philosophy

The History and Origins of Christmas

Elliot’s Note about this article

this article is not meant to be exhaustive; the history of Christmas is an enormous subject with lots of cultural history from the civilizations throughout recorded time.

Christmas is primarily a christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus. However; it is speculated that the date of the 25th of December was chosen because it is exactly 9 months before the day of his conception, on March 25th which is the Spring Equinox. There is some evidence to suggest Jesus was actually born in December; however the sources aren’t very good[1]. Some believe that the celestial event of the star of Bethlehem, which could have been in June; or perhaps October[2]. The evidence isn’t clear, in my opinion. Generally Jesus is considered to have been born between 6-4 BCE because King Herod died in 4 BC.

When and Where was Jesus Born?

Jesus was most likely born in Bethlehem, a town in the West Bank in the Judean Hills of Jerusalem; currently this is contested by Israel and Palestine and not a good place to visit due to the Isaeli/Palestinian conflict (12/2023)[5]. The Church of the Nativity, built in the 4th century, is one of the oldest continuously used churches in the world founded by St. Justin Martyr, a 2nd-century Christian apologist.

I believe that it is likely that Jesus was born in Nazareth, his hometown, and that the journey to Bethlehem was added later to satisfy the Old Testament prediction which fulfilled the prophecy of the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), which is currently debated by scholars. I don’t think there is enough evidence to truly know this. This account only exists in the book of Matthew and is supported by the gospel of Luke. Bethlehem, meaning “house of bread” in Hebrew, was known for its fertile land, which ensured bountiful harvests.

It is likely that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. According to modern biblical scholars; there are two competing theories as to why this date was chosen for Christmas:

First, The “Calculation hypothesis” suggests that this date was calculated as nine months after March 25th, believed to be the day of Jesus’ conception.

Second, which I believe, the “History of Religions” hypothesis, proposes that the Church chose December 25th to coincide with Roman pagan festivals, particularly the birthday of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus), a popular deity during the later Roman Empire.

There is no definitive evidence of the day of Jesus’ birth, although it is possible that it was December 25th.

A Strange Coincidence?

The festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the “birthday” of the unconquered sun, was celebrated on December 25th. This date later became significant in Christianity as it was chosen as the date to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. The choice of this date for Christmas is often seen as a way to Christianize or replace the popular pagan festival. The worship of Sol Invictus may have influenced early Christian practices. The use of solar imagery in Christian iconography, as well as the adoption of December 25th for Christmas, are examples of possible intersections between the two traditions. After Constantine the Great embraced Christianity, the significance of Sol Invictus began to wane, although the cult continued for some time. Its legacy, however, can be seen in various aspects of Roman culture that persisted even after the adoption of Christianity as the empire’s state religion. The worship of Sol Invictus was established in Rome by Emperor Aurelian[6] in 274 AD, although the concept of a sun god was not new and had been a part of Roman religion in various forms. This particular cult combined aspects of earlier Roman sun gods like Sol with elements from other deities, especially from Eastern religions.

It is most likely that this holiday was created as a way to merge traditional paganism with the up-and-coming tenets and celebratory practices of Christians; but that’s just my opinion.

Christmas Trees, Decoration, and Lights

Evergreen Christmas Trees

have a fascinating history. Humans have worshipped, or appreciated trees for a very long time. The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the Devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime.

In Germany placing a Yule tree at an entrance or inside the house during the midwinter holidays became popular in the 16th century, because of the garden of Eden mythos. It said believed that Protestant reformer Martin Luther was the first to add lighted candles to a tree, inspired by the starlit sky as he walked home one winter night. The Christmas tree symbolizes life and rebirth in the midst of winter. Early trees were adorned with fruits, nuts, and later, candles. The custom spread throughout Europe and was brought to America by German immigrants. It became enormously popular in the 19th century, especially in England after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were depicted in a published illustration with their decorated Christmas tree. Thanks Europe!

The Rise in popularity of Victorian Christmas Traditions

Henry Cole invented the Christmas Card in 1843

At the dawn of the 19th century, Christmas was hardly celebrated – at least, not in a way we would recognize today. It was Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the V&A, who introduced the idea of the Christmas card in 1843. Cole commissioned the artist J.C. Horsley to design a festive scene for his seasonal greeting cards and had 1000 printed (you can see the first cards here) – those he didn’t use himself were sold to the public. Later in the century, improvements to the chromolithographic printing process made buying and sending Christmas cards affordable for everyone.[10] Increased prosperity across Britain saw a rising market for mass-produced toys, decorations and novelty items such as the Christmas cracker. Inspired by bon bons (French sweets wrapped in paper) he saw during a trip to Paris, sweetshop owner Tom Smith first invented the cracker in the 1840s. It wasn’t until the 1860s, when Smith perfected its explosive ‘bang’ that the Christmas cracker as we know it today became a popular seasonal staple. Along with a joke, gifts inside could range from small trinkets such as whistles and miniature dolls to more substantial items like jewellery. The Victorian age placed great importance on family, so it follows that Christmas was celebrated at home. This creates a logical depiction of how and why we celebrate Christmas in the nuclear and extended family; the presents are stylistically very similar to what evolved during the Victorian era of Great Britain.

Lights at Christmas

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while many German Americans continued to use apples, nuts and marzipan cookies. Stringed popcorn was added to trees’ decoration after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.[8]

The earliest lights were candles in the 17th century. This posed significant fire hazards and many tools were adopted to keep homes from burning down. Then, in 1882, Edward Johnson, Thomas Edison’s associate invented the first string of Christmas lights in red, white, and blue; three years after Edison invented the light bulb. Grover Cleveland displayed an electric lit Christmas tree in the White House in 1895, but adoption was still low due to the cost of lights. Once the cost of lights went down, they were widely adopted across the US and numerous technological advancements in lighting led to LED lights. Now, lights symbolize joy, celebration, and the bringing of light during the darkest time of the year. The story of Christmas lights is a testament to how technological advancements can transform cultural practices and create new traditions that last for generations.

Conclusion

From ancient Egypt to Bethlehem to modern America, from the birth of Jesus to celebrating the garden of Eden in Germany to making LED shows with high-tech lightning on giant evergreen trees; this is the history and evolution of the wonderful holiday we know as Christmas. Celebrate away humans! (if you have questions or additions, comment!)

