news stories were indeed filed with this fake news:

The Guardian: “Trump dump: president throws entire box of fish food into precious koi carp pond.”

Jezebel: “Big Stupid Baby Dumps Load Of Fish Food On Japanese Koi Pond.”

CNN's one headline was “Trump feeds fish, winds up pouring entire box of food into koi pond.”

It certainly sounds as though they are making dumping the entire box the focus of the story.

The NatPost commentator insists CNN is off the hook because they added, down in the fifth paragraph, “Abe, who actually appeared to dump out his box of food ahead of Trump.” But buried this deep, and contradicting their own lede, it looks like it was only there to cover butt if necessary.

And the CNN news story includes the deceptively edited clip. It was not just a tweet; it was both a tweet and a full news story.

Evidently the legacy media have no thought to reform. They are determined to go down with all hands on deck and with all guns blazing.

It is a magnificent thing to watch.


John 1



Everything is a story, starting with this one;
The whole big world is a story told to us by God, like this one;
We ourselves are stories God whispers to us, growing up.
And as we grow up, the story becomes real, and we live in it, and it in us.
And God himself is to us a story that the night stars sing.

First comes the story, and then is the thing made.
Only then is the thing revealed to us;
As though the story were a light playing on a distant shore.
Only then does it live:
Only then does it shine out beyond the darkness of unknowing.

When a new story is told, few listen;
For old stories entertain.
But for those who do listen, it is like
Seeing the world
Again new.
They are then pulled free of fathers,
Children born again of the story and the dream:
Sons, instead, of the living God.

There was a man called Just-so John,
In ragalongandtagalong clothes.
He wandered about shouting stories
Like this one.
John made stories
John did not understand.
But others loved the stories;
And so they came alive and walked
Among us.

One day in Bethany, on the River Jordan,
John was telling a story with many doors--
The story of the Christ of Galilee.
And out of one door walked young Josh of God--
Josh, who through
Giving himself completely
Had become whole and single and complete.
And John knew joy to see his first work ever
Acted on the stage;
And was glad the story was no longer his,
But would go on being told, one to another
Long after he was gone.
 -- Stephen K. Roney


Monday, January 15, 2018

Pinkies Must Be Out While Drinking Tea!



Archie Bunker with age-challenged individual.

My wife is taking a course in Technical Writing here in the Philippines. Her textbook includes a section on politically correct language, and suggests the following alternatives. It is interesting and informative to see it all done from a non-North American perspective.

Examples are simply in the order given.

For "Angry," write "Passionate" or "emotional."

Like most examples of "politically correct" language, the problem is that the replacement is meant to obscure or confuse rather than communicate information. As a result, it defies the basic objective of writing, and so is bad writing. "Emotional" can mean many things, only one of which is "angry."

Moreover, it describes the person, rather than the emotion. You are saying of anyone who gets angry that they are habitually angry, that they have a character flaw. It might instead be healthy and righteous anger; you are accusing them of one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

For "Asians," write "Pacific Islanders."
Did you see that one coming? So it is now offensive to call anyone "Asian"? This is obviously meant, although it is not specified, to refer only to Filipinos. Technically correct, but still confusing, so long as you do not also refer to Japanese or Taiwanese as "Pacific Islanders." Which I doubt is intended.

The bottom line here, no doubt, is that many Filipinos prefer "Pacific Islanders" because it makes the Philippines sound like an American possession. Like Guam or Samoa--that is what is normally meant by "Pacific Islander." They would rather be associated with Americans than Chinese. They are not reconciled to the idea of Philippine independence. Cute, but daffy.

For "Autistic," write "Special child."
This is the usual problem--trying to obscure rather than inform. There are many ways in which a child can be special. And actually, a lot of them are worse than autism. Are you doing the autistic kid any favour, by conjuring up all these other possibilities? Ever see "Rosemary's Baby"?

For "Bald people," write "Comb free."
Good joke. But they're actually serious.

