The Forgotten Socrates

I just finished the Memorabilia by Xenophon.  Xenophon is more known for his work Anabasis, which concerns Xenophon’s taking a Greek army of mercenaries, known as The Ten Thousand, who try to aid Cyrus the younger in taking the throne from his brother, Artaxerxes II.  This ended in disaster, and Xenophon along with two other elected leaders must march this band of mercenaries 400 miles through enemy territory before they can find passage back to Greece.  (This provided the idea for the 1979 movie The Warriors.)

A bust of Xenophon.  Isn't that a very honest looking face?

A bust of Xenophon. Isn’t that a very honest looking face?

What people tend to forget about Xenophon is that he provides our second major perspective on Socrates in the Memorabilia.  The main reason for people neglecting Xenophon lies in both Plato providing more material on this figure and that Plato’s Socrates is often more brilliant.  For example, Xenophon’s aristocratic station influences his Socrates’ topics of conversation to focus on things like politics, military campaigns, and hunting.  Also, Socrates’ Xenophon tends to be more moralistic–some people have called him Victorian.  But, the directness of Xenophon’s Socrates comes as a welcome change from the heavy use of Socratic irony we see in Plato; though, I did notice several instances in Xenophon’s work where Socrates seems to make several jumps in logic.  (This can happen to the best thinkers–with the exception of St. Anselm of Canterbury.)  One almost roots for his interlocutor to turn the tables on Socrates or put up some resistance rather than the usual, “yes,” “truly,” “it seems so,” etc.

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Bust of Socrates

At any rate, Xenophon’s main point, much like Plato in his Apology and other early works, was to defend Socrates against his detractors.  Against the charge that he was impious, Xenophon showed how devout Socrates was and how much faith he had in divination.  Against the charge that he corrupted the youth, Xenophon shows us a person who was profoundly interested in improving the moral character of his associates.  In regard to the latter charge, Xenophon also defends Socrates’ association with Alcibiades, who notoriously betrayed Athens during the Peloponnesian War.  Plato passes over this association, but Xenophon defends Socrates by saying that Alcibiades never listened to Socrates’ instructions and was more interested in the political power he might gain through mingling with Socrates’ friends.

Plato on left.  Aristotle on right.

Plato on left. Aristotle on right.

One of the most interesting relationships described in the work is between Socrates and Euthymius.  Euthymius interests himself in gaining wisdom, so he visits Socrates and plays close attention to the conversations.  However, he never says a word, which irks Socrates.  One day, Socrates takes it upon himself to show Euthymius the error of not engaging in debate and twists Euthymius’s brain with some of the best sophism the world has ever witnessed.  The end result is, after all the books which Euthymius has read and all the people he’s listened to, Euthymius admits that he knows nothing.  This is perhaps the only example in Xenophon of Socrates playing a sophist.  But after this humiliation, Euthymius actually continues to visit Socrates–this time participating in the debates.  This is a happier result than we ever see when Plato’s Socrates destroys someone in an argument!

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I highly recommend everyone to read the Memorabilia.  The work contains some great moral philosophy, several humorous moments, and is well worth comparing to Plato’s works.

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Suffering and Christmas

Well, this blog has been full of the Christmas spirit, hasn’t it?  To tell you the truth, I think that sweetpea616 succeeded more in immersing herself in the Christmas spirit than I did–and she’s pagan!  At any rate, I think that it will be worthwhile to write about how suffering relates to the holiday of Christmas.

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I can already hear someone asking: “How can suffering possibly relate to such a joyous holiday?  What a morbid, moribund, and melancholy person!”  (And I can tell that this speaker does not know me personally.)  But do not forget that the colors green and red symbolize the Christmas holiday.  Green obviously symbolizes rebirth and renewal–and how did Christ accomplish our rebirth?  By pouring out His red blood on the Cross.  Verily, He was born in order to die.  We Christians celebrate the Invincible Love of God in sending His only Son so that Jesus Christ would redeem us through a painful death upon a cross and give us new life by His Resurrection.  In the same way, Christians are baptized into the Passion of Christ and reborn into His Resurrection.  Since “the disciple is not above his master” (Lk 6:40), we must suffer many things and courageously bear the cross God gives us so that we may be steadily transformed into the image of Christ until we reach that perfection which God has destined for us in Paradise.

