Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sappho and the Ice Age


Sappho, probably the first LGBT super star, famous, brilliant Greek poetess, born on the isle of Lesbos, (yeah) around 630 BC. That means she was born six hundred and thirty years before Christ. The United States has only been around for about 236 years. So between the birth of Sappho and the birth of Christ, the United States could have come and gone 3 times. She was born that long ago, (but not in a manger). Keep those dates in mind as you read a few fragments from her poetry:

Love has shaken my heart
like a stormwind falling on oaks along the hillside...
Again Love the looser of limbs has struck me,
a bittersweet inescapable creature.


Equal of the gods he seems to me,
that man who sits face to face with you
and listens closely as you speak in sweetness
and listens again

as beautifully you laugh: a sound that sets
my wild heart fluttering in my bosom.
For when I look at you even a moment
I cannot speak at all,

my tongue is frozen, and on that instant
a subtle fire runs underneath my skin,
with my eyes I see nothing and in my ears
I hear a roaring.

Sweat runs down all over me and a tremor
takes hold of my whole body. I am paler
than grass in summer, and I feel myself
close to the edge of death.

Beautiful, moving, and we can't even appreciate her poetry fully without being able to hear the music of the ancient Greek words she wrote in.

From Wikipedia: "The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired through much of antiquity, has been lost; however, her immense reputation has endured through surviving fragments.:

The exquisite elegance and refined sensibility of Sappho, and her fame for hundreds of years around the ancient world all testify to the advanced level of civilization of the age she lived in, where subtlety of thought, feeling and expression were highly developed, and were also capable of being widely distributed around a very large geographic area; and all this without the internet, she must have written on clay tablets, or papyrus something equally unwieldy. Amazing, huh?

Even though she lived more than six hundred years before Christ, clearly, she wasn't living in a cave, wearing bearskins or chomping down on Woolly Mammoth legs for supper. Much like us, she wore clothes of wool, linen or silk, ate olives, fish, bread, cheese and wine, learned to read and write, and had a profession besides being an aristocrat.

So, if today is 2015 AD, and she was born about 630 BC, that means she lived 2615 years ago, writing terrific love poetry that everybody around the Mediterranean was happily reading. 

So, as my grandfather used to say, put this in your pipe and smoke it. The last glacial age, when all of Canada, much of the US, Europe and Asia were buried under ice about two miles thick, that's right, ice two miles deep-- hard to imagine that much ice, isn't it?--well, that ice only melted about 11,700 years ago, which means that Sappho lived only about 9000 years after most of the northern hemisphere was groaning under miles thick of ice. 

Last Glaciation map
In nine thousand short years, mankind recovered from near annihilation by ice to create language, writing, reading, reliable food supply, plumbing, architecture, music, oh just a bunch of good stuff.

And if you look at the ancient Egyptians, they started to become the greatest civilization around the Mediterranean about 3100 BC, which is 5115 thousand years ago, or half way back to the last ice age, which we are actually still coming out of. 

So what I don't get is when people start talking about global warming, what are they talking about, exactly? Obviously, Canada isn't under two miles of ice anymore. The whole of Canada rises an inch a year, rebounding from having all that heavy ice crushing it. Obviously, the planet has gotten warmer. It started eleven thousand and seven hundred years ago. No one knows why. Not even Al Gore. Nobody was flying planes or driving SUV's eleven thousand years ago when the ice was melting PDQ. Was it auroch's emitting methane gas that melted all those glaciers? I'm sure there are many theories.

One interesting theory is that it is the yearly monsoon rains that contribute to repeated global coolings and ice ages. The monsoons occur due to the ever increasing height of the Himalayas, which causes the moisture laden clouds from the ocean to condense into rain as they rise up the mountains and increase chemical weathering as they cascade downhill. Could this effect trigger the continuing series of ice ages? I don't fully understand this hypothesis, but you can't ignore immense factors like the monsoons or the Himalayas, can you?

Monsoons and CO2  

All the same, I for one am darn glad that the glaciers melted, and I'll bet Sappho was, too.   

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