References
  1. Wikipedia – Jesus’ Date of Birth
  2. LiveScience – When was Jesus Born?
  3. Britannica – Biography of Jesus
  4. Wikipedia – Chronology of Jesus
  5. Smart Traveller – Israel and Palestine Occupied Territories
  6. Wikipedia – Emperor Aurelian
  7. Britannica – Christmas Tree
  8. History.com – History of Christmas Trees
  9. National Geographic – History of Christmas Trees
  10. vam.ac.uk – Victorian Christmas Traditions
  11. Wikipedia – Sir Henry Cole
  12. The First Christmas Cards

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Aristotle’s Ethics, Karma, and the Philosophy of the Good

Aristotle lived from 384 B.C.E. to 322 B.C.E. He is widely regarded as one of the best philosophers of all time; up there with Plato and Socrates of Ancient Greece. For the sake of riling you up, I’m going to say that Socrates was the best philosopher in all aspects except one; his hubris. Socrates never wrote anything down. It is a shame that he did not make a greater contribution to the human race through a story, or some kind of literature for children. Just my two cents.

Modern Psychology

In modern psychology, the pursuit of knowledge is linked to a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and personal growth, which are key components of well-being and happiness. This is often referred to as “eudaimonic happiness,” and contrasts to “hedonic happiness,” which is based on pleasure and avoidance of pain. Happiness is probably a good goal for a human to have; and suffering seems to be an important way to get there. Our lives seem to be very balanced in how we view our successes and in contrast our suffering; perhaps a balance of both is what we are really looking for in our journey on Earth.

Socrates’ Skeptical View of Virtue

Socrates famously asserted that an unexamined life is not worth living, suggesting that understanding and knowledge are essential to a meaningful, ethical, and thus happy life. In Socrates view, true happiness comes from self-awareness and the continuous quest for knowledge.

Aristotle claims that there is a way to achieve this happiness. Happiness is achieved through pursuit of excellence and goodness. “Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be central to a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues (justice, courage, temperance and so on) as complex rational, emotional and social skills.[3]” Ethics and morals are what make human societies possible.

Aristotle goes on to talk more specifically about how to create goodness, through fine art, construction, horsemanship, military strategy, flute playing, and home construction. He does have one more line that I think is very relevant to today’s society: “the end is some product over and above the mere exercise of the art; and in the arts whose ends are certain things beside the practice of the arts themselves, these products are essentially superior in value to the activities”. I think this can apply to construction in a big way, especially home building.

Aristotle’s views of desire intersect intriguingly with the concept of Maya in Hinduism; the illusion of perception. Aristotle goes further to say that all desire is futile and vain; the end must be the best good, ideally the supreme good (all caps), a concept we also see in the Hinduism; Moksha, or release from Samsara in death in the ultimate goal of life in Hinduism.

Ethics and Religion

Max Brückner  (1836–1919
Max Bruckner (1836-1918), The Walhalla, backdrop for the scenic design of The Ring of the Nibelungs by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Bayreuth, Richard-…

In all of the religions on planet Earth, there are a few similarities in terms of the realms of reality and the afterlife. There is always some kind of hell: Naraka[5] in Jainism Buddhism and Hinduism, the Fields of Punishment in Ancient Greece, The 9 circles of hell in Dante’s inferno; in Islam, Jahannam is believed to be a space below the Earth, with physical, psychological, and spiritual punishments. There is also, always (except for Judaism), some kind of heaven: however it is usually dystopic. (except in the case of Christianity) In the eastern religions, the heavenly realms are chaotic; there is a titan/demigod realm in Buddhism where beings are very powerful and also conflict jealously with each other. Elysian fields, the Hall of Valhalla in Asgard, Tir na nOg in Celtic mythology, the Field of Reeds (Aaru) in Egyptian mythology, and the final abode of Jannah in Islam.

There is always a heavenly realm that humans enter from creating a good, or purposeful life; there is also the existence of a realm of great suffering that is granted to the wicked and immoral. All of these myths and legends and stories and religions can be applied to modern psychology through the lens of the Hero’s Journey and comparative mythology. They are a map to consciousness and what it is like to be a human being; they are all applicable to our lives in various ways, once we learn to look inwards.

A Map for Happiness

What we get out of all this is that religion, and more importantly the stories within are the ultimate guide to mental equilibrium in the contemporary world. The ethics embedded in religion, such as The 10 commandments are meant to provide us with a way for living a happy and fulfilled life. It teaches us how to interact with each other in a net-positive way, or a way that can benefit all of society, including ourselves. More and more research is being conducted and developed regarding interactions between humans as creating more overall satisfaction in life. We are indeed social animals that prefer to interact with each other in person. “we anticipate that an explicit recognition of the interactionist perspective will foster greater attention to the complexities of happiness, particularly in the domain of human sociality, which involves especially rich and potent webs of interaction”[19]. Some of this new research is very exciting for helping humanity to get more satisfaction out of life.

In the end, Karma and a good, productive life can’t be expressed for you; you have to create it.

Philosophical Concept list:

  1. phronesis – pactical wisdom
  2. arete – virtue
  3. eudaimonia – true happiness
  4. agape – unconditional love
  5. the Hero’s Journey – The continuous quest for knowledge
  6. ethical universalism
References:
  1. Wikipedia – Nicomachean Ethics
  2. MIT – Nicomachean Ethics
  3. Stanford.edu – Aristotle’s Ethics
  4. National Library of Medicine – On happiness and human potentials: a review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being
  5. Wikipedia – Naraka
  6. The ARC of the Hero’s Journey
  7. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – the Upanishads
  8. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Daoism
  9. Oxford Bibliographies – Upanishads
  10. OLL – Upanishads
  11. Britannica – Upanishads
  12. Open Stax – Daoism
  13. Stanford Encyclopedia – Daoism
  14. Oxford Bibliographies – religious traditions of China
  15. Hawaii.edu – Journal of Daoist studies
  16. Introduction to the Special Theme “Daoist Philosophy and Philosophical Daoism: Conceptual Distinctions”
  17. The Perseus Project – Aristotle
  18. Wikipedia – Jannaham
  19. The Human Journal of Well-Being – Happiness: An Interactionist Perspective
  20. study.com – Hubris in Greek Mythology

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Instagram-logo-now-with-an-intensely-toxic-and-poisonous-appearance.

Instagram is Toxic and Dangerous

Instagram-logo-now-with-an-intensely-toxic-and-poisonous-appearance.
Instagram Toxicity Depicted

Instagram has become a dangerous and toxic menace to society at large. Meta is truly one of the most irresponsible companies in history allowing for popularity to take precedent over decency, in regards to violating the rights of its users and therefore, of the youngest generation of humanity. Social media is wrecking the lives of American youth by allowing toxic, even violent behavior. Does Facebook still sell our email addresses? Their ethics seem to be non-existant. Many other tech companies are facing scrutiny for the affect their technologies have on the user base.

Honestly I do believe that Instagram has become an extinction level threat. The toxic negative impacts of the irresponsibly managed company have already destroyed countless lives. Why don’t you report on that Instagram? In combination with the lack of responsible government oversight and regulation and obvious corruption, Instagram could cause the destruction of America and humanity. The failure of America’s government and American academic institutions and cannot be overstated. The social media companies are obviously also to blame.

