Whatever curious and interesting subject strikes my fancy, be it silly or serious, gets posted for your reading pleasure.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Conversation with St. Michael, Prince of the Angels

As we approach the Feast of St. Michael, (September 29) I would like to share one beautiful apparition of the great Archangel to the Church approved mystic and stigmatic, Marie-Julie Jahenny, also known as the 'Breton Stigmatist'.  St. Michael often appeared to her, warning the faithful through her of the terrible punishments about to befall the earth due to sin, but in one remarkable and touching conversation the Archangel revealed some of his duties as Prince of the Angels, also confirming some of his roles that had generally been accepted in tradition.

Below is an excerpt of a long personal tête-à-tête of the Archangel Michael with Marie-Julie dated September 29, 1880.  Excerpt taken from the free E-book  We Are Warned: The Prophecies of Marie-Julie Jahenny      (You can also download a copy from Goodreads  Here.)

(Image: The Great Saint Michael by Raphael)

For more concise information about Marie-Julie Jahenny and her revelations, see also:

 ~*~*~*~      ~*~*~*~      ~*~*~*~

Monday, 21 September 2015

'La Dame de Fer' ~ An Eiffel Tower Poem

(Image: Gravure présentant une vue générale de l'Exposition. 1889)

'La Dame de Fer'

When Hitler marched
across the Rhine
To take the land of France,
La dame de fer decided,
‘Let’s make the tyrant dance.’
Let him take the land and city,
The hills and every flower,
One thing he will never have,
The elegant Eiffel Tower.
The French cut the cables,
The elevators stood still,
‘If he wants to reach the top,
Let him walk it, if he will.’
The invaders hung a swastika
The largest ever seen.
But a fresh breeze blew
And away it flew,
Never more to be seen.
They hung up a second mark,
Smaller than the first,
But a patriot climbed
With a thought in mind:
‘Never your duty shirk.’
Up the iron lady
He stealthily made his way,
Hanging the bright tricolour,
He heroically saved the day.
Then, for some strange reason,
A mystery to this day,
Hitler never climbed the tower,
On the ground he had to stay.
At last he ordered she be razed
Down to a twisted pile.
A futile attack, for still she stands
Beaming her metallic smile.

Brushstrokes of a Gadfly***

If you liked the poem, you may love the novel it's from.

Get your copy today! 

Brushstrokes of a Gadfly ~ a biting novel of love and art.


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Oxford Guide to Writing: A Rhetoric and Handbook for College Students ~Book Review

1799 Hetsch Junges Maedchen anagoria.JPGLately I was debating whether or not I should reveal my favourite secret writing tip for my next blog post...well, this isn't it, (I'm still wondering if I should reveal my secret!) but don't fret, until I finally weaken and spill the beans, for now I shall share with you what I believe is one of the best aids of the trade.  Okay, so I've already published it as a book review, but for those of you who may have missed it:

The Oxford Guide to Writing: A Rhetoric and Handbook for College Students by Thomas S. Kane   Hardcover: 848 pages    Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 3, 1983)   ISBN: 9780195032451

(Image: Young girl in morning dress, speculating sitting at a table by Philipp Friedrich von Hetsch, 1758-1839.)

For college students?  This is also for serious writers.

 Many have asked, "How do you learn how to write? Properly, that is?" By this they mean: how does one become a skilled artist of the craft, melding words into classic pieces of prose, fiction, non-fiction, or whatever the specific genre of choice might be. Practise, time, patience are the customary answers, yet the `how' of writing, the basic nuts and bolts are often elusive. Unless you have a firm grasp of the tools available, that is, the art of rhetoric, the development of your own style will flounder. What is rhetoric? It is the ability to write or speak persuasively and effectively, to use language gracefully and with maximum impact. Unfortunately, scuzzy politicians and their empty speeches have maligned the word `rhetoric', but the `Oxford Guide' admirably shows that wonders can be done with the English language with regards to writing when handled by an artist.

This book is an invaluable toolkit for the serious writer who wishes to develop their skills. I stumbled upon it while browsing the library shelves in college and immediately ordered my own copy. Do not be fooled by the title: this is not just for college students! This book continues to serve me well. Yes, it is a big tome, but the chapters and their various sections are beautifully expressed, enjoyable, concise, and most important of all, they are to the point. Sometimes they are quite humorous. Each section ranges from only a few sentences to a paragraph or a page. It is possible to read just a few pages a day with maximum benefit. While there is great attention given to writing essays and the research process for college purposes, the fiction writer will also profit greatly.

At first, the chapters sound horribly dull and technical as you skim through the table of contents, but it is surprising how interesting they are, filled with examples from the publications of famous writers, and other easy to understand diagrams and exercises.

 If you are already an accomplished author, this book is still for you, revision never goes astray. Writing is an ongoing learning process, you may be surprised at how your style may evolve after reading this handbook. You don't have to do the writing exercises if you don't want to, it is amazing the information you absorb, you may be forgiven if you skip them.

 On the other hand, if you are a teacher, this book gives you ample ammunition at the end of each chapter for creative writing assignments.

 To university students, this book is a `must-have', particularly if you are not studying English as a major or minor. Often you will be thrown into the deep end at college and be expected to know how to write essays and term papers on an academic level. Perhaps you may be offered an extra course to help brush up your writing skills for the expected requirements, but be prepared to develop these skills on your own. Let the `Oxford Guide' be your writing mentor.

The amount of information compiled is unbelievable. In addition to a handy reference index in the front of the hard cover for important chapters, there are full indexes in the back, including one for the authors mentioned and the examples taken from their works, not to mention a nifty `Correction Symbols' key inside the back cover explaining all the red ink marks your professor or publishing editor may scrawl over your work during the correction process.

This is an extremely useful book, the only information that is lacking concerns the Internet as a research tool since the `Oxford Guide' was published in the days before the World Wide Web. To conclude, I shall let the Table of Contents speak for itself and recommend that every serious writer whether they be a student, a poet, essayist or novelist, invest in a copy.  It is out of print, but if you take the time to hunt around for a copy, you will be glad that you did.