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The Church calendar seems to reinforce the idea of suffering even in the midst of this joyful time of year: the day after Christmas we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Stephan, the feast of the Holy Innocents today, and tomorrow recalls the murder of St. Thomas à Becket.  Only St. John the Evangelist seems not to fit in until we remind ourselves that he suffered a white martyrdom.  How could it be otherwise?  In support of this idea, we have all the suffering John endured in spreading the Gospel and his gospel itself, which enters more fully into the divinity of Christ than any other gospel.  John’s gospel evidences his suffering because no one can understand God so fully without meditating on and participating in Christ’s sufferings daily.  How much grief must have filled St. John’s soul in recalling those three interminable hours at the foot of the Savior’s cruel cross?  To always have before his eyes the visible memory of Christ’s wounds and the sorrowful last words of Christ ringing in his ears?  And on the thirtieth, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family: after Christ’s whose sorrows are meditated on more frequently or were more severe than St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s?  These two saints have more glory in heaven than all the rest because they both played a larger role in Salvation History and suffered more greatly than all the other saints combined.

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So, suffering, doubts, anxiety, grief, and pain do not seem out of place this time of year.  In my case, I lack a certain talent to suffer–if I may call it so.  Suffering has the propensity to make us focus inward, to disregard the people around us, and overly seek consolations for oneself–anything to cause us to forget or diminish our pain or angst.  But, the talent or skill which one should strive to attain is to ignore our miserable condition and manifest joy to the world–especially around Christmas.

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The most memorable scene from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the meeting of Jesus and His Mother on the Way of the Cross, demonstrates this attitude perfectly.  What does Our Lord say to His Mother?  After being insulted and beaten constantly, being mocked, unjustly condemned, scourged, crowned with thorns, and even to this point being shown every form of contempt and disdain?  “Behold, I make all things new.”  This carries the idea that Christ’s attention was focused mainly or even purely on the good his sacrifice would do humanity rather than all the evils humanity was pouring on him–even though these sins pierced His Heart like the crown of thorns did His Brow.  Rather than indicate any pain, He joyfully boasts of the salvation He brings to the human race.  For, not even an ocean of sin can extinguish the Love of God.

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Remember what the red and green symbolize when you look next time at a Christmas wreath.  There is joy because Our Savior has come to restore the human race; on the other hand, He restores it through His Sorrowful Passion.  Neither pain or sorrow is out of place in this holiday nor ought one to forget the Passion of Our Lord in this or any season.  So, one must rejoice in spite of suffering, since Christ has come to save poor sinners–us–and these very sufferings, especially when we strive to suffer with love, bring us closer to Christ.  This quote from G. K. Chesterton seems appropriate here: “He is a sane man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.”

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Applying the Mimetic and Feminist Lens to Iria: Zeiram the Animation

This post, dear readers, will concern a largely forgotten anime named Iria: Zeiram the Animation.  This show features some wonderful old animation.  (Despite the views of some bloggers, good, traditional cell animation beats all of that modern computerized stuff.  Just watch this show if you don’t believe me, or, if you wish to see a modern example of how glorious cell animation can be, watch Sword of the Stranger.)  Rather than review this six episode OVA, I’d like to pick up on two related threads running through the series.  (Kudos to my brother Tom for helping me see the mimetic thread.)  I will confess that the article below contains many spoilers, but Iria’s a true classic.  Meaning that not only can one watch it several times and be delighted in new ways each time, but even that having the entire plot analyzed for one (which I fall far short of doing) only increases the pleasure one has in watching it.  In the same way, everybody knows how the plot of the Aeneid–especially that Aeneas dumps Dido and that she commits suicide–but knowing that does not deter anyone from reading it.  Without further ado, let’s begin the analysis.

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Iria begins with the titular character rescuing two female hostages from a lone terrorist, only to have the mark stolen from under her by Fujikuro, who is quick to remind her that she’s not a full-fledged hunter and isn’t licensed for taking missions.  A most amusing thing happens at this point: Iria releases the two hostages, who quickly run to the bathroom, and the one left outside whines for her to hurry.  The juxtaposition of the cool, collected, puissant Iria and the two women forces itself on us.  Indeed, Iria, draped in a cloak covering any sign of her femininity, might have been taken for a man had it not been to the talents of her voice actress.  This is the first moment when the theme of her repressing her femininity comes up.

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The second reason for her covering her female side besides her profession is revealed when we return to her mentor’s house.  A man named Glen in around his late twenties has been mentoring her since she was very young, and she refers to him as “Nii-san.”  So, it becomes apparent that she has been modelling herself on Glen.  No matter how admirable a member of the opposite sex is, it can be problematic in modelling oneself on them: a man might become effeminate or a woman masculine to excess.  Not that a man cannot have feminine qualities or a woman masculine qualities which make them unique and better but that modelling oneself a a person with a different nature from one’s own might cause a person to fail to realize their uniqueness.  For example, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of American Civil War fame was praised by General Pope as having “the courage of a lion and the heart of a woman.”  Imagine if he had a woman’s heart, but not the courage of a lion?  We would have lost a truly unique character.  In the same way, Iria has engaged the more masculine side of her personality and neglected the feminine side.  While she does seem to be a bit more cheerful and sweet around Glen, this does not seem especially feminine, but more child-like.  So, Iria has to grow on two levels.

