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Posts Tagged ‘The Life of Aesop’

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Illustration from The Life of Aesop

(Aesop at the age of 12 is brought to the House of Iadmon, a Samoan and he wants to find out more about his new purchase.-b)
Next day Iadmon called Aesop to a room where beautiful musical instruments were kept. “Boy, I am in a mood to be entertained. What instrument will you choose?” There were many wind and stringed instruments. Aesop took a cither saying, “Oh my last master loved this. He would play on for hours.” He expressed he was sorry he did not take up music lessons then.
“So my choice has to be this.” Aesop had a flute in his hands and he made such strange sounds with it. His master winced and stopped him. “Why didn’t you tell me you are such a dunce with a flute?” “Oh master I spared you from my rendition of ‘Oh the mists of Olympus’ on a cither. Had you heard me you certainly would have complimented me to say: ‘I have a way with the flute.’ ”
The master had a hard time to contain his laughter. Managing a very grave demeanor he said, “‘If I ever hear you play flute within my earshot you shall be sorry.” He waved the young slave away.

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“A tragic poet had his play put up before the boards. He watched a tragic actor who was required to wear thick shoes and tall wigs. Since it was his play and knew the effect he wanted from him he explained his entry called for a subtle approach. The much harried actor said when he came in such thick shoes it was a wonder he did not fall over. “So I need a cane to support myself. How much more subtlety you intend to put into my cane?”
Another time a comic actor who did not impress his audience with his witticisms asked the public, “You get two obols worth of seat, free from the city. The least you could do is show some appreciation of that?”
Dramatists of yore wrote as they often said, as inspired by gods. The audience lapped it up and said they were enlightened and taken to a higher sphere as a result. Aesop was shrewd to note how the relationship between the writer and his audience went a shift over the years. It was progress that Aesop thought as natural. The audience became enlightened with so many plays that they attended in civic pride and it made them arbiters as well. Gradually it was the taste of man on the street that decided the kind of plays that were to be staged. Not the poet, not the muse but the uncouth rabble set the trend. It was the masses that in the end beat the system.” (selected-Ch.11.6 pp.203)
Here we see two principles at work. Mass education enabled them to understand the nuances of the play and consequently judge the dramatists as their peers. Inversion principle gave the masses the power to determine what kind of plays they wanted to see. Dramatists had to write plays to cater to their tastes or go out of fashion. Public taste was not inspired by gods but by social realities of the day. Conjugation principle gave their taste its vitality and not from exalted imagination of dramatists.

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(Aesop is here discussing with his friend about their past and Xeno the Cynic presses the story- teller closely about the discussion they had the day before.-b)
It was evident Xeno had given much thought to the last discussion he had with Aesop. “But you did not get equal chance. Neither did I.” Xeno explained in so many words about his past. He was the second son who merely replaced the one who died before. He said, “I knew I was not loved for what I am.” Controlling himself he added, “By the time my younger brothers came my parents were cured of their folly and they got their share, alright.” Suddenly Xeno fell silent.
“Yes, my friend,” Aesop explained, “there is so much ignorance and cruelty. Those who ought to have loved and cherished us merely failed in their duty. We came into this world naked and dispossessed already. It is the law of deprivation at work. We had no choice in the matter. Did we?” Xeno shook his head.
“It is random and an accident. Why make it worse by feeling sorry? The law of deprivation entitles us to another law.”
Xeno shot up his eyebrows.
“Yes. Law of Compensation.” Aesop said, “Whatever good comes your way you have earned it. How I came into the household of Iadmon was not how I went out.”
“You are still cash strapped,” Xeno asked, “Aren’t you?” “Yes,” Aesop said, “Making riches was not how I wished to be compensated.” Aesop realized life compensated him only in directions he sought to remedy his wants.
He told him a story to llustrate it. An Argive went in search of gold after hearing of a gold rush in the neighborhood. He came to the right spot all right. But he was too late. So many had before him panned gold from the rocks and so quickly too, and had exhausted the deposit. So he went on in dismay not knowing where. He stumbled upon a field strewn with bodies of men and horses. A bloody carnage the battlefield had witnessed and he was the only living person there. The Persian army lay dead in their rich apparel and armor before him. He picked as much gold plated helmets and body armor, not to mention swords with handles studded with precious jewels. He brought home a fortune! There was gold much more than he would have ever picked from panning. Was he wrong if he treated his find as compensation for his trouble? (Selected-The Life of Aesop-Ch:8. 9 )
note: Law of Deprivation and Law of Negation denote the same.

