Monday, December 30, 2013

CrossFit Sweat Angel

Will you be making any? Post yours and the workout you did!

This was after (6 rounds for time): 24 air squats; 24 Pushups; 24 Walking Lunges; 400 meter run.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


I pray you have a very Merry Christmas Season!

Nice: "From Megadeth to Life."

"Is Your Church A Microwave, or a Crockpot?"

Buckle up!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Christmas" by William C. Bryant (1875)

As shadows cast by cloud and sun
Flit o’er the summer grass,
So, in Thy sight, Almighty One,
Earth’s generations pass.
And as the years, an endless host,
Come swiftly pressing on,
The brightest names that earth can boast
Just glisten and are gone.

Yet doth the star of Bethlehem shed
A luster pure and sweet;
And still it leads, as once it led,
To the Messiah’s feet.
O Father, may that holy star
Grow every year more bright,
And send its glorious beams afar
To fill the world with light.

Monday, December 23, 2013

It's THE Major Award!

I'm turning off the lights so I can see it from the street!

Friday, December 20, 2013

USAF Singing Sergeants

Enjoy this festive arrangement (noting one particularly conspicuous scarf in the group):

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Little Christmas . . . er, Music.

The Portsmouth Symphonia (1970) is not your typical musical group. To be a member, one must be 1) a non-musician; or 2) if a musician, play an unfamiliar instrument. Believe it or not, this group recorded albums, performed concerts, and released a hit single. They last performed in 1979.

Which only goes to show: nothing is impossible. Try anything once--do the fun things twice. Try something new!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"So Hallow'd And So Gracious Is The Time"

“Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.”

-- Marcellus to Horatio and Bernardo, after seeing the Ghost. “Hamlet” Act 1, Scene 1. Shakespeare

Monday, December 16, 2013

Two Family-favorite Ornaments

These two ornaments top our tree each year: a cross-stitch manger scene and a crown of thorns.

Friday, December 13, 2013

"Is Enoch the 6th or 7th from Adam? The Bible Is Clearly Wrong!"

Question: Jude 14 says that Enoch was the 7th from Adam but when we count the fathers mentioned in the genealogies of Genesis 5:3-18, 1 Chronicles 1:1-2 and Luke 3:37-38, we find Enoch is the sixth and not the seventh. The Bible is clearly wrong.

Answer: We do count six, yet Jude says there are seven. Perhaps Jude knows something that we do not and since he is quoting what we call "The Book of Enoch," perhaps we could find a clue there. Noah (supposedly writing) describes his “ancestor who was man, from Adam the first of men, whom the Lord of spirits made.” (1 Enoch 58:9).

Following this lead, Jude is correct to say that Enoch is the seventh men from Adam, who is counted as the first of men. This means the genealogies and Jude are both correct and the Bible remains without error:
  1. Adam, the first of men;
  2. Seth, the second of men (note that Jude draws a contrast between Godly and ungodly men and has already counted Cain in a different category);
  3. Enos, the third of men;
  4. Cainan, the fourth of men;
  5. Mahaleleel, the fifth of men;
  6. Jared, the sixth of men; 
  7. Enoch, the seventh of men.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CrossFit Christmas Song (copyrighted by me)

(Tune: Jingle Bell Rock)

Kettlebell, Kettlebell, Kettlebell Squat;
Kettlebell Swing and Kettlebell Fling;
Burpees and Pull-ups are bushels of fun;
Now the jumping squats have begun.

Kettlebell, Kettlebell, Kettlebell Squat;
Dropping plates chime as we lift for time!
Girls and Heros and AMRAPS to spare!
Squats in the air!

What a bright time
For fastest time
to row the night away
Kettlebell time; muscles swell time
to go hunting for a PR to slay.

Giddy-up, double-unders,
pick up your feet;
Jump up upon that box
Mix-in and mingle some bodyweight WOD’s
That's the Kettlebell,
That's the Kettlebell,  

That's the Kettlebell Squat!

Friday, December 06, 2013

"If Cain Was A Fugitive, How Could He Be a City Founder?"