Here are the leaked documents from Facebook and Instagram:

“In a blog post, Facebook released two slide decks that had informed the Wall Street Journal’s bombshell report(WSJ) from mid-September indicating that the company knew from internal research conducted in 2019 that its subsidiary platform Instagram was harming the mental health of teen girls, particularly when it comes to body image.”

“More than a year after the Facebook Papers dramatically revealed Big Tech’s abuse, social media companies have made only small, slow steps to clean up their act,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CNN Business) The Facebook and Instagram wellness hubs make ABSOLUTELY no mention of the data of these analyses, the statistics, or the math. They are trying to hide the tremendous amounts of negative data about them.

Children and even young adults shouldn’t have access to social media. The data is very clear. They aren’t ready for that kind of hyper-connectedness. They need strong nuclear family connections and during development these kinds of products are far too influential on them and turn them into products for advertisers and the social media companies.

The negative impacts of Instagram on youth culture in America have been a subject of growing concern for the adults populations at large. As various studies and reports highlight significant adverse effects, more studies are released about the harmful quality of the algorithms involved in the platform’s popularity and engagements. This is all supported scientifically, you can see the sources at the bottom of the article. There are a lot of them, because this is a well-documented problem.

Key issues involving social media use for non-adults include:

  1. Body Image and Self-Esteem Issues: Instagram has been linked to negative effects on young people’s feelings about their appearance and body satisfaction. The platform can exacerbate risks for eating disorders and other mental health concerns such as depression and low self-esteem. A study cited by The Wall Street Journal found that 32% of teen girls felt worse about their bodies after using Instagram, indicating that the platform can significantly alter how young women view and describe themselves. Sounds pretty dangerous and mentally poisonous.
  2. Mental Health Concerns: Instagram’s design, which capitalizes on the biological drive for social belonging, encourages continuous scrolling and engagement. This mechanism has been associated with mental health issues like depression, social anxiety, and self-esteem problems and is called . Exposure to Instagram’s narcissistically oriented content, driven by a business model focused on maximizing user attention, can have cumulative negative impacts over time.
  3. Increased Mental Distress and Suicidality: Research implicates smartphone and social media use, including Instagram, in the rise of mental distress, self-injurious behavior, and suicidality among youth. The effects are particularly pronounced among girls, suggesting a dose-response relationship between social media usage and mental health issues. Suicide numbers are difficult to discern directly because of the amount of coinciding variables in a suicide; however rates have steadily increased with the adoption of social media as a norm. Cyber-bullying has also contributed to this numeric increase in a significant way.

“Most teens report at mental health issue” -<(instagram reports)>.

The Mental Health concerns can be further categorized:

  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Body Dissatisfaction
  • Body Dysmorphia

As an adult that once was a kid with the internet, putting hyperconnectedness into the hands of the youth is irresponsible at best. The highlight reel effect is omnipresent on the platform and the internet as a whole and isn’t really understood by most folks. Kids need to be taught this kind of stuff in school; parents can’t be relied on to teach their kids this stuff because a lot of them don’t know about it. Kids need parents to help them navigate the thick and difficult world of technology that has become more and more predatory over time, from video games, to social media, to conspiracy theories, to just general laziness and confirmation bias and a sense of privilege and narcissism that seems to have become rampant in American society. Teachers, educators, and family, parents, brothers sisters, etc. typically share values to create humility. That’s why we generally both love and hate the time around our parents.

With the advent of all of this new, super powerful technology, we are at a crossroads of a civilization, especially in this country. America can either learn to be ethical, to strive for the greatest good, or we will become a corrupt pile of shit-bags that just want to argue and compete with each other to be the best in some imagined competition. There is always hope for something greater.

These findings underscore the need for greater awareness about time spent on social media. and intervention strategies to mitigate the harmful effects of Instagram on the mental health and wellbeing of young people in America. If you know someone that is spending way too much time on Instagram, or Facebook, or any other platform, you should tell them. Be their friend in real life.

What Precautions can you take to Mitigate the Negative Impacts of Social Media

  1. Take a break every 10 minutes. Try not to spend more than an hour on social media. TikTok has proven to be a data feed for China and its algorithm is very different for Americans and Chinese citizens. In a court filing, the former employee of ByteDance, Yintao Yu, alleged that the CCP spied on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in 2018 by using “backdoor” access to TikTok to identify and monitor the activists’ locations and communications. There is certainly potential for this to happen to Americans, through Instagram and Facebook.
  2. Remember that Instagram is highly manipulated. It is literally subsidized by the FBI, Homeland Security, and the State Department to monitor potential terrorist activity (this is actually a good thing right now, imo). However, even when you use your privacy settings, your social media accounts are not totally private. How much privacy an American citizen gets should at least be a matter of debate for the people, as well as our representatives. In most cases, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media companies will voluntarily share your information and personal messages with law enforcement agencies, whether they have a warrant or not[21].
  3. No one actually looks like the actors do in movies (although some are undoubtedly more attractive in reality because of their distinctive, unique, and charismatic personalities). Don’t compare yourself to others on the platform; deep friendships and family relationships are the most rewarding according to modern psychological data[20].
  4. There are significant weaknesses in Facebook’s and Instagram’s algorithms. They are very flawed. Deep connections are created and fostered in real life; digitalization of friendship simply isn’t rewarding to us. Social media is most effectively used as an enhancement to real life interaction, not the other way around.
  5. Limit your social media use. 30 minutes per day, per platform is probably a lot, but reasonable for a younger adult. More time on a site might be acceptable for work; if you are growing a business on social media sites, I say good luck to you. Use it for friendship.
  6. Explain to your kids what Instagram is. Teach them how it is flawed and how reality truly work.
  7. Spend more time with your children and kids in general in the analog world. It’s where we are meant to be.
References:
  1. BMC Psychology
  2. Faces engage us: photos with faces attract more likes and comments on Instagram
  3. Instagram Use, Loneliness, and Social Comparison Orientation: Interact and Browse on Social Media, But Don’t Compare
  4. What the brain ‘Likes’: neural correlates of providing feedback on social media
  5. Effects of Instagram Body Portrayals on Attention, State Body Dissatisfaction, and Appearance Management Behavioral Intention
  6. The Interaction between Serotonin Transporter Allelic Variation and Maternal Care Modulates Instagram Sociability in a Sample of Singaporean Users
  7. Instagram use and young women’s body image concerns and self-objectification: Testing mediational pathways
  8. The impact of excessive Instagram use on students’ academic study: a two-stage SEM and artificial neural network approach
  9. The Power of the Like in Adolescence: Effects of Peer Influence on Neural and Behavioral Responses to Social Media
  10. Cue-Reactivity Among Young Adults With Problematic Instagram Use in Response to Instagram-Themed Risky Behavior Cues: A Pilot fMRI Study
  11. Peer Influence Via Instagram: Effects on Brain and Behavior in Adolescence and Young Adulthood
  12. Instagram and Seizure: Knowledge, Access, and Perception of Circulating Information on the Internet
  13. Oxytocin Receptor Gene Polymorphisms and Early Parental Bonding Interact in Shaping Instagram Social Behavior
  14. SnapChat Parental Guide
  15. Facebook is hitting the brakes on Instagram for kids
  16. Cisomag.com – Instagram data breach! 49 million users’ sensitive data exposed online
  17. Slate.com – The Most Damning Thing We’ve Learned About Instagram Yet
  18. Firstpost.com – Leaked documents reveal Meta knew Instagram was pushing girls towards content that harmed mental health
  19. Vice.com – Leaked Documents Show How Instagram Polices Stories
  20. Instagram Psych Files on Appearance Based Social Comparison
  21. Study.com – Things that make people happy
  22. werksmanjackson.com – Is the Government Monitoring Your Social Media Accounts?
  23. Brennan Center of Justice – Federal Government Social Media Surveillance Explained

