Author Archives: jwmaring

The New Testament; The Koran

1)  From the readings of the Koran, I learned that there is essentially little difference if any between Islam versus Judeo/Christian beliefs regarding the presence of an afterlife. There are however some fundamental differences that deserve attention. Before looking at those differences, it is helpful to first identify the similarities of these three religious belief systems.   All three belief systems derive their beliefs from the Hebrew texts (which are referred to as the Old Testament in the Holy Bible) of Genesis, Exodus, etc. Christianity departs from Judaism with the birth of Christ and the Christian belief that Jesus is the son of God, and through Jesus Christians follow God’s will as learned from Jesus’ teachings before his crucifixion and resurrection unto heaven. The four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John henceforth wrote of Jesus’ time on Earth and about his teachings, for they are the way to deliver Christians to eternal salvation. Their respective books gave rise to the Biblical New Testament and represent the cornerstone of Christianity following. Judaism differs from Christianity in that Judaism does not believe Jesus was the son of Christ. This leads to a radical departure of beliefs between these two religions. Islam, like Christianity, believes in Jesus and his teachings, but Islam is of the opinion that Christianity is mistaken for believing Jesus is the son of God and a vessel through which they will be delivered into heaven. Islam teaches that there is only one almighty God, and through God alone Muslims must strive to live righteously in accordance with the Koran so they will join God and all his prophets (amongst them Jesus and Muhammad) in heaven (often referred to as Paradise). Strikingly, the Koran states that all nonbelievers of Islam, the last true teaching of God and God’s will, will be destined for Hell. Christians and Jews fall into this category of non-believers.

2)  Regarding the Nativity (birth of Jesus) and Passion (death and resurrection of Jesus), we see some similarities in some of the books we have come to know from our readings of earlier Greek literature. In Luke 2, we find the reference of “an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone about them, and they were afraid with a great fear” (889). The angel also prescribed the name of Jesus before he was born. These references of angelic intervention from the Lord appearing before the shepherds of Bethlehem have an overtone similar to an appearance of Poseidon (or one of the other lesser gods of Zeus) in The Illiad.

Following the death of Jesus on the cross, the book of Matthew 27 mentions “tombs open[ing] and many bodies of the holy sleepers [rising] up,” as well as a great earthquake (901). The response from the Roman company commander and the guards who were charged with watching over Jesus became a sense of terror. This response can be compared to the Greek displeasure of Apollo’s wrath in Book I of The Illiad, “who aimed his needle-tipped arrows at the men [and] shot until the death-fires crowded the beach” (177).

For where this message may serve as a departure from the teachings of the Tanakh and the Jews, emphasis can be shifted over to the book of Exodus 19-20. Here, Moses scribed the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai for the Israelites’. It was clear that God meant to speak only to Moses, for from the bottom of the mountain the Israelites” exclaimed, “Speak you with us that we may hear, and let not God speak with us lest we die” (124). In summary, what can be seen is a more direct relationship meant for everyone to see and hear stemming from Jesus in the writing of the Gospels, and a more indirect way of teaching passed down by God through the prophets to the Jews.

3)  This paraphrase, to which Jesus was referring to in terms of the redeemed sinner, means that in the eyes of God, repentance is equal to the saving of a life. Whereas the righteous person who does not sin is good and worthy in the eyes of the Lord, he is also already on the path to being saved. Jesus maintains that God wants all mortals to fear him and bow down before him as a means of ascending to Heaven. Therefore, life is merely a test, and one’s place on Earth bears no connotation to whether or not they will be saved in eternal life. Where this pans out in my mind as well as that of The Norton Anthology’s composers is spelled out on page 888 of the text; “All human beings were on an equal plane in the eyes of their creator. This idea ran counter to the theory and practice of an institution basic to the economy of the ancient world, slavery.” Whether we are talking about the Jews, Greeks, Romans, or any other peoples’ of this particular time, what is common throughout is a relationship with one particular God or another primarily through a pivotal figure or prophet. In my opinion, the advent of Christianity and the associated following of Jesus’ teachings brings the first and best opportunity to address the four functions of mythology as well (reference lesson 1).

Madea, Old Testament

1) First off, my personal take on the Illiad was that I considered Hector to be the most heroic figure, more so that Achilles. Where Hector lacked was only in strength to beat Achilles. I think Achilles was a character who could be seen as being able to identify with what was right or wrong with particular circumstances which were occurring around him. While I believe Achilles acted most often out of favor with the will of the gods, he also showed a sense of empathy toward his foe when he identified with Hector’s father who came to his camp to retrieve Hector’s body. This empathy manifested itself in the temporary armistice between the Trojans and the Greeks that followed so the Trojan’s could mourn in peace for Hector’s loss.