Question:  God tells Cain, “A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth,” (Genesis 4:12) yet Cain “went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch.” (Genesis 4:16-17). So which is it: was he always on the run, or did he settle down and build a city?

Answer: Why could it not be both?

What is meant by “city”? The Hebrew word (‘iyr) has two meanings. The first meaning is “excitement; anguish (terror).” The second meaning is “a place of waking; guarded.” Basically, a city in the ancient world is a place, an encampment, guarded by a watch.

We must be careful not to superimpose our present understanding back into the text or history. There is no ancient world implication (or concept for that matter at this point in time) of large populations, of trade, tradition, culture or of permanent buildings. Even if there were permanent structures (such as those from the much-later Greco-Roman times), most “cities” were no larger than a single unit of present-day apartment buildings. Larger ancient cities were not all that "large." The ancient city of Capernaum was no more than 14 acres, for example.

Are there not people today (such as the Bedouin--from “bedu” signifying one who lives in the desert) who live in tents, always keeping watch, always on the move? The one who upholds the responsibilities of manhood is the pinnacle of hierarchy in the family (consisting of at least adults with their children). When resources permit, groups of families stay together--mostly of the same herd-type--and the hierarchy requires a higher level of management. There is no indication that Cain’s position grew to such a high rank as “sheik” (for point of comparison).

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Venus, Through The Trees

The brilliant display catches my eye
as I sit and wait.
The cold air of the damp night seeps into my bones
as I sit and wait.

Through the trees, without a sound
Venus sails across the sky.

The formless void pierced by her brilliant light
traces nothing of her orbit; but,
through leaves she peeks
and behind the branches she abides, hides, 
bride of the sky.

Pageantry of night, stellar delight
as I sit and wait.
The cold air of the damp night seeps into my bones
as I sit and wait.

Monday, December 02, 2013


Went for a 4-mile 5k that accidentally became 4.53 miles in 45 minutes 'cause it was good music in the 'phones. Yeah, I get distracted easily. I don't know why they call it "catching breath" because all I'm doing is heavy breathing!

Friday, November 29, 2013

"Does God Require Animal Sacrifices, Or Not?

QUESTION: “I read many times in the scripture where laws are given regarding animal sacrifices; yet, I also read many injunctions against killing, including statements where God does not accept sacrifices. Please address this contradiction.”

ANSWER: First, anyone who reads should be commended because reading demonstrates the desire to know. When we read we are challenged to think, which is better than merely hearing something and drawing a conclusion without checking out the facts.

There are many laws and instructions regarding the animal sacrifices and there are statements of God’s displeasure in them. What God desires is obedience, not sacrifice; but, since man would rather disobey, sacrifice was to remind man of God’s perfection.

Remember: from the beginning God and man enjoyed unbroken fellowship until man disobeyed God and brought death by his sin. So that man may keep before him the seriousness of the consequences of sin and the need to be clean before God, God required a symbol that would keep life and death before his eyes. The sacrifice does not do the cleansing--God does. This is why all the sacrifices point ahead to God stepping into time and space in the person of Jesus Christ, to meet God’s requirement of life-blood in payment for sin. The resurrection means the payment was complete. This is why sacrifice is no longer required.

Let’s look at a couple of verses:

Psalm 40:6, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.”

Reading the verse in its context one finds that the man who hears God and obeys (“I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.” 40:8) has cleans hands and clean heart. God does not require sacrifice from one who is clean. One who is clean is able to minister the mercy God does require.

"But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Matthew 9:13)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

Not quite certain how it all got away from me, but it did. I’ve not written much lately for blogging or for personal journaling (besides recording daily events--boring), but that does not mean I’m not busy.

I am a husband, father and as of October--a grandfather, again and again. The last four years have been filled with the curly-headed laughter of one grandchild, now we have two more. Both born within two weeks of each other. Just the other day, I held our month-old grandson and asked him when he was going to start making fairies (it’s a Peter Pan thing, a family thing) and I kid you not when I say he actually gave a tiny giggle. Honestly, I am still trying to get used to the idea of more grandchildren (there are people everywhere around my house!) but am thankful for each and every one of my family members--especially the love of my life, my wife.