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The_School_of_Athens_by_Raffaello_Sanzio_da_Urbino

Socrates and the Importance of Skepticism in the Modern World

Lysippos’ Socrates

It has never been more important to question what is happening in today’s society; the news, entertainment, commercials, and the advent of A.I. is propelling us towards a world where people will believe almost anything easily and readily. In this new world, it is important to be skeptical of everything and to question all of the information that you receive. This is one of the fundamental aspects of epistemology or theory of knowledge and is core to western philosophy.

Once upon a time, in ancient Athens, there was a man who walked around owning nothing and arguing with everybody about how dumb they were. He birthed the philosophical movement of skepticism. He might be one of the few humans in all of history that was uncorrupted by money and power. His name, was Socrates.

Born of a stone-cutter and a midwife in 469, Socrates particularly liked to argue with a group of people who called themselves Sophists. They were the lawyers of ancient Greece; orators, public speakers, mouths for hire in an oral culture. His arguments with the sophists became the basis for logic and dialogues and influenced the youth of Athenian society, ultimately leading to his death.

Socrates was extremely disruptive to Athenian society, but he didn’t write anything down. He was remembered by his students, Plato and Xenophon through their work who each had different account of Socrates. He is credited with founding western philosophy through his student Plato and his student, Aristotle and is also credited with founding epistemology through his Socratic method, which was largely based on incubation and midwifery.

Indeed the Oracle of Delphi claimed there was no wiser man alive. He was also a veteran of the Peloponnesian war.

He was polarizing and disruptive figure in Athenian society, so much so that he was sentenced to death for impiety and corrupting youth. He spent his last days in prison, refusing offers to help him escape, which is recored in Plato’s Apology and Xenophon’s Apologia.

The Imprisonment of Socrates

is also recorded in Plato’s Crito, who was a rich Athenian that came to aid Socrates while he was imprisoned. He told a very calm and collected and even happy Socrates that he was to be sentenced to death. Socrates responded with his visions of a dream of a goddess and her calling him to Phthia which is a reference to the Illiad, and was the home of Achilles.

Socrates (rubbing chin) and Plato (under tree) from a mosaic from Pompeii

One of the most powerful things that Socrates says is that opinions of the educated should be taken into consideration and that the opinions of those with subjective biases or beliefs may be disregarded. Likewise, the popularity of an opinion does not make it valid. Socrates uses the analogy of an athlete listening to his physician rather than his supporters because the physician’s knowledge makes his opinion more valuable.[20] The dialogue becomes lengthy and ends with Socrates refusing Crito’s help for the greater good of Athenian Society.

This gives us some brief insight into the life of Socrates and his insights into society, justice, and logic.

The Athenian Trial of Socrates

Socrates was an incredible human. He refused to escape prison until his dying breath and his trial still puzzles historians in the biggest way. The trial of Socrates in 399 BC contained two charges: asabeia (impiety) and the corruption of the youth of the city state of Athens. He was basically questioning the authority of the local government through their religious practices. His elenctic method of questioning was imitated by the youth and was a threat to the credibility of his competitor intellectuals credibility of men of wisdom and virtue. His trial lasted a day and he willingly drank poisoned hemlock to end it all; happily ending his life for the city that he believed in. Socrates’ death as described in Crito corresponds very closely to the Hindu concept of Moksa, or the release of a soul from Samsara after death in that he was released from the cycles of death and rebirth by breaking his karmic cycle.

We should all aim to be more like Socrates, willing to sacrifice ourselves for the greater good of our fellow man and for the youth of our society. Our karmic legacy is all that will endure.

THE END
Header Image by artiphoria.ai (thanks!)

References:

  1. Wikipedia – Socrates
  2. Queensorough Community College – Sophists
  3. MIT – Classics – Crito by Plato
  4. Famous Trials – Socrates
  5. Wikipedia – Socratic Method
  6. IPL – Socrates’ and Epistemology

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Split Worlds

Life Update: Split Between Worlds

Split Worlds of Yoga, Landscaping, EDM and Art

Sometimes, I want to just focus on one thing, but I seem to live within three split worlds. I’m almost always working. Teaching yoga isn’t lucrative enough to focus on completely, landscaping isn’t really a sustainable profession outside of my 20s and 30s, nor is it very lucrative, and music actually doesn’t make me money at all yet, though someday soon I hope it does. I want to play live (and am almost ready to), which is where all of the money is!

My music is starting to get hot. Check back in soon for updates on what I’m making for y’all.

Expressing Elliot’s Art

My focus is on creating the type of art that I appreciate, love, and feel. Honestly, its not worth it if I don’t appreciate what I’m doing, the process will become unsustainable, which in work is the name of the game. I love making music and teaching yoga, and landscaping, but get torn between the three as I try to grow.

My yoga teaching has certainly improved drastically over the past couple of years. I try to bring my own style into the art as much as possible to express what I have inside of me and share. This is true of teaching yoga, writing, composing, sound design, this blog, making music videos, etc. I am trying to express myself! It is extraordinarily time consuming to do all these things in my own way because I have to literally develop the style from scratch! And I get pretty hard on myself sometimes. And then when I’m not feeling it, I have to go back to the drawing board and completely rethink what the hell I am doing! It’s crazy how much effort I am putting into this stuff!

Unique Flavors

I am constantly working to create something that no one has ever done before. It’s part of why I am making my own visual for music and why I want to DJ and teach yoga at the same time. My sounds are all my own, next to the library professional drum and synth samples that I have collected and analyzed over the last 3 years, and I am slowly collecting all of the top-of-the-line software  that I am learning to use optimally within my productions. Yoga is something that has always been very personal to me, so learning how to develop my style of teaching is also really helping me to develop my style of ddm production.

