English: Week 17 Review

This week we read about Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of Mark. This is a review of the significance of some of the miracles he performed during his ministry. The Bible provides many accounts of Jesus publicly performing miracles but it is speculated that there were far more that are not recorded in the Bible.

The book of Mark mentions mostly miracles involving the healing of the sick. According to Mark Jesus had the power to heal all kinds of ailment and disease. One of the most remarkable things about this is the instantaneous effect. By doing very simple things Jesus could heal someone who had been sick for their whole life. No one who was there could deny this kind of miracle because those with infirmities have been beggars their whole lives presumably which would make them known in the town. To see someone lame or blind restored to health after years of bearing that burden would be more than shocking to the witnesses.

Yet another reason these healing miracles are remarkable is that in that day and time the medical world must have been extremely primitive. Most of these serious conditions were considered hopeless and the patient would be resigned to bearing that curse for the remainder of their life. The fact, that Jesus could simply lift his hands and cure something like that is incredibly significant.

Jesus did not only heal people, however. He performed many other feats which are out of the power of ordinary mankind. Twice He took just a few loaves and fishes and fed thousands of people by multiplying the amount of food to go around. This kind of miracle touches not one but a multitude of individuals in a very real, tangible way that would leave a lifelong impression. Mark emphasizes that Jesus did not perform his miracles in secrecy. He constantly had a crowd surrounding him.

Another time Jesus performed a different kind of miracle in the presence of his disciples by walking on water. Clearly, this is not a normal everyday thing but it is different from the other miracles in that it doesn’t seem as intentional or groundbreaking. I think Jesus did this simply to test the faith of his disciples.

Jesus was not always appreciated for his miracles. Naturally, He had enemies and skeptics as all nonconformists do. One famous miracle is the healing of the man with the unclean spirit which proved to be pretty controversial. This man had been living among graves high up in the hills far from the people nearby for they were all afraid of him. He was afflicted by not one but a legion of demons. Jesus calmly goes out to speak to him and offers to rid him of his demons. The man begs that Jesus throw the demons into a nearby swarm of pigs. The demons drive the pigs over the cliff to their death. The owners of the pigs have just lost a fortune and their livelihood and they beg Jesus to leave their coasts.

A somewhat surprising problem Jesus runs into during his ministry is the skepticism of his family and friends. Jesus can’t perform miracles in his own town because everyone He grew up with sees him as a simple carpenter. They don’t have the kind of faith in Him you would expect because his ministry only began when he was thirty but they knew Him long before that. He heals a few of the sick in his hometown but cannot spread his ministry there because of their lack of faith.

 

Biology Report

I have to write a report on a visit to a river, lake, or pond for the aquatics section in my biology course so naturally, I decided to write about marine life in Greece. Because A: The water is gorgeous, B: They have different sea creatures than we do here in America, And C: The Aegean Sea is prettier than the Atlantic or a pond. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me talk about Greece all the time but I’m also about to go back so get used to it ha!

Firstly, the water in Greece, especially in the Cyclades is gorgeous. It’s extremely clear and blue, and in the early morning when the light begins to show the sea looks silver. On cloudless summer days, you can see out to sea for miles. The surrounding islands rise up from the sea shrouded in mist. A couple of them reminded me of Neverland. Swimming is one of the most enjoyable experiences there. Many of the beaches are rocky or have cliffs which are great for cliff jumping. The water is generally tranquil and smooth. But mostly, blue, blue, blue, blue. It is the bluest water I have ever seen.

I don’t know a whole lot about the marine life but the Greeks do eat a lot of seafood especially on the islands. One of their favorite specialties is octopus. One day I went for a run early in the morning on one of the islands and I came to a fishing town. There were about three people awake in the town including me. But far out to sea some old fishermen were out in their tiny fishing boats fishing for octopus. They use a long wooden pole with a small trident on the end to spear the octopus and bring it to the boat. Then they bring the octopi back to the town and the restaurant owners prepare them by getting rid of their ink and hanging them in the windows to dry on clotheslines. We did eat octopus one day.

We did eat octopus one day. They brought us a slimy tentacle floating in olive oil, suction cups and all. It had a very unique taste which is hard to describe. I can’t say that I enjoyed it all that much.