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One day Miletus came home with a beautiful head of Hypnos. He showed it to his guardian, Iadmon. Aesop was present at that time. “Isn’t it beautiful! A head cast in bronze! The slant of that loose headband… Look at those eyelids heavy, almost drooping with sleep… The head tells it all.”
Iadmon scowled and said: “But what on earth one can use a mere head for? Either the piece should tell a story or must be of precious metal so it can be sold for a profit, if ever need arises”. Without much ado he walked towards his shop to direct his fellows who had brought in goods. As a parting shot he said, pointing to the sacks of barley being brought in: “Those are real! Each measure of barley sold is money in your pocket.”
The boy looked at Aesop as if to say that his guardian was impossible. “Let us leave him to his barley”, the boy said.
Aesop took the head of Hypnos and said: “My master is simple in matters of Art. He needs to be entertained or edified. If he has a head for business he could have one for art as well. He can forecast which goods will fetch more money and he knows to hold it till he can get a better price. He is not taken in by smart talk of the agents. Then having a head for business is enough for some. They have not developed from that stage. They are like those specimens you find in circus; they are born that way. Still, freak they are. This is how one is when one hasn’t cultivated beyond mere living”.
Miletus who trusted in his judgment and asked him whether it would have been better if the sculptor had cast the entire body as well.
“As you observed rightly in the beginning: the head conveyed all that was there to convey. We observe the head and can fill in parts left out by the sculptor. This is where my master cannot enter. Only the initiated can enter into the mysteries that Art has for such folks like you and me. The artist though dead still speaks to us. His art is the medium. Think how clever the sculptor of this piece is. He needed only a head to convey that moment one drifts into sleep, with such clarity.”
benny

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Sorry, the story continues in the Life of Aesop available through Amazon.com-b

The above is selected from my book The Life of Aesop and I shall give another one.
2.
Boy Lambkins was young but naughty as hell on two legs who walked the earth. He would stand on the stone bridge and below ran the cross roads where the pill box for the soldiers stood. In the North one never knew where the trouble came from.
The boy found it very amusing to pee on all passersby. Of course he never played the mischief on soldiers with their nervous finger on the trigger.
One day Mr. Wolverine from Cork was passing and from the bridge he peed right on the fellow.
The man wiping off his face could only say,’You jail-bait, only your position saves you from harm.’
Moral: Weak or strong? Circumstances determine what it is.
benny

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7.
One day the boy, Pheidonides said he was alone in the wide world. ‘No one cared if I lived or died,’ he said. Aesop let him speak. The boy explained that since he considered himself not responsible for his little brothers he came to the conclusion there existed no reason why should others care if he existed or not. Aesop explained how the world was connected by means of an example.
“When eagles fly the wild hares sunning on the rocks run as fast as their legs can carry. If hares run what will a tortoise do? He thinks hares are running to spite him. So he also sprints not realizing he is clumsy. He is bound to slip and fall over. “Sad uh?” Aesop asked: ”with his heavy shell he merely scratches the air; helpless he is.” The boy said, ”If I were there I would set him right.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“I think of Creon whenever I see a tortoise.” Aesop didn’t press the obvious. For he knew the boy already had sensed the connection.

8.
When Aesop told Xeno the cynic about his discourse to the neighbor kid Xeno said, ”What, are you partial to the tortoise? The poor eagle has his mate and a brood of chicks to feed. Think of their state if every one had the same notions as you?”
“Xeno,” Aesop said, ”you are right. Eagles with red talons and beak also have their place in the scheme of things.”
“I did not think you would agree so quickly!”
“ You are right but you miss the whole picture.” Aesop said, ”It is the duty of every living being to preserve the right to life in others. Speaking of the right no more compassion can be shown than when one is helpless. Compassion is the means to provide equal chance for the birds of prey and tortoises. Equal chance, Xeno”
Xeno agreed.