Getting Equipment

I finally have my instrument and am in the process of learning how to use it in sync with my computer to create the kind of beats that I have been making in the last 3 years.

Yoga is really cool because it doesn’t require equipment at all. If the state of California weren’t a bunch of money grubbing bastards, I could start an entire business in a public park. No wonder that state wants a piece of yoga.

Landscaping is actually a lot like music in this regard. Good equipment helps to get the job done exponentially faster and with higher quality in the finished product. Plus, power tools are so much fun to use!

No time for Wasting

Tons of my new songs are very very close to ready for release. Yesterday I spent the day getting organized and designing sounds. I’m getting close to the majority of tracks from the album. Most of them are fully structured, but the chord progressions and melodies all need work. I will release the album progressively as it helps people to digest the tracks (I honestly should re-release some of the tracks from 0, I feel like they are under-appreciated).

Yoga teaching is going phenomenally, though it always has its rough patches. I am really getting into my own flow and style and it is simply awesome to see that dream begin to form into reality. People are starting to get my message as I become more fluent in communicating it. Honestly, there are few things in this world as rewarding as communicating with and assisting other people in achieving what they want.

Landscaping is also going great, I have completely landscaped my mom’s backyard in Auburn. I am working on a multi-leveled trenching permaculture system to bring water to plants as it flows. I’ll do a post about the garden soon, once fall starts to hit. Landscaping makes decent money on the side of yoga and I get to spend time outside, so it works out great.

Conclusions of Split Worlds

Lots of the time, I wish I could just make music full time. I love contrasting melodies against basses and synthesizing sounds that I’ve never heard before and turning them into fat beats. Teaching yoga is such an important part of clearing my mind to create. I honestly couldn’t imagine one without the other. My main jobs are like the yin-yang, countering each other. Landscaping kind of sits between the two.

Anyways, here’s to the end of July! On 9/1 I am going to release my HAZE EP so get stoked. I will release the tracks progressively, as usual. I’ve also just finished a collab, and it is a very cool track. Be on the look-out from some live streams and yoga youtube tutorials, hoping to start them soon!

ttyl,

the E.T.

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Sustainable Life

Sustainable Life: 5 Actions you can take NOW

Sustainable Life for Humans

Humans are on a crash course with our destiny. If we don’t find a way to live sustainable life, our species could become extinct. Over the next five-hundred, the extinction of our species will looms above us, as it has in the past. Will we fall into the oblivion of our over-consumption and completely destroy our eco-system? Or can humanity persevere into sustainable life and even become something greater than we have ever imagined? Could humanity bring life to new worlds and expand into a universe of global consciousness? Anything seems possible with human ingenuity.

There is no doubt that there are major issues that threaten the survival of the human species, namely our consumption patterns. There are five major actions you can take today for humanity’s future.

  1. Stop eating meat; move to a vegetarian or largely vegan diet. Cavemen were opportunistic carnivores; we will discuss these implications for your diet and for planet Earth. This is something you will almost never hear about, but has the biggest implications for our planet.
  2. Make your own things. If you need to buy something, understand the product life-cycle before buying (especially cars!). This is called “ethical consumerism“. We’ll come back to this.
  3. Try to drive less on a daily basis, but enjoy traveling long distances a few times a year. Your oil consumption matters, but there are other things that you consume that matter more. (hint: go back to #1)
  4. Stay away from authority. (police, judges, courts, politicians, bosses, anyone with a gun, or that thinks they can tell you to do something; teachers often also fall under this category when you a young). The idea is to limit your encounters with these types of people as much as possible to avoid conflict and destructive behavior.
  5. Enjoy a nice meditation, stretch, or even some yoga. Spend more time away from TV, screens, and stimulation/electronic radiation. Walk, run, hike, be outside, find outdoor activities. You’ll look better for it. Remember to enjoy the present moment whenever you can. It’s all that we really have.

These are just a few principles to help you live a simpler, more economized, sustainable, and efficient lifestyle.

Now, let’s talk about sustainability.

You want your life to be sustainable. You want your children to enjoy what you have enjoyed in your life. And through your life, you’ve realized what is important and it is surely not things! If so, you are living excessively! When there is excess, there is stagnation, we see it in all kinds of royal families throughout history and now in the wealthy corporation owner families like Wal-Mart. They always get slaughtered and killed in revolutions and replaced with leaner governments with more representation from citizens. This might happen soon in this county, but there are actions you can take to stop your over-consumption and to be a lean consumer.

The truth is that no one really values sustainability. Everyone wants more because they think that it will make them happier. Corporations want you to believe this! But this type of consumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

You do not value things. You can lie to yourself all you want, but if there is a bigger TV out there, you are going to want it! This means that anytime you buy a TV, this will inevitably lead to dissatisfaction, whether it is because a larger/more inexpensive TV is being produced, or the TV that you have breaks. Understand the tricks that your mind plays on you. You want things that will last, especially when you invest lots of money into these things.

The First Steps

Your meat consumption will have the largest effect on your world. Consider this: animals are living breathing beings just like you and they need to be taken care of. This includes water, food, warmth, medicine, and social interaction. Right now, we can’t even give the animals social interaction because they are too numerous. We over-medicate them because they are too numerous. The whole system is completely unmanageable because everyone wants to eat meat.

A human diet optimally contains mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts for health. Most people don’t need meat and can subsist on a completely vegan diet. However, some people do need meat in their diets. These people can absolutely live on chicken and bug proteins (just like our ancestors). Human beings are absolutely not meant to eat red meat in large quantities. We simply do not have the stomach acid to break it down, which results in acid reflux, compacted digestive systems(think about old men with huge “beer bellies”; meat is the real culprit here), and slowed metabolism and digestion because of nutrients that are too densely packed for a human stomach to efficiently digest. Advancements in science are also helping to improve this, making fake meat tastier and closer in texture to real meat, but really our ancestors had very limited access to meat. You only need it occasionally.

Be Aware of your Water Consumption

We Americans use the most water of anyone in the world by at least 2x. Japan is the only country very close to us. How do we use so much water? Beef. Cows drink enormous amounts of water and they are an extremely inefficient converter of energy. Cows are the biggest reason why we Americans consume so much water.

We also take long showers, wash our cars, water our lawns too much and waste water on completely unproductive plants and animals. The key here is unproductive land. We need to use our land to cultivate healthy and nutritious food for ourselves and stop relying so heavily on mass farmers so they can be reasonable about their crops. We undervalue food in this country. I’m not talking about fancy restaurants; I’m talking about produce aisles at the grocery store.

