Such Unexpected Pain

Aeschylus Persians, 93-100

“What mortal person will escape
A god’s crooked deception?
Who steps with a light enough foot
To leap away through the air?
For destruction is at first friendly, even fawning
As it draws someone aside into a trap
From which it is impossible for any mortal to escape
Or even avoid.”

δολόμητιν δ᾿ ἀπάταν θεοῦ
τίς ἀνὴρ θνατὸς ἀλύξει;
τίς ὁ κραιπνῷ ποδὶ πηδή-
ματος εὐπετέος ἀνάσσων;
φιλόφρων γὰρ ποτισαίνουσα τὸ πρῶτον παράγει
βροτὸν εἰς ἀρκύστατ᾿ Ἄτα,
τόθεν οὐκ ἔστιν ὑπὲκ θνατὸν ἀλύξαντα φυγεῖν.

167-166

“Light does not shine on the poor no matter how strong they are
Nor do the masses honor undefended wealth.”

μήτ᾿ ἀχρημάτοισι λάμπειν φῶς, ὅσον σθένος πάρα,
μήτε χρημάτων ἀνάνδρων πλῆθος ἐν τιμῇ σέβειν

290-295

“I have been silent for a while, struck with pains
By these evils. The disaster runs over all bounds
of speaking or asking about its suffering.
Still, necessity forces mortals to endure the pains
The gods send us. Pull yourself together,
Tell us everything that happened…”

σιγῶ πάλαι δύστηνος ἐκπεπληγμένη
κακοῖς· ὑπερβάλλει γὰρ ἥδε συμφορά,
τὸ μήτε λέξαι μήτ᾿ ἐρωτῆσαι πάθη.
ὅμως δ᾿ ἀνάγκη πημονὰς βροτοῖς φέρειν
θεῶν διδόντων· πᾶν δ᾿ ἀναπτύξας πάθος
λέξον καταστάς, κεἰ στένεις κακοῖς ὅμως·

262-264

“This old life has seemed
to have run too long,
To witness such unexpected pain.”

ἦ μακροβίοτος ὅδε γέ τις αἰ-
ὼν ἐφάνθη γεραιοῖς, ἀκού-
ειν τόδε πῆμ᾿ ἄελπτον.

588-603

“Friends, whoever gains some practice in troubles
Understands that when a wave of troubles come
We mortals tend to fear everything.
But when a god makes things easy, you think
You’ll always sail under the same favorable wind.”

φίλοι, κακῶν μὲν ὅστις ἔμπειρος κυρεῖ,
ἐπίσταται βροτοῖσιν ὡς ὅταν κλύδων
κακῶν ἐπέλθῃ, πάντα δειμαίνειν φιλεῖ,
ὅταν δ᾿ ὁ δαίμων εὐροῇ, πεποιθέναι
τὸν αὐτὸν αἰὲν ἄνεμον οὐριεῖν τύχης.

Rock Relief of Xerxes

Teaching–“the most rigorous form of learning”

Solon, fr. 18

“I grow old, always learning many things.”

γηράσκω δ’ αἰεὶ πολλὰ διδασκόμενος·

Kim Stanley Robinson The Years of Rice and Salt (2003: 758)

“Over time, Bao came to understand that teaching too was a kind of reincarnation, in that years passed and students came and went, new young people all the time, but always the same age, taking the same class; the class under the oak trees, reincarnated. He began to enjoy that aspect of it. He would start the first class by saying, “Look, here we are again.” They never knew what to make of it; same response, every time.

He learned, among other things, that teaching was the most rigorous form of learning. He learned to learn more from his students than they did from him; like so many other things, it was the reverse from what it seemed to be, and colleges existed to bring together groups of young people to teach some chosen few of their elders the things that they knew about life, that the old teachers had been in danger of forgetting.”

Kim Stanley Robinson is great-souled. This book is beyond simple description. Try it.

Thinking about aging today? Here is another great reflection on aging, teaching, and changing roles in life by Stephanie McCarter.

Image result for herakles and geras

Why Does Odysseus Cry over His Dog but Not His Wife?

Plutarch, De Tranquilitate 475a

 

“The poet illustrates well how powerful the unexpected can be. For Odysseus wept when his dog was fawning on him, but he showed no emotion at all when he sat next to his weeping wife. In the second scene, he arrived with his emotions in hand and managed by reason, but in the earlier he encountered something surprising, all of a sudden, without expecting it.”