I don’t really see this sense of mercy (even if it be partial or temporary as in the case of Achilles) with Madea and her actions. Madea acted I believe with the utmost of haste toward Jason for his actions in leaving her for another wife. And I do not particularly blame her, for her only other option was to become effectively destitute with her children after Kreon banished her from Corinth. This was a very serious implication for Madea, who had already burned the bridge with her native people prior to marrying Jason and bearing his children. Left with no other option but to obtain a sense of justice, she acted as she did and obtained the added blow of poisoning Kreon along with Jason’s new wife.

The only thing that was questionable in my mind is whether or not it was necessary to murder her children as well. Perhaps out of ignorance I ask this question, but I wonder if it would have been acceptable at the time to bring her children with her to her destination where she was to wed Aigeus and bear his children? But the idea is apparently a moot one, as Madea apparently was motivated by just one thing; to squash out any perceived plan by Jason to unite Madea’s and Kreon’s people by way of noble borne siblings. I see Madea as a woman who suffered an incredibly difficult situation; one where she was not going to sit idly and take this sort of treatment. Madea acted the only way she could, and for being powerless to do anything about her situation, she acted in the only way she could conjure. From the perspective of her own native people whom she already betrayed, her actions I feel redeemed her. And from that perspective, I consider her actions heroic.

2) Job accepts Yahweh’s response from the storm in the same way Hector thought to run from the mortal power of  Achilles in the opening portion of their battle. Yahweh challenged Job a number of times, stating as an affirmation of his power from the storm, “Is your [Job’s] arm as mighty as God’s? Does your voice thunder like His?” (147) To Yahweh’s displays of power all around Job, all Job could reply was “I see how little I am. I will not answer You. I am putting my hand to my lips: One time I spoke; I will not speak again: two times I spoke, and I will not go on.” Job later goes on after Yahweh issued his challenge of Job further, “I know that You are all-powerful, and that no plan is beyond You. ‘Who dares to speak hidden words with no sense?’ … I knew You, but only by rumor; my eye has beheld You today. I retract. I even take comfort for dust and ashes” (149-150).

The key take away from this exchange is not only Job’s humbling in front of God, but also the fact that he came to know God directly rather that what he knew or heard previously. Job was perhaps one of the few people in history that can make a legitimate claim to encounter God in matter of dialogue. For accepting his place in God’s way and recanting his position after being challenged and enlightened, Job was rewarded double what he had before. Job went on to live a very productive life. He was able to get over the loss of his kin as well, which was his only irreplaceable loss. This loss, while unfortunate, did not shatter his faith permanently after meeting God. For Job learned to accept whatever hand he is dealt in life without questioning or attempting to reason as to why. This is satisfying because it shows that faith can prove to be unshakeable at the whims of the “Accuser.”

Homer’s Illiad

1) In Homer’s The Illiad, we see some very interesting similarities and differences between the respective characters of Hector and Achilles. It is first easiest to identify where exactly the motives for these two characters are different. Early on in our reading, we see how Achilles reacted to the most recent Greek misfortune on the battlefield versus the Trojans. It had become apparent to Achilles that the immortal Apollo had “rained death’ on the Greeks after the Greek warlord Agamemnon refused a ransom for a girl in his possession originating from the girl’s priestly father (177). Having confronted Agamemnon about this, and inspiring a popular demonstration in favor of returning the girl to her father, dissension between the Greeks began to transpire. Agamemnon obliged to the call to return the girl, but only at Achilles expense. In a scheme meant to bring Achilles great dishonor, Agamemnon ordered his men to go to Achilles’s camp and retrieve Achilles’s own beauty, Briseis, and turn her over to the warlord’s possession. This action was the catalyst to Achilles’s disenchantment to take part further in the fighting on the battlefield against the Trojans. The result was a long period of inactivity and sulking on Achilles part, as well as a personal plea through his mother to Zeus to bring to bear further Greek misfortune on the battlefield. This all effectively amounts to a strong indication of deeply personal, or more bluntly selfish, Greek motives existing on the battlefield. This becomes even more apparent when the only thing that reverses Achilles’s stomach for continued fighting is when his beloved friend, Patroclus, is finished off on the battlefield by Hector.