I am one person managing two Seminary offices is not easy; but I am thankful--ever so thankful--I have this ministry.

I am thankful for my Church, Calvary Chapel Blythewood. Our pastor is unlike any pastor I know and am so blessed to serve under his leadership. I think the most prominent lesson he teaches me (whether he knows it or not) is how to be genuine, real. Our church family reflects that same quality in ministry to one another. I can’t think I’ve seen much of that.

I am thankful that each week I get to play loud music with my kids and their significant others during worship practice.

I am thankful for health and fitness. Last month my heart doctor told me he did not want to see me for a year, and that just to check in. To date, I’ve lost 68 pounds. The first 30 from 2011 to May of 2013. The other 38, since May. CrossFit is the golden ticket!

No promises, but I am going to try to keep this blog going, even if it is a small post. I like doing it and am thankful for anyone who reads and thinks along with me.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Kill Every Man, Woman, and Child in the Promised Land?

If God says don't kill, how could he command that every Canaanite man, woman and child be killed by the Israelites?

R.C. Sproul writes, "Among the countless nuggets of wisdom I have received over the years from my father is this bit of gold—when you are reading your Bible and you come across something that makes you uncomfortable, resist the temptation to simply move on to something else. Where the Bible makes us uncomfortable is precisely where we need to slow down. It is compelling evidence of a specific weakness. When our thoughts or feelings bristle under God’s Word, He is right and we wrong."
Read the rest here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Randoms is hosting a two-hour seminar by Dr. Bill Mounce answering the question concerning Bible translations ("Why are they different and can I trust them?"). He will discuss the nature of language, ten translation principles that explain why translations vary and gives reason why translations are trustworthy.

SparkPeople posts "How To Learn From Pain." Listen to your body when you train or work out!

Lifehack lists "20 Reasons To Read That Will Change Your Life."

A Toilet-themed restaurant. One more thing I guess I just don't understand (other than knowing that most animals would never consider the thought).

Joe McKeever at the Colson Center presents "Twenty Things Many Pastors Do Not Get and Should."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Plan Your Life Wisely

" . . . not as chance will have it, but with prudence and foresight. Without amusements it is wearisome, like a long journey where there are no inns: manifold knowledge gives manifold pleasure. The first day's journey of a noble life should be passed in conversing with the dead: we live to know and to know our-selves: hence true books make us truly men. The second day should be spent with the living, seeing and noticing all the good in the world. Everything is not to be found in a single country. The Universal Father has divided His gifts, and at times has given the richest dower to the ugliest. The third day is entirely for oneself. The last felicity is to be a philosopher."

(Balthasar Gracian, 1601-1658)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Close Call Miracle

I've watched this video repeatedly and am just downright astounded by the outcome. Notice from the beginning of the clip the movement of the boulder from the top of the mountain. It's too dark to see it roll, but the splash and crash is traumatic. What gets me is the driver's reflexes, but it looks to me as if even with the car's turn, the vehicle is shoved further left than a normal turn would result. Also, the boulder nearly tips over onto the car, then rocks back. Debate the shape of the boulder and the splash if you wish, but I feel like two big ol' angels were protecting someone.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

Puffer-fish Evolution

Can't help but wonder about Puffer-fish evolution. Which came first: the need to reproduce or the ability to reproduce? How quickly over the course of millions of years did this 5 inch Puffer-fish develop the skill to construct such an elaborate mating bed (up to 7 feet across) that would be attractive to the female in order for the species to survive?

Thursday, October 10, 2013


BreakPoint offers a succinct statement regarding Christians and Cultural Discernment.

Tarantula mating season is here. yay.

3 Benefits of Jogging.

Leadership Journal publishes a thought-provoking article on finding your calling by stepping down.

Read Tolstoy and others to increase emotional intelligence!

Futility Closet has a great one here. "When the Erie Canal was opened on Oct. 26, 1825, the fact was known in New York City, 425 miles away, within 81 minutes. This was before the advent of radio or telegraph. How was it done?"

