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December 05, 2019


Fascinating post,Beth. The gold death mask is fabulously dramatic, mesmerising and so 'modern' to our modern eyes. But I feel tenderness for those shy,diffident, not at all war-like warriors on the vase.I wonder if they were intentionally so, perhaps even satirically so? They certainly look reluctant to engage in conflict of any kind. Modern Greeks have a great, sardonic sense of humour, maybe Bronze Age Greeks were similarly inclined?

I can only read in wonder - not just at the material you were showered with, or the skills you acquired, but at your state of preparedness for what you were facing. The necessary eagerness and abilities you brought to the act of learning.

I compare this with the empty bowl I represented when I left the meaningless restrictions of school, driven by a vague thought that to write about things - even for such an ephemeral medium as a newspaper - would be better than doing nothing with my life. I may have been as eager as you were but my state of mind was erratic and childish. The goals, if they existed, were undefined.

Now, after all this time, that apprenticeship makes sense to me even if it would seem pathetic to anyone who sees a one-day-old newspaper as fit only for wrapping fish and chips. That the grind (which I never saw as a grind) of writing in short sentences that were grammatically correct (nothing much more!) and could be easily understood by that shapeless mass known as "the readers" would stand me in good stead when I wanted to engage with more complicated matters. I had my own professors, the sub-editors who corrected my stuff and told me why. And although I never recognised it at the time I was leaving petty restrictions behind and taking aboard valuable restrictions. A simplified method of dealing with the infinity of human events.

Which has left me better able to appreciate what, why and how you did things during your studency, and the person you have necome as a result. That discipline is not Gradgrindism; it should thrill us and - here's a bonus - there's a good chance it will thrill us even more in retrospect.

Thanks for your comment, Natalie. I think my own tenderness toward those warriors was apparent to me even at an early age. They made me smile, but mostly they just seemed very human, and vulnerable in a way soldiers shouldn't be but often are.

Robbie, thank you, but you're giving me too much credit. Yes I was eager to learn and pour myself into it, and once I found this direction I took to it with determination, but I wasn't a kid who had come from a privileged, scholarly background that would have prepared me well for university, compared to many of the other students in those vaunted Ivy League schools. I was from a small town, where I had done well in a small pond, but in the big lake, I found I lacked preparation, study skills, and most of all confidence and experience in large libraries, laboratories, and big competitive or urban environments. It took me two years, really, to find my own "place", and even when I graduated I was still less confident than many others. Frankly, I'm glad for that. It made me empathetic to anyone, from refugees to underprivileged kids or minorities of any kind, who get thrown into the deep end, or willingly put themselves there, and have to sink or swim. I'm glad I wasn't a brash, overconfident, unsympathetic, immodest person (like some I encountered, then, and later, I'm afraid). I've certainly had curiosity, drive, and perseverance that have helped me do make progress in a number of fields, but I hope that trying to be a kind and decent person has always been uppermost.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.