For "Black sheep," write "Outcast."
Okay, the problem is plain enough--associating the colour black with anything negative is currently a problem, because "black" is also used to describe subSaharan Africans. A bit odd that this would be an issue in the Philippines, though. Here it is hard to imagine anyone thinking that "black" referred to people instead of sheep. It shows the prevalence of American culture.

For "Blind," write "Visually-impaired."
This is just wrong. Visually-impaired means partial vision. Blind means no effective vision. 

And isn't it offensive to suggest that there is something wrong with being blind?

For "Deaf," write "Hearing-impaired."
Same problem. Simply an error.

For "Gifted," write "Advanced learner."
Agan, two different things. A gifted child is just as likely to be lagging behind the slated curriculum, in an average school. Because they are bored. Many advanced learners are not gifted, and many gifted children are not advanced learners.

For "Incapable," write "Fertility-challenged."

This again is funny. It reveals where Filipino values are. Having children is close to the point of life; so "ability" automatically means the ability to have children. Take note, all you foreigners considering Filipina brides. She WILL want children, and if you do not, it is heartless not to give her clear advance warning. And don't forget to wave goodbye.

Here the replacement is far more specific than the "bad" word. Which is itself surely already a euphemism. Why not "infertile"?

For "Insane," write "Mentally-challenged."
This is grotesquely wrong. It implies that insanity is cognate to stupidity. This is the reverse of the truth: the greater the intelligence, the higher the likelihood of insanity. The lower the intelligence, the more likely to be "sane." This bit of "political correctness" directly promotes prejudice, and spreads a falsehood in order to do so.

For "Janitor," write "Sanitarian."

If there is something wrong with being janitor, whatever happened to "building custodian"? "Sanitarian" means a public health worker, and is simply wrong for "janitor."

For "Lazy," write "Different interest."
Again, sounds like a joke. How will the reader be able to guess the real meaning?

For "Negro," write "African American."
Again, this shows how influential American culture is in the Philippines. Because, of course, this "correction" is nonsense, and will introduce an error, anywhere outside the USA. And we are outside the USA. How many African Americans are there in Zimbabwe or Canada or Jamaica?

The text is at least more honest than usual about what "politically correct" language is all about. It is usually represented in Canada, or the States, as meant to reduce discrimination and/or to protect the feelings of the group referred to. It usually does the exact opposite. Even the very resort to euphemism obviously implies there is something wrong with belonging to that group.

The text includes this nonsense explanation, but it feels like it does so as a matter of rote. It adds that the terms you use reflect which schools you attended. And that is exactly right, exactly the point. Filipinos get this, because the Philippines is a far more class-conscious society than the US or Canada. The point of using "politically-correct" language is that it is a class marker. It shows you went to the right schools and know the secret handshakes. You are not a member of the unwashed working class, not an Archie Bunker.



Saturday, January 13, 2018

Leonard Cohen on Miracles



"I’ve witnessed many miracles, some very conventional. I was a counselor at a camp in the Laurentians in the early 50s. In the town of St. Margaret, Quebec, there was a nun by the name of Sister Anne, who began curing people, locally. Within two or three weeks there were private ambulances from as far away as Texas in the streets of St. Margaret, which had maybe 5,000 people. People were sleeping on the streets and in the public squares. There were cripples, crutches, wheelchairs. There were hundreds of people in the public square singing all day and the chief of police walking up and down with his baton singing along.There was a line waiting and Sister Anne would come down the stairs of the little parish church and people would be brought to her. She had a silver crucifix and she would cross them and tell them to stand up or walk towards her. And sometimes they would drop their crutches and walk towards her and the crowd would surge in and pick up the crutches and break them and throw them into the air. Sometimes a person would collapse. She didn’t seem to be attached to the outcome of blessings. She merely gave the blessing. Afternoon after afternoon I witnessed miracles. Some would say there are certain kinds of hysteria that this particular kind of treatment addresses well. That’s OK. Whatever the thing is, I saw these cures. She was eventually called away and encouraged to stop performing this kind of practice. Those were miracles that I saw very clearly."