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At any rate, Glen receives a new job from Bob, his boss, to rescue some crew members on the Karma which leads to a very bumpy ride to the space terminal, as some organization opposes the rescue.  Iria originally was not supposed to go (she’s not licensed, after all), but, in helping Glen and Bob reach the terminal, the multitude of enemies who are chasing them force her to teleport with her nii-san.  Once they arrive at the the ship, which was supposed to have been taken over by pirates, the massive amount of casualties tells them that something else is afoot.  It turns out that the indestructible monster named Zeiram had been part of the cargo until it escaped.

Only in Anime: a Sombrero Monster

Only in Anime: a Sombrero Monster

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My roommate from college and I simultaneously said "Spoons!" at this moment.

My roommate from college and I simultaneously said “Spoons!” at this moment.

Glen takes the lead in this situation: Iria is relegated to the role of helping the surviving passengers escape as Glen beats back Zeiram with a combination of explosives, tonfa, gadgets, and hand to hand combat.  (Only in anime would someone engage an invincible monster in a fist fight.)  The situation goes from bad to worse as Glen’s boss becomes mortally wounded and Glen himself, as Iria alone flees the ship on their space buggy (I forget what they call it), seems to be lost in the space ship self destructs.

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Whether or not Glen has truly perished on board that vessel haunts Iria throughout the series.  In fairness, several radio transmissions make it seem like Glen still lives, but this serves to highlight Iria’s desire not to have to stand on her own two feet.  I must say, one can hardly describe Iria as a weak or whinny character, but she begins to hope on occasions where she simply should not.

Kei's the one on the left.

Kei’s the one on the left.

Not the most perfect of beginnings, but they eventually get along.

Not the most perfect of beginnings, but they eventually get along.

Part of what helps her in this difficult time is meeting a young, orphaned gang member named Kei on the planet Taowajan, with whom Iria begins to form the beginnings of a mentor-pupil relationship like she had with Glen.  When Iria finally finds a government official in order to explain her status to him, Zeiram makes an appearance on this planet with only a slight wound to his sombrero (I’m unsure how to label it) and begins to slaughter the poor civilians.  After a government official brushes off Iria’s demand that they help these citizens by saying that crime should decrease without them, Iria enters the fray herself.

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By entering the combat, Iria basically places herself in Glen’s shoes completely: she becomes Glen.  It does not help that Kei, whom Iria had originally left behind, decides to fulfill Iria’s former role with Glen in aiding Iria’s fight.  Kei does things like refuel Iria’s space buggy and assist Iria at a critical moment.  Iria gives one of the most spectacularly hard-hitting fights in the series here, which is perhaps another sign of how she tries to be exactly like Glen rather than herself.  At any rate, Iria gets Zeiram into a teleporter and sends him off to an unknown location.  Circumstances did not permit of more accuracy.

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It was a very desperate fight to get him into the teleporter.  Sort of like taking my cat to the vet.

It was a very desperate fight to get him into the teleporter. Sort of like taking my cat to the vet.

At this point, Kei becomes absolutely enamored of Iria and will eventually follow her to Mycee, Iria’s home planet, just in time for the final battle.  Kei highlights the theme of Iria’s over masculinity by perfectly concealing her own femininity from all save the sharp nosed Fujikuro, who helps Iria per Bob’s orders.  (You may be saying, “Wait!  Wasn’t Bob mortally wounded on the Karma?”  Yes, he was.  Now, you really have to watch this OVA!)  In a rather silly but memorable scene at Taowajan, Kei provides another hint for us to see how Iria has emulated Glen to excess: when she accidentally falls on top of Iria, she grabs her breast and says “It’s soft!” to which Iria sarcastically replies (nevermind how the dub/sub translates it): “Shiranakatta,” literally “I did not know.”  This indicates that Iria is perhaps ignoring her true nature and is perhaps frustrated at being a woman.

I'd say that face says it all.

I’d say that face says it all.

As this article has already become too long, let me begin to wind down by focusing on perhaps the two most thematically important shower scenes in all of anime history.  (Yes, these may be the only shower scenes in anime which carry any weight.)  The first occurs after the battle at Mycee and shows her sitting in the shower with her arms wrapped around her knees from an above camera angle–effectively denying her femininity by concealing it.  The second occurs after a fight with Zeiram left her wounded in the abdomen and in a coma for three days.  It deserves some description.

