Herbs, Lemonade and Herodotus.

June 11, 2007

Got the herb garden planted: sweet basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, parsley, bee balm and lemon balm. Huzzah for fresh herbs! They’re going to get a solid 9 hours of sun in their new home. I don’t think there was anyplace in our entire old yard that got that much sunlight. Everyone seemed to be out of mint, so we started some seeds in a pot on the deck. This is the first stuff of ours that we’ve put into the ground here, so I feel like we’ve really finally moved in. It took a great deal of restraint on my part when I was at the nursery, but I had to keep remembering that Our Old Yard wasn’t made so overnight. All in good time: I’ve already mentally sketched out an area for a raised vegetable bed next spring. Between now and then, though, we’re going to try to plant some pumpkins along the fence lines. Our old yard was too shady, so I hope we’ll have some better luck this time.

Bluebell made some new friends over the weekend, and the two families traded kids for respective grillings-out. The gaggle of them opened up a lemonade stand on Sunday, having seen a few others pop up in the neighborhood. Our crew, however, placed their stand right next to the entrance of the subdivision, so capturing all the incoming traffic before it got to the other stands. I think they cleared a little over $20 by the end of the day, which isn’t too bad at all. I know they had a great time doing it, and they’re already planning out next weekend.

Kung Fu Hustle was pretty good. Actually, I’ll go better than that: parts of it were absolutely hysterical. Yuen Wo Ping directed the fight scenes, so you already know those were good. I give it two thumbs up. Didn’t have time for the other movie; perhaps some time this week.

Finished up The Comedy of Errors and started The Taming of the Shrew, all the while trying not to think of Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd. So far so good. For snooze-reading (a book that I pick up with the express purpose of laying aside to snooze), I paged through Herodotus after reading a review of Travels With Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski. The review was quite good, so I may add it to my ever-growing list of Things To Be Read.

Herodotus details a story of Croesus, King of Lydia and Solon, lawgiver of Athens. Croesus has been showing off all of the wealth and riches of his kingdom, then asks Solon who the happiest man alive is. Predictably, Solon does not say “Croesus,” but rather gives the names of some common, unremarkable people of Athens who have lived and died well. Croesus is not pleased, and demands to know why these commoners are reckoned as more happy than he. This is from Rawlinson’s translation, and the full text can be found here.

“Oh! Croesus,” replied the other, “thou askedst a question concerning the condition of man, of one who knows that the power above us is full of jealousy, and fond of troubling our lot. A long life gives one to witness much, and experience much oneself, that one would not choose. Seventy years I regard as the limit of the life of man. In these seventy years are contained, without reckoning intercalary months, twenty-five thousand and two hundred days. Add an intercalary month to every other year, that the seasons may come round at the right time, and there will be, besides the seventy years, thirty-five such months, making an addition of one thousand and fifty days. The whole number of the days contained in the seventy years will thus be twenty-six thousand two hundred and fifty, whereof not one but will produce events unlike the rest. Hence man is wholly accident. For thyself, oh! Croesus, I see that thou art wonderfully rich, and art the lord of many nations; but with respect to that whereon thou questionest me, I have no answer to give, until I hear that thou hast closed thy life happily. For assuredly he who possesses great store of riches is no nearer happiness than he who has what suffices for his daily needs, unless it so hap that luck attend upon him, and so he continue in the enjoyment of all his good things to the end of life. For many of the wealthiest men have been unfavoured of fortune, and many whose means were moderate have had excellent luck. Men of the former class excel those of the latter but in two respects; these last excel the former in many. The wealthy man is better able to content his desires, and to bear up against a sudden buffet of calamity. The other has less ability to withstand these evils (from which, however, his good luck keeps him clear), but he enjoys all these following blessings: he is whole of limb, a stranger to disease, free from misfortune, happy in his children, and comely to look upon. If, in addition to all this, he end his life well, he is of a truth the man of whom thou art in search, the man who may rightly be termed happy. Call him, however, until he die, not happy but fortunate. Scarcely, indeed, can any man unite all these advantages: as there is no country which contains within it all that it needs, but each, while it possesses some things, lacks others, and the best country is that which contains the most; so no single human being is complete in every respect- something is always lacking. He who unites the greatest number of advantages, and retaining them to the day of his death, then dies peaceably, that man alone, sire, is, in my judgment, entitled to bear the name of ‘happy.’ But in every matter it behoves us to mark well the end: for oftentimes God gives men a gleam of happiness, and then plunges them into ruin.”

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