“Why do you shave daddy?”
asked my darling daughter
as I conducted my morning ritual
in front of the mirror.
Ah ha! I thought,
time to impart some paternal wisdom.
So I told her the facts.
“Shaving is what separates us from the beasts,”
I pontificated pompously,
waving my shaving brush in the air,
whilst working myself into a lather.
“Man alone of all the animals
is dissatisfied with his appearance
and seeks to change it.
From there all human progress proceeds,
If you can change your appearance,
why not change the external world as well
to meet your needs.
Its all just Vanity & Hubris really.
Other animals adapt to the environment,
whereas we adapt the environment to meet our tastes.
Yes, our Evolution ended when Progress began.”
“But why did we start in the first place,
you might ask?
Basically I feel Mankind’s urge to shave
is a denial of our Glorious Simian Heritage.
People want to forget
that we’re related to chimpanzees.
So we monkey with the past,
invent God to give us an alibi,
(and the authority to lord it over the rest of the animal kingdom),
whilst we alter our appearance
to hide the family resemblance.
But still, from a legal point of view,
based on the latest available DNA testing techniques,
we’re all just Statutory Apes
In fact, strictly speaking,
most of our ancestors weren’t even mammals.”
“Oh,” said my daughter, “what about girls?”
“Oh Womankind shaves too,
armpits and legs mainly, I believe,
you’ll have to ask your mother for details,
though personally speaking, I don’t mind
a girl with furry armpits.
“Eeewwww!” Said my daughter.
“Yes,” I said complacently,
“It’s all a matter of taste.
Humans often find it necessary to alter their odour,
though to be fair
dogs display similar tendencies
when they roll in decay and ordure.
Dead things and dung they like special.”
“Eeeewwww!” Said my daughter once more,
and ran from the room yelling,
“Mummy! Daddy’s being disgusting again!”
“Wait till dinner time,” I promised,
“I’m planning a talk on tapeworms.”
I do enjoy our little chats, I thought,
as I carefully sculpted
the edge of my beard.
Book of the Week
‘Thermopylae-The Battle for the West’ by Ernle Bradford (1980, De Capo Press)
Picked this up from the library last week little realising what an ironic read it would make. But so it proved to be. Thus I could read of Xerxes burning Athens back in 480BCE whilst listening to the latest radio broadcasts of the riots and petrol bombs burning modern day Athens. Greek politics has always been a stormy affair, and clearly the Greek city states ‘anarchic individualism’ of which the book speaks, is still much in evidence.
This book is a study of the war between the Persian Empire & the emerging Greek city states, focusing on the famous battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan hoplites and a handful of lighter armed allies fought a desperate holding action for three days against an army estimated around 170,000 men. From this battle developed the invaluable myth that an army of free men will always outfight an army of slaves. You can be killed, but never conquered.
Their sacrifice bought the Greek alliance time to assemble their fleet and army and an example of heroic commitment to the cause of political freedom. It is a generally held view that had the Greek city states lost this war, Western history as we know it would never have happened. The traditions of Democracy, intellectual freedom and scientific reasoning would have been extinguished before they truly begun.
Bradford does a good job of explaining the individuals, the politics and the culture of the times. Of course he relies a lot on Herodotus, and I guess you could probably just read Herodotus yourself, but the old ‘Father of History’ does tend to waffle on a bit and get distracted by interesting details. As do I. Hell, read them both.
Whatever you do don’t see the execrable movie 300. For one thing the Spartans didn’t fight dressed only in loincloths and baby oil. (The going joke is that it was called 300 because on a scale of one to ten thats how gay it is) The sixties movie, 300 Spartans, despite a lame love story tacked on, at least makes a stab at historical accuracy plus it has corny, pre-CGI battle scenes that are simply adorable.
Courage and heroism in battle isn’t exactly PC these days, and admittedly such virtues
have often been lauded as part of a right wing agenda, but the victory of the small, squabbling Greek city states over the Monarchical Persian empire, as Bradford concludes, “ensured that the patterns of freedom and individual liberty should survive in the West.” As such the sacrifice of Thermopylae should be remembered.
“Tell them in Sparta, passer-by
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”
-Spartan memorial plaque at Thermopylae
Apologies for the lateness of todays sermon. Mothers day.