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When she walks into the shower, the viewer is shocked to see her beautiful, full figure from the back.  Then, her full body is displayed from a side angle as she clutches her wound.  (Mind you, my eyes have focused on the corner of the screen by this point.)  Then, she looks at herself in the mirror.  The viewer is taken aback by the broadness of her shoulders–it seems like the animators made a mistake!  Then, with a stern look, she smashes the mirror with her fist.

The exhibition of her body emphasizes how much her femininity has been repressed by her fighting-style, clothing, and even attitude.  The wound which she clutches indicates her frustration with the weakness of her body.  The broadness of her shoulders in the mirror reflects how her efforts to become Glen have overmasculized her soul.  Worse than that, all her efforts have ended in this dismal failure!  She’s nothing but a weak woman!  And so, her spirit rebels and smashes the mirror.  This leads to about half an episode where she feels lost.

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But, the problem lies not in her sex, but rather that she has tried to become someone and something she is not.  To her, this feels like failure, but this step back leads her in the right direction, because it leads to a greater understanding of her true self.  Unfortunately, this feeling of failure leads to her giving up, as witnessed by her lackadaisical performance in the last Zeiram simulator and her wearing more feminine clothes than usual.  It takes Kei to break her out of this stupor by getting into Iria’s space buggy and saying that she’ll defeat Zeiram with a secret weapon–which does rather come in handy for the final battle!

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No one else could have brought Iria out of her self-pity so well.  Kei thinks of Iria not as a man, Glen, but as Iria, a woman.  So, if Kei believes that Iria has the stuff in her current condition, perhaps Iria truly does.  As Fujikuro and Bob try to dissuade her from this half-baked idea, Iria dons her hunter’s garb and shows up having borrowed Fujikuro’s craft, saying that she’ll take care of Zeiram.

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Even if all her doubts have not been completely resolved, she at last sees herself as neither Glen nor a failed, weak woman; but as a puissant, capable female hunter about to kick Zeiram’s ass!  And so, Iria only needs the final battle in order to find her true self.

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Found a Great Page on Padre Pio

It seems that everyone except me is busy posting this time of year.  (The certain result of my lazy nature.)  I don’t know where I’ll find the time to read them all.  At any rate, I’d like to share a page on Padre Pio which I found recently.  It has more pictures than I thought possible of this great saint as well as several amusing stories.  I confess that sometimes when I’m feeling particularly down, seeing Padre Pio often brightens my day.  It makes me wish we had photographs of more great saints, and wonder how great a consolation it would be if we even had one photograph of Our Lord.

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Anyway, I got to work on a paper now.  Hopefully, I’ll have an anime article up by this evening.

I had ideas about writing the following article, but it seemed to fit more on this blog than on Medieval Otaku. Which is just as well: I’ve hardly given Aquilon’s Eyrie any attention, so it’s about time for me to make an appearance here. I hope that you enjoy this article with a rather long title. 🙂

Aquilon's Eyrie

There have already been plenty of reviews of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; and so, I would like to avoid writing another review of this spectacular, action packed, hard-hitting, fantastic, and mesmerizing masterpiece filled with beautifully epic scenery, scintillating armor, and exquisite weapons which you absolutely must see otherwise you shall go to your grave regretting it.  Instead, I would like to concentrate on how relevant The Hobbit is to our day and age on the topic of courage.

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I remember reading a certain document which told the reader that one can become courageous through mortification, self-control, poverty of spirit, and hard work.  To an extent this is true, but how often do we find people possessing these traits who hesitate at the critical moment, thus passing up an opportunity to show this virtue?  This lies in the fact that the above qualities really perfect fortitude, which has a…

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Anime Amino

Just discovered a social networking app centered on anime: Anime Amino.  It’s a great place for sharing short articles, videos, pictures, favorite anime, etc.  It seems that most members refer to it in short hand with the abbreviation AA, which I find terribly amusing.  My handle on that app is the same as here: medievalotaku.  I believe TWWK of Beneath the Tangles is on there as well.

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Well, I’ve written one of the four papers I mentioned in my last post.  Now that I have three more to go, there ought to be more time to write serious, in-depth articles.  I hope you enjoy the funny poster below.

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By Kark-Jocke of desura.com

 

Invitation to Contact Me

Somehow, the idea of having a way for my dear readers to contact me and offer suggestions on how to improve my blog or articles which they’d like to read popped into my mind.  You may now contact me at medievalotaku@gmail.com. 

Looking forward to your suggestions!

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Oh, I just finished Humanity Has Declined, by the way.  I’ll have to blog on it now that my exams are done.  Though, I still have four papers due. 😦