Vegetables require far fewer nutrients, water, care, and money than cows do. That’s why you’ll never hear about this in the news, or on T.V. People have literally been killed over it. There are billions of dollars in beef and the beef companies want to keep it that way.

Showering for shorter times helps. Doing laundry only when clothes are really dirty also helps. Not watering your lawn is also a huge contribution. But rest assured, beef is the #1 culprit for water loss in this country.

Stop Being a Mindless Consumer

This is really all that you have to do. This falls under what we talked about earlier in the second point about ethical consumerism. Understand that all of the products in target and Wal-mart are made in China, basically in labor camps forced by the Chinese Communist government. They would do the same to Americans if they could and they do get away with quite a bit already! That is what you are supporting when you want to save money at those stores. All of fast-food comes from factory farms. They are the worst ones! I’m sure that McDonald’s cow’s aren’t loving anything that is being done to them. Neither are the pigs or chickens from all of the other fast-food chains. Deli meats are no better, don’t try to kid yourself. You wanna look lean, sexy, and be healthy? Stop eating meat altogether. Give it a try, don’t try to kid yourself that you need it after a week. You could survive without food for something close to 3 weeks. I’ve gone 5 days myself and didn’t lose too much weight, but I was also very thin and already living in India.

If you want high-quality, long-lasting products, then we have to invest in the art and craftsmanship of the people around us. The paintings that no one knows about have the highest mark-up anyways. Products with character and durability are getting harder and harder to find and its a shame. It’s an art to create beautiful crafts and we need to remember to value that and support the people who make it.

So it’s simple. Sustainable life is all about your decisions. Your existential power in this universe. Consider where your money goes, how it is funneled into the economy. Be serious about understanding your own patterns of consumption, and then you can run on next to nothing, or sustain yourself completely.

You can do it!

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islam_hajj_saudi_arabia

Islam – The Fastest Growing Religion in the World

ISLAM:

The Religion of Muslims and Mohammed

Islam is a monotheistic religion that believes in the prophecy of Abraham through the Qur’an,which is considered to be the verbatim word of god (Allah), and Mohammed’s (600CE) example . Mohammed is considered to be the last prophet of god. Any adherent to the religion is called Muslim.

Practitioners believe god is all-powerful, incomparable, and that the purpose of their existence is to worship god. Muslim adherents believe their faith is a complete and universal truth passed down from Abraham, Noah, Adam Moses, and Jesus. They consider the Qur’an to be the final revelation of god and believe strongly in 5 pillars or concepts at the foundation of Islam.

Islam_Mosque

The Five Pillars:

  1. Faith – the creed of Islam recited under oath
  2. Prayer – also known as salat, these are rituals prayers during the day
  3. Zakat – alms giving and supporting the poor
  4. Fasting – performed usually during Ramadhan
  5. Pilgrimage to the mecca to follow in Abraham’s footstep ritualistically

There are two primary sects of the religion: Sunni(75-90%) and Shia(10-20%). 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia, 25% in South Asia, 20% in the Middle East, and 15% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its followers comprise 23% of the world’s population.

Islam in the Modern World

Islam is one of the most submissive religions in the world. They recite oaths of submission to god’s will and believe the purpose of their existence is to worship god, which puts them in a state of complete surrender. This surrender leads to them feeling safe and at peace with their existence under god. They consider the Qur’an to be the true and unaltered word of god. They believe their holy books are the truth.68% and 80% of Shias lived in four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. Islam also has many laws that affect nearly every aspect of life for adherents. Islam has many very strict beliefs which has led to misinterpretation and misunderstanding over the past millennia, especially within the religion of Islam. One of these misunderstood concepts is the concept of Jihad.

Most Muslims are NOT Violent!

It is important to understand that even though people in America and the Western world think that Islam might be a violent religion, it is the exact opposite. 6.5% of the Muslims in the world felt that the attacks of 9/11 were justified and represents about 65 million Muslims; still a very large population, but a small percentage of the 1.65 billion muslims.

There are a few beliefs in Islam that when combined, create beliefs that create room for justify truly extremist acts such as 9/11, because of various verses in the Qur’an and different influential leaders promoting extremist action. There is absolutely an in-group that is created within the believers of Islam where the believers feel that they are special and correct in their beliefs, especially opposed to Christians, Jews, and other western religions.

The beliefs of Jihad, Predestination, and many of the literal interpretations of the Qur’an have led to an explosive anti-hero/terrorist movement in many of the sects that are highly devotional and in poorer countries with less education and rights. This has led to holy wars in the 1980s in Northern Africa and the Middle East and culminates in Osama Bin Laden’s declaration jihad against the United States and subsequent attacks on New York on September 11th. Bin Laden was a part of al-Quaeda whose goal was Islamic world domination, but this is an extremist group. The vast majority is Muslims are not members of al-Quaeda or ISIS and even the members of those groups are most likely deluded and heavily traumatized.

ISIS: An Evolution from Al-Quaeda

ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a salafi jihadist militant and extremist group that has proclaimed itself the caliph recently, on June 29th 2014, which means religious, military, and political power of muslims worldwide. Of course, the vast majority of muslims want nothing to do with this, but the insurgence has spread recently into northern Africa and has gained momentum. The group has significant momentum since it is formed from the remaining members of al-Qaeda, but at this point the two have separated completely in ideologies and ISIS has become a unique entity in and of itself. The Syrian Civil war was an excuse for extremists to militarize in conjunction with Iraqi militants and jihadists fleeing the presence of the United States military.

Now the two forces of al-Qaeda and ISIS are competing for militant recruitment in places like Yemen and Syria. There is also a presence in the Philippines, Libya, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Afganistan, and of course in Iraq.

The goal of the group is to found the Sunni Islamic State under the caliph who is believed to be the successor to Muhammed. This Salafi group promotes religious violence and regards all others as infidels or apostates. This is a waves of religious fundamentalism that enforces rituals with capital punishment and execution. The religion is their foundation for growing power of the religious state.

This is one of the most interesting sects of the religion, but represents a minority; though they are proficient at using social media to display their horrific actions. They are regarded by the western world as extremist terrorists and rightfully so. Even the majority of their own religion deem them to be deluded extremists.

Positive Aspects of the Islamic State

The vast majority of the adherents of Islam do not fit the profile I described above. In fact, the majority of the Muslims that I have met have been extremely kind and well-wishing, welcoming and neighborly. I even met a very peaceful guy from Yemen while I was in India whose family was involved in the Civil War. It is very sad for everyone to see this kind of violence and trauma and there is not much logic that can explain why it occurs.

Ritual Prayers

Salah or Salat must be performed five times a day with no exemptions. Salat is intended to focus the mind upon god and is seen as a personal communication with him of gratitude and worship. Lines of the Qur’an are recited in Arabaic. Mosques are places that are available for prayer, or as places or study, or learning.