 

εὖ δὲ καὶ ὁ ποιητὴς οἷόν ἐστι τὸ παρὰ προσδοκίαν ἐδίδαξεν· ὁ γὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς τοῦ μὲν κυνὸς σαίνοντος ἐξεδάκρυσε (ρ 302. 304), τῇ δὲ γυναικὶ κλαιούσῃ παρακαθήμενος οὐδὲν ἔπαθε τοιοῦτον (τ 211)· ἐνταῦθα μὲν γὰρ ἀφῖκτο τῷ λογισμῷ τὸ πάθος ὑποχείριον ἔχων καὶ προκατειλημμένον, εἰς δ’ ἐκεῖνον μὴ προσδοκήσας ἀλλ’ ἐξαίφνης *** διὰ τὸ παράδοξον ἐνέπεσε.

 

Here’s the  moment in question:
Hom. Odyssey 17.300-305

“There lay the dog, Argos, covered with pests.
But then, where he recognized that Odysseus was coming near,
He wagged his tail and flattened both ears,
But he could no longer rise to meet his master.
Then Odysseus looked sideways and wiped away a tear,
Easily escaping Eumaios’ notice; then he questioned him.”

ἔνθα κύων κεῖτ’ ῎Αργος ἐνίπλειος κυνοραιστέων.
δὴ τότε γ’, ὡς ἐνόησεν ᾿Οδυσσέα ἐγγὺς ἐόντα,
οὐρῇ μέν ῥ’ ὅ γ’ ἔσηνε καὶ οὔατα κάββαλεν ἄμφω,
ἄσσον δ’ οὐκέτ’ ἔπειτα δυνήσατο οἷο ἄνακτος
ἐλθέμεν· αὐτὰρ ὁ νόσφιν ἰδὼν ἀπομόρξατο δάκρυ,
ῥεῖα λαθὼν Εὔμαιον, ἄφαρ δ’ ἐρεείνετο μύθῳ·

Go here for the full scene (the tale of Argos’ youth and his sudden death…)

Sometimes Happiness Will Kill You (Aulus Gellius, 3.15)

Literature and popular memory holds that sudden, unhoped for joy has killed many, when the breath is stalled and incapable of enduring the force of a new, and large emotion.

The philosopher Aristotle reports that when Polycrita heard happy but unexpected news without warning, the noblewoman from the island of Naxos expired. Philippides as well, a comic poet of no mean talent, died of joy itself when he learned he was victorious in a poet’s competition at an advanced age.

The story of Diagoras of Rhodes is also well known. That Diagoras had three children, one was a boxer, the second was a mixed-martial artist, and the third a wrestler. He watched all three win victories and be crowned on one day at the Olympics. When the three embraced him there and kissed him as they placed their garlands on his head; even as the people were throwing flowers on him in congratulations, he wheezed out his soul in that same stadium amid the kisses and the embraces as the people watched.

I have read written in our annals  that when the Roman army was destroyed in the storm at Cannae, a messenger afflicted an elderly mother with grief and sorrow over the death of her son. But the messenger was wrong! The youth returned to the city from the battle not much later. When the old woman say her son, she was so overcome by a confused, ruinous torrent of unhoped for joy that she immediately died.”

15 Exstare in litteris perque hominum memorias traditum, quod repente multis mortem attulit gaudium ingens insperatum interclusa anima et vim magni novique motus non sustinente.

1 Cognito repente insperato gaudio exspirasse animam refert Aristoteles philosophus Polycritam, nobilem feminam Naxo insula. 2 Philippides quoque, comoediarum poeta haut ignobilis, aetate iam edita, cum in certamine poetarum praeter spem vicisset et laetissime gauderet, inter illud gaudium repente mortuus est. 3 De Rhodio etiam Diagora celebrata historia est. Is Diagoras tris filios adulescentis habuit, unum pugilem, alterum pancratiasten, tertium luctatorem. Eos omnis vidit vincere coronarique Olympiae eodem die et, cum ibi cum tres adulescentes amplexi coronis suis in caput patris positis saviarentur, cum populus gratulabundus flores undique in eum iaceret, ibidem in stadio inspectante populo in osculis atque in manibus filiorum animam efflavit. 4 Praeterea in nostris annalibus scriptum legimus, qua tempestate apud Cannas exercitus populi Romani caesus est, anum matrem nuntio de morte filii adlato luctu atque maerore affectam esse; sed is nuntius non verus fuit, atque is adulescens non diu post ex ea pugna in urbem redit: anus repente filio viso copia atque turba et quasi ruina incidentis inopinati gaudii oppressa exanimataque est.

Archilochus. fr 122.2-4: Nothing is Unexpected (The Eclipse)

 

“Nothing is now unexpected, foresworn and

Nothing amazes since father Zeus the Olympian

Veiled the light to make it night at midday.”

 

χρημάτων ἄελπτον οὐδέν ἐστιν οὐδ’ ἀπώμοτον

οὐδὲ θαυμάσιον, ἐπειδὴ Ζεὺς πατὴρ ᾿Ολυμπίων

ἐκ μεσαμβρίης ἔθηκε νύκτ’, ἀποκρύψας φάος