WAR: Us vs Them

A few days ago, I started watching some movies based on wars, one for the first time. They say they are based on different war stories, but I see the same ending in all.

Starting from the ancient mythical war movie, “Troy”, a few centuries after, the crusades, “Kingdom of Heaven” and to the World Wars, “Pianist”, “Pearl Harbor” and today I saw “Hacksaw Ridge” (the movie that inspired me to write this). May it be for land, for an unknown being or for supreme power, at the end everyone suffers. During some of the fighting scenes, one might feel that everyone is killing one another labeling the other as “the enemy”. Us vs. Them.  When will this end?

Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” (2016) tells the true story of Desmond Doss who is known as a “conscientious objector” who didn’t hold a weapon thorough out his battles. The movie centers around the battle of Okinawa which took place during the WW II. Doss’ character is portrayed by Andrew Garfield who does a brilliant justice to the real hero. Due to his beliefs he rejects holding a weapon even though he was made to leave the training stations several times, he was adamant to serve the nation. No one there believes him or has faith in him at that point. He enlists himself and finally serves as a medic in the battlefield without holding a single weapon.

The movie is inspirational because it is not fiction. Why do I say this? In many war movies or action movies the protagonist tends to save the day sometimes without a scratch on their body, saves hundreds of people and lives to tell the tale to save the world again from evil. But here Doss saves 75 wounded soldiers in his time as a medic without carrying a single weapon. In the movie, during the attacks he never fails to leave behind any man who is breathing amidst dead bodies. The most striking part arrives when he stays back at the battle ground when everyone leaves. The ridge is pretty deep and it is not a simple task to lower a wounded man from the top, without anyone’s help. His repeated words, help me get one more says it all.

During one of Doss’ interviews he says at one point, one of the soldiers who was hit says that he can’t see anything. Then he pours some water on to his face and cleans him up, the soldier says, I thought I was blind. Doss says after that the smile he had on his face was worth everything to him. Even in the film such subtle scenes catches one’s mind. The brotherhood, having each other’s backs, their fears, love and heroism are major characteristics that all these soldiers have.

As a person who lives in Sri Lanka, I see soldiers daily nowadays. We only see the glimpses of war through works of art, news, people that we know and as we get out from  house. But the real war they fight it, for us. After the 30 years war, have we done enough to honour their names? Their heroism?

 

 

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A Packet of Memories…

One day

a guy who grows

many kinds of potatoes

came to talk about your books

and offered you a potato

from his garden,

and you gave him a book

from your shelf.

 

Another day

two Yogis,

at times,

the three didn’t even utter a word

a conversation in silence.

 

And

a monk from a faraway village

came with a bus full of readers

And

another monk, whose entire family

has become monks and nuns.

 

And the list goes on….

 

The readers of your books

Were always fascinating,

Like you and your books

 

Once I heard someone asking,

“So how are your children?

What are they doing now?”

එයාලා අර‍හෙ මෙහෙ…

(“they are just here and there…”)

 

That’s it. Period.

 

Whenever I come back home

From here and there

Some days I pour out my misery in detail

But at the end you always say,

අයියෝ ගණන් ගන්න එපා

(“Aiyo just don’t think about it.”)

 

It always worked. It still does.

 

“Memories are not reliable”

You say, in one of your stories

But, aren’t they?

 

P: S: Were you able to find a packet of gods?

(In memory of our Thattha who passed away 4 years ago, May 8th)

thumbnail Prof. G. Dharmasiri

 

 

“Revenge, Justice and Blood” Greek tragedy and the Iron Throne

During my Fall quarter I took a class on Greek tragedy and the readings were centered on the Trojan War. I couldn’t help but notice the themes and plots that echo in the popular fantasy TV series Game of Thrones. I haven’t read the novels, so I could only render the opinions with the show.

I was never a fan of it from the day it was on TV, but my friends were all about it! “You have to watch it!” Many common things that I heard from my friends are about its interesting plot, incest, bloody scenes of death and the death of favorite characters. So, the plot thickens.

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JK Rowling Vs George RR Martin

Retaliation

In Latin, talio “a punishment similar and equal to the injury sustained” or “like for like” is one of the key themes in both fields. The repayment of the same thing and sometimes repaying with interest. This is what is considered as achieving justice in ancient Greek culture as depicted in their literature. Due to Agamemnon’s crime against his daughter, Iphigenia, his wife Clytemnestra with her lover, Aegisthus, kills him when he returns home. He was stabbed or axed with his concubine, Cassandra. The playwrights present different renditions the way he was killed and so do the vase painters (Let’s go with the axe). In order to avenge his father’s death, their son Orestes comes from exile and stabs his own mother along with her lover. Here, the family ties mean both nothing and everything. In a way ultimately leading to a never-ending blood feud to achieve justice. This echoes throughout GoT, may it be Tyrion killing his father or Brienne’s undying faith to take revenge upon Stannis for killing Renly or Arya murdering Frey and his sons to avenge her family or Cersei’s acts against the Dornish women for killing her daughter and so on. Everyone is after destroying or killing one another, and only a few thinks about protecting one another. This is the justice that they all believe in, “eye for an eye”.

