Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Legonauts: Juno and Jupiter in Outer Space

The Roman gods gave their names to the planets, and now Juno and Jupiter are in outer space, along with Galileo... you can read about them in this article at Atlas Obscura: Galileo Finally Made It to Jupiter (In Lego Form, at Least).

These three Lego figures (made out of aluminum) traveled on an unmanned NASA probe to the planet Jupiter. The probe was launched in 2011, and after five years, it finally reached Jupiter this year; if all goes well, it will be orbiting the planet until a planned crash landing in 2018. You can read more about the Juno Probe at Wikipedia, and you can follow the mission at Twitter

This image shows just Jupiter and Juno; he holds a lightning bolt, while Juno has a magnifying glass, which, as NASA explains, symbolizes her search for truth:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

The story of Icarus is one of the most enduring stories from Greek mythology, and it is part of the UnTextbook: Daedalus and Icarus. What I wanted to share here today is the beautiful painting called Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, attributed to Pieter Bruegel.

~ ~ ~

The painting, in turn, inspired an amazing poem by W. H. Auden, who saw this painting in Belgium in 1938 (more at Wikipedia); the text is from Paintings and Poems:

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

~ ~ ~

And William Carlos Williams also wrote a poem about the same painting (more at Wikipedia); the source for the poem again is Paintings and Poems:

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

Friday, September 2, 2016

Story of the Day: The Liberation of Gajendra the Elephant

This is a story from India about the god Vishnu and how he rescued an elephant named Gajendra from the grip of a fierce crocodile. It is one of the sacred stories of the Vaishnavite tradition, and you can listen to the Gajendra Mantra if you want while you read; the YouTube video is down at the bottom of the page.

To create this story, I worked with the Wikipedia article: Gajendra Moksha, adding details from other Wikipedia articles and from the Bhagavata Purana translation at the Bhaktivedanta VedaBase.

The Liberation of Gajendra the Elephant

Gajendra Moksha, The Liberation (Moksha) of Gajendra, is a legend from the Bhagavata Purana, which narrates the adventures of the god Vishnu.

There was once an elephant named Gajendra who lived in a lovely garden located on Mount Trikuta, the "Three-Peaked Mountain," in ancient India. Gajendra ruled over all the other elephants in the herd.

On a hot day, Gajendra proceeded with his herd to a lake to cool off in its fresh waters. Suddenly a makara, which is a sort of crocodile, attacked Gajendra and caught him by the leg. Gajendra tried for a long time to escape from the crocodile's clutches. All his family, relatives and friends gathered around to help him, but in vain. The crocodile simply wouldn't let go.

When they concluded that it was Gajendra's time to die, the other elephants left him alone. Gajendra trumpeted in pain and helplessness until he was hoarse. The struggle seemed to go on forever (some people say that the crocodile held Gajendra's foot for over a thousand of years!), and when Gajendra had finally expended all his strength, he called to the god Vishnu to save him, holding a lotus up in the air as an offering.

"Lord Vishnu," said Gajendra, "I call out to you, and I seek shelter at your feet! You are the witness in every heart, and you enlighten every soul. I am in danger; please protect me! You are the Supersoul, the Supreme Person, the cause of everything, but you yourself have no cause. Through the shadows of the material world, we glimpse your being; you are the fire that is hidden in the arani wood. I have no desire to live after being released from this crocodile; I desire only to be liberated from ignorance. You are the master of mystic yoga, and I surrender myself unto you!"

Hearing his devotee's call, Lord Vishnu rushed to the scene. As Gajendra sighted the Lord coming, he lifted the lotus even higher with his trunk. Pleased by this sight, Vishnu used his sacred discus, the Sudharshana Chakra, to separate the crocodile's head from its body. Gajendra then prostrated himself before Vishnu in reverent gratitude.

Vishnu explained that, in his previous birth, Gajendra had been a famous king named Indradyumna, but when he had insulted the great sage Agastya, Agastya cursed him. "Because of your Ahamkara (egoism), you will become an elephant," said Agastya, "and in that form you will learn the hard way that you must renounce the self and surrender yourself to Lord Vishnu."

Now that Gajendra the elephant had finally set aside his pride, totally surrendering himself to Vishnu, he was able to achieve Moksha, liberation from the cycle of rebirth, and he joined Vishnu in the heaven called Vaikuntha, the Supreme Abode of the Lord.

(500 words)

The prayer of Gajendra became a famous hymn in praise of Vishnu. You can listen to a performance here at YouTube, and you can see the transliteration and translation here: Gajendra's Prayers of Surrender to Lord Vishnu.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Roman Mosaic: The goddess Thetis

As you might know, the Greek hero Achilles had a divine mother: Thetis, the sea goddess. The mosaic below shows Thetis (with her name spelled out in Greek), along with fishes and other sea creatures. This is a mosaic from a Roman bath house in Armenia, dating to around the year 300 C.E. You can read more about the floor mosaic at this website: Armenian Heritage - Garni. Roman Baths.

At Wikipedia, you can read more about Thetis and about Achilles, and their story is told in the Iliad unit here at the UnTextbook.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book Illustrator Warwick Goble: Pentameron (11-20)

This is a follow-up to a previous post: Book Illustrator Warwick Goble: Pentameron (1-10).

11. The Prince appearing to Nella (not in color for some reason in this Hathi book, but it is in color at Sur La Lune) ... in The Three Sisters (text)

12. Violet and the Prince in the Garden ... from Violet (text)

13. The King and Princess receiving Pippo at Court ... from Pippo (text)

14. Grannonia and the Fox ... from The Serpent (text); see also Wikipedia.

15. Preziosa in the Garden ... from The She-Bear (text); see also Wikipedia.

16. The Prince and Filadoro with the Snails ... from The Dove (text); see also Wikipedia.

17. Cannetella released from the Cask ... from Cannetella (text); see also Wikipedia.

18. Corvetto escaping with the Ogre’s Tapestry ... from Corvetto (text); see also Wikipedia.

19. The Royal Proclamation ... from The Booby (text)

20. Minecco Aniello meeting the Magicians ... from The Stone in the Cock's Head (text)