Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ides

Well, they're done and good riddance.

"Ides" was merely the Roman calendar name for a day in the middle of each month (more or less corresponding to the full moon), either the 15th or the 13th, depending on the month, and the several days preceding it were described as VI Ides, V Ides, IV Ides, etc. So Ides is plural for a reason, not least of which seems to be to allow maximum bad news for the period, especially in March - and the news this March has been bad, from the terrible hourly shocks from Japan and Libya to the brutal cancer discovered in the brain of a dear friend.

I shouldn't be surprised. March is named after the god of war; Brutus and conspirators killed Caesar in March; March weather stinks; one gets a year older in March; there seems no reason to believe that a God could possibly exist. For the Mediterranean Romans March was the first month of the year, the beginning of their spring, perhaps the beginning of another season of war. The Roman Empire was hardly known for living in harmony with nature.

An earthquake seems random, a cancer seems personal. That's the trouble I have in sorting through the evils of the world, trying to decide, or even if it's possible to decide, between Fate and God. How much are we to blame for building nuclear reactors on a coast near a fault line, how much can we blame fate for individual suffering? How much is evil and how much is bad luck? A belief in the terrible beauty and brutality of nature helps with these questions, especially in a place you love, but just barely. Rome was not burnt in a day.

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