Another thing peculiar to Greece are the sea urchins. They are small with black spikes bristling everywhere, and in many places, it is imperative to wear shoes while swimming in order not to step on them. When a fish (or a foot) comes into contact with them all of their spikes clamp up in an iron grip and hold fast. When they die the spikes fall off and reveal a beautiful shell that looks something like a round flower.

As far as other sea life goes I ran into starfish, a seahorse, and plenty of fish. I’m sure there are many odd sea creatures I don’t know about underneath those blue waters but I have yet to discover them.

 

Je Parle Francais! (almost)

For as long as I can remember foreign languages have been a part of my daily life. My dad has an online business teaching Latin and Greek. He grew up in Europe and therefore also has a good hold on some German, oh and did I mention he knows some Spanish too?  When we were younger we would spend many mornings around the table learning Latin and watching short documentary type videos entirely in German. I learned more Latin than German because Latin was what Dad teaches. Latin and German were the first two languages I remember learning (besides English of course) and I’m definitely not fluent in either but I can pick up words here and there.

Then this past summer when we traveled to Greece I picked up on some Greek. It’s harder than Latin in my opinion but the pronunciation came very easy to me. In Athens, we would ride the metro all over the city and I would listen to the speaker call out the station names in English and Greek, then I would say them over and over in my head until I could rattle them off easily. When I came home my friends were astonished at how much “Greek” I had picked up in only three months. Of course, I did know a few real phrases in Greek but I was mostly just saying the names of Athenian subway stations.

When we worked with the refugees in Greece I picked up my first few words of Arabic too. I still remember how to say “star” and “hailstorm”. They also taught us hand games in Arabic and I can still hear their happy voices chanting in Arabic around us.

Lastly, when we took a tour in Israel we learned to say the Shema in Hebrew which is the most important verse in the Bible according to the Jews.

All of this goes to say that rooted in my mind is a deep love for language. I love the sounds and accents of other languages. One of my favorite things about Europe is the mixing bowl of different cultures and tongues. You can’t just understand everyone because there are so many different voices and languages. This, to me, is exciting and beautiful.

But as much as I love the many languages in the world I can’t speak them all so I decided to pick one to study for now. During the summer, I was laying on my bed in Greece, staring up at the ceiling and I decided to learn French. I’m not sure what made me think that but I remember a fierce feeling of determination and inspiration. I think I chose French because it is one of the most common languages besides English, it’s beautiful, and I could see it being useful in my future. I did not start right away but a little while later I downloaded Duolingo and found a French book at an exchange library and the journey began. It has been almost a year now and I still love it and I’m still learning with no intention of stopping. Having a knowledge of Latin as a foundation made it even easier.

A few weeks ago we were driving home from the library and Dad told me I should write a blog post on my progress in French. I said it was a good idea but I didn’t think I had a good enough grasp of the language to merit a post. But here I am writing this out so clearly I changed my mind. This isn’t at all to brag about what I’ve learned but I wanted to share my experience and tell you how I’ve been doing it.

I have heard so many people say that they learned French in high school but don’t remember a word of it. I also have quite a few friends who have begun to learn it with a textbook and have no interest in it at all anymore, even though they started out excited. Why is this? First of all, academic textbooks are extremely boring. I think very few people would disagree with me on that. Secondly, if you do not keep practicing and exposing yourself to any skill consistently then it will begin to fade.

I am only a sophomore in high school but I do not want to lose my grasp on language now or at any point in my life. I have been teaching myself French by what I call the natural method. This means, I don’t really have a teacher, I most certainly don’t have a textbook, and I’m making it up as I go along. The main source of learning for me is the app Duolingo. Millions of people across the world are using it to gain the basics of a variety of languages. It is pretty easy, it’s fun, it’s extremely accessible, and I highly recommend it.

But what about when I’ve gone as far as I can go on Duolingo?  Well, I do have some other ways of learning that do not involve any kind of course or teacher per say.

1: Books. I have one book entirely in French and a French-English Dictionary. This isn’t the most orthodox way to pick up on a language but it keeps me sharp and I can pull it off the shelf any time and go at my own (slow) pace.

