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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Enigmatic Gallimaufry And The Fall Of Peking

One compiles, amid labors of life, a routine of refreshment and exertion. We keep things close by to assist our progress and keep our sanity intact under the terrible rule of our wisdom (Homo sapiens).  Parenthetically, H. sapiens --"Man The Wise"-- is what we call ourselves as a species. It comforts one from feeling reminded of someone one used to know who one was once.

One might, what with one thing and another and this being California, come to rely upon espresso and wine as aide-mémoires but, as suggested by the illustration above, gift serving-ware (from a caring offspring) and pharmaceutical treats find their ways into the ritual. Which brings us to Homo religiosus (Man the religious).

H. religiosus is a term I learned in 1970, while starting a family in the city of Chico and attending the strange college there.

My Religions prof, Chas. Winquist, was a great admirer of the historian of religion and philosopher, Mircea Eliade. They both used the term, H. religiosus, frequently, had beards and smoked pipes. Here is a picture of Mircea Eliade in his 60s or 70s:
Professor Winquist was only 32 years old at the time and looked much as Eliade must have before he was kidnapped and beaten up by an older version of himself. I have the same problem. For readers younger, fresher and more sanitary than I, it would be helpful to mention all professors smoked pipes in those days. Poor Winquist was often turned away and sent home when he forgot his --even though that reinforced his reputation for absent-mindedness, which was the other professorial requirement. In fact, his lectures were regularly punctuated by the need to throw a blazing trash can out the window after he'd tapped out his live dottle into it. To do this, one or another of us would have to stand up, which defines Homo erectus.

Smoking in school became, as one's diversions do, politically incorrect (un-pc), but that is as nothing compared to what political correctness did to poor Homo erectus. Our introduction to this early human came with the discovery of Peking Man, the first resident of Peking --who lived there some 250,000 years ago.

Peking Man occupied a cave on Dragon Bone Hill in the Fangshan District. The city that rose upon that site took its name directly from archaeological  notes transcribed from his prehistoric mailbox. The picture above is from his college yearbook. All we know about him is he was not a physician because medical school grad-photos were taken in x-ray. But they found fossil evidence that he was on the football team.
So, for a quarter million years, the city around his little cave paid homage to Peking Man. Then came Political Correctness. First the PC Movement changed China's chairman's name from Mao Tse-tung to Mao Zedong  (and liddle lamzy divey.A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?). Then they came up with Beijing and everybody in Peking, about 20 million people, had to pack up and move there at great inconvenience. No more Peking, only a poor caveman all alone on Dragon Bone Hill.

All movements go too far.



  1. The discredited but famous examples of so-called (and self-identified) ''H. sapiens' you cite here demonstrate to me the truth of 'Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny', no? I look forward to a lively discussion from other of your subscribers and you!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Will! I was beginning to think I had offended the world's sensitivities in some new way. It's quiet. Too quiet. Is my anthropology at fault? I must go lie down.

  3. Geo, you said that "It's quiet. Too quiet."

    That's because your blog posts are always so clever, carefully contrived, and consistently creative that your readers are rendered speechless. We don't know what to say.

    You always inspire me to use parts of my brain that have been dormant for years - - and you often force me to consult a dictionary.
    That's a good thing.

  4. Everyone moving from Peking to Beijing reminds me of a joke Bill Cosby once told in an interview, regarding the Browns moving from Cleveland to Baltimore. What folks didn't realize, he said, was that the entire city of Cleveland was moving to Baltimore. Baltimore residents would be putting up their new neighbors until they could find their own digs.

  5. I think people as well as societies should adopt the "moderation in all things," stance. Nietzsche thought they were programmed with the will to power, and as such the phenomenon you describe is an inevitable byproduct.

  6. I always feel so inadequate after I read your posts. I enjoy them no end but I have nothing intelligent to add to the conversation. Rats.

  7. I echo Jon's comment - I always make sure to have a thesaurus and dictionary handy when visiting here :)

  8. Thank you, Delores! I am sooooo glad I'm not the only one who suffers with a bout of inadequacy when I try to think of something worthwhile to say after reading one of your posts, dude.

    All I can say is the older I get, and arguably the less "fresh" I become, the less exertion it takes to prompt me to reach for the re-freshments.

  9. Are you saying when I order Peking Chicken I'm really ordering Beijing Chicken?!

    Wow...all this time I had no idea LOL


  10. You know Jon is right. Nearly every time I read one of your posts I have to go away and come back later after it sinks in to respond. That's a rare talent.

  11. Jon-- Thanks. I love dictionaries. They introduce enigmas we don't always meet in polite society. As long as they outweigh law books, we're in good shape.

    Squid-- Always admired Cosby's closeness to situational poetry and surrealism.

    Laoch-- Indeed, "moderation in all things" was the central idea of Moses's commandment-of-the-month club and it worked for individuals, villages, worlds.

    Delores-- There's little intelligence in my posts. Believe me, I know the author. But I'm so pleased you enjoy them; that's the whole point.

    Keith-- Always a good idea to have those lexicons within reach.

    Susan-- "Less fresh"? If that has led to your radiant encouragement then let time have its way.

    Michelle-- Yes, it's true! Except Beijing Chicken sounds much less appetizing than Peking Chicken.

    Austan--Indeed, Jon is usually right. Thank you for coming back to respond. You're a rare intellect whose attention improves me.

  12. I enjoyed your post and wish I could write as well as you do, but I always hide behind the fact that English was not my first language… Pipes – my husband Jim smoked pipes and still has a great collection of them – what to do with them now since he stopped smoking? Some were quite expensive and made of that special wood. Once we drove to St Tropez because there was a small factory making handmade pipes – they are in a box. I have never heard of Homo Religiosus but living in Georgia I would run away from him as there is too much religion here for me as it is.

  13. Vagabonde-- Thank you so much! I am trying to learn French. Your posts have been of great interest to me. I welcome you! I am so impressed by the adventure you are currently accounting on your blog. I shall add you to my blogroll!

  14. This one's a slow build, but so worth it! Enjoy:

  15. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but "Beijing Duck" just isn't as delicious at "Peking Duck."

    Very clever post, as always! And it's been quiet 'round our way, too. Maybe everyone is outside, playing.


  16. Squid-- Thanks, it was fun to see Jack Benny on that clip too!

    Sister Stephanie-- I sure hope people are playing outdoors. We need a little fun everyday!

  17. Thank you for this very witty and amusing (first word sprang into my mind: amazing) post! I will follow you - had to make my mind up which of your three blogs - but now I decided: this one it will be.


  18. Squid-- Thanks, it was fun to see Jack Benny on that clip too!

    Sister S.-- I sure hope people are playing outdoors. We need a little fun everyday.

    Britta-- Welcome!

  19. Fascinating snippets into my hometown's history - and not exactly things that bring me pride, but very interesting.
    You might be amused to learn that I am being "hired" (not a paid gig) to portray Annie Bidwell in an upcoming Open House Xmas time performance. For obvious reasons (It's a short role).

    Cheers and love.

    1. Annie Bidwell was a highly intelligent, independent and generous person. I believe there's some typecasting going on. The time I spent in the the huge park she gave to the town are part of the cheer and love I send in response to you.


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