Greek Myths: The hubris of Oedipus

16th September 2021

Oedipus | Story, Summary, & Facts | Britannica
Oedipus and the Sphinx. Representation on a cup circa 470 BCE, now in the Vatican Museum, Rome.

Oedipus, along with Sisyphus, Achilles and Odysseus, is a figure from Greek myth who is part of our modern psyche. His story, whose key points are widely known, belongs to our collective cultural history; he lends his name to a psychological complex. In philosophy, Oedipus can be discussed as a case of free will versus determinism.

Oedipus was certainly no hero in the Theseus or Perseus mold. An argument could be made that he was no hero at all, but a tragic figure. However, he was strong enough to overcome four royal guards single-handedly, and intelligent enough to solve the riddle of the Sphinx, thereby freeing the people of Thebes.

A warrior (like Achilles), an strategist (like Odysseus), a character doomed for unimaginable punishment (like Sisyphus) ? We see what a complex character Oedipus is, and why he still holds our interest and awe.

The Complex Case of Romanian Folklore in Pasolini's Oedipus Rex | The Attic
Oedipus Rex by Pier Paolo Pasolini 1967

So, the key points, what the ‘average person’ knows about Oedipus:

He killed his father and slept with his mother

He solved the Riddle of the Sphinx

Some background is necessary. Some clarification is absolutely necessary.

Firstly, he unwittingly killed his father (King Laius; I shall elucidate later). Secondly, as a reward for freeing Thebes from the curse of the Sphinx, Oedipus was given Queen Jocasta, Laius’ widow, to wed. The patricide and insest were commited freely. Or were they ? Oedipus had been told that he would kill his father and marry his mother, which is exactly what happened, despite his determination to prove the prophecy false.

Therefore, it is my contention that Oedipus was punished for having the hubris to believe that he could defy fate. Yet, the question remains: why was Oedipus fated for such a punishment ? For that, we have to go back a generation and learn about his father, King Laius of Thebes.

Oedipus: Map of Thebes and Corinth

Laius was from the House of Thebes and, as a young man, left his home town and stayed in Elis with King Pelops, a grandson of Zeus and son of Tantalus (but that is another story). Laius was a guest, and became tutor to Pelops’ son Chrysippus. Laius committed the unpardonable sins of abducting and raping the boy. For this he was cursed. Should he ever have a son, that child would murder him, then marry the widow. Despite Laius forcing himself to decline the pleasure of his wife, nature, to employ a phrase, took its course. A son was born, a son that Laius demanded be left alone on a mountain, his feet pinned together.

Salvator Rosa Beach Towel featuring the painting The Abandoned Oedipus by Salvator Rosa
Oedipus abandoned, a print on a beach towel. A perfect illustration of how the myth permeates our culture.

The shepherd charged with this duty gave the baby to a friend from Corinth, where the baby was adopted by the childless King Polybus and Queen Meriope. The child was named Oedipus, meaning swollen foot (and from which we get the medical term oedema, swelling in the feet and ankles) [1]. Oedipus loved and was loved by his parents, and all was well in Corinth. Until, that is, a drunken man told Oedipus the truth, that he was not the natural child. Polybus and Meriope denied this, but Oedipus (in perhaps his first mistake, not believing his parents) travelled to the Oracle at Delphi to learn the truth. His origin was confirmed, and his fate, to kill his father and marry his mother, was proclaimed.

Delphi, home of the famous oracle

In an attempt to avoid this prophecy, Oedipus travelled instead to Thebes. On this journey, he met a carriage coming towards him. Either the driver grazed him, struck him, or demanded that he yield and give way. This infuriated Oedipus, and a fight ensued. In the carriage was an old man; King Laius. The King and all his guards, all but one of the retinue, were slain by Oedipus for their disrespectful treatment of a king’s son.

The Murder of Laius by Oedipus by Joseph Blanc 1867

Whether he was brave to refuse this slight, or flawed by an uncontrollable albeit understandable anger, Oedipus had unwittingly fulfilled the first part of the prophecy.