Chapter 1: Truths and Misconceptions about Writing
You Can Learn to Write
Writing is Worth Learning
Good Prose is Recognizable
Correctness Is Not the Essence of Good Writing
Writing Is Different from Talking
Writing Is More Than Simply Finding Words to Fit Ideas
Everybody Has Things to Say

Chapter 2: Basic Considerations: Purpose
Purpose and Types of Prose

Chapter 3: Basic Considerations: Strategy and Style

Chapter 4: Basic Considerations: Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics
Grammar, Usage, and Style

Part One-The Writing Process

Chapter 5: Invention: Gathering
The Commonplace book
The Journal

Chapter 6: Invention: Exploring Ideas
Free Writing
The Analytical Approach

Chapter 7: Outlining
The Formal Outline
The Scratch Outline
A Simple Outline
From an Outline Essay

Chapter 8: Drafting and Revising
Final Copy

Part Two-The Essay

Chapter 9: Structure of the Essay: Beginning
Announcing the Subject
Limiting the Subject
Indicating the Plan of the Essay
Interesting the Reader
A Word about Titles

Chapter 10: Structure of the Essay: Closing
Summary and Conclusion

Chapter 11: Structure of the Essay: Organizing the Middle
Inter-Paragraph Transitions

Chapter 12: Tight and Loose Organization
Tight Organization
Loose Organization

Chapter 13: Point of View, Persona, and Tone in the Essay
Point of View

Part Three- The Expository Paragraph

Section I - Basic Structure

Chapter 14: The Sentence in the Paragraph

The Topic Sentence
Sentences as Analytical Elements

Chapter 15: Paragraph Unity
Paragraph Flow

Section II- Methods of Development

Chapter 16: Paragraph Development: Illustration


Chapter 17: Paragraph Development: Restatement
Simple Restatement
Negative-Positive Restatement

Chapter 18: Paragraph Development: Comparison and Contrast
Focusing a Comparison or Contrast
Organizing a Comparison or Contrast
Developing the Comparison or Contrast

Chapter 19: Paragraph Development: Analogy
Analogy as Clarification
Analogy as Persuasion

Chapter 20: Paragraph Development: Cause and Effect
Cause and Effects

Chapter 21: Paragraph Development: Definition
Kinds of Definition
Modes of Defining

Chapter 22: Paragraph Development: Analysis or Classification
Analysis of Abstractions
Analysis of a Process

Chapter 23: Paragraph Development: Qualification
Section III- Variations and Complexities

Chapter 24: Variations in the Topic Sentence and in Paragraph Unity
Delaying the Topic Sentence
Implying the Topic Sentence
Figurative Unity

Chapter 25: Paragraph Patterns
The Lineal Paragraph
The Ramifying Paragraph
The Circular Paragraph
The Loose Paragraph

Chapter 26: Sentence Patterns in the Paragraph
Similarity in sentence Pattern
Variety in Sentence Structure

Part Four - The Sentence

Section I- The Grammatical Types of Sentences

Chapter 27: The Simple Sentence

The Awkward Simple Sentence
The Effective Simple Sentence

Chapter 28: The Compound Sentence
Awkward Coordination
Use Parataxis

Chapter 29: The Complex Sentence
Subordinate Ideas of Lesser Importance
Do Not Subordinate Ideas of Primary Importance
Reduce Subordination to the Briefest Form that Clarity Requires
Arrange Subordinate Constructions in Natural Order if Possible
The Compound-Complex Sentence

Chapter 30: The Fragment
The Detached Adverbial Clause
The Detached Participle
The Detached Adjectival Clause
The Verbless Statement

Section II - Sentence Style

Chapter 31: The serial Sentence

The Segregating Style
The Freight-Train Sentence
The Cumulative Sentence

Chapter 32: Parallel and Balanced SentencesIntroduction
The Parallel Sentence
The Balanced Sentence

Chapter 33: Hierarchic Structure
The Loose Sentence
The Periodic Sentence
The Convoluted Sentence
The Centered Sentence

Chapter 34: Sentence Patterns: Summary

Chapter 35: Concision in the Sentence
Use Single Adverb or Adjective
Avoid Awkward Anticipatory Constructions
Use Colon or Dash
Use Ellipsis
Use Parallelism
Use Participles
Use Predicate Adjectives
Do Not Waste the Subject, Verb and Object

Chapter 36: The Emphatic Sentence
The Fragment
The Imperative Sentence
The Interrupted Sentence
The Inverted Sentence
Negative-Positive Restatement
The Periodic Sentence
The Rhetorical Sentence
Rhythm and Rhyme
The Short Sentence

Chapter 37: Emphasis within the Sentence
Mechanical Emphasis
Polysyndeton and Asyndeton

Chapter 38: Variety in Sentence
Vary Length and Pattern
Rhetorical Questions
Varied Openings
Interrupted Movement

Chapter 39: Rhythm in the Sentence
Effective Rhythm
Awkward Rhythm
Metrical Runs
Rhythmic Breaks
Mimetic Rhythm

Part Five- Diction

Section I .- The Question of Meaning

Chapter 40: Meaning

Words Are Not Endowed with Fixed `Proper' Meanings
Denotation and Connotation
Levels of Usage
Telic Modes of Meaning

Section II -Problems of Diction

Chapter 41: Wrong Words

Too Abstract
Awkward Figure of Speech
Too General
False Hyperbole
Wrong Idiom
Pretentious Diction
Awkward Sound

Chapter 42: Unnecessary Words
Overlong Connective
Unnecessary Definition
Distinction without Difference
Word Is Too General
Obvious by Implication
Wordy Modification
Wordy Passive
Undeveloped Ideas
Too Many Verbs

Section III - Figurative and Unusual Diction

Chapter 43: Figurative Language

Overstatement and Understatement

Chapter 44: Unusual Words and Collocations
Unusual Words
Unusual Collocations

Section IV - Improving Your Vocabulary

Chapter 45: Dictionaries and Thesauri

General Dictionaries
Special Dictionaries: Thesauri

Part Six- Description and Narration

Chapter 46: Description
Objective Description
Subjective Description
Process Description

Chapter 47: Narration
Organizing a Narrative
Meaning of a Narrative
Point of View and Tone in a Narrative

Part Seven - Persuasion

The Nature of Persuasion
Kinds of Persuasion

Chapter 48: Argument
Deductive Argument
Refutation and Concession
Composing an Argument

Chapter 49: Persuasion: Nonrational Modes
Ethos, Style, and the Audience
Emotional Fallacies
Table of Fallacies

Part Eight - The Research Paper and the Discussion Answer

Chapter 50: Gathering, Quoting, and Citing Information
Using the Library
Taking Notes
Incorporating Notes into Your Paper
The Bibliography

Chapter 51: A Sample Research Project
Choosing a Topic
Looking for Sources
Organizing Your Notes
Writing the Paper

Chapter 52: Answering Discussion Questions

Part Nine- Punctuation

The Purpose of Punctuation
`Rules' of Punctuation
The Two Categories of Punctuation

