THE FRUIT THAT MAKES HISTORY

Apple

If you were asked to think of a fruit, which is the first one that comes to your mind? Most likely the apple. Mankind’s fascination with apples is itself fascinating. From naming companies to writing phrases, it is indeed the ‘apple of our eyes’. Not for nothing did Henry David Thoreau say, “It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.”

A Costly Apple

Three apples changed the history of the earth- Adam’s apple, Newton’s apple and Steve Jobs’ apple. There are many who wish it was a pumpkin that fell on Newton instead. And what made Steve Jobs name his company after the fruit, only he knows. As for Adam, Chuck Palahniuk has the answer, or rather the question. “Did perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden maybe get so boring that eating the apple was justified?” Many other apples too have had their share of history and myth. In Norse mythology for instance, the goddess Iðunn, in the Prose Edda (written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson), provides apples to the gods that give them eternal youthfulness. A historical fruit, if ever there was one.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a typical apple serving weighs 242 grams and contains 126 calories with significant dietary fiber and vitamin C content. Research suggests that apples may reduce the risk of colon cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. So an apple a day might keep the doctor away. But apples can cause trouble. Atalanta, of Greek mythology, raced all her suitors in an attempt to avoid marriage. She outran all but Hippomenes (also known as Melanion, a name possibly derived from melon the Greek word for both “apple” and fruit in general). Hippomenes knew that he could not win in a fair race, so he used three golden apples (gifts of Aphrodite, the goddess of love) to distract Atalanta. It took all three apples and all of his speed, but Hippomenes was finally successful, winning the race and Atalanta’s hand.

Forbidden Fruit

Did you also know that apples had a hand in the war of Troy? The Greek goddess of discord, Eris, became disgruntled after she was excluded from the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. In retaliation, she tossed a golden apple inscribed Kalliste- ‘For the most beautiful one’), into the wedding party. Three goddesses claimed the apple: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Paris of Troy was appointed to select the recipient. After being bribed by both Hera and Athena, Aphrodite tempted him with the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite, thus indirectly causing the Trojan War. And who can forget the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden? Though the Book of Genesis does not specifically name the fruit, popular Christian tradition has held that it was an apple that Eve coaxed Adam to share with her. A ‘bad apple’ indeed! On a less mythical note, the seeds of apples contain small amounts of amygdalin, a sugar and cyanide compound known as a cyanogenic glycoside. Ingesting small amounts of apple seeds will cause no ill effects, but in extremely large doses can cause adverse reactions. Nature’s own cyanide poison?

Fruit for Thought

The apple seems to be the favourite of both nature and humans. But there are indeed some individuals who prefer other fruits. Like Demetri Martin who says- “My favorite fruit is grapes. Because with grapes, you always get another chance. ‘Cause, you know, if you have a crappy apple or a peach, you’re stuck with that crappy piece of fruit. But if you have a crappy grape, no problem - just move on to the next. ‘Grapes: The Fruit of Hope.’” He may have a point there. And yet, it is always ‘A for Apple’- never ant, antelope or aeroplane. Nothing takes the apple’s place! Perhaps it is, as author Dan Brown says in his book the Da Vinci Code, the ‘sacred orb from heaven’.

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Men of Might

There are more than a few instances when history has given us a fragmentary version of the people and their nature. Like in the previous article Genius and Madness, the success or failure of a leader’s plans tend to make an impact, a grave one at that, on his so called “image” that is portrayed to the generations that follow. It turns out, in the face of success shrewd nature, selfish motives, unjust behavior and other vices can be overlooked. This peculiar nature of History dates way back-begins with the Mahabharata and is carried down till date.

Let’s take a more recent example. Winston Churchill. The inspirational leader, an outstanding orator, the man who led the British Armies in times of need and got them back on the shore safely after the storms of the World War. There is no doubt that Winston Churchill was a class above normal human men when it came to his skills, be it politics or public speaking. But, there is a side of him that remains ignored.

He is on par with Adolf Hitler in the atrocities committed and easily makes it to a list of Top Ten worst military decisions ever taken. To begin with, he was a racist. He believed in employing tear gas against, putting it in his words, “uncivilized tribes”. He also preached that the Jews have forsaken the faith of their fathers and well, did not really consider them to be a dignified race of their own.

He was a great egoist and an extremely shrewd politician. He let the Covetry Cathedral burn just to protect his secret intelligence. It was in his reign that India saw the death 3 million of its own people. The emergency food shipments were used up by Churchill to build stockpiles for his men who would return tired from war.

