Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2019

Of Insects and Men

Invisible denizens -- everywhere
Insects are all over the world – in and over the waters at the edge of the seas, in and over the waters of lakes, rivers and creeks and swamps and irrigation ditches. They thrive in the forests, mountains, deserts, land, cities, villages, in the tropics and in the homes of the poor and the powerful. Their populations are the largest of all other species. They have been occupying the Earth for 400 million years. 
However, insects are tiny, short-lived organisms, hiding for the most part under the surface of the land, crawling in the floor, among rocks, and on everything that has roots, trunk or leaves. So, unless they are beautiful like the Monarch butterflies and obviously very useful like honeybees, insects are invisible.    
We call scientists who study insects entomologists from the Greek word for insect, entomon, something that is divided in parts. Aristotle gave this name to insects, saying these parts or notches are on the bellies or the backs and b…

Literature and Theater During War: The Case of Hippolytus and Phaedra

We live under perpetual war. Yet the media and other cultural institutions are silent. They thrive on violence and trivia. I travelled to ancient Greece for an alternative model. Rereading Euripides’ play, Hippolytus, was gratifying. The play brought together 800 years  of Athenian history. The heat of the Peloponnesian War became the mirror for reexamining the past.  
The heat of war
I enjoyed the drama of Euripides in my student days, but did not think much about the tragic characters, the myth-history embedded in the play or its implications for Athenians, much less us. But now, decades later, the tragic play spoke to me directly.
Euripides’ play reached the theater in 428 BCE, three years after the start of the Peloponnesian War and one year after the death of Pericles, Athens’ preeminent political leader. The Peloponnesian War shook Greece, and Athens in particular, to the core. But why the war? What happened to the leadership of Pericles, the teaching of philosophy and science, the…

The Lure of the Past

Thinking back of what I did in my life brings pleasant and sad moments to my mind. If only I could correct my past errors! That’s history. Nations face the same dilemmas. History is irrevocable. History is civilization.
Misreading history
I recently read a very interesting but disturbing essay about history: past, present and the future. The author was the Russian writer Vladimir Sharov. He rejects any prospects we are capable of studying, much less learning, from history. 
He was probably so poisoned by his Soviet experience of enormous violence and death, he only sees manipulation of the past for the ephemeral needs of the present. As for the future, Sharov says, it is “cold, shorn of all detail, all the silliness and absurdity that distinguishes the living from the dead.”
I don’t agree with the elimination or fabrication of history. In fifth-century BCE Athens, Euripides, a great dramatic poet, equated the study and learning of history with science and happiness and citizenship. People…