Continuing on to Thebes, Oedipus encountered the Sphinx and solved the riddle (which I’m sure you are all familiar with). Defeated, the Sphinx killed herself and, as mentioned earlier, Oedipus was given the widowed Queen Jocasta. The had four children and all was well. For a time. A plague decimated Thebes, and it would not abate until the murderer of Laius was found and punished. Eventually, it was revealed that Oedipus was the killer. Jocasta hanged herself, Oedipus blinded himself and went into self-imposed exile, wandering the countryside and dying just outside Athens.

Oedipus Rex Fimonoi Athens
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Performed by the Fimonoi Theatre Group in Athens, Greece

The Greek myths, unlike theological texts such as the Talmud, Bible and Koran, are incredibly flexible and varied, altering from city to city, as well as over time. Just how much people believed or accepted them will never be known, but many people would have been aware of the more famous myths.

Many myths that involve retribution, such as are found in Ovid’s ‘Metamorphosis’ are read as cautionary tales. Someone, a mortal, displayed a weakness that was so offensive they were punished. Some punishments were extremely harsh, but the reason could be clearly discerned. But how to understand Oedipus ? What, in fact was his digression ?

His fate was stated before he had done anything wrong. Maybe he didn’t accept his parent’s explanation, but that seems more contrary to Confucianism and filial piety. Greek myths are full of family in-fighting. He refused to yield to the carriage of King Laius and that pride led to fighting and murder, yet that could be attributed to self defense. Oedipus’ only fault seems to have been simply existing. Laius angered the gods. Why punish the son ?

I have read that some contemporary Greeks apparently thought the same, and began questioning the veracity of gods, myths and society. Such a harsh punishment for a young man who had rid a city of a curse made little if any sense. The psychological trauma would be unimaginable, which may explain the need to self mutilate, physical pain to numb the mental anguish.

To conclude, I am left to assert that Oedipus’ only crime was to try to defeat fate, to have the hubris to feel that a mere mortal, a king’s son notwithstanding, had the power to change the will of the gods. He honoured his father and mother but at the expense of the Immortals. Oedipus refused to accept his fate, for that he was doomed.

What else could Oedipus have done ? Should he have ignored the prophecy, or resign himself to the outcome ? The debate continues.

Stravinsky rehearsing his Oedipus Rex opera, first performed in 1927
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[1] Some scholars question this etymolgy.

Sources

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Oedipus-Greek-mythology

https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/862997/pages/the-story-of-oedipus?module_item_id=4891933

https://www2.classics.upenn.edu/myth/php/tragedy/index.php?page=thebes

https://www.softschools.com/examples/literary_terms/hamartia_examples/257/

Charlie Watts R.I.P

30th August 2021

Charlie Watts, the Unlikely Soul of the Rolling Stones - The New York Times

Unfortunately, we have to say goodbye to another beloved musician. Last Tuesday Charlie Watts drummer with the Rolling Stones passed away in London.

I was lucky enough to see the Stones twice, in football grounds (Wembley in London, and in Copenhagen), but I also saw Charlie in a much smaller London theatre where he performed a tribute to Jazz legend Charlie Parker. Apart from being a Rock ‘n’ Roll legend, Charlie was a Jazz lover, and played with small groups and big bands.

Charlie Watts: a rock'n'roll legend whose true love was jazz | Charlie Watts  | The Guardian

Stones guitarist Keith Richards posted this image:

Image

Goodbye Charlie xoxo

Charlie Watts (2nd June 1941 – 24th August 2021)

Young Learners, Level 6: Engineering projects

27th April 2021

Warm up – Here are some symbols of Viet Nam:

Can you think of symbols of the UK ?

Question: Why is Britain so big in Sai Gon ?

England Symbols And Icons. Vector Illustration Royalty Free Cliparts,  Vectors, And Stock Illustration. Image 137889874.

Answer:

Khám phá The Landmark 81 - Tòa nhà cao nhất tại Việt Nam

Landmark 81 is a super-tall skyscraper in Ho Chi Minh CityVietnam, that was designed by the British firm (company) Atkins.

Landmark 81 is the tallest building in Vietnam, and the 14th tallest building in the world.

The 461.5 metres (1,514 ft) tall, 81-storey building is built on the western banks of the Saigon River.