2: Movies. One of the best ways I’ve found to familiarize yourself with the pronunciation and flow of speech with any language is by watching movies. I’ll take a movie I have watched multiple times before so that I have some idea of the dialogue and switch the language to French. I will sometimes add French subtitles too to help me visualize the words.

3: Other French speakers. Fortunately, French is not an obscurely spoken language. It’s pretty easy to find other people who speak it. Even though I may not be quite conversational in French yet, talking with other French speakers is a fantastic way to learn. I have at least one friend who has agreed to text me entirely in French if we can help it. I have asked her to point out my mistakes to me in English because I’ll make much more progress that way.

4: Cultural Immersion. Naturally, I would love to visit France myself someday and talk with the locals and feel the culture, but not everyone can do that. And I may not even be able to do that myself. Nevertheless, cultural immersion is one of the best ways to learn a language as well.

I have a long way to go. Learning any language is not easy, but with perseverance, and determination I hope to be fluent someday. Maybe in ten years I’ll look back on this post and be grateful that I made the decision to learn French one lazy summer afternoon.

Until then, Au revoir et bonne journee!

History Week 14: Review

This week we covered a lot of ground on early Christianity. We started with the various heresies that were being taught and the councils of church leaders to discuss these heresies. The main heresy was Arianism which was overruled at The Council of Nicea.  Another important counsel was the First Council of Constantinople where the Nicean Creed was expounded and edited, adding a section on the Holy Spirit.

We spent a long time on Monasticism and the rituals and differences in lifestyle involved. There are two types of monasticism: eremitic and cenobitic. Eremitic monks live in almost complete isolation as hermits. They spend all their time alone with God and live the simplest possible life, the only exception to their isolation being for food or absolute necessity. Some of these monks were extreme and did very uncomfortable things as punishment for their sins. Cenobitic monks live isolated from the world but in communities, with other like-minded men in monasteries. Cenobitic monks also have very simple lifestyles and focus on the spiritual world rather than the tangible world.

St. Benedict is one of the most famous monks and he started a monastery called Monte Cassino which influenced many other monasteries from there on. A Benedictine monastery strives for a balance between work, prayer, and study, rather than focusing only on one too much. In the ancient world, physical work was looked down on but the monks saw it as a way to further their spiritual walk with God. Through agriculture and taking care of the sick and the poor and the copying of many important documents monks were a beneficial influence on society. They passed on their practical skills to others and provided many important things to the towns they were close to.

Lastly this week we talked about the way Christians handled Pagan, especially Greek, literature. A minority did believe that there was nothing needed besides the Bible as far as literature goes but a surprising number of people found that the ancient texts were not only important but also useful. Tertullian was the main supporter of ignoring the philosophers writings even coining the phrase, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?”  St. Justin Martyr disagreed by arguing that “all these rivers flow into Christianity” saying that Christians were the fulfillment of what the philosophers were looking for. Instead of shirking the Greek writings they used them as tools to spread Christianity.

That’s not to say they believed they were perfect but many famous ancient Christians chose not to push away most of these teachings. They were fascinated by the indications of certain of these philosophers rejected many of the same doctrines that the Christians also rejected. The ancient Christian community may not accept the ancient Greek gods or the religious beliefs adopted during that time but they found many useful, enlightening things in the great philosopher’s works.

This was just a brief overview of some of the material covered this past week in my history lessons. I enjoyed learning more about these subjects and I hope this will serve to lodge them more firmly in my memory.

 

Comparison of Christianity and Traditional​ Greek Religion

This is a comparison of the differences between Christianity and ancient Greek religion.

Modern Greece is predominately Christian today but ancient Greece had a very different belief about religion. The first major difference between these two belief systems is the presence of polytheism in Greek religion. The ancient Greeks believe in many, many gods. They had gods for just about everything you could imagine. The gods of Olympus are extremely famous and there are plenty of things based on them. the Pantheon of gods are the most famous but they also had many lesser known gods and even demigods such as Hercules.