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

"Out Of Your Mind" Learning

It can happen very quickly, the swing from “what’s on your mind?” to “are you out of your mind?”. The look on one’s face is easy to read: the contemplation is deep, but the expression of the thought--often-times, our thoughts are received in unexpected ways.

The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). The Philippian Christians were encouraged to demonstrate Christ-mindedness toward one another (Phil. 2:1-2, 5). When one who is hard after God shifts from living “under the sun” to learning “under heaven” and applying heavenly wisdom, the world does not know how to receive the lessons. Like Festus to Paul’s ears, “you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind!” (Acts 26:24)

The mind of Christ is not the mind of the world. Learning the mind of Christ is to gain the viewpoint, understanding, wisdom, thoughts, feelings, purposes, the desires of God’s anointed Messiah.

Paul had the mind of Christ, but he did not start off with the mind of Christ. He was a Jewish Roman citizen raised in Greek-speaking Tarsus and as a Benjamite, was named after Israel’s first king (Saul) who, incidentally, who ended badly. Growing up was not easy and Saul/Paul had make up his mind how he would succeed in life considering this crazy, mixed-up background. He could get run over by the stigma of his name and cultural tension, or he could (and did) learn to use his position to his advantage. He studied at the feet of Jewish masters, familiarized himself with Greek thought and followed the protocols of Roman citizenship. Then Jesus entered the picture and showed him he where he was lacking.

Paul’s lifelong learning was not thrown out the window, abandoned. He did not commit intellectual suicide because of faith. Paul was able to tie up the loose ends that remained in his learning. He knew much but his application was way off at first. The living Christ met Paul personally and brought an objective viewpoint all his tradition, all his learning, all his social contribution. Then something fascinating happened: he spent the next 14 years learning the mind of Christ.

Learning is life-long and the grasping the mind of Christ is not the assimilation of ideas, but takes place in the context of relationship. We have only begun to learn when we master literature, science, language, math, music, etc. There remains wisdom that comes only from God--orientation of a working mind.

Going “out of our mind” is exactly what we should do in order to be the best student. Our learning “under heaven” should inform our learning “under the sun” through our relationship with Christ.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Life-long Learning "Under Heaven"

I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking about learning and the Christian worldview. Past blog posts have considered the difference between learning “under the sun” and learning “under heaven” as explored by wise King Solomon. We now he did not turn out so well in the end because of compromised worldview. Is it possible to learn, to pursue education, to grow in wisdom in the context of the world in which we live?

Long after Solomon’s golden age ended and the kingdom was divided, we read in the historical literature that Israel was carried away in Babylonian captivity. Caught up in the capture were some notable young men that receive this assessment of their captors:

And in every manner of wisdom and understanding about which the king [Nebuchadnezzar] inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.” (Daniel 1:20).

Consider the situation: these young men were uprooted from their homeland and transplanted. Their integrity remained intact because God upheld their integrity. It is not difficult to imagine how they may have encouraged one another with scripture like Psalm 26. Their new teachers could only provide them a platform for deeper learning as they pursued education on their own.

While the culture tried to redefine them (as seen in giving them new names--interesting that we refer to them not in their native names, but their Babylonian names, except for Daniel) they used the culture for the glory of God. The young men learned the language, read the literature, familiarized themselves with the culture, learned court-protocol and with that learning, they served the true and living God, who upheld their integrity. The studied and worked from God’s perspective. Daniel and his friends graduated top of the class because they were open-minded in truth. The model excellent discipleship in their diligent application of what they learned “under heaven.”

There seems to be an unspoken rule that once one finishes high school, one is no longer required to learn. Some do press on to college, but often the same attitude surfaces again--learning may now cease. Perhaps there is the notion that learning = tuition. This is not the case at all. We are made to be life-long learners. It is impossible to stop learning; however, it is possible to be selective in learning, which in turn proves where excellence lies--”under the sun”-- in the realm of vanity, useless wisdom.

Friday, October 04, 2013

"Oilfield Dodge"

Back in the day, Dem Ol' Dudes Go Everywhere!