Chapter 53: Stops

The Period
The Question Mark
The Exclamation Point
The Colon
The Semicolon
The Comma
The Dash

Chapter 54: The Other Marks
The Apostrophe
The Quotation Mark
The Hyphen
The Ellipsis

Reference Grammar

Reference Grammar Contents

Parts of Speech: Verbs, Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives, Adverbs, Prepositions, Conjunctions, Interjections

The Grammar of the Sentence
Definitions, Subjects, Complements, Objects of Propositions, Adjectivals, Adverbials, Absolutes, Murky Modifiers, Problems in Agreement

If you like my blog, you may LOVE my books!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Marie-Julie Jahenny~Stigmatist and Prophet

 (Post originally published July 19, 2015)
descriptionRecently I was requested to write an article for the Mystics of the Church website about the extraordinary life of Marie-Julie Jahenny, stigmatist and prophet from Blain, Brittany France, also known as the "Breton Stigmatist". 
One of the little-known approved mystics of the Catholic Church, she was granted an astounding number of visions concerning the future in addition to numerous miraculous events which science cannot explain.

Many of her predictions have come to pass, others are yet to occur: wars, famines, total destruction of the world, details about the Three Days of Darkness plus how to prepare, and a Great Renewal of the world and the Church that will be brought about by a Great Monarch together with an 'Angelic Pontiff'.  These promised events have been foretold for centuries by saints and mystics, but it appears Marie-Julie was granted additional visions on the subject and was given the mission to remind the faithful that these ancient propehcies will indeed come to pass.
According to Marie-Julie Jahenny, the Great Monarch has already chosen by Heaven ~ Henry (Henri) V, the Count of Chambord, the last and future king of France and that all of Christ's revelations to her about the Great Monarch refer to Henry V, the 'Miracle Child'.
For more information, you may read the article here: Marie-Julie Jahenny, the "Breton Stigmatist": Her Life and Prophecies

UPDATE: You can also visit my new blog: "Marie-Julie Jahenny: Prophecies for Our Times"

Interested in the identity of the Great Catholic Monarch of prophecy?  See my article about her revelations concerning HENRY V "The Miracle Child" here.

Creativity Inspiring Creativity, (plus a few ponderous reflections)

(Post originally published April 22, 2015)

descriptionInspiration (1769)
by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806)

It is no secret that artists, poets and writers are continually influencing and being influenced by other creative minds and their work. It has happened for millennia, one new movement after another springs forth from the innovative experiments of the previous generations that came before them, consequently receiving recognition as the latest styles of their age.

Just as in real life, characters in novels experience the same ‘aha!’ moments and find themselves inspiring and inspired by others, but then that is hardly surprising: even fictitious stories for the most part burst forth as imaginative flourishes from the soil of real life occurrences and observations, or the narratives wouldn’t have the ‘ring of reality’ about them, (unless the story is really ‘out there’ in the woolly realm of La-La Land!)

Naturally, my characters in Brushstrokes of a Gadfly experience the same pattern of innovation or they wouldn’t be realistic, especially as many of them are supposed to be artists. Of course, the author undergoes the same process with them as the story develops, the characters and what inspires them can also lead to episodes of philosophical soul-searching in return, a cyclical process of creativity ever renewing itself!

One of those ‘philosophical’ moments occurred this morning. First, I was greeted with some very disturbing news on Sky International from Britain. We, the faceless mass of the public, have been told over and over these last few months or so how well Britain is doing and that the UK economy is steadily growing out of the Great Recession, (God forbid we should actually tell the truth and state we are in a global Great Depression!) Yet, the news just reported this morning (April 22, 2015) that the food banks have received an unprecedented number of people searching for aid like never before. So, who is actually ‘doing better’ in the United Kingdom? Certainly not the average British family! Reading between the lines it is easy to see that only the mega-rich are doing better, while the economic climate is still just as dire if not getting worse for the general populace like never before, but the media keeps lying to everyone about that. To cap that off, in the same news segment there was a disturbing report about the rise of cruelty to animals in Britain, and the national Prevention to Cruelty to Animals charity has received a record number of calls and reports; every thing from woeful neglect to outright torture of innocent creatures that can’t defend themselves. One story was appalling, a dog was locked for months on end amidst her own excrement in a car outside her master’s home. Furthermore, she was expecting a litter of puppies and was obviously undernourished. What a demonic, yes demonic, way to treat man’s best friend. Thankfully, she was spotted and rescued and now has a new loving owner. Is there a link between dire poverty and this ghastly display of cruelty? Are people taking their frustration and stress out on the animal kingdom and their once-beloved pets? This is certainly are a disturbing sign of our times.

While hearing this on the TV, or the ‘telly’ as they say in the UK and Ireland, I was multitasking and conducting some practical research for my next novel, a continuation of Brushstrokes of a Gadfly. One artist that barely received a ‘hello, how are you?’ in the first novel is currently receiving some additional development in the second. (Nope, I’m not revealing the new title of the sequel yet! You’ll just have to wait.) The artist in question is inspired by the opening lines of a poem by William Blake (1757-1827) who was also an artist, and since I had only paraphrased Blake’s lines in the draft so far, I thought I had better go over them again to make sure I quoted them correctly. They belong to Auguries of Innocence, however, I couldn’t stop at the opening verses and continued to read the entire poem to refresh my memory. Immediately Blake’s other lines struck me as markedly relevant to the report I was hearing repeated over and over in the background:

“A dog starved at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.”

How apropos! Continuing the poem, it was eerie to see just how accurate Blake had pinpointed the omens of decline both morally, financially and politically that now are so evident in our modern nations, and not just in Britain. ‘Auguries’ is another word for ‘omens’ or ‘future signs’ after all. How mankind interacts with other creatures considered less than itself is a tell-tale sign indeed: if you cannot treat defenceless animals with compassion and kindness, how will you treat your fellow human beings? Demonically I say. I shall give an example:

I suppose not many have heard of one frightening story that was recently reported from Greece a few months ago, a country which is beyond doubt like other countries completely mired in a Great Depression rivalling that of the previous century. In the very birthplace of ‘Western Civilisation’ there are families now living for two and three years without electricity as they cannot afford it. One man who was a caregiver for his elderly mother at home could no longer pay the electricity bill, so the company just came and shut the power off, regardless of the fact the elderly woman was on a life support machine. The workers had their orders so they simply turned it off: the man could only stand by and watch as his mother died. Sounds like the Nazis at the extermination camps who claimed innocence when accused of war crimes because they were ‘only following orders’, doesn’t it? The next frightening part of the story was the man couldn’t call the ambulance and have his mother taken to the hospital as the public health system in Greece is only for those who have a job, (which in their crippled economy are non-existent). If this is the current condition of the country that gave us democracy, I fear for the rest of the democratic world. Just look at the crumbling decay of Detroit and the water management debacle: the last time I heard, the poor who could not afford to pay their water bills were cut off from that service, a basic necessity of life. The situation was becoming critical to the point a UN commission went to investigate just like any other third world country experiencing major humanitarian crises. I do not know if the situation there has been resolved or is still in crisis, but what a humiliating downturn for America that prides itself on being one of the most developed nations in the world.