The development comprises (has) hotel and conference rooms, luxury apartments, high-end shops, restaurants, bars, and a multi-story observation deck.

Image result for landmark 81

Comprehension review:

What is the building called ? // Where exactly is it ? //

What firm designed it and where are they from ?

How tall is it ? // What does the complex comprise of ?

Landmark 81 Skyview Review: Is it worth? - Mylittleplan.com
How would you feel so high in the sky ?

Can you think of any tall buildings from history ?

Can you think of any amazing engineering works from history ?

Information gathering

Watch the video and collect the following information (answers at end of blog):

1) What year was Philadelphia City Hall built ?

2) Where is the Singer Building ?

3) How tall is the Metlife Tower ?

4) What year was the Chrysler Building built ?

5) How tall is the Empire State Building to the very top ?

6) What is the tallest building in Chicago called ?

7) What is the first building in the video NOT in the USA ? Where is it ?

8) How tall is Taipei 101 ? What plant does it look like ?

9) In 2010, what was the world’s tallest building ? Where is it ?

10) What will be the tallest building in the world ?

11) Work on the Jeddah Tower stopped in 2020. Can you think why ?

Interesting fact: the US architect Adrian Smith designed both the Burj Khalifa and the Jeddah Tower

However, it’s not all plain sailing. Sometimes things go wrong:

(suggest starting at number #48 at 1:20)

Answers

1) 1901 2) NYC 3) 213metres or 700 feet 4) 1930

5) 432 m or 1416 ft 6) Sears Tower (now Willis Tower)

7) Petronus Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

8) 508m or 1667 ft. It resembles a bamboo plant

9) Burj Khalifa in Dubai 1

10) Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia 11) Work stopped due to COVID-19

A useful website, from April 4th 2021: https://constructionreviewonline.com/project-timelines/jeddah-tower-project-timeline-and-all-you-need-to-know/

Listening Skills: Tips and links.

Thay Paul's Notes

Listening Skills

The following websites are good for practicing listening. What are the pros and cons of each one ? What do you like or dislike about them ? How helpful do you find them ?

British Council (learn English teens). Home – skills – listening

http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice

Newsinlevels.com

https://www.newsinlevels.com/

BBC Learning English (for pronunciation)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/pronunciation

Learn English with Emma

https://www.youtube.com/user/EnglishTeacherEmma

Mad English TV

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUeS2Jmgiu0OFaTeRqkuXtw

TOEIC Channel

English Class 101

And … listen to music (with lyrics), films (short clips – 30 seconds to 1 minute) and TV shows with subtitles.

Try these:

Music

Any English song with lyrics (words) will be a great way to learn, and fun as well.

Film ‘King’s Speech’

TV show – ‘Eastenders’

This is a ‘soap opera’ – a TV drama that is shown two or three times a week. Each episode last 30 minutes and has many different characters. This drama is set in…

View original post 76 more words

Adult Speaking Class, Level 2: London – how do I get to … ?

29th June 2020

How do I get to … ?

London: Inside Buckingham Palace and Changing of the Guard ...

Asking and telling directions

Direction language

Expressions

Adverbs

Idioms

Look at the map. 

How to get to Buckingham Palace | Royal Collection Trust | Lugares ...

You are standing outside the Palace, at the corner of Birdcage Walk. You want to get to (go to) Victoria Station.

Excuse me, how do I get to Victoria Station ?

Walk straight down Buckingham Palace Road. Walk across the street and you can’t miss it (you will see it easily).

You are outside the front door of Harrods and want to visit the Royal Albert Hall

Harrods' 10 Secrets - Luxury Shopping in London - Black Platinum Gold
Pin by Karin Evans on London | Buckingham palace, London, Hyde park

WELCOME TO LEYTONSTONE

Leytonstone is an area in east London, and was the birthplace of the film director Alfred Hitchcock, footballer David Beckham and singer Damon Albarn of the band Blur.

Damon Albarn unveils blue plaque at childhood home in Fillebrook ...
Damon Albarn showing where he lived in Leytonstone
File:Damon Albarn (Waltham Forest Heritage).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Next, asking for local directions:

Sorry to bother (disturb) you, but I’m looking for a pub. Is there one near here ?