Thursday, October 03, 2013


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Learning "under heaven"

And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all [is] vanity and grasping for the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13-14, NKJV)

There, you see! Don’t waste your time reading and pursuing knowledge! King Solomon himself said that seeking wisdom is burdensome (“evil business”) and vanity! Actually, Solomon said everything under the sun is vanity, striving after wind so if we follow the logic, we should stand perfectly still with our hands by our sides, eyes closed and holding our breath. Solomon states a conclusion from a lesson learned: wisdom pursued apart from God is vanity. Learning is hard work and has a reward in the end--but learning must be done correctly. Solomon only increased in wisdom by learning in context, by learning “under heaven.”

Look again at those who followed Jesus--they were learners! This is what is meant by “disciple.” They received instruction from the Master, the dispenser of wisdom, and they were to apply what they learned to their lives, which in turn, touched others. Learning was not easy as their discipleship hinged on change, starting with that which constituted their very lives. They had to stop what they were doing and start doing something new. They had to leave something behind in order to take up what lay ahead. The moment they did that, their first lesson was learned. They got dirty, wet, hungry, scared, confused, were intimidated--but they learned. Let us not miss the fact that Jesus’ disciples spent most of their entire lives in the shadow of Solomon’s temple.

Solomon was faced with a choice: learn about life the way God intends life to be, or learn about life apart from God. Wisdom literature plainly distinguishes the disciple as the wise and the non-disciple as the fool. In other words, we can learn in the school of hard knocks (where all is vanity) or we can learn by submitting to “right” and glorify God by all we do and say.

Follow Solomon’s thought and watch how he entertained the diversions. How much wisdom did he maintain when righteousness was set aside? What did he learn by removing himself from wisdom but that apart from God all is vanity? Solomon accomplished much in his lifetime (the “golden age” of the kingdom), but he slipped. He lost focus. He stopped following the Master.

We glorify God by “learning under the heavens” and glorify ourselves by “learning under the sun.” Wisdom is found “under the heavens” and foolishness is found “under the sun.”

When we are in the process of learning, we must constantly take what is before us to back to the Master, to hear His voice in scripture and in prayer. We will see there what man apart from God is like, what is truly evil, futile. We must remain humble to say, “God is right” when we our presuppositions are challenged--otherwise, we will never learn.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

That Evil Business

One great reward of translation work is seeing words as they are. The truth of a word in its original brings unexpected surprises, sometimes a shock--like licking a 9-volt battery. Once you do it, you don’t want to do it again . . . or do you? Especially when you have few to choose from and your guitar needs a replacement. But I digress . . . (who puts old batteries back in a drawer?)

We grow up saying it--”learning stinks” (or something to that effect). Hardly a day goes by when a Junior High schooler expresses his or her heart-felt woes concerning education. As home- schooling parents, we’ve heard our share of learning woes. There’s nothing new under the sun with this sentiment. Which brings me back to that place from which I began: the unhappy business of learning. Old Solomon said it plainly.

And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13)

That burdensome task is seeking out wisdom. That unhappy business is learning. The Hebrew combines the word “evil” with “business” to describe the task as unprofitable. Does this mean that wisdom cannot be acquired, or is not as highly valued as we make it to be? Is there an implication that God bestowed evil upon man if man searches out wisdom? No, I think the writer was being cheeky. Wisdom is connected to the fear of God, but not the kind of fear as if He were a monster. This is the healthy fear of respect, right relationship. When one seeks out God one finds wisdom, but one must work at it by asking good questions.

Learning can be an enjoyable experience and still be hard. There are many difficult, even borderline dangerous things we do that are rewarding: roller-coasters, falling with style down mountains on skis, lifting weights, playing physical sports. We enjoy the activity and shower off the sweat at the end of the evil.

Personally, learning is enjoyable. I was never a sporty person in my early years. I played sports, but did not enjoy them--never got into them. Now in later years I’ve found great enjoyment in the evil of running and lifting. Try and stop me from CrossFit. What I enjoy most is when the mind gets way “up there” and suddenly things mentally click into place--the blood flow awakens the brain (or something). I’ve learned about health and nutrition--and enjoy taking care of my body.