9.
It was evident Xeno had given much thought to the last discussion he had with Aesop. “But you did not get equal chance. Neither did I.” Xeno explained in so many words about his past. He was the second son who merely replaced the one who died before. He said, ”I knew I was not loved for what I am.” Controlling himself he added, “By the time my younger brothers came my parents were cured of their folly and they got their share, alright.” Suddenly Xeno fell silent.
“Yes, my friend,” Aesop explained, ”there is so much ignorance and cruelty. Those who ought to have loved and cherished us merely failed in their duty. We came into this world naked and dispossessed already. It is the law of deprivation at work. We had no choice in the matter. Did we?” Xeno shook his head.
“It is random and an accident. Why make it worse by feeling sorry?  The law of deprivation entitles us to another law.”
Xeno shot up his eyebrows.
“Yes. Law of Compensation.” Aesop said, ”Whatever good comes your way you have earned it. How I came into the household of Iadmon was not how I went out.”
“You are still cash strapped,” Xeno asked, ”Aren’t you?”  “Yes,” Aesop said, ”Making riches was not how I wished to be compensated.” Aesop realized life compensated him only in directions he sought to remedy his wants.
He told him a story to illustrate it.  An Argive went in search of gold after hearing of a gold rush in the neighborhood. He came to the right spot all right. But he was too late. So many had before him panned gold from the rocks and so quickly too, and had exhausted the deposit. So he went on in dismay not knowing where. He stumbled upon a field strewn with bodies of men and horses. A bloody carnage the battlefield had witnessed and he was the only living person there. The Persian army lay dead in their rich apparel and armor before him. He picked as much gold plated helmets and body armor, not to mention swords with handles studded with precious jewels. He brought home a fortune! There was gold much more than he would have ever picked from panning. Was he wrong if he treated his find as compensation for his trouble?
10.
The city of Athens was electrified by the news. The Battle of Salamis was fought and the City drew some kind of shock that converted each citizen. A new confidence was evident everywhere. Aesop had put himself for the war effort and Basileus relieved him for the purpose. Because of his lameness he could not do active service as a foot soldier. When Xeno asked him if he was disappointed he said, ”Oh no! I do not care for the glory of a war but it is necessity to put myself to the cause of Athens.” With a smile he said, ”The commander who saw me awaiting marching orders said, you will not do, son. Your bad foot shall not hold up other soldiers.”
“Law of compensation at work I see!” The cynic said. Aesop continued, ”I spend part of my day copying orders in a clear hand. My commander says he is satisfied with my work. My beautiful hand must serve instead.”  (Selectd from The Life of Aesop-Ch.8, pages 147-151)

benny

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ART AND NATURE ©

One evening Xeno called out Aesop who was walking along the jagged rocks, which the sea had over the years sharpened to a keen edge. Aesop stopped on his tracks. Xeno approached him. He had his lyre with him. He apologized about his behavior in the House of Glaucus. “I was drunk, I suppose.” Xeno admitted.
Aesop asked him why he still insisted on carrying the lyre.   “You are a philosopher and not a musician.” Aesop said.
“Yes, I am a philosopher. Well Heracles, the philosopher you know him, don’t you?
Aesop nodded. “ Heracles always carries a wedge of rock. An object.”
“What is his object?”
Xeno explained,” If he can speak of mysteries of nature my lyre, also an object can speak. See Aesop I create discord as you say playing so badly. Think, I aim to show with my bad playing the discord that man in his pursuit of power causes.”
For emphasis Xeno struck the lyre wildly and the discordant notes set the nerves of Aesop on edge.
“No one who hears you will catch the point you are trying to make. They will only close their ears to shut out that jarring sound.” Aesop said.
“How is that Heracles could succeed with a stone, whereas I cannot, though we both are using an object to illustrate our arguments?”
Aesop thought about it for a while.  He said: “One can learn lessons from nature, however lowly a thing it may be; whereas what you deal with is art. No amount of words shall come to help you if your art is bad.”
benny

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