Discipline

Both fasting, alms giving to the poor, and pilgrimages are required in the religion, yielding trials of great difficulty for adherents.

Home Life

The religion is primarily focused on life at home, though many religious texts sanctify the beating of women. There is special etiquette and diet including no meat, carrion, alcohol, or blood. Marriage in Islam is a civil acceptance where the groom is required to pay for the bride as a part of their contract.

Criticisms of Islam

Criticism of Islam has existed since its inception, for obvious reasons as the religion is a reformation from Judaism and Christianity. Early criticism came from Christians as radical heresy and later appeared more significantly from Judaism.

The majority of the criticisms are the morality of the life of Mohammed, issues relating the authenticity of the Qur’an and other questions of human rights, especially in regards to women. The questions of the founder’s authenticity and the authenticity of holy works are the criticisms of every major religion including christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Conclusion

Islam obviously has its own ups and downs as a religion, but its impact upon the civil rights of humans has to be mitigated if the religion will survive in the western world. However, much of the extremist propaganda is currently growing in northern Africa and the Middle East, of particulate note to the United States and Europe. This will be a religion whose ideals are dynamic and that changes drastically to fit the changing cultures of its proprietors.

 

I would love to hear about any experiences that you have had with the Islamic adherents that you have met or any other surprises you have gotten from adherents of the religion. Check back in a week to pagayogi.com for my next article on the ideals of Islam and how terrorism and heroism have intersected to form an ideology that is changing the world.

References:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Islam Origins
  3. An Overview of Islam
  4. The Belief System of Islam
  5. Problems in Modern Islam
  6. The Biggest Problem in Islam
  7. Heavy Review of Islam
  8. 25 Deadly Terrorist Attacks
  9. FBI on Terrorism
  10. Islam and Violence

 

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Tao, symbol of Taoism

Taoism Can Lead Humanity into the Future

The TaoThe Chinese Symbol for Taoism

Taoism, or the practice of recognizing the Tao also sometimes called the Dao, is an ancient Chinese religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the essence of nature or the Tao. The Tao is usually described as a way of life that is natural, primordial, or in alignment with ease, health, challenge, and comfort as a method of life. It embraces all aspects of life and invites its practitioners to enjoy the experiences fully. The Tao is at its essence paradoxical because of its dual nature, even describing it is futile because the concept is beyond words. It is an experience rather than a description; indeed the entire collection of work on the Tao is paradoxical. Taoism paved the way for Zen Buddhism and various other forms of Eastern spirituality to develop and thrive in the ancient Orient.

The Way of the Tao

The Tao is nameless, eternal, unchanging, and cannot be understood except through experience of the Tao. Words are not adequate to describe the concept by nature as the concept is itself nature. The Tao is a path. It is life. It is fundamental to the universe and all of humanity. The tradition comes from ancient China where it fused with Buddhism over time and countered the more traditional and strict Confucianism. Buddhism and Neo-Taosim are known to be closely related by most religions. What the Tao really means is the force behind all things, a universal god, or the unmoved mover of the universe.

 

The Teachers of Taoism

There are two primary teachers of Taoism, though both are acknowledged to be compilations of multiple authors over time. Lao Tse is the first and he is generally regarded as the founder, though he was a contemporary to another very well-known Taoist founder who helped to propagate the religion. The second teacher was Zhuangzi who wrote a text about the carefree nature of a Taoist teacher, named after himself. Both had a profound effect upon the Taoist tradition, but Zhuangzi was more instrumental in the actual applications of the philosophies outlined by Lao Tse.

Lao Tse or Laozi wrote a legendary book called the Dao Te Ching and is considered the philosophical founder of Taoism. Throughout history, his work has been embraced by anti-authoritarian movements. Recently, historians have established that the Tao Te Ching was actually written by many hands, but Alan Watts, a famous Zen Buddhist, cautioned against this thinking stating that skepticism was easier than reviewing a lack of data and evidence. Different Stories about Lao Tse exist in different cultures with their own flavor of the philosophical traditions of Taoism.

The Harmonic Philosophy of Tao

The Tao is the life-force that flows within all of the universe and all of matter. It is conscious, though incomprehensible to the human mind. It is therefore, not our responsibility, or even possible, to grasp the nature of the Tao. We can simply glimpse it. It is like looking through the window of a house that you can never enter.

Taoism believe strongly in the union and magnetism of opposites; The Yin Yang symbolizes this in light and dark opposition meeting in a common center. This is a metaphor for all of Taoism, showing that opposites are really the same and showing a path of living through balance of these opposing forces. For instance, rest and activity, work and family, sleep and waking, etc.

Taoism believes strongly in acting according to one’s nature and using guiding moral principles to achieve and maintain a peaceful and harmonious mind. This means living in harmony with the environment and the natural systems in place around you. Most Taoist teachers will also have a tinge of environmentalists simply because they are so in tune with their own environment.

Taoism and the Future of Humanity

 

At the beginning of the article, I made a bold claim that Taoism can and SHOULD lead humanity into the future. We care too much about how we look, if we are doing things right, about the state of the world we live in. We need to learn to let go and enjoy the experience in front of us with all of the difficulties and opportunities to grow that it brings. Taoist principles will allow humans to move back to a more natural state, rather than suburban living in concrete jungles and living in complete isolation from our natural environment. Symbiotic living is the only kind of living that exists in this world.

Taoist Rituals

Taoist rituals are meant to bring peace and harmony to the participant and the universe. They emphasize the nature of opposites and the union of all things. Many focus on purification. Priests often accept offerings on behalf of deities to balance the forces in the entire town or village. Many rituals also involve the priests partaking in meditation, chanting, playing instruments, and dancing. They also participate in fortune-telling and organization of sacred buildings and spaces according to the astrological significance and using Feng shui mathematical models to create harmony in their architecture and landscaping. All rituals emphasize order and balance.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on Taoism and modern implications for all of us humans! Please send any questions or additions in the comments, we can all learn from each other.

References

  1. Stanford Encyclopedia
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism
  3. http://personaltao.com/teachings/taoism/taoism-101/
  4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/taoism/
  5. http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Philosophy/Taichi/taoism.html

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wanderer_dining

The Wanderer, Part 26

This story is part of a series, this is the twenty-sixth part.

You can read the first story here: The Wanderer, Part 1

and the most recent story here: The Wanderer, Part 25

The Wanderer Continued…

Tas continued his leisurely stroll down the last of the stairs and into a magnificently adorned dining hall with silver and crystal furnishings that glinted and played with the candlelight. Yao kept his eyes fixed on his cousins, but Tas could help looking around at all of the marvelous paintings and sculptures woven into the fine architecture and decor of this palace.