-- Leonard Cohen



Lavatories Abroad



Haiti

There has been a full-bore hysterical reaction to Donald Trump allegedly (only allegedly) using the term "s***holes" in a private (not public) meeting to describe Haiti and unspecified countries in Africa.

This is a gift to Trump. The leftish establishment seems to be completely out of touch. Like the Bourbons, they seem incapable of understanding that they cannot any longer unilaterally set the rules and expect everyone else to step in line.

This is just the way the average Americna talks, and just the sort of thing he would say if he visited one of those countries. Countries with open sewers and garbage in the streets. It is a pretty good descriptive term. The commentariat is in the position, more or less, of denying reality, and people are no longer so prepared to take their word for it.

Sure, the word, if he used it, was undiplomatic language. But he used it in a private meeting. Just as an average American would.

The use of the word for foreign countries has been widely called "racist." Here again we see the growing delusion on the left that culture is genetic. If you say that a country is a mess, it does not automatically follow, unless you are a racist, that this is because of the race of the inhabitants. Evidently, this does follow for many or most on the left. It follows from that, in turn, that many or most on the left are racists.

It is the left who are making a powerful argument here against immigration from such countries. If making a country look like that is part of their genetic makeup, why on earth would you allow them in. Do you want America to look like that?

Somalia


For many on the left, it actually seems, yes. They want chaos in the streets. They want civilizational collapse.

To be clear, this argument is false. Instead, if someone thinks the country they came from is a "s***hole," they are going to appreciate Ameria that much more, and make the effort to make the most of their opportunity. It is those who are protesting about their land of origin being called a "s***hole" who should be deported. Given their opinion of how completely equal or better it is, they should thank us. Right?







The Nature of Stings



World distribution of haplogroup X. Results for the Americas are Indians only.

CBC, The Nature of Things, and David Suzuki are suddenly in trouble for making a documentary about the “Solutrean hypothesis.” Briefly, the “Solutrean hypothesis” suggests that the Americas might have been first settled by people coming from Europe, across the ice sheet during the last ice age.

The problem, apparently, is that this theory has recently been embraced by “white supremacists.”

It is fun to see David Suzuki and the CBC being raked over the greenhouse-gas-rich coals: it is nice to see the left devouring itself. Which seems to be happening increasingly often. But something also smells funny. The National Post piece on the controversy explains the hypothesis is “so toxic, and so discredited among mainstream researchers that documentary director Robin Bicknell said she could barely find anyone willing to go on camera even just to say it was wrong.”

That does not sound right, does it? There is no problem in finding scientists who will explain why we know that the earth is not flat, that the sun does not orbit the earth, or that Nazi race theories were bunk. No problem at all. The only reason scientists might be reluctant to go on camera saying the theory is wrong is that it is very likely to be true. Only then do they face a problem—and otherwise academics love publicity. If they admit it is quite likely to be true, they will be accused of white supremacy, and their career is over. But if they say it is false, and in a couple of years it is generally accepted as correct, their career is over. Nobody wants to be the first to stick their bearded turtleneck out.

This is what you get when you politicize science.

But who is most guilty of that? A few hundred “white supremacists,” whatever that apparently infinitely malleable term currently means? Or the huge number on the left, apparently a majority of us all, and including the Canadian establishment, who maintain that there is some great political, legal, and moral significance to whose ancestors arrived in North America first?

Now it seems they risk being hoist on their own flint-knapped arrowheads, and they of course do not like it.

I am not qualified to evaluate the theory myself, but this fear factor alone makes me think it must be true.

Let’s look, though, at the arguments the article gives that it is not true:

“There is, for example, no evidence of Solutrean seafaring, and no evidence of their cave art in North America, which would be unusual for a people known for the elaborately painted Cave of Altamira in Spain.”

