Celestial Armor

But the goddess Venus,
lustrous among the cloudbanks, bearing her gifts,
approached and when she spotted her son alone,
off in a glade’s recess by the frigid stream,
she hailed him, suddenly there before him: “Look,
just forged to perfection by all my husband’s skill:
the gifts I promised! There’s no need now, my son,
to flinch from fighting swaggering Latin ranks
or challenging savage Turnus to a duel!”

With that, Venus reached to embrace her son
and set the brilliant armor down before him
under a nearby oak.

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Aeneas takes delight
in the goddess’ gifts and the honor of it all
as he runs his eyes across them piece by piece.
He cannot get enough of them, filled with wonder,
turning them over, now with his hands, now his arms,
the terrible crested helmet plumed and shooting fire,
the sword-blade honed to kill, the breastplate, solid bronze,
blood-red and immense, like a dark blue cloud enflamed
by the sun’s rays and gleaming through the heavens.
The the burnished greaves of electrum, smelted gold,
the spear and the shield, the workmanship of the shield,
no words can tell its power . . .

Aeneus and the Shade of Creusa

One of the saddest, yet most beautifully described, scenes I’ve ever read comes at the end of Chapter 2 of Virgil’s The Aeneid, as Aeneus recalls his lead of the exodus of survivors from the besieged city of Troy, as it fell to the Greeks. Upon successfully fleeing the city with his father Anchises and his son Ascanius, Aeneus realized his wife, Creusa, had fallen behind, no longer with them among the survivors. Determined to find her, he threw himself back into danger, back into the fallen city of Troy, as the ruthless Argives pillaged on…

“Why, I even dared fling
my voice through the dark, my shouts filled the streets
as time and again, overcome with grief I called out
‘Creusa!’ Nothing, no reply, and again ‘Creusa!’
But then as I madly rushed from house to house,
no end in sight, abruptly, right before my eyes
I saw her stricken ghost, my own Creusa’s shade.
But larger than life, the life I’d known so well.
I froze. My hackles bristled, voice choked in my throat,
and my wife spoke out to ease me of my anguish:
‘My dear husband, why so eager to give yourself
to such mad flights of grief? It’s not without
the will of the gods these things have come to pass.
But the gods forbid you to take Creusa with you,
bound from Troy together. The king of lofty Olympus
won’t allow it. A long exile is your fate . . .
The vast plains of the sea are yours to plow
until you reach Hesperian land, where Lydian Tiber
flows with its smooth march through rich and loamy fields,
a land of hardy people. There great joy and a kingdom
are yours to claim, and a queen to make your wife.
Dispel your tears for Creusa whom you loved.
I will never behold the high and mighty pride
of their palaces, the Myrmidons, the Dolopians,
or go as a slave to some Greek matron, no, not I,
daughter of Dardanus that I am, the wife of Venus’ son.
The Great Mother of Gods detains me on these shores.
And now farewell. Hold dear the son we share,
we love together.’

“These were her parting words
and for all my tears- I longed to say so much-
dissolving into the empty air she left me now.
Three times I tried to fling my arms around her neck,
three times I embraced- nothing . . . her phantom
sifting through my fingers,
light as wind, quick as a dream in flight.

Aeneas and the Shade of Creusa

Not only does Virgil brilliantly and beautifully  write this passage, but he pays homage to Homer, bringing us back to a moment in the the Odyssey, when Odysseus recalls his adventure down to The House of Death, encountering the ghost of his mother:

“And I, my mind in turmoil, how I long
to embrace my mother’s spirit, dead as she was!
Three times I rushed toward her, desperate to hold her,
three times she fluttered through my fingers, sifting away
like a shadow, dissolving like a dream, and each time
the grief cut to the heart, sharper, yes, and I,
I cried out to her, words winging into the darkness:
‘Mother – why not wait for me? How I long to hold you!-
so even here, in the House of Death, we can fling
our loving arms around each other, take some joy
in the tears that numb the heart. Or is this just
some wraith that great Persephone sends my way
to make me ache with sorrow all the more?’

My noble mother answered me at once:
‘My son, my son, the unluckiest man alive!
This is no deception sent by Queen Persephone,
this is just the way of mortals when we die.
Sinews no longer bind the flesh and bones together-
the fire in all its fury burns the body down to ashes
once life slips from the white bones, and the spirit,
rustling, flitters away . . . flown like a dream.
But you must long for the daylight. Go, quickly.
Remember all these things
so one day you can tell them to your wife.’

