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Author: Tetman Callis

“With the act of naming that which is in flux, what is in movement becomes shaped and what is inside becomes manifest. To give a name is to bring into existence and recognition. In Indian mythology, Brahma created apparitions from his unconscious; then the world guardian, Daksha, gave the apparitions names so that they might be known and their functions assigned to them. In Sumerian mu-lugal means ‘man’s name’ and also ‘life-giving properties.’ To give a name to something is to bring it into a second (and conscious) existence.” – Diane Wolkstein, “Interpretations of Inanna’s Stories and Hymns”

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“Sumer, its rise and fall, provides the historian with the most ancient example of the poignant irony inherent in man’s fate. As the Sumerian literary documents make amply manifest, it was the competitive drive for superiority and preeminence, for victory, prestige, and glory, that provided the psychological motivation sparking the material and cultural advances for which the Sumerians are justifiably noted: large-scale irrigation, technological invention, monumental architecture, writing, education, and literature. Sad to say, this very passion for competition and success carried within it the seed of destruction and decay. In the course of the centuries, Sumer became a ‘sick society’ with deplorable failings and distressing shortcomings: it yearned for peace and was constantly at war; it professed such ideals as justice, equity, and compassion, but abounded in injustice, inequality, and oppression; materialistic and short-sighted, it unbalanced the ecology essential to its economy; it was afflicted by a generation gap between parents and children, and between teachers and students. And so Sumer came to a cruel, tragic end, as one melancholy Sumerian bard bitterly laments: Law and order ceased to exist; cities, houses, stalls, and sheepfolds were destroyed; rivers and canals flowed with bitter waters; fields and steppes grew nothing but weeds and ‘wailing plants.’ The mother cared not for her children, nor the father for his spouse, and nursemaids chanted no lullabies at the crib. No one trod the highways and the roads; the cities were ravaged and their people were killed by the mace or died of famine. Finally, over the land fell a calamity ‘undescribable and unknown to man.’ – Samuel Noah Kramer, “Sumerian History, Culture, and Literature”

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“The Sumerians, according to their own records, cherished goodness and truth, law and order, freedom and justice, mercy and compassion—and abhorred their opposites. The gods, too, preferred the ethical and the moral to the unethical and the immoral. Unfortunately, in their inscrutable fashion, they had created sin, evil, suffering, and misfortune, and there was little that could be done about it. The proper course for a Sumerian Job to pursue was not to complain and argue, but to plead, lament, and wail, tearfully confessing his sins and failings. And since the great gods were far away in the distant sky and might have more important matters to attend to, the Sumerian theologians evolved the notion that each individual, or at least each head of a family, had a special personal god, a kind of good angel, who would hear his prayer and through whom he would find his salvation.” – Samuel Noah Kramer, “Sumerian History, Culture, and Literature”

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“Slavery was a recognized institution of Sumerian society. The temples, palaces, and rich estates owned slaves and exploited them for their own benefit. Many slaves were prisoners of war; these were not necessarily foreigners, but could be Sumerians, from a defeated neighboring city. Slaves were also recruited in other ways: freemen might be reduced to slavery as punishment for certain offenses; parents could sell their children as slaves in time of need; or a man might turn over his entire family to creditors in payment of a debt, but for no longer than three years. The slave was the property of his master. He could be branded and flogged, and was severely punished if he attempted to escape. He did have certain legal rights, however: he could engage in business, borrow money, and buy his freedom. If a slave, male or female, married a free person, the children were free. The sale price of slaves varied with the market and the quality of the individual for sale. The average price for a grown man was ten shekels, which at times was less than the price of an ass.” – Samuel Noah Kramer, “Sumerian History, Culture, and Literature”

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“The economic and social life of Sumer was characterized by the all-pervading concepts of law and justice. Significant economic and legal reforms were introduced as early as the twenty-fourth century B.C. by the Lagash ruler Urukagina. Law codes were promulgated as early as the twenty-first century, and one of these, the Ur-Nammu law code, has been recovered in part. Sumerian legal documents have been excavated in large numbers: contracts, deeds, wills, promissory notes, receipts, and actual court decisions that became legal precedents. In theory, it was the king who was responsible for the administration of law and justice; in practice, the city governor or his representative, the mashkim, attended to the administrative and legal details. Court cases were usually heard by tribunals of three or four judges. Suits could be brought either by private parties or by the government. Evidence was taken in the form of statements from witnesses and experts, or was obtained from written documents. Oath-taking played a considerable role in court procedure.” – Samuel Noah Kramer, “Sumerian History, Culture, and Literature”

