Iliad and Odyssey

Odyssey, Blog 4, The Slaughter of the Suitors

When Odysseus had seen his departed mother in Hades she said from the shades, “your father stays among the fields, and comes to town no more. Bed he has none, no robes, no bright-hued rugs. Through the winter he sleeps in the house where the servants sleep, in the dust besides the fire, and wears upon his body sorry clothes. . . . There he lies in distress, woe waxing strong within him, longing for your return; and hard old age comes on. Even so I also died and met my doom. . . . longing for you, your wise ways, glorious Odysseus, and your tenderness, took joyous life away.” […]

Iliad and Odyssey

Odyssey, Blog 3, Odysseus Returns Home to Ithica

We get a rare glimpse into the lives of the slaves, the lives spent serving their masters, when Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, approaches the hovel of his swineherd Eumaeus, who chases away the dogs who snap at the stranger, offering hospitality to even an old beggar. “Old man, my dogs had nearly torn you to pieces here, all of a sudden, and so you would have brought reproach upon me. Ah well! The gods have given me other griefs and sorrows; for over my matchless master I sit and sign and groan, and tend fat hogs for other men to eat; while my master, hungry, wanders among lands and men who speak alien tongues, if he still lives and feels the sunshine. But follow me, old man, into the lodge, so that when you have eaten and drunk your fill, you may tell me where you come from and what troubles you have borne.” The good swineherd is more concerned about the beggar’s troubles than who he is. […]

Iliad and Odyssey

Odyssey, Blog 2, Odysseus Sings His Adventures

While the Cyclops was fast asleep from the wine, Odysseus and his men drove a large wooden stake into his one eye, blinding him. The Cyclops jumped up and tried feeling about for the men in vain. The next morning, they each escaped by hanging onto the bottom of the large sheep and rams as Cyclops let them out to pasture. After escaping the men loaded the sheep onto their ships, and Cyclops roared at them and threw boulders into the sea near their ships. […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Blog 5 Seeing life’s misfortunes through the eyes of our neighbor

Marcus Aurelius tells us that we should always remember that if men do not do right, we should assume that “they do so involuntarily and in ignorance. For as every soul is unwillingly deprived of the truth, so also is it unwillingly deprived of the power behaving as it should.”

We should “consider that we also do many things wrong, that we are merely men, that even when we refrain from certain faults, we still have the disposition to commit them, either through cowardice, concern about reputation, or some other mean motive.” […]

Iliad and Odyssey

Odyssey, Blog 1, Waiting Those Very Long Years For Odysseus

Just as the Iliad revolved around the need to show hospitality and respect to the enemy who had courage to enter your camp, often to ransom his relatives, or to fetch their bodies for a proper burial, so the Odyssey revolves around the need to show hospitality to strangers. Travel in the ancient world was arduous and hazardous, and if you did not show hospitality to stranger, or what the Greeks called xenia, the stranger could die. […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Blog 3 Genuine Friends Don’t Keep Scorecards

The Meditations admonish us, Do not be lazy! But then he says sometimes it is necessary to rest, but not in excess. Do not rest or eat or drink more than is sufficient, “so you do not love yourself.” What does a good emperor advise us, and also his successors? “Show those qualities that are altogether in your power: sincerity, gravity, endurance of labor, aversion to pleasure, contentment with what you have and with a simple life, benevolence, frankness, no love of frills, freedom from trifling magnanimity.” Do not grumble, do not be stingy, do not flatter, do not try to please men or show off. […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Blog 2, Others will be irritating, but not I!

Marcus Aurelius advises us in Book II to “begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them because they are ignorant of what is good and evil. . . I can neither be injured by any of these, for no one can force me to be ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him. […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius, Blog 1, Friend, or Foe, or Both, of Christianity?

Plato in his book “The Republic” said the ideal ruler would be a philosopher-king. This wish would come true under the rein of Marcus Aurelius, the last of the five good emperors of Rome, who ruled sometime after Nero but before the first Christian emperor Constantine. Marcus was not known as a philosopher during his lifetime, for his Stoic masterpiece, “Meditations,” was penned while he was on campaign as Emperor fighting the barbarian, probably as a series of reflections for his son. The “Meditations” did not circulate widely in antiquity, but gained recognition in the centuries following his reign. […]

Hillel and Jesus

Hillel and Jesus, Reflections

We can benefit from pondering Rabbi Telushkin’s discussion on the differences between Hillel and Jesus in his book on Hillel, which are really his views on the differences between Christianity and Judaism. IMHO these differences are more cultural than spiritual, spiritually these are differences in emphasis.

One major difference is while Jesus places a great emphasis on prayer, Hillel emphasizes studying the Torah. “For Hillel, study is essential for knowing and fulfilling your religious obligations, because virtue is not achieved through good intentions alone.” […]