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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - December 21, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta Saturday, December 21, THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD 5 SATURDAY TALK Norman Smith Winter arrives at last Easy does it! With things going as they are many may feel like singing Christmas only faintly this year. A line like Shelley's "Dance, my heart; 0 dance today with doesn't come easily with suf- fering around and more ahead and still worse around the world. But gloom won't help. Even to carol faintly might rediscover for us that we can sing, and see, and cherish. Christmas is, after all, a breaking out of first principles with words like star, cradle, song, love, faith, hope and charity. Years ago Rachel Carson's great book "The Sea Around Us" made known the wonders of the world under water. We need now someone to tell us, or to tell ourselves, of the wonders of the world above water. I don't mean a lecture on environment pollution or on saving the unburned ends of matches. I'm thinking, you might say, of pollution of our hearts and minds. The cynics will mock, but I'm suggesting it is time to dust off the old truth that the best things in life are free. A trouble with the self-harried world is that it's been so long since we counted our blessings we've forgotten where they are. Our Lord said "Seek and ye shall find." I guess there's not much doubt that we are all seeking; the question is whether we are seeking the right things. Freedoms, and plenty, and pleasure yes; but will we link freedom with responsibility, work for our plenty and cherish pleasure? I wonder if St. Paul didn't make up a kind of list of things we might seek, along with freedom, plenty and pleasure? Old Paul was a tough chap who lived hard and told us "Quit you like men, be But note the gentleness of the things he'd have us ponder: "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest; whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." I don't think it was an acci- dent that Paul asked us to "think on" these things. Just thinking of them lifts the heart and the horizon. Whereas, as George Meredith observed, "when hot for cer- tainties in this our life" the soul gets but a dusty answer. Being hot for certainties is, moreover, a self defeating exercise. For the more one learns about certainties the more they tend to be passing coincidences. A righteous con- viction that the world may be put right by a steady outcry of mistrust and contempt leads to frustration, and distracts one from the great amount of abiding good there is in public as well as private life. Besides, life is better if taken as a kind of game, knowing you'll lose some rounds, win some, but you can't win 'em all. It's like that other game: for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, for good or ill. I guess this seems serious fare on the eve of Christmas. With luck, though, it will strike some that what many of us most want this Christmas we can't get from Santa Claus. The joys around us, at close hand, seem to have got mislaid, or have gone out of style: the joys of happiness or of'giving happiness. These we have to give to ourselves. I'd still hope Santa would somehow decant a special nectar of cheer for Beryl Plumptre who took the hard road and stuck it out, for Jules Leger whose defiant serenity touches us all; for Ed Ritchie recently retired as under secretary of state for external affairs, whose intellect and sacrifice honor the public ser- vice at a time when lesser men sing it small; for Robert Stanfield who's had character under stress. Readers will think of their own names for such a list, including the quiet poor, maligned police, unselfish men of the church, paid and unpaid social workers whose Samaritanship is wrongly be- ing scoffed at as being something the state should take over. And of friends gone, let's remember the integrity and natural kindness of M. J. Coldwell. I mentioned a minute ago that there are joys we can give to ourselves, and to others, without bothering Santa Claus. Like what, you ask? Like watching the birds on the crumbed snow window- ledge and taking a ski trail and noting that a lot of the trail-skiers are "new" Canadians, with haversacks and children. If you come from a crowded troubled land you don't take for granted the beauty of the quiet woods. If you are to choose between seeing television or seeing your friends be very careful; it is astonishing, really, how many of us now are saying: "somehow we don't get to see our friends any The constant stars and the everlasting hills are there still, but the peace of God and of friends, which passeth un- derstanding, seems to be slipping very low in the ratings and hit parade. No, I'm not suggesting we all pretend to become angels; we'd look silly, and besides, as Ogden Nash remarked, "wings would necessitate my sleeping on my I'm just suggesting that with happiness as with unhap- piness, easy does it. I have a feeling we are working too hard at both. A visit to a home for the blind or crippled or lingering ill can work wonders for us, and may even help them. As for hunting for contentment: "It's like said Winnie the Pooh, "when you go after honey with a balloon, the great thing is not to let the bees know you're coming You never can tell with bees." Book review THE VOICE OF ONE Dr. Frank S. Morley W alter Kerber Exciting new theory on the pyramids "The Riddle of the Pyramids" by Kurt Mendelssohn, F. B. S. (Thames and Hudson, 224 pages, with 42 line drawings, 85 illustrations, 15 in After a century of fanciful speculations about the secret meaning of the ancient Egyp- tian pyramids, anyone familiar with the vast and useless literature produced by self styled pryamidologists appraoches with considerable skepticism a book purporting to solve