What times we are living in! The poor and the elderly are not the only victims, all those who cannot speak for themselves or are afraid to speak up are also vulnerable. Let us not forget the children. The cases of scandalizing and cruelty to children are woefully on the increase, and have been for the last sixty years. Talk about the loss of innocence. How can we turn our backs and ignore the outright atrocities that are happening in our era? I promise, no more horror stories in this post, but I could not help but jump up on my soapbox ~ a few of my characters are ‘gadflies’ after all, people who cannot help but shake things up and get people to do a little soul-searching too, so I suppose I’m still on topic. Moving on...

Of course, after reviewing Blake’s poem a few more times, I find it has now provided me with several other ideas to develop in the new novel, but again, you shall have to wait to see what, where, how, and with which characters. However, for now I shall share with you Blake’s famous poem below underneath one of his artworks, which you might be familiar with thanks to the ‘Hannibal Lecter’ movie, Red Dragon (2002) starring Anthony Hopkins. What philosophical, soul-searching ideas will Blake’s following verses inspire you with?


The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun (c. 1803)

Auguries of Innocence (1803)
by William Blake

(First published in 1863.)

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro’ all its regions.
A dog starv’d at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm’d for fight
Does the rising sun affright.

Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raise from hell a human soul.
The wild deer, wand’ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus’d breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won’t believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever’s fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov’d by men.
He who the ox to wrath has mov’d
Shall never by be woman lov’d.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider’s enmity.
He who torments the chafer’s sprite
Weaves a bower of endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to the thy mother’s grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgment draweth nigh.
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar’s dog and widow’s cat,
Feed them and thou will grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer’s song
Poison gets from slander’s tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy’s foot.
The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist’s jealousy.

The prince’s robes and beggar’s rags
Are toadstools on the miser’s bags.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Throughout all these human lands
Tools were made, and born were hands,
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;
This is caught by females bright,
And return’d to it’s own delight.
The bleat, the bark, the below, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven’s shore.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Write revenge in realms of death.
The beggar’s rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heaven’s tear.
The soldier, arm’d with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer’s sun.
The poor man’s farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric’s shore.
One mite wrung from the lab’rer’s hands
Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands;
Or, it protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mock’s the infant’s faith
Shall be mock’d in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne’er get out.
He who respects the infant’s faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child’s toys and the old man’s reason
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.
The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to armour’s iron brace.
When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket’s cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.
The emmet’s inch and eagle’s mile
Make lame philosophy to smile
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne’re believe, do what you please.
If the sun and moon should doubt,
They’d immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation’s fate.
The harlot’s cry from street to street
Shall weave old England’s winding-sheet.
The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
Dance before dead England’s hearse.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not through the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

If you like my blog, you may LOVE my books!

Blowing Hot and Cold ~ A Classic Fable Misunderstood?

(Post originally published April 9, 2015)


"The Satyr and the Peasant" by Walter Crane (1887).

Illustration in Baby's Own Aesop, (London 1887).

Throughout the centuries the clever fables attributed to a freed slave named Aesop (c. 620?-560 BC?) who reputedly came from the island of Samos have entertained and instructed countless readers. Today we continue to remember stories such as the goose that laid the golden egg and its unfortunate end due to greed, also, the tale of the persevering crow that couldn’t reach the water at the end of a narrow pitcher until it raised up the water level by dropping pebbles in one by one showing that doing things little by little accomplishes the seemingly impossible. Then, we have the memorable example of the town mouse and the country mouse in which a quiet life is better and safer than a luxurious one filled with constant danger and dread. However, there is one fable and its associated lesson that puzzled me when I was child, and that is the story of ‘The Peasant and the Satyr’ from which the following moral seems to have originated: ‘Beware of those who blow hot and cold with the same breath’. In other words, be careful of those who are not steadfast and waver back and forth, the shallow flip-floppers if you will!

Of course, the fables were altered with the telling over the centuries and one often finds various versions of the same story. Sometimes the man is called a Peasant, in other accounts a Traveller. The following is one simple account I can recall that was entitled the ‘Man and the Satyr’ from my childhood reading: a Man and Satyr were very good friends until one cold windy day the Satyr noticed the Man was blowing on his hands. He asked him why he was doing that and the Man answered his breath kept his hands warm. That night the Satyr invited his friend over for dinner and couldn’t help but notice him puffing on the hot soup he had given him. He asked why he did that and the Man replied the soup was too hot, so he was cooling it down. The Satyr then parted ways with his friend saying he would have nothing to do with someone who could blow hot and cold with the same breath. To give another example of the same story, a more elaborate version was translated by a certain Mr. Joesph Jacobs for the ‘Harvard Classics’, Vol. 17, (Ed. Charles W. Elliot, P.F. Collier and Son, Corp., New York, 1963), p. 33:

“A Man had lost his way in a wood one bitter winter’s night. As he was roaming about, a Satyr came up to him, and finding that he had lost his way, promised to give him a lodging for the night, and guide him out of the forest in the morning. As he went along to the Satyr’s cell, the Man raised both his hands to his mouth and kept on blowing at them. ‘What do you do that for?’ said the Satyr. ‘My hands are numb with the cold,’ said the Man, ‘and my breath warms them.’ After this they arrived at the Satyr’s home, and soon the Satyr put a smoking dish of porridge before him. But when the Man raised his spoon to his mouth he began blowing upon it. ‘And what do you do that for?’ said the Satyr. ‘The porridge is too hot, and my breath will cool it.’ ‘Out you go,’ said the Satyr, ‘I will have nought to do with a man who can blow hot and cold with the same breath.’”

descriptionIllustration from The Fables of Aesop by Richard Heighway, (1894).

