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Our Distorted Perception of Identity

In “Of the Inconsistency of Our Actions,” Montaigne explains how our perception of one’s identity is distorted: we often judge one based on their actions, the result of the situation they are in; however, we should actually judge one based on their circumstance when performing the action. It is futile to understand identity through human action as people often contradict themselves in their actions: “Pope Boniface VIII, they say, entered office like fox, behaved in it like a lion, and died like a dog” (362). One’s action is not a direct reflection of who they are or what principals they stand for. Instead, it is only a reflection of “circumstance [that] carries us” (363). While a soldier of Antigonus was ill, he fought bravely as he had less to lose on the battlefield, but upon being healed for his illness as a reward for his valor, he appears more cowardly. It should not perplex those who study humans that the soldier seems to contradict himself. The difference in action between the two situations does not mean that the soldier’s inherent personality changed—that his sudden timidity contradicts his longstanding valor. The soldier is merely adjusting to the new circumstances presented in front of him. Human actions are only relative to circumstances, not to identity.

Gardens and Paradise In the Koran

As the religious text of Islam, the Koran lays out what is expected of one, the most important namely: following and serving God, and what God will in exchange provide for those who obey: a Paradise. Noah encourages his people to seek God’s forgiveness, as he will bring “abundant rain from heaven” and provide them “with gardens and with running brooks” (1458). Noah’s people, however, are prideful and are not willing to seek the forgiveness of God for their sins, so when God helps the unfaithful, Noah urges God to only forgive the faithful and “hasten the destruction of the wrongdoers” (1459). If destruction is what those who are unfaithful receive, then gardens and running water are rewards that God bestows upon his followers. In the section “Man,” unbelievers are chained and set on fire, while those who follow God are rewarded with “the delight of Paradise” where “trees will spread their shade around them, and fruits will hang in clusters over them” and “they shall feel neither the scorching heat nor the biting cold” (1459). This emphasis on gardens as a symbol of paradise may be due to the geographic location of the birthplace of Islam. Coming from what is now Saudi Arabia, a harshly hot and dry desert land, the idea of green gardens and running water is outside what is expected of the climate; it depicts a lush, serene, and more moderate environment, which may be what adopters of Islam religion considered as the ideal place to be.

The Odyssey and Ramayana: The Triumph of Good Over Evil

In both The Odyssey and Ramayana, there is a damsel-in-distress, requiring a hero’s rescue. However, the more important parallel between the two is how the conflict is resolved—the reoccurring theme good triumphs evil.

Based on Hindu beliefs, one who practices dharma is considered virtuous. Rama, because of his strict adherence to dharma, is represented as the most virtuous man. When Rama is forced to leave his kingdom, fulfilling Kaikeyi’s wish, he does so without protest, quoting that he will follow dharma: “The universe rests on truth: and I am devoted to truth” (1179).

When Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, she is given the chance of being rescued earlier. Hanuman offers to carry her back home, but Sita refuses, saying: “I agree you have the power to fight them: but if you kill them all, it will rob Rama of the glory of killing them and rescuing me” (1225). Sita wants to be saved from Ravana, but she only wants to be saved by Rama in grandiose way. In The Odyssey, Odysseus arrives back to Ithaka earlier than when he finally faces the suitors, but instead of confronting them right away he carefully plots a plan to kill the helpless suitors and rescue Penelope in a more glorious way. In Ramayana, when Rama and Ravana enter into battle, “Ravana was sure he would die,” while “Rama was determined to win” (1226). This portrays the strength of each side; Rama, representing good, is portrayed as stronger than Ravana, representing evil. In the end, Rama easily defeats Ravana in a majestic way, with the Brahma-missile, shaking the earth and sending Ravana deep into the earth. Both The Odyssey and Ramayana show that the power of good is stronger than the power of evil and if put against one another, good will always triumph.

Plato’s Symposium: Greek View of Love vs. Modern View of Love

Describe how Plato, Sappho, and/or Catullus conceive of love (and/or friendship).

In the time of Plato’s Symposium, the ideal concept of love is different from our modern view of love. Pausanias points out two types of love: Common Love and Heavenly Love, with Heavenly Love being the better of the two. Common Love occurs between a man and a woman or a man and a young boy, while Heavenly Love occurs between an older man and a younger man. This distinction is important as women and young boys are deemed unintelligent or immature. The main differentiation between the two types of love lies in the purpose each love strives for. In Common Love, the end goal is just sexual gratification. In Heavenly Love, the purpose lies deeper; a young man falls in love with an older lover for the sake of bettering himself. In Heavenly Love, the ends also justify the means; even if the love between the young man and older lover involves sexual gratification, as long as the ultimate purpose is to make the young man wiser and more virtuous, it is acceptable. While Heavenly Love was held in higher regards and thought to be the ideal love, Pausanias’ Common Love is more similar to the modern concept of love—love in a “romantic” way. Heavenly Love, on the other hand, is akin to the modern concept of mentorship than love.