— “The Trials of Travolta”, The New York Observer, 12 December 2004
Harper’s Weekly, Vol. VIII. — No, 390.
New York, Saturday, June 18, 1864.
Rebel Cruelty — Our Starved Soldiers. — From Photographs Taken at United States General Hospital, Annapolis, Maryland
Cary Grant’s advice resonates with the detachment of Epictetus’ Encheiridion. In its Hollywood applications, it might not be meant to follow its classic prototypes in suppressing the remaining six deadly sins. On the other hand, Michael’s neighboring community standards readily embrace the application of same technique, mutatis mutandis, to rid oneself of ugly fat between the ears. The trick is to forget this whole thing about thinking, reason — just make it not important. This exercise is most helpful in anticipation of old age.
Early on in Book I of Plato’s Republic, Cephalus, an aged, wealthy merchant of foreign extraction residing in Athens without citizenship, refuses to lament the lost joys of youth. He recalls hearing Sophocles the poet greeted by a fellow who asked, “How about your service of Aphrodite, Sophocles — is your natural force still unabated?” And the poet replied, “Hush, man, most gladly have I escaped this thing you talk of, as if I had run away from a raging and savage beast of a master.” Cephalus thought it a good answer then and now he thinks so still more. For in very truth there comes to old age a great tranquility in such matters and a blessed release. When the fierce tensions of the passions and desires relax, then is the word of Sophocles approved, and we are rid of many and mad masters. But indeed in respect of these complaints and in the matter of our relations with kinsmen and friends there is just one cause, not old age, but the character of the man. For if men are temperate and cheerful even old age is only moderately burdensome. But if the reverse, old age and youth are hard for such dispositions. — Plato’s Republic, Book I, 329a-d
Rembrandt van Rijn, An Old Man in Red, 1652/1654
Oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Michael falters in talking to his mother. Maria loves her son. She remembers nothing about the origin of the fire. She remembers carrying Isaak out of their burning apartment. She remembers waiting for six years while Isaak was locked up in a Siberian labor camp. She remembers losing her parents in the war. She remembers serving in the army as a medic. She remembers the summers she spent in the country with Michael, away from his father. Michael was a very good boy. He always listened to his mother. Maria cannot understand why he no longer listens. In escaping her memories, in losing her reason, she appears as if she had run away from a raging and savage beast of a master.