Absence of evidence is of course not evidence of absence. Given the vast area and low pre-Columbian populations, finding anything in particular from the period is a needle in a haystack proposition. People were searching for a century or more before they turned up the first Viking site at L’Anse-aux-Meadows. Vessels, needing to be light, would presumably be made of light wood and hides. It is unlikely any wood and hides would survive for 20 millennia. Nevertheless, this new theory comes amid a generally growing realization among archaeologists that remote human ancestors were far more able and eager seafarers than we previously believed. They made it over sea to Australia 50,000 years ago. Polynesians made it island by island all across the Pacific. Someone populated islands in the Mediterranean 80,000 years ago.

Cave art? Presumably, if the Solutreans came across on the edges of the ice sheet, they were getting their living from the sea. In Suzuki’s words, they were “lured by the neverending bounty of the sea.” Accordingly, they would probably have stayed at least at first, perhaps at last near the sea coast when they arrived. Sea levels are substantially higher now than they were 20,000 years ago; any cave art the left is likely to be underwater- perhaps 50 miles out from shore.

Accordingly, needles may well yet be found in this almost entirely unexamined haystack.

The documentary notes significant European genetic markers in Canadian Indians. Indeed, whether or not the Solutrean hypothesis is true, this large element of European genetic material in the Indians of eastern Canada must still somehow be accounted for. It is important new data—we did not know about this until we sequenced the human genome, and it seems to defy the traditional theory of arrival from Asia, and no contact before Leif Erickson.

However, the article counters,

“According to Moreno-Mayar, …, there is another more plausible way to account for the presence of the relevant genetic marker, which was found in three of forty teeth analyzed. This marker, known as haplogroup X, was picked up by the ancestors of Native Americans as they encountered Ancient North Eurasians on their migration northeast towards Siberia, and eventually North America.”

Unfortunately, this explanation is not nearly as plausible. The problem is that haplogroup X is found concentrated in the northeast section of North America. This theory makes it go all the way around the world to get there, leaving no traces anywhere else long the way. No traces of the haplogroup in modern Siberia, anywhere in East Asia, in Central Asia, in Central or South America, or in Western North America. All areas these people would have to transit, presumably mating on the way. That’s like going from Toronto to Oshawa via Edmonton. Without ever stopping for gas.

World distribution of haplogroup R, even more common in Canadian Indians than haplogroup X. (Results for the Americas are Indians only)

The National Post article does not mention it, but according to Wikipedia, the ultimate disproof of the Solutrean hypothesis is a recently discovered skeleton:

“In 2014, the autosomal DNA of a male infant from a 12,500-year-old deposit in Montana was sequenced. The DNA was taken from a skeleton referred to as Anzick-1. The skeleton was found in close association with several Clovis artifacts. Comparisons showed strong affinities with DNA from Siberian sites, and virtually ruled out any close affinity of Anzick-1 with European sources (see the "Solutrean hypothesis"). The DNA of the Anzick-1 sample showed strong affinities with sampled Native American populations, which indicated that the samples derive from an ancient population that lived in or near Siberia, the Upper Palaeolithic Mal'ta population.”

It is hard for this layman to see why this is relevant; it looks a lot like a red herring. If they are saying that this corpse matches genetically with Siberia and with modern Indians, they are also saying that it cannot account for the European haplogroup found in modern Indians. The discovery apparently shows that this particular skeleton, far away from the East Coast, far away from where the Solutrians are supposed to have lived, and far away from the modern Indian groups with the haplogroup X chromosome, and dating to a time after the Beringia land bridge, knew how to craft Clovis points. But this is nothing we did not already know, without seeing the skeleton, and does not affect the Solutrean hypothesis, formed with this background knowledge. It seems significant only if you accept what seems to be the current weird orthodoxy on the left, that culture is a genetic trait, and nobody can “appropriate” anything from another culture. So if one non-Solutrian could make such points, however much later, it cannot have come from the Solutrians.

So: if you find someone who eats pizza and is not Italian, that proves pizzas are not originally Italian and there were never Italians in contact with them? Really?

If there were a betting market in this, I would put down money that, in another ten or twenty years, the Solutrian hypothesis will be in all the school texts.

Those on the left may not really want to argue that this invalidates any special aboriginal claims to North American land. But by all means.