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The death of Walder Frey

Xenia and the Thyestean feast

ξενία (xenia) in Greek meaning “guest-friendship” is a much-valued concept in Greek culture and it is applicable to many other cultures as well. Xenia helped to organize relationships among the male aristocrats when they travel from one place to another. The entire Trojan war started due to the violation of xenia by Paris, when he abducted Helen, wife of Menelaus. (There are so many debates about Helen-Paris plot, and who is responsible for the outbreak of the war, but I’m not going to dwell on it now). Another instant where xenia is violated is the Thyestean feast. When Thyestes seduced Atreus’ wife, Atreus murdered Thyestes’ sons and served them to him at a feast (Atreus is the father of Agamemnon and Menelaus).

Xenia is a recurrent theme in GoT as well. For instance, at one point Bran relates the legend of the Rat Cook. “It wasn’t for murder the gods cursed the Rat Cook, or for serving the King’s son in a pie… he killed a guest beneath his roof… that’s something the gods can’t forgive.” (http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Rat_Cook) When a certain king came to take shelter at the Wall, the commander cooked the sons of the king and offered them in a pie to the guest. Later, the commander was turned into a rat as a punishment by the gods. Thus, the story depicts the significance of xenia and what happens to those who violates it.

A Thyestean feast does occur when Arya serves the pies made from Walder Frey’s sons. This is again retaliation or avenging the death of her mother, brother and sister-in-law for they were massacred at the Red Wedding. Thus, Frey violates xenia and gets his punishment in return.

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Thyestes

Human sacrifice

The concept of βάρβαρος (barbaros), barbarian is a Greek term used to identify the non-Greek who didn’t speak their language, any other tongue just sounded to them like “bar…bar…” hence the name. And the Greeks considered the barbaros practiced human sacrifices, but the evidence says otherwise. We find examples where the Greeks performing this ritual rather than the other. When the Greek army was in Aulis on their way to Troy, due to Artemis’ anger they didn’t have favorable winds to sail. In order to appease the goddess Agamemnon sacrificed his own daughter due to the prophecy received by the priest Calcas. A quite similar incident occurs when the Red woman, the priestess of the Lord of Light, asks Stannis to sacrifice his daughter Shireen to get a favorable weather.

Incest

In Greek mythology the divine realm takes the lead in incest. Zeus and Hera, brother-sister/husband-wife. So are their parents Cronus and Rhea, again siblings. Sometimes, due to their fickle nature and their so many offspring, the stories become complicated. For instance, Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter (siblings), marries Hades (brother of her parents) in other words her uncle. Family is complicated in the divine realm. Apart, from the divine world, Oedipus is the main story related to incest, but I will not dwell on that because they were ignorant of their bloodline. All the time Oedipus wanted to refrain from that happening, but fate made him to. Thus, it is a case of ignorance. As is the case with the dragon and the wolf. Again, they have no clue, yet 😉

In GoT the first episode itself introduces to the famous Lannister siblings Cersei and Jaime. However, in Westeros this is a cultural taboo. But inbreeding was known to the members of House Targaryen to keep the bloodline pure. In many cultures, incest wasn’t a taboo. Even in Mahavamsa Sinhabahu and Sinhaseevali (siblings) marry and establish their own kingdom, Sinhapura. The parents of the legendary king, Vijaya.

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Zeus & Hera

Well, these are some thoughts that came into my mind. I am no expert just love the comparison.

~At first sight~

I would like to consider this post as a continuation of my last post about some of my experience in Seattle during the first few weeks I was here. It’s my second year now and Seattle doesn’t fail to amaze me.

Today, I like to tell you about some of the first impressions that I had in certain occasions. It would be quite trivial like dog-owners picking up their pet’s poop or finding a dog as your fellow rider in the bus or seeing Mr Washington as Darth Vader. Obviously, I’m talking about a statue here. In one of the entrances to the University of Washington, there is a statue of G. Washington standing in an elegant way. But whenever I pass it on my way ‘back’ home, I always think “Vader”. It is interesting because I was not the only one who thought like that, in one of my Latin classes our professor said that a little boy has asked him “why is Vader standing in front of the university?” Also with the start of this quarter, time to time, there is this guy who does a campaign against drug cartels wearing Vader’s costume. Well, in this photo the man is missing, but I hope you could see the mask resting on the step. Guess, I’m not the only one.