Christianity, on the other hand, is a monotheistic religion, meaning we worship one God. We believe that He is the creator of all things and He is the One keeping watch over everything that happens on earth.  In ancient Greece, if you were having trouble as a fisherman then you would call on Poseidon or if you needed help with love then you called on Aphrodite. As a Christian, you pray to only one God for all things you need help with.

The second major difference between Christianity and traditional Greek religion is the conduct of the gods. According to the Greek myths and documents concerning their gods, the deities are constantly committing adultery, flying into passionate rage, or doing other irrational human-like things. Christians believe that God is perfect and does all things out of justice and love. He does not do anything ridiculous like falling in love with a human and killing her husband because He is not capable of sinning.

How the gods are worshiped is another deviation of these religious practices. In ancient Greece, many things were done outside of what is typically considered worship for Christians. Namely, the erection of graven images. The Bible specifically states that there are to be no graven images of God constructed. This rule has been broken of course as all rules are but for the most part, it is stuck to in Christianity. The Greeks fashioned tons of statues and structures depicting their gods.

The final difference I am going to mention has to do with the way God approaches his people. In Greek religion, the gods must be called upon if their help is desired. They come down to earth of their own accord on occasion but it is usually on errands of mischief rather than peace. And if humans do something against their will they must be appeased by sacrifices.

Christianity teaches that God sent His only Son to live on earth and give us a chance to follow Him and turn from our wickedness. Instead, we were blinded by our sin and they cried for him to be crucified. He suffered although He was sinless and died. On the third day after he had died he rose from the grave and went back to Heaven. But he carried the weight of our curse on his shoulders and our sins were forgiven. Doubtless, you have heard that story countless times if you are a Christian but it is a beautiful thing, and Christianity is the only religion where a god comes down to earth to save us instead of humans bending over backward to appease them.

 

 

What I’ve been thinking about

I was assigned to write more on those bloody Greek plays but I’m tired of murderous gods and Furies so I decided to write on something else.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot. I don’t know why I clarified that because I’m always thinking a lot. Anyway, I found a quote recently that said, “The sun rises, the sun sets, we tend to complicate the process.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot and the more I think about it the more I agree with it.

I used to be upset at the idea of living and struggling through all of the toils of life just to pass into the earth when too weary to bear the strain anymore and be soon forgotten. But that is just the way it goes and that realization should convince us to make our time on earth all the sweeter. Humans may be the most intelligent life form on earth but we can be pretty ridiculous. If you take a step back and watch everyone running around freaking out about everything it all seems too dramatic. Of course, there are catastrophes which merit attention but I’m talking about the everyday little things.

If we have limited time on earth and we don’t know exactly what comes next (after death) then shouldn’t we strive to live our lives to the fullest while we are here? No, not YOLO exactly but what is the point of making things miserable for ourselves when life is already planning on throwing lemons at us? It’s really not the end of the world if plans get canceled or something breaks. Sure, it’s frustrating but life goes on. If your house catches on fire that’s a problem. If you lose your shoes it’s not that big of a problem.

Now, I can’t pretend like I never get upset at anything or feel like complaining. On the contrary I’m just as guilty of that as the next person but lately, I’ve been realizing how silly it is and how much we really have to be thankful for. If things are going fine in your life then stop and watch the sunrise or smell the flowers. We have less time than we think we do and sometimes we overprioritize the unimportant.

Maybe this is just another “enjoy the little things” cliche type of post, but I really do think that life is fleeting and less complicated than we make it out to be. Humans are funny creatures because we tangle things into huge knots and spend hours trying to untangle our own handiwork. It’s like scattering sand all over the floor and carrying a broom around to sweep it all up with.

Anyways, dance in the rain, do what you love, or at least find a way to make it happen, and learn to smile even when the clouds are gray. I may or may not be talking to myself through all of this but thanks for tuning in.

Until next time, Lydia

The Libation Bearers

For the past week, we have been reading an ancient Greek play called, “The Libation Bearers”  It is the complicated story of a very twisted family and how they all end up murdering each other. That sounds gruesome but it is the simplest summary I can provide. I’ll do the best I can to give you an outline of the events in the play.