He enjoyed stiff drinks and it is believed that he had one too many when he made the decision of invading Gallipolli. It was a perfect plan in theory but, the heat of the place, the lack of naval artillery support led to the loss of thousands of lives on both sides. The Allied forces were trapped for more than a month when they attacked what Churchill called “the soft underbelly of the central powers”.

Despite all this, there are qualities in this man one can admire and stop our admiration at that quality. Admiring men as a whole always tends to make room to overlook their flaws, defend their blunders and magnify their victories.

Though serious (and ruggedly handsome) he is in most of his recorded pictures, Churchill had a sense of humor. Probably a nice way to end an article pointing to his imperfections.

Lady Astor: “If you were my husband, I’d put arsenic in your coffee.”

Churchill: “Madam, if I were your husband, I’d drink it!”

 

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Genius and Madness

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who actually do, Steve Jobs said. Crazy, well, it can have more than one definition and accordingly the “change” that takes over the world will differ. There is the good change and the disaster, there is Genius and there is Madness. There is a fine line between the two and sometimes extreme levels of intelligence sophisticatedly chose to be ignorant of other varied perspectives leading the decision thus taken to be considered a catastrophe. Two such examples of such intelligence gone high on the Madness scale are Adolf Hitler and Mohammad Bin Tughluq.

They were extremely intelligent people who cannot be compared owing to the different timelines of their existence but, underwent the same course on the History text books and have become synonymous with sadism and stupidity respectively. Their ideas and ideologies were in some ways and in those times actually well thought of but poorly executed.

In case of Adolf Hitler, he is a man the world loves to hate. He killed thousands of Jews, he had the worst estimate of his opponents, and he committed suicide in the end when his men needed him. Look at it from another perspective, he is a man with his own idea of an ideal world, he is a man who believed in his mind completely, and that is a ray of sunshine at a time when everyone was filled with self-doubt and lacked confidence. He rose to power and woke up an entire nation, a sleeping nation, and gave them, in his words, “A faith to live by and a cause to die for”. How many such leaders can you find today, who for starters, have an ideal world to believe in and then, commit to it completely. He knew how the country thought, he hit them hard with sentiment and belief not knowledge or reason, and it worked better in that route; he united them by a common hatred and it did wonders. He knew the end he wanted to see, the resources that were required and the words to use, the flaws were huge yet, he is a leader who needs to be admired for his clarity of thought, command over human psychology an oratory abilities.

Mohammad Bin Tughluq, the wisest fool as some would call him, was a man well ahead of his times, always on the lookout for fresh new ideas. Today, we call that being creative and innovative. He was the first person to think of the concept of coins way back in the 14th century. He also came up with the idea of keeping record of all the state expenditure and income. Though he never went further ahead after recording the expenditure (reason for its failure) the idea is today, one of the most important means through which we recognize flaws in the system. He waagain, a man who considered himself to be above all, and to be the sole possessor of the powers to change and make laws of the State.

Two leaders, who have been under the microscope for quite some time for their weird genius and well known madness. This just implies that a man cannot be admired or despised completely, there is always that streak of intellect and charisma that is waiting to be admired, and you just have to choose to see it.

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A Chicken Story: The connotation: 1

A dramatic story where a brave and curious chicken questions the blind faith of society and hence saves it from ignorance and exploitation. True, that certainly would be the summary of the articles formerly presented. But within lies an analysis of what we call in modern years, religion. Here I dismantle the story down to its essence.

The creation of religion by beings developing an understanding of their surroundings: Just as the ‘prophet’ came up with an explanation for not stopping when you’re crossing the street, once upon a time people, human beings, did not understand their surroundings. When lightning flashed or thunder sounded, they did not know the cause, a virtue called ignorance. When people murdered,pillaged or raped, they knew instinctively deep inside that something was wrong, but not why. Again, the cause is ignorance, since people did not understand psychology, that morals are written into our genes. Not so much that  we hold others before our needs, but not so less that we completely disregard them.

One more factor was laws. At the time, countries were small and unstable. The laws of one ruler today may not be the same tomorrow. If people were told to stop fighting, they saw no cause. This was the same case with countries: Peace would be an impossibility in such unstable times.Rulers and advisers knew this. They needed something to hold the people together, something that no one would question. They needed something similar to discipline in the military: Something that would prevent the thought of mutiny from even forming in their minds.

The first two factors can be made into one: Ignorance, or better put, cognital dissonance. People cannot easily handle uncertainty. If a doubt forms in their minds, it must be cleared soon or forgotten. The latter would not be possible in most cases like in science and morals, and security. One had to know who one’s tribe was, and who was his enemy. It was vital to survival.