My experience regarding watching dramas here have been always eventful. I went to see a play for the first time with Jingsi and I was so excited because it was an adaptation of a Greek play, Iphigenia and Other Daughters. The play consisted of the depictions of Clytemnestra, Iphigenia, Electra and Chrysothemis. It was an impressive performance by the entire cast and the script was innovative. The theatre takes the shape of a circle, and the audience sat around (Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre). The challenging fact about this specific theatre is that it being a circle, the cast and the crew need to be alert about the audience in the circle, as opposed to a proscenium theatre. This kind of reminded me about the street dramas I have seen back home where most of the time people would sit or stand around the performers.

Another event related to watching a drama is watching a musical. Isuru who had seen musicals more than the rest of the gang, suggested that we should watch Kiss Me Kate even though he hasn’t seen it before. Since it was my first time watching a musical here, I really enjoyed the lively music and dancing. Especially some songs like “Brush up your Shakespeare” (composer Cole Porter) kept us engaged in the musical except for some like Yaso who was half way stuck in a dream. Understandable in a way, some of the inherent sexist ideas of the musical are not everyone’s cup of tea, so I wouldn’t claim that it was the best. But that didn’t stop us from watching musicals and our friend wanted to make sure that we didn’t!

Recently, I got the chance to watch Disney’s musical production of Aladdin which was at the Paramount theatre. As Mihila says, one is mesmerized by the theatre even before the play begins. I agree! This is the first time that I went to such a glamorous theatre. The place has its long history starting from the 20’s and with gradual renovations time to time. Now it’s a landmark in theatre as well as in Seattle.

The production was spectacular, believe me! One of the audience members said it was “a glittering spectacle”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4sl3sQPzgc ( Trailer)

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As a child, Aladdin was one of those cartoons I really enjoyed, and seeing it on stage with all those songs, it felt like “a whole new world”. Charith and I were stunned at all the gimmicks and the sudden change of scenes, at one point you are at the dark gloomy cave of wonders and with a few minutes the whole scene changes into a gold-filled cave! In certain moments I couldn’t even think how all this is happening, the timing, the movements are all so quick. Beside all the singing and dancing, it was filled with magic tricks. I am really curious about the rehearsals of such productions. Here, the production includes around 150 cast and crew members and the show runs for a few weeks. I remember even after a single show, how we get so exhausted. It is understandable, back home, most of the time a single person has to manage several jobs. For instance, the director plays so many roles, doing makeup, lighting, set design or even acting sometimes. But here, since these are major productions, everyone has an assigned role to perform and they need not worry about all the other aspects.

I think every new day is a first sight, for anyone, so before some of the thoughts turn into mere memories I thought of writing them down, because “memories are not reliable” – G. Dharmasiri, Packet of Gods

 

 

Seattle: From falling to fish ‘n’ chips

I found a copy of Murakami’s What I talk about when I talk about running in one of our bookshelves and I knew this was probably Lohan’s copy (die-hard fans of Murakami), because I have no recollection of buying it. It is quite normal that we have our books in each other’s shelves including at my sister’s. As I was reading this memoir of Murakami, it made me to focus on the writing that I always wanted to do after the first week of my stay in Seattle.

Whenever I told people that I’m going to start my grad life in Seattle, everyone said, “It is a beautiful city, but it rains”. As far as I was concerned, if it didn’t snow that much, I really didn’t mind at all. But only when I went there I realized what they actually meant. It is non-stop rain, believe me.tumblr_m66m4ryYrg1qd6wxeo1_500 (1)

I was fortunate enough to have our friend John to give me a lift from the airport to the place that I booked from online. Seattle was a big city and since it was night the entire city was like a starry sky.

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Seattle at night

 

For the first time in my life I’m away from home and so far away, and now I’m going to stay with a family there. Everything was happening so fast. I haven’t met them before in my life, only messaged via FB. At the end it turned out to be the best place that one could find to stay. I was lucky to have found Julie and Narayan’s place, and they made me feel like home and I felt safe in this foreign land.