This is in stark contrast to the motives which on the surface inspired Hector. In book VI, Hector returned from the battlefield to his father’s palace to inspire his brother Paris to exit the comfort of the palace and return to the fighting occurring on the battlefield against the Greeks. Hector was approached by many, to include his mother, wife, and sister-in-law, with the idle prospect of sitting down in comfort for a while and avoiding the toils of war. Hector rebuffed all of these requests with an attribute he was quoted as saying, “My heart is out there with our fighting men. They already feel my absence from battle’ (196). It seems that Hector must have felt some disenchantment at his aim to inspire his lackadaisical brother to the battlefield where his presence was missed, but Hector I believe showed one of the utmost attributes of any leader; he genuinely felt personal empathy toward his fellow Trojans fighting and dying against the Greek invaders. This in fact was his most “personal’ interest.

But Hector’s personal interest and empathy toward his fellow Trojans in the battle is precisely similar to the motive which spurs Achilles back into battle. It only took longer for Achilles to identify with his true feelings. After Achilles became disenchanted with the fighting stemming from Agamemnon’s actions, Achilles was of the opinion, “Nothing is worth my life, not all the riches … If I stay here and fight, I’ll never return home, But my glory will be undying forever. If I return home to my dear fatherland My glory is lost but my life will be long’ (210). It is noteworthy that after speaking this, Achilles elected to take the option to fight only after Patroclus died in fighting. The fact that Achilles only felt the urge to fight until death after his close confidant met his demise means that his genuine emotions were not different than Hector’s in substance, just perhaps more deeply personalized. While Hector identified with every Trojan fighting and dying to protect Ilion, the true emotion he invested in the otherwise less than desirable fighting was the comradery of spirit that has been displayed on every battlefield that has existed since the beginning of time. This emotion can be summarized by myself as simply, “If my brother must suffer and endure the fighting, I want to be right there along with him.’ This emotion was only different for Achilles because he did not feel it for any ordinary Greek who died. This is possibly due to the nature of the gains being attained during the fighting on Trojan soil. Achilles only felt this emotion after his “brother’ died. Hector thus became the focus, as well as the prize for Achilles, in avenging Patroclus’s death.

2) While I do believe that Achilles actions may have ordinarily seemed like sacrilege amongst the Greek soldiers ordinarily, I believe that Hector may have been an exception to this code of conduct. The reason being is there is there appears to be some ambiguity as to the other Greek soldiers conduct. This is because there are multiple references of other Greeks whom “drove their bronze’ into Hector after his death (265). This is likely due to a deep seated hatred of Hector amongst the Greeks for his killing of many of the remaining Greek fighters’ brethren. So I do not entirely agree with this premise. I will say however that it appeared that the Greek gods, aka immortals, were perhaps the ones most disturbed (besides the Trojans) by this vulgarity. In fact, the only thing I see that turned Achilles away from his rage exhibited toward Hector and meant to avenge Patroclus was when his mother approached him and told him that Zeus and the other gods were “indignant’ with his behavior (258). Achilles’s response to the wishes of the gods was, “If the god on Olympus wills it so.’ Thus, Achilles knew long before Priam arrived what forces were driving Priam’s act to recover his son. This is just further evidence that the forces central to virtually every major activity or decision in Greek daily life centered the gods will. The compassion I believe that Achilles felt for Priam, father of Hector, later after Priam came into Achilles tent is therefore significant, but of less significance in the overall scheme of things than the wishes of the gods.

3) Having been in the military during wartime and having a family to support of my own, I can honestly say from a real life perspective I have pondered this question and have never come up with a definitive answer. From experience, there is a choice to make. If you go and fight, you will leave behind your family and possibly never see them again. At the very least, you will go and fight and not see them again for a very long time. For all of my experience overseas, they might say that family comes first. That is usually only true when the family circumstances are very dire. When this is not so, the military and the mission take top priority. The family suffers as a natural result, and only the strongest of bonds are able to withstand this strain. The other choice to make is not to go. The implications of not going are total lack of honor and a severance of ties with your brothers, whom you come to learn to rely on for everything during training. You feel as though breaking that brotherly bond makes your brothers weaker and more prone to hostile entities. There is no easy choice to be made. There is probably only one truth; that there is only loss whatever decision is to be made, and that a decision must be made one way or the other. I believe The Illiad speaks volumes to what I have mentioned here from my personal experience. I believe this is the books best quality as well, and I hope it makes as much sense to everyone else as it surely does to me.