Tas brought himself back from his imagination at the perfect moment; his feet nearly caught the edge of the final stair which would have sent him tumbling down and embarrassing himself completely in front of Yao’s obviously very important family. He took a deep breath, then looked up towards the table and saw it garnished with a feast of several large and lean meats that he had never seen, poached eggs, raw, and smoked fish, porridge, assortments of cheeses, a few different colors of yogurts, and a vast selection of fruit that was certainly not local to their cold mountains, but very ripe nonetheless.

They were each sat by a butler who then filled Tas’ glasses with three different liquids. One cup was glass and tall with a big bottom and was filled with a velvety dark red liquid; another was shorter, again a glass but this time filled with ice and a golden brown liquid; the final was a brighter yellow with pulp and placed into a coconut shell and then scraped for him by the butler. Tas was open-mouthed at the end of the process. Both of Yao’s cousins laughed easily at Tas’ surprise.

“What has startled you my dear little friend?” The taller and slightly more handsome one said. Tas remembered that his name was Idril? Yeah, that’s it.

“I’ve never seen such a well dressed slave,” Tas said slowly, not sure how it would be received. But he continued, “I’ve never seen a coconut that wasn’t already eaten. What is this orange stuff that’s inside of it. I’ve never seen this much food!” He stood up in exclamation, his eyes wide as he staring at the table. “I can’t believe this exists!”

The other brother laughed, “Well you will see lots of things over the next few days that you have never seen before, Tas. Bahar is very unique, one of a kind in this harsh world.” He winked and spoke as if he’d said it a thousand times. “Consider Iril and I your cousins. You are royalty in this city and peasants will have to obey you and your guard, which you will be assigned.” Adal, who was a bit darker, but shorter, stronger, and a bit uglier. Tas couldn’t say why, except that he was.

“Well thank you…” Tas looked down. He didn’t know what to say. He felt ashamed that he had said Iril name wrong and drooped his forehead towards the floor.

“That’s enough.” Iril said commandingly gathering Tas’ attention, then standing. He was very serious and had dropped his brother’s semi-joking tone. “As our honored guest, you will train and eventually hunt as royalty, as will Yao if he stay” There was no room for negotation, but Yao was fuming. “This is the highest honor we can give to you,” Iril said, looking right at Yao. “Outsiders and the banished are normally enslaved here, consider yourself lucky uncle. But after you are fully trained… let’s say after 40 new moons, Tas will raid with the hunt. 40 moons of hunting will be your payment to Bahar then you may do as you wish Tas.”

Yao smiled at Tas from across the table, as if he had hoped for this. He looked more smug than Tas had ever seen him, just like Tas’ father looked after he correctly guess a dice roll in the local watering hole back home. Tas couldn’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed. He would train to hunt and kill with these snow warrior and… Yao was royalty? Everything was still so fuzzy and unclear. He was confused, Yao was poor, not some royal lord. His head began to hurt and imagination receded to make room for reality and Tas realized he was starving.

Tas saw that Adal had already served himself a full bed of cantaloupe, melon, and pineapple and was eating them leisurely so Tas grabbed a bright red piece of smoked salmon and put it on the plate and began to eat it with his hands before Yao stopped him. Both Adal and Iril roared loudly in racuous laughter as Yao taught Tas to use a fork and knife, much to the surprise of Tas. He couldn’t believe how useful, but hard to wield a fork was! He spent several minutes trying to puncture his salmon until he gave up and snuck bites with his hands while the others weren’t looking.

After another 10 minutes of banter about eating and the proper way to use a fork and knife, Adal spoke in a more serious tone. “We will train you as our kin Tas, because Yao has returned. But you must know why Yao was originally banished from Bahar. It is his home, you know?”

“He told me. I thought he was banished because he refused to hunt? He wanted to live in peace didn’t he?” Tas asked.

“Not exactly,” Iril responded this time, his gaze fixed on Yao as he talked. “But that is the general idea. You see, Yao gave up his family’s name. Our name, when Yao was going to be our advisor and assist us in ruling by taking a head position in the military. He refused us every offer we made.” Yao nodded in the background while Adal scowled.

“Why are you so proud, still uncle? It makes no sense to me how you can not see how your decision had set our entire family back a great deal. Do you care nothing for your family?” Adal was obviously furious, but kept his tone calm and under control.

“I care for my own self more than I care about my family, if you must know nephew. I also care more for certain things than I do for my self, but money, power, advisory roles, applying military strategy, and commanding are not any of those things. There isn’t a single day where I regret my decision. I spend hours in the morning meditating and enjoying the trees, eating small portions of things that I find delicious, and seeing place after place after place. I am sorry if that does not align for your vision of my future, but I do not care. I will not lead your armies to pillage the lands of this world. Ever.” Yao talked slowly and with nearly perfect annunciation. He finished and a solemn and deep silence came over the table. Both of the brothers seemed semi-shocked, but neither spoke. It was almost like a long-standing mystery had just been revealed and they both wanted it to remain a mystery.

Tas didn’t know if it was a good time, but he had stopped caring; he was stuffed so full that he couldn’t eat another bite. He asked loudly, so they could all hear him, “What were you before you left, Yao? Some kind of leader?”

“I was one of the highest respected military generals in the hunting army.” Yao said happily to Tas, as if the other two weren’t directly across the table. “But I’m happy to no longer be a part of this,” Yao waved at the walls around him, then at the food, then at his nephews, who looked back at Yao disgruntled. They were starting to look a bit angry.

“Well uncle, now I remember why you were almost executed,” Adal said shortly. “Although this is quite a bit less embarrassing, I must say.”

“And to think we welcomed you with such a royal flair! What a waste. Even the salmon was cooked perfectly. Did you even eat any meat uncle?” Iril’s face looked somewhat saddened, even though he was obviously joking.

“He never really eats,” Tas said. “I want to get to training though, just because Yao didn’t like living with you doesn’t mean I won’t!” He smiled then had one last cherry. He felt like he wanted to puke, but just suffered through his breathing instead. He was in pain, but supremely satisfied, in a way that he had never been before.

“Tomorrow, Tas.” Adal said. “You’ll see where all this comes from.” He waved his arms grandly at the dining hall and Tas felt a great sense of wonder at all of the huge tapestries and countless antlers and dead animal heads of all shapes and sizes lining the wall. It was truly magnificent. Tas wondered if he could bring himself back here while he dreamt, so he could eat without feeling like he was ready to explode.

Yao left silently, Tas followed. Tas smiled at the brothers and they smiled back, Iril even let a grin fly across his face as Yap and Tas walked from the palace and returned to Yaina’s house further down the mountain in the cold chill and shrieking wind of the dark night.

 

 

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