the riddle of the pyramids. However, a quick perusal of the first few chapters of Mendelssohn's book soon dis- pels all initial reservations. After a brief and well-written outline of the early history of Egypt, the author describes in a lucid and precise fashion the pyramids of the Old Kingdom, their structure, and their archaeological context. This leads to a number of impor- tant questions. Does the angle of elevation observed in most of the pyramids indicate an advanced state of mathematical knowledge? Can the pyramids be con- sidered royal tombs although no mummies have been found in most of them? Why did some pharaohs build more than one pyramid? When Mendelssohn sets out to answer these questions, the book becomes outright ex- citing. After a careful analysis of certain architec- tural features of the pyramid at Meidum, the author concludes that the ruined state of this building is due, not to the activity of stone robbers, but to a structural fault which caused the pyramid to collapse while still under construction. This theory explains not only why the Meidum pyramid was never finished, but why the builders of Snofru's "bent" pyramid at Dahshur suddenly deemed it prudent to change the angle of elevation from to to prevent a similar disaster. Snofru's second pyramid, also at Dahshur, was erected at the same safe angle, and only the more solidly constructed pyramids at Giza returned to the old angle of elevation. These observations, signifi- cant as they are in themselves, have implications of even wider-reaching im- portance. If the Step Pyramid at Meidum and the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur were un- der construction at the same time, the old theory that each new pharaoh began building a pyramid at the time of his accession must be discarded. What, then, prompted the Egyptians to work on several projects of these gigantic dimensions at the same time? Mendelssohn offers a striking explanation. When Imhotep, the architect of the first pyramid ever built, had enlisted the vast labor force required for its construction, he began to realize that the joint work for a common goal was exercising a unifying influence upon the population of a country that was still very much divided by local self- interest. "Tribal villagers were welded by common work into people with the con- sciousness of nationhood." However, this set wheels in motion that could not easily be stopped again. By the time a pyramid reached com- pletion, a large section of Egypt's working population had come to rely for its livelihood upon the employ- ment provided by the construction project. This vast labor force, together with the government agencies created for its administration, could not be disbanded without serious repercussions for the Egyptian economy. The building of pyramids therefore became a purpose in itself, creating and maintain- ing a new social order and a new pattern of life: that of the national state. It is remarkable that these important observations have been made by a scholar who is neither an Egyptologist nor a historian, but a physicist. Starting from a number of observations that are more liable to occur to the natural scientist, he has thoroughly investigated the findings ac- cumulated by trained Egyp- tologists, and attempted to find a solution that would ac- comodate the results from both disciplines. This attempt has been so eminently successful that it would be petty to list the few very minor factual errors that have slipped into his account. That certain aspects of his thesis require further investigation is only natural. One should, for instance, not overlook the fact that a pyramid is only one part of a more elaborate com- plex which comprises, besides the pyramid, a mortuary temple, a causeway, and a so- called valley temple. As the funerary character of these buildings is beyond any doubt, the question whether a mummy was ac- tually found inside the pyramid loses some of its significance. On the other hand, these institutions played their own role in the Egyptian economy. The offerings presented in the mortuary temple did not go to waste, but were eventually dis- tributed among the priests. As these priests were chosen from the administrative staff of the king, the awarding of priestly positions soon became a convenient means of providing high-ranking government officials and their families with a permanent source of income. Moreover, the steady increase in the number of pyramid complex- es necessitated the cultivation of additional tracts of previously unused land to keep up with the rapidly grow- ing demand for offering gifts. Each pyramid temple was therefore endowed with a number of estates founded on reclaimed land. The resulting increase in agricultural production was doubtless of considerable significance for the economy of ancient Egypt. On the other hand, land reclamation and employment were certainly mere side effects, and not the ultimate purpose of pyramid building. The vast labor force required for the construction of a pyramid could have been employed as easily building temples in honor of the Egyp- tian gods. That this was ac- tually done under the Fifth Dynasty reflects a change in the status of the pharaoh, and is more easily explained as a reduction of his power than as an attempt of the priesthood to compensate the king for the reduced size of his pyramid. The rich endowments bestow- ed upon these temples fully bear out this contention. However, modifications of this sort do not detract from the validity of Mendelssohn's original observations, which have opened new vistas for the exploration of the origins of ancient Egyptian society. Well-written and lavishly il- lustrated, this book makes fascinating and informative reading for layman and specialist alike. It should not be missing from any library. DIETER MUELLER Dilemma of