The Hero’s Journey

1) I found The  Hero’s Journey Defined  to be an excellent synopsis of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  Reading The Hero’s Journey Defined  allowed me for the first time to gain an understanding of what it is that we as moviegoers believe to be satisfying. We tend to all watch new films with differing plots and genres, but the one constant tends to be the pivotal-heroic figure. Joseph Campbell was able to break down the three phases of the Hero’s Journey that tend to common no matter the story: 1) Departure – this is the departure from one spiritual or physical realm to another, 2) Initiation – this is equal to the trials and tribulations which the hero must succeed in passing, and which distinguish himself from the ordinary, and 3) Return – the hero does not merely indulge selfishly in his attained level of enlightenment or conquests of pursuit, but instead shares his gifts with the people around him that are not on an equal status.

One film where I saw parallels to Hero formula was a film I saw a second time recently starring Jim Carrey called, Yes Man.  In this film, Jim Carrey plays the role of a man named Carl who is a divorced loan officer at a bank. Carl lives alone in a very subdued life for the sole reason that he is not comfortable moving outside of his own comfort zone. Because of this, his life, profession, and friends around him suffer. After attending a conference led by an inspiring figure who convinces Carl to say yes to everything, Carl’s life begins an incredible transformation.

During Carl’s transformation, he said yes to an opportunity to learn to play the guitar. After extensive practice, Carl was able to help save a suicidal man on a balcony.


This was just one example of Carl’s new found abilities. Also early in Carl’s transformation, Carl meets his goddess Allison at a gas station for the first time. As Carl continues his transformation, he begins to get closer and closer with Allison as well.

Here is where I see the movie,  Yes Man, departing from the model shown above. After Carl reaches a threshold in his relationship with Allison where he balks at moving in with her, his world begins to come crashing down. And his relationship with Allison come down along with it. Carl is motivated to meet his mentor/helper one more time. Carl’s mentor explains that it is not necessary to say yes to everything, only that it is necessary to do so early so that the person undergoing transformation, in this case Carl, learns it is okay to say yes sometimes, as opposed to no. With this new found inspiration, Carl is able to patch up his relationship with Allison,  as well as maximize his potential in life for his own betterment and for those whom surround him.

2) I believe that cinema can meet our human needs as expressed in the four functions of mythology, but I think of specific movies really only being able to perform well at doing this in a piecemeal fashion. As far as function of mythology number one, there are many current movies one could count on to fulfill this role. Movies like the Hunger Games, Divergent, and Lincoln  are all movies which are emblematic of human beings breaking free from the pitfalls of recognition between good and evil.

As far as function number two, the best movie I can recall (although not the most recent) is the movie Contact, with Jodie Foster. This was certainly a movie which allowed one to consider a universe which lay beyond the one that we as humans are exposed to on a daily basis here on Earth.

Function number three is where I tend to see a break with Hollywood from the norm. Movies today tend to focus more often I believe on certain societal problems and how they relate to other human beings. I believe many of these societal problems, such as global warming, war, Machiavellian business or political practices, etc., all tend to point the finger at the current status quo as being the problem. The problem we may tend to see when we look at these various problems which are pointed out is whether a particular problem has a current viable solution, and if so will that viable solution really serve to make people better off or possible worse off in economic or social ways. This is a tough question to answer because it is hard to measure comparable statistics when the impact of certain alternative practices cannot always be accurately predicted, and second and third order effects stemming from an action are often extremely difficult to contemplate.

Jeffrey’s Much Belated Introduction

Hello to all. Most of you I assume are working on Lesson 1 by now. I imagine I will catch up with you there shortly. My name is Jeffrey Maring and I am a second year UAF accounting major. Just a little about me; I am 32 and am what someone might consider a non-traditional student. I am a prior service Army veteran and proud of my past accomplishments. I am now proud to be a full-time dad and full-time student, with ambitions  to one day become a proud full-time CPA.

I had to enroll late in this class because circumstances changed as far as being able to take one of my other classes, and rather than just get by on a reduced course load this semester I was able to take this class at the last possible minute. This class is a required class, but I am excited to be in it because I really need to brush op on my grammar, active voice writing, and especially my punctuation.

The great thing about this class is I will also be able to learn about different cultures while doing it. I already have personal experience in knowing just how significant being ignorant of foreign cultures can be from my overseas pursuits in the military. So I hope this class can be somewhat enlightening to me relative to any future practical, real life situations. Thanks for reading my post and I hope you enjoyed it.