At first, the Man appears to be the villain in both versions this story, the inconstant flip-flopper of whom one must be wary, while the Satyr appears to be the wise character for parting ways with the double-dealing hypocrite. The fact that the clichéd line of ‘to blow hot and cold with the same breath’ originally coined by the Dutch Renaissance scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1466?-1536) in connection with this story has survived for so long seems to support this view. However, there was one observation that always stuck with me when reading this narrative when I was little: the Man’s breath was always the same, it was the external temperatures of the objects he blew upon that were different depending on the surrounding environment and could be cooled or heated depending on their temperature, not the Man’s actual breath. So the poor fellow was not an inconstant flip-flopper at all! Maybe the Satyr is the true symbolic scoundrel in the tale? I’ve come to conclude that this may actually be the case and that the moral associated with this fable, ‘blowing hot and cold’, was not the intended proverb of this particular story, or at least, only part of it. I’ve recently discovered that others also noticed the strange discrepancy in the story. The controversial thinker of the Age of Enlightenment, Voltaire (1694-1778), couldn’t help but notice the irrational logical of the foolish Satyr and praised the Man, while the German philosopher and dramatist Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-81) conjectured that it is only an allegory: the illogical inaccuracy of the story was possibly due to an attempt to invent a narrative around an already existing proverb, but the storyteller produced a clumsy and irrational tale as a result.

As for my own observations as to the true lesson of the story, let us consider the following. What was a satyr? An ancient Greek mythological creature that was generally depicted as a man with goat’s ears, legs and a tail ~ a motley half man, half goat being that was associated with the followers of the licentious god of wine Dionysus. The Romans also believed in these creatures, which they called ‘fawns’ and were associated with Dionysus’ Roman counterpart, the god Bacchus. Therefore, these strange creatures were considered lustful and drunken individuals, especially during the celebration of the wild ribald rites associated with their deity during the spring that were called the Bacchanalia. So in Aesop’s classic we have the image of an ‘inconstant’ grotesque hybrid creature that is neither man nor goat falsely criticising a full blooded Man for not being ‘constant’. It appears that the moral of the tale is not just a case of ‘blowing hot and cold’, but rather an example of people wrongfully accusing others of the shortcomings that they themselves possess—the pot calling the kettle black! We cannot help but observe a case study of double standards hidden under the guise of an entertaining fairy tale.

In the more elaborate version of the tale presented above, we also see a few more character flaws peeking out in the Satyr. Since we could safely venture a logical guess that the Satyr’s breath is the same temperature as the Man’s, the Satyr was trying to find some pretext or ‘valid’ fault in his guest in order to excuse himself from carrying out the sacred duty of hospitality he promised, for he booted the poor Man out into the dark of night and left him wandering lost in the forest without a second thought, which is a very dishonourable thing to do to a guest. We also note that contrary to the orgiastic liberality associated with the satyrs, he provided his guest with a miserable meal, a bowl of porridge. We suspect the Satyr in this case is a miserly host grudgingly giving the bare minimum required rather than provide the best from his larder for his unexpected visitor. Maybe that’s all the Satyr had to offer it could be argued, but somehow that doesn’t seem to add up in connection with a creature not known for self control that indulged in great feasting and drinking parties. 


Bacchic Scene (c.1627) by Nicolas Poussin, featuring a Satyr giving a Bacchante a wild time.

 It would be interesting if some form of the longer rendition featuring the Man lost at night in the woods and receiving a stingy reception as an unexpected guest in need did exist in the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans for we might discern a telling criticism of certain cults. For instance, the Satyr could be representative of the Bacchantes, the followers of the Dionysian orgiastic rites as viewed by the more conservative ancient Greeks and Romans who were critical of the drunken cult. It is very probable that the Bacchantes were deemed by them to be hypocrites using piety to cover their ribald feasting. Considering that Aesop’s fables may have been one effective way to veil personal opinions when indulging in free speech was dangerous during the rule of the ancient Greek tyrants, this tale could have been one way to quietly ridicule the adherents of Dionysus when speaking against any of the cults was considered a rash thing to do. The Bacchantes were particularly adamant in defending their rites, declaring that devastation and madness would befall anyone who criticised the cult of their god. Perhaps the droll story of the ‘Man and the Satyr’ was used by the conservative element in the populace to display that the Bacchantes were not so pious as they pretended to be but were rowdy devotees using religious zeal to cover their own immoderate purposes, indulging in their feasting ceremonies and sparing no expense to do so when it suited them, yet resorted to any ridiculous pretext to escape complying with other virtuous and honourable rites, refusing to help their fellow men when it put them out of pocket or was considered inconvenient.

Of course, the proverb of the fable ‘blowing hot and cold’ will always endure, however, it is hoped that in the future the reputation of being a hypocritical flip-flopper with double standards will be credited to the character of the miserly Satyr and not the Man as previously assumed. This is one exception where I agree with Voltaire and praise the Man for cooling his food and warming his fingers ~ even fictitious characters have a right to their good name and are entitled to a defence!

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UPDATE - Hollywood, Here I Come?

 (Orginally published July 18, 2014)

description“You know how creative people are, we have to try everything until we find our niche,” so says Katherine in Brushstrokes of a Gadfly.

It appears she may be correct, writers like yours truly also have the need to try everything else in the creative sphere, including making a film. For years kids have been able to make short videos and post them online easy peasy, so after an age of eyeing that intimidating programme on my computer, ‘Windows Movie Maker’, I figured it was finally time to give it a shot. Hey, if everyone can plonk a video on YouTube these days, it should be fairly simple to do, right?

Oh my, has my appreciation for filmmakers increased one million percent, especially for animation teams. How they can literally piece a picture frame by frame and have it come out edited to perfection, completely timed with the music and special effects, or vice versa has my mind boggled, not to mention working with so many people and in the end come out with a polished piece of art no matter what the genre. To think of all the work and team effort it takes to create a movie, not to mention the time involved for the few hours of entertainment we receive!

Here I am with my simple ‘Movie Maker’ programme, trying to create my little presentation with various pictures with special effects, not to mention have them all synchronise perfectly with one of my favourite pieces of music, and I’m yelling like a madwoman at the screen and everybody around me for two weeks. Of course, I did have a major learning curve to take into account considering I have never done this before, and although I was tempted to chuck the computer at the wall on a number of occasions, I’m happy to say Mission Accomplished!  Er, almost ... *screech of brakes*

Director's Cut, Take Two! Mission not quite accomplished...

As a novice film-maker I have just discovered the minefield of copyright audio issues--BAM! I would step right into a bomb! In other words, expect trouble on YouTube if you are using a soundtrack that's not in the public domain. Your video will be posted, just not made visible to three quarters of the world. After all my hard work, nobody could actully view the thing. Talk about Indie films and distribution issues. Nothing for it, off I Googled, looking for a public domain recording of the same orchestral piece and...woo hoo! Success! I happened to find one. All right, back to the editor's workroom to set my video to the new soundtrack. 