existence "The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (Collier Mac- millan Canada Ltd., 314 This small volume describes the ways, as Becker saw them, that men have used to escape the terror of the reality of death in life. He places a perspective on these efforts to explain away man's flight by examining relevant thought of Kierkegaard Freud, Adler, Jung, Rank and a long list of other thinkers on the subject. Becker carefully recalls to the reader his own human con- dition and he does so effec- tively and appropriately. The reader can discern the appropriateness of his reminders because he feels some distaste at-Becker's ex- position. As he says, we laugh at the epigram, "On the highest throne in the world man sits on his arse." But we understand him as he wishes, because our smile fades some when we think, "Yes! And so do we at our dinner tables, on our TV chairs and in our glorious automobiles." By the persistent force of prose and arument he forces our gaze to look upon the dilemma of man's existence: "The one mortal animal who at the same time is conscious of his Becker sees that much of what we call character and culture has developed for the precise pur- pose of hiding man's gaze from the horror of this dilem- ma. He argues the deception of the palliatives. They have in fact turned man in some ways from the direction of growth because they assume truth; an assumption at best only partly correct. Fittingly, Becker's own words describe his bold look at blazing truth as he sees it. "I think that taking life seriously means something much as this: that whatever man does on this planet lias to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. Whatever is achieved must be achieved from within the sub- jective energies of creatures, without deadening, with the full exercise of passion, of vision, of pain, and of sorrow." This book won a Pulitzer prize. RALPH HIMSL Peace on earth and goodwill I am a born loser. A friend of mine told me that when I went into the ministry. "Frank, you're in a losing he said. "I'm sur- prised at an intelligent fellow like you." What he meant was that mankind was incurably sinful and the dove of peace hadn't a chance. My theology with its faith in original sin should have warned me against optimism, but through my life I continued to support los- ing causes with the slogan, "Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Man." The first of my lost causes was the Com- monwealth of Nations. Here was the prototype of international unity, the promise of the coming "parliament of man, the federation of the world." What a glorious, world wide community of economic and political co operation assuring peace and goodwill among themselves. I gloried in the fact that Canada had been the creator of responsible government, adapting the British system to the dominions. Had not even Laurier prophesied that the day would dawn when the Mother of Parliaments would "welcome under her exalted chamber the elect of every Had not the Com- monwealth brought Britain through the First World War forging ties "which, though light as air, are strong as links of The forces of nationalism were too strong. Mackenzie King would reduce the Governor General to a mere figure head, Ireland got her independence, and since the Second World War the rush from the Commonwealth has become a stampede. The second of my lost causes was the League of Nations. I believed that Woodrow Wilson, dedicated to peace, founder of the League, sponsor of the concept of "open covenants, openly arrived at" (I recall hear- ing Paul Martin ridicule such a notion, as did most and of the reign of international law, a man betrayed by his friends, disowned by his country, of all men he appeared to me most to resemble Jesus Christ. The League of Nations became a new religion Had not the war been "a war to end wars" and "make the world safe for What a joke! Japan pursued her Pacific imperialism and the Western support of China was a mockery. Mussolini derided the League and Fascist Ita- ly walked into Ethiopia, bombing helpless villages, beginning a new era of war horrors that would lead to Hiroshima. Naked im- perialism was the order of the day. Franco with typical Fascist brutality, supported by the Western world who either blockaded the Republicans from getting supplies, aided Franco with arms, or stood idly by, massacred the democratic cause and liqui- dated the leaders. Picasso sketched the agony of humanity with "Guernica." Hitler marched into the Ruhr, Austria, then Czechoslovakia (Masaryk was another of my heroes) as Hitler made his infamous pact with Chamberlain. So came the Second World War, ghastliest war of human history. Fifteen million was the estimate of military dead, but civilian deaths were much higher. Six million Jews were exterminated by Nazi savagery. Over 70 million people were uprooted from their homes. In Russia 20 million civilians died from starvation, disease, or bombing, and 25 million were homeless. In Hiroshima people were burned to death and in Nagasaki by the atomic bomb. The social wounds of the war and damage to the hearts and minds of men are far from healed Misery and despair fill the literature of our times. Nevertheless when the war came to its agonizing close, mankind with astonishing resiliency set about to establish security for the "Four Freedoms" and bring about "a just and enduring peace." Out of the ashes came glorious hope. At long last man had reached Utopia. Just a little climb over the hills and there man would have it at last What excitement I felt when for a brief period I was a delegate to the UN! Then came a gnawing disillusionment as the UN was un- able to vote because France and Russia would not accept their responsibilities Now the UN exerts through Arab and Russian politics a brutal squeeze of Israel reminis- cent of Mussolini. Black Africa