The Libation Bearers as far as I can tell deals with the unavoidable will of the ancient Greek gods. And in this case, they have made the family of Agamemnon their playthings. Agamemnon goes to war and is absent for a long time. During this time he manages to incite the wrath of both the goddess Artemis and his own wife. To appease Artemis a blood sacrifice is required. Anyone could have become the sacrifice but Agamemnon takes it too far even in the eyes of the gods and sacrifices his own daughter. When he returns home his wife welcomes him with false pretenses of love and devotion. Once she has renewed his trust in her she exacts his murder.

Meanwhile her son Orestes has been exiled to a distant land. He travels to the Oracle of Delphi where a prophetess of Apollo makes him a prophesy. She states that he must kill his mother who is living haunted by the fury of fear in her own home. (In this play intangible beings such as Justice and Fear are portrayed as living spirits who enforce their own laws upon mortals; they are referred to as Furies.)

Orestes returns home under the guise of a traveller and meets his sister Electra with a joyful reunion. He tells her of what he has to do and she leads him to the house. His mother Clytamnestra does not recognize him and orders Electra to serve their “guest”.

Clytamnestra is living with her consort Aegisthus who she claims to love and Orestes plans their murders. At this point there are multiple forces at work. There are the Furies of Agamemnon who will attack Orestes if he does not complete the murder. But there are also the forces of his mother’s Furies if he does complete the murder. The gods and Justice are also weighed in the balance and the climax comes to a peak at this point.

Orestes murders Aegisthus which naturally draws the attention of Clytamnestra. She arms herself with an axe and goes out to meet Orestes. They have a tense conversation at this point each trying to justify the murder of the other because they know that bloodshed is imminent. In the end, Orestes kills Clytamnestra but not without bitter hesitation for he knows it is dreadful to murder his own mother.

The Libation Bearers is a bloody play that only gets bloodier as it progresses. It deals with the inescapable forces of Justice and the wrath of the gods. For on the one hand murderers must be executed for their actions but by executing one murderer another is made. Therfore it is a vicious cycle which is impossible to escape. I can’t say I enjoyed reading this play but it was certainly a different reading experience.

The Story of Venus de Milo

The ancient Greeks are famous for their marble statues and one of the most famous of all is the Venus de Milo. The Venus de Milo was discovered on the Island of Milos on April 8th, 1820 by a Greek peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas. He found her in two or more pieces under a great slab of marble in a cave. It is believed to have been carved sometime between 130 and 100 BCE.

The smooth, creamy, white marble she is sculpted from comes from the island of Paros. I have spent some time on this island and have had the opportunity to explore the ancient marble quarry where so much of the most coveted Greek marble was found. On the side of the road in the hillside, there is a sign pointing to where the cave is. After a short walk, you come to a rather unnecessary fence guarding the entrance. It is almost as if they want you to trespass and explore. A steep overgrown slope leads to the mouth of the quarry. It is a huge entrance obviously man-made as it is carved in a square shape out of the base of the mountain. It descends a short distance into a dark cavern. The walls sparkle dimly when you shine your light at them revealing the ancient chisel marks where slaves removed chunks of the stone. The marble is dirty but distinguishable. Pieces and shavings of it are scattered on the floor. I still have a few pieces which I picked up. It was here that the precious material for the famous statue was quarried.

Historians believe that she was sculpted by the master Alexandros of Antioch. She is most likely supposed to represent the Greek goddess Aphrodite or the Roman goddess, Venus. She is considered by many to be an example of profound beauty and grace and has influenced many later works of art.

Upon her discovery, a French naval officer who happened to be exploring the island helped dig her out. Another French naval officer recognizing her potential significance arranged for her to be sold to the French. The negotiation for her sale to the French took so long that the Greek who found her was about to sell her to the Turks. Right in time the French showed up and stole her off the boat from the Turks. From there they took her back to France and reassembled her. Portions of her arms could not be found and their absence has almost made her even more famous. Slightly larger than life she is approximately six feet and eight inches tall. She now resides permanently in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

English: Week six review

This is an overview of the first portion of The tenth grade English course which covers Biblical literature. In the next portion, we will move on to Greek literature. Even though I have been taught these stories from the Bible countless times there is always more to learn.  Each teacher has a different perspective and there is no such thing as too much Scripture. Gary North’s commentary on the literature of the Bible was insightful and interesting.

