Tag Archives: war

Trying to make sense of this mad world

The world is full of hatred, death and misery. The news over the last week has been especially draining on anyone who is emotionally affected by the goings on in the wider world. You could take your pick at any number of issues that have made the news to some extent and feel for those who have suffered in the acting out of these events. Foremost in my mind are:

  • The crash/shooting down of flight MH70
  • The current escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip
  • The expulsion of christians in Mosul
  • The Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted and are still missing

You may have different things come to mind. Whichever news items we choose to be most enthralled by (I use that term deliberately) it almost invariably entails an emotional reaction. Yet any such reaction is almost certainly going to be negative. Knowing this, usually by experience of previously having been caught up in events over which one has little to no control, it is tempting to avoid these negative emotions by avoiding the news.

So I have sympathy with those who would remain less informed than they otherwise might be as they spare themselves from agony by exercising the one form of control they do have: the off switch.

But not all of us do choose the off switch. I am one of those who value being informed, in spite of the cost to one’s own spirit. The fact is that I feel helpless. I can read the news from a number of sources in order to see things from several angles. Yet what good is that? All I end up with is a slightly better informed view than before. Maybe I change my mind about who is right and wrong, or who is to blame. Maybe I might change my opinions based on what I read. Maybe the evidence backs up what I already think. But what good is that if it doesn’t help other people?

Just so my own position is clear: I am not pro or anti Israel. I am not pro or anti Palestine. I am for a total ceasefire on both sides of the conflict and I am anti killing people.

Sometimes all we have is prayer. All too often that doesn’t seem enough. We yearn for something more tangible yet the democracies in which we have put our faith seem compromised and slow to act to ensure an end to violence and a pursuit of justice. If God is the one in whom we can have faith to act justly, then why are so many faithful prayers seemingly unanswered?

Such thinking is the currency of the atheist. Yet do we rightly understand what peace is? What justice is? There are no simple answers to these questions or to the problems brought about by the decisions humans make when they dumanise one another and act unrestrained to destroy those they see as ‘The Other’.

100 years on from the start of the First World War, it seems that collectively we still haven’t learnt our lesson. So we continue to destroy and kill. Yet in all this, for those of us who stand against violence, there is hope. Nomatter how dim it is, we must never let it go out.

Book Review: The Iliad by Homer

Many years ago, I picked up a copy of The Odyssey and loved it. It was a great story, brilliantly told and I was riveted by it. So, having taken a short break from reading ancient Greek texts (other than the New Testament) after the mammoth effort that was needed to complete Herodotus’ Histories I returned to Homer to read his other famous work.

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced I picked the best translation. Whereas the version of the Odyssey I read was written in prose form, in plain English, the translation I picked up for the Iliad was not. The translation was done over an 11 year period from 1598 to 1611 and it reads just as one might imagine if you have read much Shakespeare or The King James Bible. Only it’s not quite as clear and understandable as either of those great bodies of work.

The main trouble is that the translator (George Chapman) has attempted to keep it as an “epic poem” and so has forced the whole text to be made into rhyming couplets. In order to make each pair of lines rhyme in English, he has had to tear up the text and rearrange the sentences just to create the effect. What this does is to completely screw up the word order and to introduce all manner of odd abbreviations and turns of phrase. So in aiming to make it poetic, the whole structure has been massacred. For this reason, I would not recommend this translation to anyone who isn’t au fait with Chaucer or as qualms about reading Beowulf in its original form.

In order to try and make some sense of this, I found I had to make a conscious effort to ignore the artificial rhythm and rhyme and to try to read whole sentences. Once I managed to do this (which probably wasn’t until book 3) The Iliad became a bit more intelligible. What is then revealed is an epic story of warfare and battles. The highly anthropomorphised gods of Greek mythology fight alongside their semi-human offspring and having petty squabbles with one another. The panoply of plentiful persons which populates the prose puzzled me rather, as it was hard to keep track of them, particularly because some of them, once introduced, met a rather grizzly death.

That said, there are many moments of great poetic expression which do break through. The difficulty of the translation does make it impossible for me to give a synopsis of the plot, so this review shall be somewhat short. I may well post another review when I find the time to read a more intelligible translation.