Yes, there is one quite close, ‘The Birkbeck Tavern’, maybe five or ten minutes’ walk away. Turn left until you come to Bridge Street. Turn left again, and keep walking, past the park, until you reach the bridge. Cross over, and Bob’s your uncle (there you are). It’s on the corner, you can’t miss it.

The Birkbeck Tavern, Leytonstone | Layers of London | Recording ...

NOW: A local map

Bushwood Area Residents' Association

You are in LISTER ROAD (at the bottom) and want to get to GROVE ROAD.

Take turns asking each other questions.

The red circle with a blue band is the symbol for an underground station, which we call ‘The Tube.’ Here is Leytonstone Tube:

Man charged over Leytonstone tube stabbing remanded - BBC News
Leytonstone | Central line : London Underground ( 1992 Tube Stock ...

Plan a day

What would you like to do, where would you like to visit ?

Things to consider:

Time / lunch / travelling around / a variety of activities

London video

Beginners’ English: What’s it for ?

25th June 2020

What is it for ?

What is a knife for ? 

Japanese Masamune Kitchen Gyuto Chef's Knife 180mm 7.1 inch ...

A knife is for cutting meat and fish and also vegetables as well as fruit and not forgetting bread. 

We link ideas with conjunctives – and / as well as / and not forgetting

What is a spoon for ? What’s a spoon for ?

Pronounced “Whatsa spoon for ?”

Vintage Aluminium Kitchen Spoon Large USSR Soviet Soup | Etsy

A spoon’s for eating as well as stirring drinks and not forgetting cooking.

High Quality Stock Photos of "coffee"

What are they ? They are / They’re scissors (siszerss)

Scissors - Wikipedia

What are they for ?

Scissors are for cutting paper and cutting hair as well as cutting chili and not forgetting shirts and material.

10 best peelers 2019 – top y-shaped and swivel peelers for ...

A vegetable peeler is for peeling vegetables but also for peeling fruit such as mango or apple and peach and nectarine.

We use ‘such as‘ to give examples:

I love spicy food such as Thai, Mexican and Korean

까니짱 G-NI - Eating Korean spicy fried chicken drumsticks | Facebook

Adult Speaking Class, level 3: Let’s go to San Francisco … or Boston … or Chicago.

18th May 2020

In our last blog lesson, we focused on what we needed to do BEFORE travelling to the States, all the boring logistics and organising, booking and planning. Now … we are all set. All we have to do is select which city to visit.

Which of these destinations are most appealing to you and why ?

Boston

Amazon.com: Lantern Press Boston, Massachusetts - Acorn Street in ...

Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and gateway to New England. One of America’s oldest cities, it’s steeped in history – brimming with cobblestone streets and significant heritage sites – as well as gleaming skyscrapers.

Unlike many other US cities, it’s best explored on foot. One of the most popular tours is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile path that passes 16 important sites, including America’s first state school, the oldest church in Boston, and several markers that tell the story of the American Revolution.

The tour is greatly enhanced by the costumed guides, who’ll passionately transport you back to the 1700s during the 90-minute walk.

Chicago

4K+) Beautiful Chicago Skyline Skyscrapers Day to Night Aerial ...

Chicago, my kind of town! A unique city with a character all of its own, Chicago offers a wide variety of shopping, dining, museums, theatre, music and nightlife options.

Chicago is on Lake Michigan, boasts over 20 miles of beachfront and some of the most dynamic and visually stunning architecture in the world. The city is famous for its skyscrapers such as the Hancock Building and the Willis Tower, which features several glass-bottomed ledges at 1,300ft above the city streets, making it a fantastic photo opportunity for the brave!

North Michigan Avenue is also known as the “Magnificent Mile” as this is where most visitors and residents come to shop, with firm favourites lining the street such as Tiffany, Nike and Nordstrom.

San Francisco

San Francisco indulges the senses with the wonderful array of scenic beauty, arts, museums, bars, restaurants and nightlife. San Francisco is famously known as the “City on the Bay” and its stunning location and undulating surroundings have been taking visitor’s breath away for centuries.