(Apologies to those who couldn't view it due to these technical difficulties.) Finally...

I have managed to create my first YouTube video and keep my sanity intact. The funny part is, my new recording was made before a live audience, so I have some additional 'sound effects' I didn't expect, but manage to work.  (Look out for the scene with the skull, someone tends to splutter at the right moment, I didn't plan that one....)

Okay, maybe my humble video is not Hollywood material, and the closest I will ever come to giving an Oscar speech is in my dreams, but I present the final result to you below. I only ask the critics in the house to be kind, this is my first film endeavour after all. Please be patient, it's not an action film, just one of those 'Don't Worry be Happy' easy-going pieces.  Best viewed in highest resolution possible, 360 or 480 on the gear / settings icon. Yes, it takes a little longer to load on that setting, but the picture is much better. Enjoy!

Follow the link: Brushtrokes: The Video

(Hollywood Sign Photo by Namiwoo, July 2013)

Sorrows of the Mother

(Post originally published November 13, 2013)

St. Bridget of Sweden was graced with numerous visitations from heaven, many times she saw the Blessed Virgin. Many revelations and devotions were given to her, one of the simplest and most beautiful is the devotion to the Seven Sorrows of our Blessed Mother. The Mother of God declared she would grant seven graces to the souls who honour her daily by saying seven Hail Mary’s and meditating on her tears and dolors.

The Seven Graces:

1) I will grant peace to their families.
2) They will be enlightened about the Divine Mysteries.
3) I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.
4) I will give them as much as they ask for, as long as it doe not oppose the Adorable Will of my Divine Son, or the sanctification of their souls.
5) I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy. I will protect them at every instant of their lives.
6) I will visibly help them at the moment of their death, they will see the face of their Mother.
7) I have obtained this grace from my Divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and sorrows, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.

The Seven Sorrows:

1) The prophecy of Simeon.
2) The flight into Egypt.
3) The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple.
4) The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.
5) The Crucifixion.
6) The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross.
7) The burial of Jesus.

Why do Catholics honour Mary so much? The key word is “honour”, not “worship”~ worship is given to God alone. As the angel declared: “Hail full of grace”. She was granted all possible graces that could be granted to a human being in order to become the sinless Mother of God. She who was sinless was also willing to suffer so much for our salvation in union with her Divine Son.  As we read in the Gospel of Luke, once she had accepted to become the Mother of God, God had granted her the grace that from henceforth everyone throughout the ages would called her blessed.  "Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." (Luke 1:48) We have the right and the privilege to invoke her as our Heavenly Mother, to honour her and ask for her help. We honour Mary as the Mother of Sorrows and our powerful intercessor before the Throne of God.

You may read more on the Glories of Mary and the graces given to her in:

Where the Buck Stops

(Post originally published October 7, 2013)

description “Al Libby” was finally apprehended in Libya. If I have heard the news correctly, US special forces went in and whisked him out to a military detention centre. If you do not know who Al Libby is by now, he is an individual suspected of taking part in planning and carrying out the terrorist bombings against various US embassies in Africa a number of years ago. I do not know if I have spelled his name correctly, but this time I do not care. If you are a terrorist and have created havoc against my country, you do not deserve the dignity of having your infamous nom de guerre spelled correctly, but I digress.

Already the usual cries have risen up around the world declaring that America the ‘bully’ has once more barged in and stomped on the sovereign rights of other nations, in this case, Libya, without due process. While I disapprove of the concept of any government (including my own) jumping in and taking matters into their own hands regarding another country’s citizens or residents without resorting to proper extradition procedures, etc. etc., I was struck with the question: where does the buck stop?

How could we forget the millions if not billions of dollars the USA has been pouring into supposed allies like Pakistan in terms of governmental assistance and aid the last decade or so during the War on Terror only to be treated like a patsy for years with the Osama Bin Laden fiasco? Come on! If you claim to be our ally and are quite willing to take our citizens’ hard-earned tax dollars, not to mention claim to be anti- Al Qaeda like us, then you certainly have a moral obligation to hand over our enemies and not hide them for decades at a time! You cannot tell me the Pakistani government had no idea where Osama was, hiding out next to a military academy like he was in a huge complex with all his wives and followers in attendance. Uncle Sam had every right in that instance to fly in with guns blazing and go after him, having paid dearly for that right in blood and money.

So, what about all the other countries who so wilfully take all our aid and assistance to shore up their broke governments and militaries, and yet will do little or next to nothing to help apprehend our enemies, if not outright help to slow up the extradition process, allowing them to elude capture? You dare take our cash, call us ‘friend’, and stab us in the back? If those countries will not fulfil their moral obligation out of gratitude or a sense of duty, then it is my opinion America has certainly paid for the right to go in and grab a man or woman here or there that has done untold damage to our nation and our true allies, and bring them to justice. The US embassies in other countries are our sovereign soil too. Despite these strong opinions, I do not support torture nor long years of imprisonment without a fair trial. Our country should become a model of justice it hopes to show to the world, and I hope that after the suspects are apprehended, they are treated fairly and with due process of the law.

The conclusion to my political rant is this: dear countries of the world, if you do not want the US to interfere in the management of your affairs and your citizens, then please learn to support yourselves and return all monetary and all other grants that have been granted to you. In fact, I would also demand compound interest! On the other hand, if you agree to benefit by our generous help, then please note you have sold the right to sacrosanct boundaries when it comes to hiding terrorists and criminals, especially if they are affiliated in any way with Al Qaeda. Do not forget where the buck stops.

St. Patrick's Purgatory

(Post originally published March 16, 2013)

description St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was famed for his strict fasts and his practise of extreme bodily mortification, not only for the conversion of Ireland but also to atone for his own sins.

Why was fasting and penance so important to him? According to Catholic teaching, if you do not make reparation for your sins, even if you are saved, you must still make satisfaction for them in the next life in Purgatory where your sins are ‘purged’ from your soul before you may enter Eternal bliss. Saints and mystics who had been granted visions of the dreaded place of cleansing described the various torments endured there, each torture depending on the nature of the sins committed. One poor soul who had been granted permission to come back and tell of his sufferings said the pains were so bad that minutes felt like hours if not whole days. Also, there were many poor souls there with years, even centuries, left to serve on their sentences in that woeful prison. In all, the soul warned it was far better to do penance on earth than see what may await you in Purgatory.