The same is true with mind and spirit. I write because I am learning--and sharing what I learn. I read the Bible and pray because there is more to a person than body and mind. I am a spiritual being that must learn, and often times, there are some things that cannot be learned by books and in classrooms. We are shaped by experience.

This seems to be the most difficult place to learn (the most “evil”) because sometimes, a relationship must be challenged in order to deepen. Life is abundant with opportunities for hurt and heal for the sake of learning. Teachable moments are all around us, though I admit I am not excited about most. These are challenges, but not impossible challenges. Just like lifting and running--you gotta push through to the end because there is no “quit.”

Wisdom is fearing God, which means more of Him and less of me.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Know The Great Men of Your Age

"They are not many. There is one Phœnix in the whole world, one great general, one perfect orator, one true philosopher in a century, a really illustrious king in several. Mediocrities are as numerous as they are worth-less: eminent greatness is rare in every respect, since it needs complete perfection, and the higher the species the more difficult is the highest rank in it. Many have claimed the title "Great," like Cæsar and Alexander, but in vain, for without great deeds the title is a mere breath of air. There have been few Senecas, and fame records but one Apelles." (Balthasar Gracian)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Another look at Homer's Odyssey

Not too long ago as I read Homer’s Odyssey (once again), a thought came to mind. If Homer’s Iliad serves as a kind of record of the siege of Troy (a debated issue due to the activity of the so-called gods as mentioned in the story--strip away the supernatural and the event still stands) and history and archaeology affirm the event as well as many historical figures involved, would it be possible that the Odyssey is a true account of one of the Iliad’s prominent personalities? The possibility is very high.

Any fairly-well read person knows of many events found in the Odyssey: who has not heard of Cyclops or Lotus-eaters or of the deadly Sirens? Hades has been known for thousands of years as a place for the dead. A well-read person knows that when Troy fell, the Greeks returned home only Odysseus was delayed in his return, as the story goes. But what was the reason for his delay? Was it monsters and an offended deity? Or was there another reason? 

Aeschylus records in his play “Agamemnon” that Agamemnon and Menelaus both returned home within reasonable time after the ten-year siege of Troy. Nothing held them back. Where was Odysseus, if he was a much a historical person as these other kings? Here’s my theory:

Odysseus left Troy with a fleet then his own ship and sailors. Why did Odysseus return alone? What happened to everyone? None but Odysseus was witness to anything that happened--no one remained alive to tell the tale because (for the most part) they were all eaten. The most fantastical stories return no witnesses. Only “real world” events (like being found on a beach, attending a feast, games) puts him in touch with people who could attest to that which they share in common. But he was gone for so long, being stranded on Calypso’s island, holed up in a giant’s cave, being blown off course (all this in the Mediterranean sea, not very large, even in ancient times). Who could affirm this and ease the aching hearts of son (who went looking for him) and wife?

Let’s re-enter the story at the point Odysseus washes up on the beach, was discovered by Nausicaa. He is a wreck but is discovered, cleaned up and brought into the Phaician kingdom. I want to dismiss Athena and the other gods at this point. As involved as they are in the stories, they seem to be completely absent when they matter most--when Odysseus is recounting his own to the king of the Phaicians. Where were the gods when his sailors were being eaten and in the climax of his adventures? The most remembered parts of his story are told at the feast.

Why does he tell the story? He wants to go home and needs resources, simply put. One custom of the ancient world centers around hospitality. The entire Trojan affair happened because of a breach of hospitality (Paris stole the wife of his host). Now, without resources, the most fit man on earth one-ups the most athletic with a story of his prowess. Homer states repeatedly through the mouths of gods, men and monsters that Odysseus is a man who uses his head. He’s a thinker, a strategist . . . and a storyteller. Within each situation we find Odysseus spinning a tale. Is there truth anywhere? I believe there is. The response of his host? A ship home--a journey so short he could sleep on the way.

I contend that everything Odysseus says (being blown off course, Calypso’s island, Cyclops, Lotus-eaters, etc) were a tall tale, an evenings entertainment in exchange for a ticket home--but the truth is in there somewhere. I think it is found in a couple of places, the first being in the one incident of the sailors eat plants that turns them into animals. I will over simplistically state they got stoned and hallucinated.