And so we both confided, trading parting words…”

The Odyssey

But come, my friend,
tell us your own story now, and tell it truly.
Where have your rovings forced you?
What lands of men have you seen, what sturdy towns,
what men themselves? Who were wild, savage, lawless?
Who were friendly to strangers, god-fearing men? Tell me,
why do you weep and grieve so sorely when you hear
the fate of the Argives, hear the fall of Troy?
That is the gods’ work, spinning threads of death
through the lives of mortal men,
and all to make a song for those to come…
Did one of your kinsmen die before the walls of Troy,
some brave man–a son by marriage? father by marriage?
Next to our own blood kin, our nearest, dearest ties.
Or a friend perhaps, someone close to your heart,
staunch and loyal? No less dear than a brother,
the brother-in-arms who shares our inmost thoughts.

Homer: The Odyssey
Book 8: A Day For Songs and Contests

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Natural Law: The Philosophical Unified Theory of Everything

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True law is right reason in agreement with nature – Cicero’s idea of natural law summed up in one sentence. During the time of the founding of the republic, this simple and elegant, yet profound idea formed the basis for our Bill of Rights and Constitution and our very way of life. Today, the tradition of natural law is carried on in the hearts and minds of libertarian thinkers around the world, though in practice it may seem lost.

To provide some explanation for those who may not be familiar with the concept of natural law, we can look back to some ideas expressed by Marcus T. Cicero (paraphrased):

-The purpose of the legislature is not to create law but to discover what law exists in nature.

-The greatest bond we have is the bond of justice as revealed by nature.

-Only by discovering human nature, will we discover law.

-Law is a power of nature itself.

Though I like to talk about Cicero because I feel he was great at expressing these ideas, please note that the basis for these ideas was discovered, passed on, and built upon by many great thinkers throughout history from Heraclitus, Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato, to Zeno, to Virgil and Cicero, and so on down the line in this incredible and unrivaled lineage of thinkers, writers,  and poets who seemed to notice this pattern in nature, and the truth inherent in all mankind.

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In my study of natural law, what has struck me most is its simplicity and elegance as a solution to how humankind should be governed… but that is nature. The workings of nature manifest across all fields of study, one of the most interesting of which is the study of physics. After his work for which he is most famous; the theory of general relativity, Albert Einstein began the search for what he called Unified Field Theory, but death found Einstein in 1955 before he found his theory. It goes without saying that Einstein was ahead of his time: today among physicists there is no denying the need for a single simple and elegant unifying equation, perhaps one inch in length, much like Einstein’s famous E=mc2, but which can describe the nature of the physical universe in its entirety.

“In terms of the universe, we have the world of the very small and the world of the very big. The world of the very small is called the Quantum Theory; the theory of electrons, neutrons, and protons. But we also have the theory of the very big, the Theory of Relativity; the theory of Einstein, the theory of big bangs and black holes and curved space-time. The problem is, and this is a fundamental problem in all physics, the left hand and the right hand don’t coordinate. They don’t like each other. They’re based on different physical principles. They’re based on different mathematics. They’re not compatible. Think of taking an aardvark, a whale, and a platypus, and Scotch taping them together, and declaring that to be nature’s most elegant product of evolution. You would laugh. This animal, held together with Scotch tape could barely walk. Well, that’s the standard model; the Quantum Theory.”

-Michio Kaku, Theoretical Physicist
Big Thinkers (TV Series)

In their study of the very physical fabric of nature, these physicists have discovered a truth: the way to gain understanding is to observe nature, and the understanding gained from the observance of nature is always characterized by simplicity and elegance. As such, the search for this Unified Field Theory, this theory of everything has become the quest for the holy grail, so to speak, of the scientific community.

Natural law is the unified theory of the philosophy of governance and of the nature of man. Our path to peace, prosperity, and personal liberty is found here. This is the sword we must wield against the powers of collectivism, fascism, democracy, socialism, communism, or any other authoritarian system. We must remember that these authoritarian systems are the intellectual equivalent of Michio Kaku’s taped-together aardvark-whale-platypus. When we are faced with a specific question regarding law, we must step back from the circumstances, out of place and time, and look to that which is beyond ourselves, to the universal truths, first principles, right reason.

Rage

“Rage – Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.”

-The Iliad, Book 1, Homer

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With an opening like this, how can you help but be drawn in?

Herodotus on the 300

Stormfields

herodotusHerodotus described it well:

But Xerxes was not persuaded any the more.  Four whole days he suffered to go by, expecting that the Greeks would run away.  When, however, he found on the fifth that they were not gone, thinking that their firm stand was mere impudence and recklessness, he grew wroth, and sent against them the Medes and Cissians, with orders to take them alive and bring them into this presence.  Then the Medes rushed forward and charged the Greeks, but fell in vast numbers: others now took the places of the slain, and would not be beaten off, though they suffered terrible losses.  In this way it became clear to all, and especially to the king, that though he had plenty of combatants, he had but very few warriors.[1]

The Greeks—organized in units by their respective towns—continued to fight, despite suffering severe wounds and being greatly outnumbered. …

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