After settling in my green room with a Monet’s painting hanging on a wall, I started to explore my neighborhood and reached the University of Washington (UW) after taking several wrong turns on the way. It was so massive and breathtaking.  “This is it”.  For me the most striking place was the Suzzallo library and within time it became the place that I frequented the most. (The library itself requires an entire new post, so do await for that)

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University of Washington – Suzzallo Library

This post is mainly about two events which taught me a few lessons. During the orientation program, FIUTS (Foundation for International Understanding Through Students) had organized some events and one of them was a visit to the Seattle Aquarium. My friend, Diana also joined me and it was my first bus ride to downtown. There was no conductor, just swipe the card and get in, simple as that. The aquarium was fascinating, for the first time I saw several sea creatures that I haven’t seen before. I saw otters, seals, luminous moon jellyfish, octopus, starfish and many other creatures. https://www.flickr.com/photos/147371681@N04/albums/72157678566439895

After spending a few hours with the sea creatures, we were free to go. Before I signed up for the trip, I thought they would drop us off at the campus, well I was wrong. We had to find our own way back. Diana told me the directions to the bus stop and I went on my own. I thought I could manage, it turned out it wasn’t as easy as I thought. All the streets looked the same to me, for the first time I was walking all by myself in downtown. It was so crowded and I lost my way in the crowd. I called my friend several times, even her directions were confusing for me because I had no clue where I was going. Google maps was the ideal solution for this moment, but I had no idea how to use it at that time. So, lesson no 1- learn how to use Google maps.

As I was trying to find my way back home, I saw from a distant, a man running towards my direction in full speed. I moved aside, but he hit me (intentionally) and I fell on the pavement. That was horrifying! No one came to aid me but the person who made me fall. I didn’t’ even look at him, I quickly checked for my wallet and phone, to make sure he hasn’t stolen anything. Nope, I was safe. But it was such a blur and after that I step aside so far whenever I see a running person. Finally, I found the bus stop by following the name of the buildings as my friend mentioned.

A similar thing happened a few months after, not to me, but to another person walking around my neighborhood. She was a lady in her 60’s, I guess. Suddenly, as she was walking, she fell on the pavement, and I ran to help her out. She was keeping her hand on to her chest and gave another hand for me to lift her. But the problem was I was not up for the task, I mean I was not physically built up for the task. She was thrice my size and I was helpless, I badly wanted to help her. Then she got up half way, and she asked me, “Push my butt, push my butt”. Well, I had no idea what she was talking about! So I tried to lift her by pulling her from her back. But no movement at all! (I felt that I am so tiny!) Then, another man who was in a café near-by, came to the rescue.  He helped to lift her from one side, which he did. But my side was still inactive. Then I looked around, a lady with a dog came running towards us and she knew the trick to lift a fallen person. She did it by lifting the belt loops of her jeans. I was relieved, I took her bag and gave it to her. (At least I managed to do that 😉). She thanked the three of us and her smile made my day. Lesson no 2- eat more!

(Well, that was a digression, but I love that story. Back to my first week.)

Next, my first meeting with Charith who helped me via online to find a place to stay even though I haven’t met him before in SL. He took me out to see the famous Pike Market in downtown. It was such an interesting place with so many variety of stalls and sights to see. I was fascinated by the game shop where they had miniature versions of Star Wars characters, batman figures and what not. There were local shops as well, paintings, jewelry and other souvenir shops. He showed me the famous Pike Place Star Bucks Store, the first Star Bucks store established in the US.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/147371681@N04/albums/72157678566300145

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Star Bucks

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Sleepless in Seattle

Master Yoda
Master Yoda

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Gum Wall

Also, the gum wall. Then, he took me to The Athenian Inn to have lunch. This place was significant because a scene from the movie Sleepless in Seattle was shot in this location with Tom Hanks. He was telling me that the very same stool he sat on was still there.

We got a table and I had no clue as what to order, and he suggested Fish ‘n’ chips. I said okay, why not. For the first time, I had a grilled salmon and it was tasty. But, amidst the tasty meal, my stomach started to feel weird. Well, soon I realized it was not the best idea to order fish ‘n’ chips, in the first few days when I’m in a new country.

“You have to wait until tomorrow to find out what tomorrow will bring.”

— What I Talk About When I Talk About Running— Haruki Murakami

 

Being

Being

No prophecy told me that I would meet you

Apollo is speechless
Is there a Cassandra for me to listen
For once.
I am in confusion

Empedocles’ Love and Hate
Rule in our cosmos
It comes to Being and Perish
But our love is an Atom
Indivisible.
Everything is mingled together
Like your seed, Anaxagoras.
Somethings are visible and invisible
But all is One.

April 3, 2010

A Philosopher’s Song

Staring at the shadows

In the cave

You try to answer

Plato

 

What is happiness?

What is justice?

 

Poets were claimed

Harmful to ‘the state’

Censor(ship) was launched

Aristophanes was fined

For exposing the Dog

Still it is in effect

They censored Debiddo

 

Herodotus’ Histories

Interesting

With his-stories

When was it ever about her-stories?

 

Hardly

A word order

We crack codes

Day by day

Sometimes

Latina est gaudium!

You would say

 

Should have

A beginning, middle, and end?

What about a circle?

Woody Allen asks

 

What if deux ex machina

Encounters a technical problem

And God stumbles on stage?

Oh my GOD!

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