The other is when Odysseus, disguised as a thin old beggar, returns home and meets the swineherd. First, to the eyes of the swineherd Odysseus looks very much the same way he was found by Nausicaa. This will become important shortly. Second, because the swineherd does not recognize his master (though the dogs do), Odysseus spins another tale, less fantastical than the one told to entertain his previous host. Here in this story he mentions being captured and enslaved in Egypt.

I believe this is the truth--and it’s humiliating following the great victory at Troy. No wonder he took so long to get home when everyone else seemed to make it in good time. No wonder he looked so emaciated and was unrecognized. When he finally was recognized by Telemachus, he was said to look like a god--but can’t we all attest to how perception changes once recognition is made? Odysseus returns to his house in the disguise of mere inrecognition--until it was too late for his unwanted guests.

There is much to learn from Homer’s Odyssey, and when we take another look we may find much to learn about ancient history, custom, culture, warfare--and storytelling.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Odysseus Sets A PR: CrossFit Games, 8th Century B.C. (sort of)

I’m on the edge of my seat reading this in Homer's The Odyssey, Book VIII, “How They Held Games and Sports in Phaiacia” (translated by Samuel Butler):

[Alcinous said,] "Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, we have had enough now, both of the feast, and of the minstrelsy that is its due accompaniment; let us proceed therefore to the athletic sports, so that [Odysseus] our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends how much we surpass all other nations as boxers, wrestlers, jumpers, and runners. . . .

The foot races came first. The course was set out for them from the starting post, and they raised a dust upon the plain as they all flew forward at the same moment. Clytoneus came in first by a long way; he left every one else behind him by the length of the furrow that a couple of mules can plough in a fallow field. They then turned to the painful art of wrestling, and here Euryalus proved to be the best man. Amphialus excelled all the others in jumping, while at throwing the disc there was no one who could approach Elatreus. Alcinous's son Laodamas was the best boxer, and he it was who presently said, when they had all been diverted with the games, ‘Let us ask the stranger whether he excels in any of these sports; he seems very powerfully built; his thighs, claves, hands, and neck are of prodigious strength, nor is he at all old, but he has suffered much lately, and there is nothing like the sea for making havoc with a man, no matter how strong he is . . . .’"

‘I hope, Sir, that you will enter yourself for some one or other of our competitions if you are skilled in any of them- and you must have gone in for many a one before now. There is nothing that does any one so much credit all his life long as the showing himself a proper man with his hands and feet. Have a try therefore at something, and banish all sorrow from your mind. Your return home will not be long delayed, for the ship is already drawn into the water, and the crew is found. . . . ‘

[Odysseus] answered, ‘Laodamas, why do you taunt me in this way? my mind is set rather on cares than contests; I have been through infinite trouble, and am come among you now as a suppliant, praying your king and people to further me on my return home. . . .’

“Then Euryalus reviled him outright and said, ‘I gather, then, that you are unskilled in any of the many sports that men generally delight in. I suppose you are one of those grasping traders that go about in ships as captains or merchants, and who think of nothing but of their outward freights and homeward cargoes. There does not seem to be much of the athlete about you. . . .’

[Odysseus] answered, ‘I am worn out by labour and sorrow, for I have gone through much both on the field of battle and by the waves of the weary sea; still, in spite of all this I will compete, for your taunts have stung me to the quick.’ So he hurried up without even taking his cloak off, and seized a disc, larger, more massive and much heavier than those used by the Phaeacians when disc-throwing among themselves. Then, swinging it back, he threw it from his brawny hand, and it made a humming sound in the air as he did so. The Phaeacians quailed beneath the rushing of its flight as it sped gracefully from his hand, and flew beyond any mark that had been made yet. 

Minerva, in the form of a man, came and marked the place where it had fallen. ‘A blind man, Sir,’ said she, ‘could easily tell your mark by groping for it- it is so far ahead of any other. You may make your mind easy about this contest, for no Phaeacian can come near to such a throw as yours.’" 

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