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A flash of lightning in a Summer Cloud

Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, ca. fourth century CE

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The Sky That Shields From A Devouring Vastness

In his “Introduction” to Paul Bowles’ Collected Stories (1979,) Gore Vidal ranked the short stories as “among the best ever written by an American”, writing: “the floor to this ramshackle civilization that we have built cannot bear much longer our weight. It was Bowles’s genius to suggest the horrors which lie beneath that floor, as fragile, in its way, as the sky that shelters us from a devouring vastness”.

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A Cat That Really Was Gone

Boney M one of my mother’s favourite Bands has a very peppy song in their album about Rasputin. Though I have heard it on and off through out my childhood, I really sat and listened to it yesterday and it seems I can’t stop listening to it ever since (even as I write this).

The song is about a Raw Raw Man Rasputin with a flaming glow in his eyes, who was not just the Russian Queen’s Lover, not simply the greatest love-making machine in Russia, he was also a cat that really was gone

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Some description!

The song narrates the rise and fall of Russian mystic and self-proclaimed holy man Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin.

The song’s final stanza is devoted to the episode where he gets killed. Though it has been told over and over, it is worth countless re-telling.

Some men of higher standing – Prince Felix Yusupov, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and the right-wing politician Vladimir Purishkevich – invited Rasputin to Yusupovs’ Moika Palace. Yusupov Palace

He arrived at Midnight.

They took him to the basement.

They gave him tea and cakes and three glasses of wine, poisoned with cyanide.

As the song says, he drank it and felt nothing.

Around 2:30, they got fed up, asked Rasputin to tell his prayers and shot him once on the chest.

Man did not die.He was shot again in the Palace courtyard, where the action was now taking palace.

He fell on the thick snow.

carved-oak-door-of-the-yusupov-palace-in-st-petersburg
Yusupov’s Moika Palace Front Door Made of Oak

Rasputin’s dead body was now wrapped in cloth and was taken to the Petrovsky Bridge and dropped into the Malaya Nevka River.

The next day, two passing workmen saw blood stains on the bridge span, bridge panels, railing and bridge supports.

On New Year, Rasputin’s body was found by the police near the bridge.

Later on, Tsarina Alexandra buried his body in a town Tsarskoye Selo (A world heritage site) , about 24km from St Petersburg.

During the Russian Revolution a group of workers from St Petersburg uncovered the remains and burned the body in a nearby woods.

I quote wikipedia now –

“As the body was being burned, Rasputin appeared to sit up in the fire. His apparent attempts to move and get up thoroughly horrified bystanders. ”

Reason for this phenomena –

“The effect can probably be attributed to improper cremation;[citation needed] since the body was in inexperienced hands, the tendons were probably not cut before burning. Consequently, when the body was heated, the tendons shrank, forcing the legs to bend and the body to bend at the waist, resulting in its appearing to sit up”

His official autopsy report disappeared during the Stalin era.

Recent evidence suggests that neither was he poisoned, nor drowned to death.

Reports suggest that Rasputin had been systematically beaten and attacked with a bladed weapon; but, most importantly, there were discrepancies regarding the number and caliber of handguns used.

There is also a theory that British Intelligence agents, along with friendly Yusupov, who is an alumni of Oxford University, were behind Rasputin’s death.

Reason – He was urging the Tsar to to make a separate Peace Treaty with Germany and withdraw from the war. This would have upset British plan to keep Germany occupied on both fronts.

Rasputin’s daughter emigrated to France and then to US. Her memoirs paint a saintly picture of Rasputin.

Dead_Rasputin
Oh Those Russians!

Rasputin is a very intriguing figure in world history. His story will always draw interest from various corners since his life was a manifestation of power, politics, lust, intrigue, jealousy and murder. Its impossible to find his story boring.

I am very much looking forward to Leonardo DeCaprio’s portrayal of this very interesting man.

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Strange Bedfellows

The U.S. Department of Defense contributes to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s efforts to restore longleaf pine ecosystems in the American southeast on the grounds that forested buffers around military bases contribute to military readiness.39 There are so many ways that forests can be kept both undisturbed and productive!

– The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World (Looduse lood) by Peter Wohlleben

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If Gods Had A Shape

If Gods had a shape, the chance that they will resemble humans is almost nil.

Why this sudden realisation you may ask? I am reading Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens. This particular quote drew my attention –

 

This would have brought about an unprecedented transformation in human capabilities and lifestyles. Every other mammal that went to sea – seals, sea cows, dolphins – had to evolve for aeons to develop specialised organs and a hydrodynamic body. The Sapiens in Indonesia, descendants of apes who lived on the African savannah, became Pacific seafarers without growing flippers and without having to wait for their noses to migrate to the top of their heads as whales did.

There is little chance that the Gods inhabit the same ecosystem as us humans. Therefore, it can be more or less confirmed that they either do not require to evolve, or have evolved in a way very different from us humans. It therefore appears that either the myths about Gods are just that – myths or Gods are ancient aliens that ancient humans encountered. I would rather it be the former than the latter.

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A being of higher faculties

“A being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering… than one of an inferior type; but in spite of these liabilities, he can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence.”

“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question.”29
This expression of faith in the appeal of the higher human faculties is compelling. But in relying on it, Mill strays from the utilitarian premise. No longer are de facto desires the sole basis for judging what is noble and what is base. Now the standard derives from an ideal of human dignity independent of our wants and desires. The higher pleasures are not higher because we prefer them; we prefer them because we recognize them as higher. We judge Hamlet as great art not because we like it more than lesser entertainments, but because it engages our highest faculties and makes us more fully human.