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“DJ’s traditional position on gender is not something he learned at home. While he was always into all the traditional boy things—cars, trucks, guns—until he was four, the boy things he liked were just the things he happened to like. He liked guns because he liked guns, not because boys were supposed to like guns. Then one day we packed DJ off to preschool. The teachers at his progressive Montessori school would sooner feed children tacks than force boys to do boy things and girls to do girl things. No, it was the other children who indoctrinated DJ into the world of gender expectations. From day one, it was the boys versus the girls. And there wasn’t much the adults could do about it. When the children weren’t engaged in Talmudic discussions about which toys or activities were male or female, the boys were chasing the girls around the yard during recess. And what did DJ learn from the other children about marriage? It was a boy and girl thing, his classmates all agreed. And it wasn’t an agreeable thing to the boys. Marriage was a weapon, something the girls would threaten to do to the boys if they ever actually caught them. To turn the tables, the girls only had to threaten to marry the boys. Marriage was nuclear cooties. Once the threat was issued, the boys would turn tail and run, the girls chasing after them now, like a bunch of magnetized pinballs whose charge had suddenly reversed. So to DJ, it didn’t make any sense that his two dads, both boys, would contemplate marrying each other. Boys weren’t supposed to be interested in marriage anymore than they were supposed to be interested in dolls, or dresses, or fairy tales about princesses. Marriage was a girl thing.” – Dan Savage, The Commitment

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“Ours is a time in which every intellectual or artistic or moral event is absorbed by a predatory embrace of consciousness: historicizing. Any statement or act can be assessed as a necessarily transient ‘development’ or, on a lower level, belittled as mere ‘fashion.’ The human mind possesses now, almost as second nature, a perspective on its own achievements that fatally undermines their value and their claim to truth. For over a century, this historicizing perspective has occupied the very heart of our ability to understand anything at all. Perhaps once a marginal tic of consciousness, it’s now a gigantic, uncontrollable gesture—the gesture whereby man indefatigably patronizes himself.” – Susan Sontag, “Thinking Against Oneself: Reflections on Cioran”

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“WANTED POSTER – Jesse Woodson James: five feet eleven inches tall, brown hair, regulation killer-blue eyes. In photographs appears to be considering shooting the photographer. Does not test out well. Approaches casual strangers in an intimate way and interferes massively in their private lives. Is trapped in the dead hole and neither moves nor changes. Steals horses. Inhabits a discolored landscape through which only one, treacherous path is known to pass. Has the appearance of many ballistics with a flat trajectory. This man is occupied by an army of scars, tip of middle finger left hand missing, and one large scar on chest which oft has spoken with bloody lips. Is always breaking out afresh. Cultivates a desperado aura and can most often be seen in the penny dreadfuls, spotted regularly in novels, poems, ballads, and folktales. Men claiming to be James can be differentiated from him in that they pose willingly in front of cameras, they make political speeches. These people are not the genuine article and are confused. Jess James was never confused about anything in his life, which will last exactly thirty-seven years, five months, three days, fourteen hours, and ten minutes.” – Paulette Jiles, “The James Poems”

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“Teeth outlast everything. Death is nothing to a tooth. Hundreds of years in acidic soil just keeps a tooth clean. A fire that burns away hair and flesh and even bone leaves teeth dazzling like daisies in the ashes. Life is what destroys teeth. Undiluted apple juice in a baby bottle, sourballs, the pH balance of drinking water, tetracycline, sand in your bread if you were in the Roman army, biting seal-gut thread if you are an Eskimo woman, playing the trumpet, pulling your own teeth with a pliers.” – Jane Smiley, “The Age of Grief”

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“When you get elected President I think the first thing they do is take you in a room and say you know you’re not gonna do shit. Your hands are tied and Congress have the whole thing locked down and we all get screwed.” – Willie Nelson (interviewed by Martin Chilton in Telegraph Music, 2012)

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“Take the happiest man, the one most envied by the world, and in nine cases out of ten his
inmost consciousness is one of failure. Either his ideals in the line of his achievements are pitched far higher than the achievements themselves, or else he has secret ideals of which the world knows nothing, and in regard to which he inwardly knows himself to be found wanting.” – William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

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“Alcibiades. He was the Golden Boy of 4th century Athenian culture. Pericles was his guardian, Plato his teacher. A fine athlete, a brilliant general, handsome, marvelously intelligent, popular, everything. A summation of the Golden Age. And what happened? He went bad. He was vain, treacherous, selfish, sacrilegious, debauched, dishonest, and a traitor twice over. His aid to the enemy during the Syracuse campaign destroyed Athens. Just about the finest product of the most notable civilization man has accomplished, and it turned out like that. This haunts me.” – Jack Gilbert (interviewed by Gordon Lish in Genesis West, Issue #1, 1962)

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