has led an un- just assault on South Africa in which Russia joins, of course, though countries like Russia and Ghana have perpetrated hideous atrocities and the persecution of minorities. It is ironical that India pursues an imperialist policy. The handwriting is on the wall and the fall of the UN is predicted. Millions now believe that the only hope of mankind is in some apocalypse and the intervention of God in history. About 30 years ago I began these weekly ar- ticles taken from Isaiah's words as St. Mark records them. "The Voice of One crying in the wilderness." During that time I have worked for countless causes which were calculated to promote peace on earth and goodwill to man As I said, I'm a born loser The University of Leihbridge APERTURE Or. kuijt Christmas and mistletoe Job Kuijt emigrated to Alberta from his native Holland in 1948. He received his PhD from the University of California in Berkeley in 1958. Before joining the University of Lethbridge faculty he taught Botany for a number of years at the University of British Columbia. His major interest lies in the study of structure and relationships in parasitic flowering plants. He is currently chairman of the department of biological sciences. Among other things, 'tis the season of mis- tletoe. What really is mistletoe, and how did its connection with Christmas come about? Most of us know it only as a little greenish branch with clusters of pearly white berries, appearing on the market in early December, to be hung above doors for the benefit of those who lack courage during the rest of the year. We may also have heard that it grows on oak trees in England which is mostly wrong. It does indeed grow in England, but only excep- tionally on oaks. Furthermore, it is becoming quite rare in England generally, while it is far more common on the poplars and in the apple orchards in parts of France and southern Germany. To confuse the situation even further our North American market product, which belongs to quite a different mistletoe group but resembles its European counterpart superficially, comes from Texas, New Mex- ico, and Oklahoma. It has more, but smaller, berries and often grows on oak! It comes as a surprise to many people that mistletoe is a true parasite. The berries are eaten by thrushes or other birds. Most seeds pass through the bird's digestive tract un- harmed; if they are lucky, they land on the branch of a susceptible host and germinate. The small root penetrates the bark, and for the rest of the mistletoe's life it will take various nutrients from the host tree. A couple of such plants do little harm to a large tree, but I have seen trees loaded down with more than a hundred large mistletoe plants in Vien- na, and such trees eventually succumb. But what about the connection between mistletoe and Christmas? The English tradi- tion of kissing under the mistletoe is perhaps little more than a century old, and it may be quite impossible to trace it back to Druidical ceremonies some 19 centuries ago. It has no equivalent among continental Europeans, who apparently kiss for reasons other than mistletoe. It is true that the European mis- tletoe played an important role in the rituals of the Druids, who were said to harvest the plant ceremonially at the summer solstice, as reported by Pliny in the first century A.D. The Eddas, ancient Icelandic sagas written more than a thousand years later, give the mistletoe a crucial role in the famous Balder saga. It was an arrow fashioned out of mis- tletoe wood which killed Balder, the favorite of the Gods. Interestingly enough, there is no evidence of mistletoe ever having grown in Iceland, showing that the myth was im- ported. Some Scandinavian customs of today may be direct descendants of very ancient ceremonies. Until quite recently, the collecting of mistletoe twigs was a part of Swedish and German Midsummer Eve celebrations. In Sweden the bonfires actually used to bear Balder's name. The Druids are known to have similar bonfires where certain sacrificial objects were burned. In the Middle Ages a certain amount of medicinal folklore and superstition was at- tached to the plant, perhaps more so on the continent than in Britain. For example, rosary beads were sometimes made of mis- tletoe wood. The fact that the mistletoe is evergreen gave a natural connection to the idea of immortality, and even today the mis- tletoe is sold here and there on German markets well into February "just to have something green in the Old reports exist where mistletoe twigs were carried into battle. Good luck symbols of various sorts were, of course, often hung from rafters, above doors, and on roots in Europe in earlier times. The horseshoe is used here and there even in North America, and nearly every roof raised in continental Europe is immediately adorned with a small green tree. It is probably from such a custom that the Anglo Saxon custom has belatedly grown An interesting sidelight is the fact that Shakespeare mentions mistletoe only once in all his works, and that merely as a bit of scenic description. As Shakespeare relished folklore and superstition, it is difficult to believe that he would not have made use of these Christmas traditions if they had existed in his day. A final thought: don't bother to try to grow it outdoors in Lethbridge! I have tried and gotten nowhere. After all, it is difficult enough for a tree to grow here, let alone a mistletoe on it. The great void yonder By Doug Walker The noise at our dinner table one night was almost unbearable. Our three young people were unusually obstreperous, contradicting each other in loud voices while Elspeth and I maintained a stricken silence. When the storm abated a bit Elspeth said, "Sometimes I wonder if I'll be able to stand it much longer and then I think of how you'll soon all be gone and I'll be alone with your father ;