So, when science lacked the answers, the people had to find a new source: Religion. The idea of an almighty who judges you based on your behavior, holds you fast to your moral code, defines tribe hierarchy, and ALSO affects the universe through the mediums we were yet to understand proved quite convenient. People would now obey laws, have a social hierarchy, and have an ‘understanding’ of the universe, logically flawed though it may be. Often, the fundamental laws of a religion, and its ‘explanation’ of the universe would be based on the state of society during the time of its birth. Examples, you ask?

Consider these three properties of proper, undiluted Christianity.

The idea of requiring biblical study to be eligible for marriage.

The idea that children must be raised to never question their parents.

The idea that marriage should stay within the subgroup.

What is common between them? They ensure that Christianity would be passed on generation to generation, and would never be questioned. The hierarchy of royalty above land lords above peasants and so on would be maintained This was important to the Roman empire, because spread of Christianity would ensure their hold on conquered people.

Move on to Islam. Consider these:

The rule that a husband may have up to five wives as long as they consent. This rule came up during the Arab wars. It was a time when men went off to war, and women were widowed in the thousands. Since women had few (Or no) avenues of employment at the time (Again due to religion), men were required to consent to looking after more than one woman, leading to polygamy.

Another rule forbids Islamic women from marrying men of other religions, while permitting Islamic men to do so. The underlying logic being that, in that day and age, male dominance would ensure the man’s views would guide the family.

These are political traits, meant to ensure survival of a religion. Now move on to preventing cognital dissonance.

The view that the world is the centre of the universe, or rather the solar system since that was the extent of the known universe at the time, is a good example.

The view that the universe was created by ‘God’ Shiva through his celestial dance in Hinduism is another example.

Both of these claims have been refuted by science so far, but their purpose is evident. For a man to believe and follow laws made by another may be difficult. But what if the laws were said to be created by a supreme all-knowing, kind but vengeful, loving but torturous being who could reduce all you stand for to nothing?

Obvious, really.

The chickens made their God for hierarchy, a farce of knowledge and to justify morals. Well, so did we.

 

 

 

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Unheard stories and Unseen perceptions

Do you see the larger picture?

All of us know the stories of Bhima and Duryodhana, Arjuna and Karna, David and Goliath. One thing common in all these historic face offs is that they are considered to be Good versus Evil, White against black, Super hero against the super villains. After decades of these stories going unquestioned, years of these tales forming our basic and fundamental values it’s time we look back and read the fine print. Figure out with what we pride to have today, logic and reason, who is black and why is it bad by default?

Let us look at the other similarities between these stories, all of the heroes were considered underdogs compared to the villain, weaker in strength yet, righteous in nature and thus they walk away on the winning side, winning the battle, millions of hearts and histories’ crown of fame. Are they really underdogs? Were they denied a fair chance?

Bhima and Duryodhana, they were among the five equally powerful princes in their times and history said, the five will perish in each other’s hands alone. Duryodhana performed a penance to attain the strength and energy, Bhima had Krishna on his side. Both of them were equally equipped I must say, except, Duryodhana had a weakness Bhima did not. The portion above his thighs is the most vulnerable region of his body. Not a problem, because ethics of warfare don’t allow the opponent to target that area. History has always made exceptions to ensure the victory of its heroes, Bhima never adhered to these rules and he was hinted to do so by none other than Krishna, I’m sorry LORD Krishna.

David and Goliath, well, it’s not a similar case. They were not equally equipped, one was stronger the other, weaker. One had a mightier weapon the other, less powerful one, one played by the books while the other did not. The question you have to answer again is who is that one person? Goliath. David carried a sling, a weapon considered most accurate with the ability to out beat infantry; the latter being Goliath’s strength. Goliath challenged David “Come to me”. This sentence only means he was throwing a challenge for a face off. Not an unexpected random attack. Goliath was as recent scientific research says, suffering with a tumor in his head which was the reason he was a giant, the reason he had blurred vision. “Why are you coming to me with sticks” he says, while in reality David was carrying just one stick. The call for a fair battle was unheeded to by the so called underdog, if you still believe he was one.

 

Arjuna and Karna had a similar situation.  Karna was on his feet trying to pull out his chariot from the

Employing deceitful methods in face of a strong enemy, breaking the ethics of warfare which in those times were considered sin and to top it all doing this in the name of righteousness; I present to you, our super heroes. ground when he was killed.

There is evil in everyone, it is just situational that the evil never sees the light of day. Just because there are black spots on the sheet, you cannot choose to ignore the white bits or give the one with a pure white sheet an exception in the name of “greater good”. Think.Percieve.There is a lot more behind the scenes.

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