Peter, Paul and Mary

I am still reading 1491, I really liked the book so far and I will write another blog about it in few days. I am reading about Mayan Calendar and I had ready about it long time ago but this book has lot more details. Anyway I went to library to stroll around since I had nothing else to do and two books caught my eyes. One is Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend  and other one is  Warlords: An Extraordinary Re-Creation of World War II Through the Eyes and Minds of Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, And Stalin . I don’t if I am going to be able to get through these books before I leave but I would like to. I started reading first one immediately because over last few months I read quiet a few books about Gnostics and subject is still interesting for me.

St Peter (Simon Peter) is the best known of Jesus’s disciple. In the first paragraph of first chapter of this book this book explained how he got the name Peter. Well his real name is Simon and his nickname, said to be given by Jesus himself, was Cephas. Cephas in Aramaic, language of Jesus spoke, means “Rock”. Now when the new testament was written, the language of the era was Greek and Cephas is translated in Greek as Petra (English verb petrify) and Petra became commonly known as Peter. St Peter is really St Simon. Now I knew that he was known as Simon Peter and I also knew that he was known as Simon the Rock but I just did not know Rock part was Peter.

1491

Just started reading this book, ‘1491, New Revelations Of the Americas Before Columbus‘ . Columbus reached Caribbean on October 12th 1992. This is considered such an important event that time before that is considered Pre-Columbian, and in America and  Spain, Columbus day is celebrated. Hence the book name 1491.

This book is about refuting the commonly held view that people who inhabited Americas were mainly in small. nomadic bands and most of the landmass was uninhabited. This is a great books so far. It talks about how in there were more people living in Americas than in Europe at the same time. Though I think, Americas does not only include US but North as well as South America. He talks about Mayan as well as Inca cultures. Anyway I just started reading it but it is certainly is a great book to know the other history of these huge continents.  It claims that cities such as Tenochtitlan had more people that any other contemporary European city, including Paris. This city had running water, gardens and clean streets unlike any other European cities. I do get the claim of street though I don’t know how they knew streets were clean :).

Anyway, I learned some interesting facts that I did not know before…

  1. Massachusett was a cluster of several dozen villages, around Massachusett Bay. All of these people spoke Massachusett, a family of languages. Massachusett was thus the name of the family off language as well as group of people that spoke it.
  2. Pocahontas was actually a nickname that meant something like “Little Hellion” and the girls actual name was Mataoka, who was a princess in training.
  3. Inca culture, who had one of the biggest empires of all the time, had a strange way of writing/memorizing information that was very different than any other thing in the world. Surely Egyptian hieroglyphics as well as Sumarian cuneiform signs are cryptic to us as they are more based on symbols rather than than speech based scripts of most modern languages (what we speak is what we wrote, for a nerd that is a wwsiwww). khipu or Ouipu was a method of conveying the information through knotted strings. There is a primary cord and then there are secondary cords dangling from primary cords. These secondary cords have knots that mean something. Khipukamayuq, “Knot keeper” parsed the knots both by inspecting them visually as well as by running fingers through them. Apparently in 1542, Spanish governor, Cristobal Vaca de Castro, assembly all knot reader to read the strings to assembly the history of Inca empire. When he found out they contradicted  Spanish version, he ordered all Khipu records to be burnt. Only about 600 of records survived the fire. Since no Rosetta stone has been found here yet, scholars still disagree if the Khipu was actually written form of a language or just way to remember things, a mnemonic devices. If the it was really a script then they are the only know intrinsically 3-D written documents. Now that is amazing!

His Excellency: George Washington

Couple of weeks ago, one of my friend and I were talking about American history. I was telling how I thought Civil war seems like the real birth of modern America as we know it. It seems to have defined America more than the war for independence. He told me about this book that he was reading about George Washington. I remember him telling me about how Washington walked away from all the power after the war was over. Obvious comparison were drawn between Gandhi who walked away from it India got its independence in 1947. But I do think there are some fundamental differences other than the basic philosophy of achieving their goals (Military Vs Non-Violence), they were really different people. Both led their countries through the time of crisis. Both seemed to have walked away from the attraction of power. Gandhi did not get much to live. He was killed less than 6 months after India’s independence. Washington on the other hand not only returned to power but he also had a great career. It seems like though, he had to do lot of compromises that person who is trying to balance things with lot of forces pulling in different direction has to do. There was an old Indian Poem written by poet in a village that said something like this. ” After the Independence in the procession Nehru was riding high in elephant, Patel was accompanying him on the horse, but Mahatma (Gandhi) was still walking” well it sounds really good in Hindi but anyway that is how people saw Gandhi. Gandhi was also the person who gave up most of the material things. One of the thing I respected about Gandhi was he was actually did what he said. He followed the principles till the end. On the other hand I felt Washington was very well to do and he made sure he remained that way. The conflict  between his principles and reality seemed to get much clearer when the subject of slavery was described. He realized the principles on which he was building a new nation, did not have place for slavery but it seems like reasons of economy always prevented him from taking a clear stance against it. It took almost 60 more years  to take a stand against it by Lincoln.

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