The course begins with Genesis (appropriately) and wraps up this section in a study of Proverbs. We start by covering the story of creation. God creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh. He creates a helpmeet for Adam and he calls her Eve. Eve is tempted by the serpent and Adam is tempted by Eve. After eating of the forbidden fruit their eyes are opened and they attempt to hide from God. God sends them away from the garden because of their disobedience and they are forced to suffer for their sin.

Next, we covered the effects that the spread of sin had on the world for the next centuries. We talked about the story of Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, The Tower of Babel, Joseph in Egypt, and Noah and the flood. We discussed the ethics and sanctions that are mentioned throughout these familiar stories.

After Genesis, we moved to the Psalms (probably for time’s sake we didn’t discuss the Exodus). We read many of the psalms of David and some by other various authors. There is a lot of room for observation in the Psalms and therefore we only discussed a small number of the things that could have been mentioned. Nevertheless, there was a lot of substance packed into those few weeks. The main points in these stories and psalms are the ethics of God, man, law, and inheritance. The issues involve life and death but the basis is ethics.

The last bit of these six weeks we talked about Proverbs. Proverbs is a collection of basic rules for how to live a good life. It is not laws that are detrimental to our progress but rather rules that are meant to help us. If followed these laws can lead to a happy, virtuous life. Proverbs talks about the values of wisdom and understanding and warns us against laziness and foolishness. It warns of the adulterous woman and gives powerful descriptions of a wise woman. By rich comparisons and strong imagery it impresses the importance of life-giving qualities and warns us against actions that will inevitably lead to pain and death. Proverbs is one of the most important and talked about books of the Bible.

For our reading these past six weeks, we obviously read the Bible so I will not be able to do book reviews like I did for the ninth grade course. I don’t know what we will be reading next but I’ll miss writing book reviews. I’ll try to slip them in whenever I can though.

History: Week 5 Review

Aristotle:

Aristotle is one of the most famous Greek philosophers of the ancient world and is known for his great advancement of ethics, logic, politics, and philosophy.

He was born in Stagira Greece and his father was the personal physician of the king of Macedon but he died when Aristotle was still young. At age seventeen or eighteen he enrolled in Plato’s Academy and became one of the best students there. After twenty years in Athens, he moved and eventually became the personal tutor of Alexander the Great until he succeeded his father to the throne. He also two tutored two other future kings: Ptolemy and Cassander.

He later moved back to Athens and started his own school, passing on his insight and ideas to the new generation. Aristotle was fascinated by just about every conceivable subject. He studied and explored an enormous range of topics which helped hone his widespread reputation. Not only did he focus on the natural world but also the world of reasoning and thought.

Sparta:

The Spartans are one of the best-known civilizations of the ancient world. They are famous for their impressive military style and hardcore lifestyle. This originally began because of their slave system. After they endured a large slave revolt they decided to prevent further uprisings by fortifying their own people. They set up a unique system where men and boys were trained to be elite soldiers and even the women were trained to some extent. The result was the strongest militaristic community of ancient Greece.

Young boys were taken from their mothers at age seven and began their training. This training was some of the most rigorous and physically exerting that can be imagined. It even involved the killing of helots (spartan slaves). Men were allowed to marry but could not see their wives unless they snuck away from the camps. This was accepted and even encouraged as long as they did not get caught. The punishments for signs of weakness or inability were brutal.

The women were free from the menial tasks of household work because of the slave system and were therefore expected to exercise and grow stronger for childbearing. Spartans are required to go to war but they don’t like to be away from home long because they fear that the slaves will rebel while they are away. (And because they live in a gorgeous valley in the mountains and their wives are making gyros.)

The most famous story about the Spartans is their last stand at Thermopylae. Five hundred Spartans faced thousands of Persians between the mountains and the sea at Thermopylae. They died in the end but not without fighting their hardest. It is said that the number of Persian arrows was so great the it blocked out the sun. Although there is now nothing to see at Thermopylae but a small plaque and a statue, it marked a valiant stand in the history of Sparta and Greece.

Until next time