Returning to St. Patrick, Station Island situated on Lough Derg, County Donegal became famed for his teaching on the subject. According to one story, he gave a sermon on Hell and Purgatory to the locals, but they remained sceptical about the existence of these places saying they would not be so doubtful if one of them could be permitted to descend, see what was there, and return to tell the tale. The saint was so upset by this lack of faith he wondered how he could convince the Irish and prayed to God for assistance. Christ appeared and showed the entrance to a cave on the island which led to Purgatory and Hell. A man was sent down to see these strange abodes, and according to the story, returned to describe what he had seen. In other stories, St. Patrick ordered a pit to be dug into which the man descended. Medieval accounts describe the ‘pit’ as a shaft that was a low and narrow kiln. Ever since, the island has sometimes been referred to as ‘St. Patrick’s Purgatory’.

Illustration of Station Island by Thomas Carve, (1666). 'Caverna Purgatory' marks the site of the cave.

Was it just a legend? There is in a fact a cave on the island, which has been closed to the public since October 25, 1632. Some authorities claim it received the name ‘purgatory’ from the Latin medical term of ‘purgatorium’, a room to purge the body of all ailments and impurities, further pointing out that the ancient druids would often use caves to smoke medicinal herbs to cleanse the body through sweating similar to modern saunas. In addition, historians note that the ‘purgatorial’ nature of the cave was not attached to St. Patrick and the Christian doctrine of Purgatory until much later in medieval documents. Despite these observations, the old texts are still fascinating. They tell of other brave souls who wished to follow in that first adventurer’s footsteps and see the gloomy realms of the Christian underworld for themselves. By the time the monastery was built on the island, the brave pilgrims had to seek the permission of its founder, St. Dabheog, who was one of St. Patrick’s disciples, before they could venture into the pit, or a series of nine ‘pits’, after which they were lowered into the final dreaded shaft.

Picture of the chapel, bell tower, and 'penential pits' or 'beds of the saints'on Station Island. The cave lies under the bell tower.

What did the penitents endure?
Here legend becomes blurred. One story relates that St. Patrick was attacked by demons in the shape of black crows for forty days on the island as a penance, and that those who came to the island were assaulted by the same bird-like demons. If they survived, they had accomplished their purgatory. The text by the famed medieval chronicler of Ireland, Giraldus Cambrensis, relates a different description. According Giraldus, the island was occupied by the monks on one side and a hoard of demons on the other that continued to cause an uproar and disrupt the monks’ peace with their pagan festivities. By then, the pilgrimage had developed a set ritual. Before they were permitted on the island, the pilgrims had to seek permission of the local bishop whose duty it was to dissuade them from undertaking this perilous journey. First they would be reminded of the horrific torments they would endure, then learn about the fate of those penitents who had never been seen again. Tales abounded of those reprobates who were not worthy of salvation and were dragged body and soul to hell instead. If the pilgrims persisted in performing the penance, they were conducted to the shaft with all due ceremony and lowered down by means of a rope with nothing but a loaf of bread and a vessel of water to sustain them in their fight against the evil demons. The pilgrims spent a night in each of the nine ‘pits’ and were tormented in a thousand different ways by devils for those nine nights before being lowered into the cave. At the end of each night, if the pilgrim survived, he was taken to the church in a joyous procession bearing the cross and chanting psalms. If a pilgrim was not to be found, the sacristan simply closed the doors to the church, that soul was lost for all time.

In some texts there is evidence the ritual of the pilgrimage had changed in the later Medieval period, that the penitents were allowed only one drink a day from the sacred lake, but were not expected to go into the nine ‘pits’. Instead, they took part in procession and prayed at the ‘stations’, or ‘penitential beds of the saints’ for nine days. On the ninth day they listened to sermons telling them of the danger they were about to undergo by venturing into the cave, and if they still wished to undertake the penance of staying a full day and night in the kiln, they forgave their enemies and said farewell to each other before they were lowered into the cave in case they might never be seen again.

The various legends state that several people returned to bear witness of the terrible sights they had seen of Purgatory and sometimes Hell. The place was so terrifying they could laugh no more and could no longer take part in anything mirthful on earth. The reputation of the island became so great during the Middle Ages that it was a continual point of reference for preachers when people doubted the existence of Purgatory. Many flocked there to perform penance, and perhaps, to see what awaited them in the next world. A ‘Knight Owen’ supposedly made a descent in 1153 and came back to tell of his experiences. In 1358 Edward III gave a Hungarian nobleman letters patent attesting that he had indeed ‘undergone his purgatory’.

Believe it or not, the island is still a popular place of penance and is often booked out. For three days pilgrims ‘undertake their purgatory’ by going barefoot and saying prayers, walking around to the famous ‘prayer stations’ or ‘beds of the saints’ in all weather be it rain or shine. On the first day, a twenty-four hour prayer vigil is commenced, only on the second day are they allowed to sleep. Until then, each pilgrim must watch out for their neighbours and prod them awake if they happen to nod off. Mass is also celebrated, and of course, penitents participate in the sacrament of confession. Furthermore, a strict fast of one meal a day is observed and consists of dry toast, oatcakes and black weak tea or coffee. If this is too unbearable, I have heard that the staff will provide a bowl of broth, but don’t expect it to be fancy! The penitential soup is so watery that the poor pilgrim is wondering what was boiled in it, if indeed, anything made it into the pot at all besides a dash of salt and pepper. Lough Derg is considered the toughest Christian pilgrimage sites in all of Europe if not the world, and not recommended for anyone under the age of fifteen or who has health issues. At least the ordeal now lasts only three days instead of nine!

Interested in booking a pilgrimage? Visit: http://www.loughderg.org

For those who are curious about Purgatory, this is one of my favourite books on the subject:

Purgatory  Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints by F.X. Schouppe

(Commentary for this blog post about the medieval legends of St. Patrick’s Purgatory taken from: ‘The Poetry of the Celtic Races’ by Ernest Renan (1823-1892), The Harvard Classics, Vol. 32, pp. 177-178.)

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A Lover's Grief

(Post originally published February 14, 2013)

  (Image: King Pedro I of Portugal, 1320-1367)

Ah yes, tales of doomed love. The first that springs to mind is Shakespeare's celebrated Romeo and Juliet, lovers from feuding households fated to meet a tragic end.

One cannot help but wonder what masterful drama the Great Bard might have penned if he had turned to Portugal instead of Verona for his inspiration. If I may dare make a suggestion, no doubt the tale of King Pedro I and Inês de Castro would be foremost on his list.