Enjoy fresh seafood and spot playful sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf, a fun and family-friendly district of the city; dine on authentic dim sum in the vast Chinatown or join the crowds of shoppers amidst the bustle and cable cars of Union Square.

No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to the infamous prison at Alcatraz island. Rent a bicycle and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito for a scenic day out and fantastic photo opportunities; brave Lombard Street, the “crookedest street in the world” or bring many movie favourites to life as you stroll the city streets.

San Francisco is the perfect destination for exploring and creating new memories in, with world-class sports, dining and adventure. 

Video

Before you watch this video, what do you know about San Francisco ?

Which of the sights mentioned in the guide do you see ?

What really struck you (impressed) about San Francisco ?

What was intriguing (interesting, fascinating) ?

What did you make of (think of) the architecture ?

Did you see any mouth-watering (delicious) food ?

What adjectives would you use to describe San Francisco ? 

GRAMMAR

Make your comments stronger, and increase your English, by adding adverbs. 

unbelievably // incredibly // extremely // undeniably // amazingly //

quite // rather // somewhat //

Example: The house was old – the house was extremely old.

San Francisco is …

The food in San francisco is …

Riding cable cars must be …

Remember, if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

J. B. Phillips Quotes | QuoteHD
YAROK Hair Care - . Be sure to wear some flowers in your... | Facebook

Adult Speaking Class, Level 2: May Day

5th May 2020

May Day

Compare May Day in the UK and in Viet Nam

How do you ‘read’ these pictures ?

In the UK, it a pagan celebration. In other countries, it is more political.

[pagan = a religion where many gods may be worshipped and dating back before Christianity]

History

The first mention of a May Day celebration dates back to the Roman times, and a celebration of the goddess Flora.

Flora,Roman Goddess of flowers. OK , so she is not a real person but Flora certainly had an influence in early Greek and Roman societies and later in the art world. But alr. Andrea Mantegna, Greek And Roman Mythology, Flora Flowers, Moon Garden, Sacred Feminine, Luca, Beltane, Italian Painters, Gods And Goddesses

This would be a festival over several days, and included theatre performances.

May Day continued to be associated with fertility and the worship of mythological or pagan gods. The celebrations would often involve dancing around a maypole, and crowning a May Day Queen.

Dental products and supplies as a wholesale worldwide

A modern may pole, this one from Sweden, where it is now used to celebrate Midsummer, not the traditional 1st May.

Britain has a long tradition of May Day celebrations, from at least the C15th. However, many church leaders objected to the pagan origins (worshipping old gods, not the one Christian God) and celebrations were banned in many places.

Today, May Day celebrations are not so popular, and in cities, one is more likely to see political demonstrations, than prancing on the village green

In 1889, 1st May was selected as the International workers’ Day

What do you think about these photos ? Political, or cultural ?

How about these photos from Nigeria, UK and Hawaii ?

May Day: APC, PDP, others felicitate with Nigerian workers
Video ~ The Kings Morris Dancers | King's Lynn Online
leis

In Hawaii, May Day is a little different. The flower necklaces, or leis, are given to people as a sign of friendship, celebrating the culture of Hawaii or the ‘aloha spirit.’

The festival is celebrating in school and communities, with many free concerts, dancing, guest speakers and food.

However, it is not all peace and love:

Clashes as May Day protesters march in cities across Europe ...

Protesters clash with police in Berlin, Germany.

Meet The Man That Made A Decision That Saved Your Life And You Don ...

During the time of the USSR, May Day parades were held, with seemingly endless displays of tanks, soldiers, missiles and weapons of all description.

In Hong Kong in 2019, protesters used May Day to demonstrate about bad working conditions.

In Literature, we have the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorn, ‘The Maypole of Merry Mount’:

Early American Literature: The Maypole of Merry-Mount

IELTS: Writing practice. Yoga, health & well-being

25th April 2020

Asian girl does yoga on gym carpet. lotus pose. | Premium Photo

I know that yoga and exercise are popular activities among my students, so let’s use this topic for some sentence building.

IELTS candidates will be expected to speak for two minutes on a given subject, then engage in a dialogue with the examiner.

The candidate will feel more confident with an arsenal of phrases, expressions, idioms, discourse markers, and an impressive array of ‘low-frequency vocabulary‘ (big words).