King Afonso IV (1291-1357), Pedro's father, promised him in marriage to a Castillian princess, Constance of Peñafiel. As with all members of royal dynasties in those days, Pedro was left with no choice and married the princess to secure the alliance between their two kingdoms, but immediately he fell in love with one of her ladies-in-waiting, Inês, who was the daughter of a prominent Castillian nobleman.

King Afonso hoped that nothing would come of the affair, but to his dismay, Pedro went to live with Inês in Coimbra after Constance's death, openly declared their love and had several illegitimate children, whom Pedro publicly recognized. The last straw occured when Pedro went so far as to grant several important posts to the Castillians. While Afonso wished to secure alliances with the court of Castille, there was always the danger that one day the Spanish could use these marriage alliances between their households to take over the crown of Portugal. Fearing that Inês and her supporters were growing in power and influence over his son, Afonso ordered that she be murdered. The horrific deed was accomplished in the town of Coimbra on January 7th, 1355. To this day, locals show the site where Inês was stabbed by three assassins. According to legend, a spring immediately began to flow that is now called the 'Fonte dos Amores'.

That is not the end of the story...

descriptionAfter Afonso´s death, the inconsolable Pedro ascended the throne and immediately sentenced to death the two assassins that were apprehended. Hanging would be too good for them, so would a quick beheading. 

What did Pedro demand as the mode of execution? He ordered their hearts to be ripped out, the perfect demise for those who had killed his lady love and in the process, tore out his own heart. According to some reports, he executed them with his own hands. Although there is no proof this ever happened, he was forever called Pedro 'The Cruel'. Next, he stunned the royal court by announcing that he and Inês were married. No one believed him, there was no proof of his claim as the wedding was obviously conducted in secret and therefore invalid, and yet, he commanded Inês´ body to be exhumed, that her corpse be dressed in the full royal regalia befitting a queen, that she be placed on throne beside him, and that all the royal court bow and kiss her hand, thereby publicly recognizing their true queen.

(Image, the dead queen honoured by the court with King Pedro overlooking the scene.)

 He then had her body taken to the monastery of Alcobaça, and had his own tomb prepared facing hers, declaring that she was the first person whom he wanted see when the dead would rise again on the Day of Judgement. Pedro died in 1367 and was buried according to his wishes. Today you can visit their elaborately carved Gothic tombs in the monastery of Alcobaça.

Verily a sad tale of love and grief turned to madness.

description     (Tomb of King Pedro)

(Inês' Tomb, Detail of the Last Judgement )

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Kitchen Philosophy 101

(Post originally published July 6, 2012)

descriptionThere are times when wisdom cannot be found in the chambers of parliament or the halls of academia but at the unpretentious setting of the kitchen table. How often have the greatest thoughts and ideas come to light during conversations with the family over the evening dinner? The simple everyday experiences become the doorway to new thoughts and inspirations. Of course, the common sense, no-nonsense observations of the older generations who have acquired greater experience at how the world wags are often the essential ingredient to these times of philosophical debate and give balance to the naiveté of the younger members of the family who still have a lot to learn, keeping all safely grounded with their knowledge and humour. Sometimes, the observations of the young ones can surprise the elders, either drawing everyone into deeper reflection or having all and sundry fall out of their seats with laughter.

Our family is no exception. If I may say so, my mother and I are an explosive combination: “Kitchen Philosophy 101” as she has dubbed our little Open Academy of Free Thinking.

As with all academies, we are provided with ample material for study and comment, vis the antics of the world at large brought straight to the table vis the information and entertainment machine in the corner ~ the television. When we are not in the lecture hall preparing lunch or supper, there are plenty of opportunities for fieldwork, vis, the hundred and one observations of daily life as we head out from the walls of our academy to fulfil the tasks necessary to keep a household well-organized, grocery-shopping, bill-paying, all those manifold duties that must be taken care of. Little escapes our scrutiny, and many times we have reached some hard-to-forget conclusions, observations and philosophical questions that leave us meditating or laughing for days on end.

Since I am a writer, everything heard and said can and will be used in a story or blog, therefore, it was time to start a series publishing the work of our honourable academy lest its words of wisdom be lost for all time. Yes, you have guessed it: this new series is entitled “Kitchen Philosophy 101”.

To begin, here are a few examples of our various ponderings of late:

“When all is said and done, we are the sum total of the decisions we have made.” ~ This conclusion was reached after much deliberation on why events in life turn out the way they do. Yes, it all boils down to us at some point or another!

“Will the Almighty God allow mankind to reduce Him to a subatomic particle?” ~ A thought proposed for deliberation on the day the scientists of CERN announced their discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. Look how far the physicists will go to try and prove how the Universe came to be. For what purpose? ´To gain a better understanding of how everything came to be´, is the general answer. Don´t get me wrong, I'm excited about many scientific discoveries, but the travail the physicists are subjecting themselves to is pathetic when viewed from the aspect of Eternity. So, scientists discovered the micro-cosmic glue that keeps subatomic particles together, that is no different than discovering Michaelangelo used paint layer on layer to make his frescoes. One must never set aside the mind behind the masterpiece. Yes, God is a humble and patient God, but the worldly-wise are distracting themselves with work that will not bring them any closer to understanding Him, only the materials He created. Of course, if they do not want to acknowledge that a Creator exists, what a shame, all they are left with then is their cosmic dust and particles, for a limited time only.

“Think before you speak, particularly when you are about to ask a question or give your opinion, your intelligence may be questioned.”  It is mind-boggling some of the questions members of the media ask their guests. In a documentary highlighting the shortage of water and the management of the world's water supplies, a reporter asked a Chilean fish-farmer ´How important is water for your business?´ And this question was put forward as they stood amidst his fish tanks. All he could do was reply with a smile, `It's essential´. I witnessed this, I kid you not! That is no different than asking a corn farmer how important the sun is for their line of work. Another example of comic moments at the Kitchen Academy, CNBC recently requested viewers to Tweet or e-mail what they think of the employment situation in America today. My mother and I just looked at each other and it hit us both at once: “That IS the problem! There IS nothing to think about!”

By now you have probably tumbled to the obvious conclusion: despite everything that is going on around you, going up or down, day by day, it's important we keep our sense of humour. One belly laugh a day adds a year to your life they say.

If you enjoyed this introductory course to Kitchen Philosophy 101, considered yourself enrolled in our College of Common Sense, or the lack thereof. For the students' question and answer session, just leave your comments below for the consideration of the absent-minded professors. Stay tuned for the next lecture. Pot-Walloping Diplomas and Kitchen Mechanic Degrees will be awarded on the completion of the course. Lecture adjourned.

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