The candidate, additionally, has to employ complex sentences and well-structured responses in order to boost their score.

As with music, practice is the key:

High Quality Stock Photos of "monk tai chi"

I set a test for one of my IELTS students, Ms Nguyen. As a warm up, I asked her to tell me about a place she wanted to visit, so this was similar to an IELTS speaking test, Part 1. Following that, I asked her to prepare a Part 2-style answer about a hobby which prompted her to relate her experiences regarding yoga.

To start, we went over some phrases and sentence structure. Ms Nguyen was recovering from a slight injury: how could she phrase this …

I’m not in any pain, but I’m only about 70% recovered.

I’m not in any pain, although I’m only about 70% recovered.

Although I’m not in any pain, I’m only about 70% recovered.

Although I’m only about 70% recovered, I’m not in any pain.

Here, we replaced ‘but’ with ‘although’, and then altered the word order.

Which sentence do you prefer ?

Exercise: Rearrange this basic sentence (sample answers at end of blog)

I’ve been to South Korea but I haven’t been to Japan

Part 1 exercise: tell me about a place you’d like to visit.

{Low-frequency words & expressions: extraordinary, outstanding nature, notwithstanding}

Japan:

16 Japan experiences every traveler should enjoy | CNN Travel

I like the culture, by which I mean sophisticated cuisine, outstanding nature and kind-hearted people. Good points notwithstanding, I am not so enamoured on the working culture which seems to be highly stressful especially compared to the norm in Vietnam.

Although I really like Japan, I am currently undecided as to whether to study there or not. On the plus side, the subject, sustainability, fits in with their life ethos. Additionally, the fee is lower for international students and, furthermore we will be supported by extra classes. Despite these benefits, I have some serious concerns over issues such as sexism as well as the constant pressure which leads to a high rate of suicide.

POINTS TO CONSIDER:

Do you see how Ms Nguyen gave three examples in her opening sentence, and used the adjective + noun structure (‘outstanding nature’ etc).

Use of adverbs (‘highly’, ‘currently’).

Low-frequency words (‘enamoured of’, ‘sophisticated’, ‘notwithstanding’).

Discourse markers (‘despite’, ‘although’, ‘additionally’).

Moreover, see how Ms Nguyen utilises complex sentences. Keep these in mind as you read her second exercise:

Part 2 exercise: tell me about a hobby or activity you enjoy.

{I gave Ms Nguyen some time to prepare, and allowed her to use a thesaurus to look up better words. Having said that, there are still some little grammar mistakes; can you spot any ? Don’t worry, a few mistakes are to be expected.}

Yoga

Sống tích cực mùa Covid- 19: Sao Việt tập gym, yoga, chăm sóc da ...

Every yoga student has individual needs and abilities therefore the instructor will suggest a method suitable to our needs and requirements. This including advise to prevent us from harming ourselves or pushing our bodies too far.

To be specific, on Tuesday we shall concentrate on stretching our shoulders, neck and spine . We shall do this by adopting positions designed to facilitate this objective. Initially, I felt some soreness because it was an unnatural position. However, there are various levels and when one has mastered the first, they can progress, move on to the next.

If I have a great, productive class, I feel relaxed, calm and refreshed. Some people may overemphasis the benefits of yoga but for me, it isn’t that complicated. I find it a pleasing way to release stress from work and to keep myself active.

Otherwise, I tend to just stay at home socialising with my family, then watching my favourite documentary shows.

Yoga, despite being seen as a very restful and gentle past time, can actually be very dangerous including concussions, injuries and broken bones. Having said that, I know my limits and keep within those parameters.

In conclusion, yoga is my favourite activity as it not only helps my body to reduce stress and keep healthy, but also it is a fun way to occupy my free time and bond socially with my colleagues.

SAMPLE ANSWERS:

Although I’ve been to South Korea, I’ve yet to visit Japan.

I, so far, haven’t been to Japan, although I once travelled to South Korea.

I visited South Korea although I haven’t been to Japan.

Ms Nguyen’s mistake: in the first paragraph, she uses include in the continuous form, not the present simple (“This including advise,” instead of ‘this includes advise.’)