“Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men. Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth, now the living timber bursts with the new buds and spring comes round again. And so with men: as one generation comes to life, another dies away.”
Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! In this episode, Neil, Nat, and Adil continue with the next book on their Great Books Project: The Iliad by Homer. This book explores the themes of fate, gods, and the glory of war. Listen along as we dive in to the stories of the Trojan War centering around the greatest warrior, Achilles.
We cover a wide range of topics including:
(6:08) In today’s episode, we’re discussing The Iliad by Homer, written around 8th century BC. We’ve moved forward ~500-1000 years from where we started on our book list. Make sure to check out our Great Books List and follow along with us as we put out new episodes every 3 weeks!
(11:00) Homer included a lot of data on the ships back then, and The Iliad stores that historical information. There’s some element of using stories to record historical information.
(13:16) Reading about history makes you reflect on the accuracy of the narrative as it could have been written to serve the story they would most like to portray. As we read more of these books written in the same era, we may see some of the same historical events happening and spoken about in different ways, similar to how news outlets report the same events or world issues in much different ways.
(16:29) Very rarely does everyone objectively agree that something or someone is good or bad. Most conflicts will have people on both sides of the coin who have different backgrounds, values, and opinions.
(19:47) These gods are depicted as very human-like, and they do not closely resemble gods in the way that we typically think about gods. They are imperfect, and they also get urges and emotions just like we do.
(21:18) The stories of Achilles and the consequences of rage. Not only does he lose his bride, but also his best friend. On top of that, he loses his honor and dignity. As the story ends, it’s all about how he regains that honor and dignity and is able to move on from his mistakes.
(26:20) Bicameral mind: Humans back then were lacking what we call consciousness today. They heard and obeyed demands they heard in their minds from what they identified as gods. They didn’t hear their own mind as their own thoughts and urges, but rather as gods telling them to do it. When did consciousness develop?
(28:42) It’s implied in this text that we are not like the animals, and being able to suppress our urges of rage and wrath is what differentiates us. We have morals and know right from wrong.
(34:23) Praying- Did it mean back then what it means now? Or is it more similar to manifestation and paying more attention to the things you wish for, such as money? It’s conceptually similar because it’s a ritual that takes up a big part of your headspace.
(38:13) Neil makes a connection to the concepts in The Mahabharata where the good guys do a lot of bad things to win the war, and the bad guys act more honorably than even the good guys in some ways.
(42:21) The Ajax and Hector fight scene. Nat explains the difference in ancient military conflicts where many may have been resolved by the two armies marching up and meeting. If one army is much larger, the opposing army would admit defeat. If the army size is more balanced, they would choose a fighter on each side to battle against each other.
(44:55) It’s not a complete episode of Made You Think without a tangent! Who would play the characters of the Iliad if it were shot as a movie in today’s time?
(46:58) Achilles’ battle with Hector. There are a lot of these duels, and while most remained honorable and respectful, this one does not. War was portrayed very different back then, and while it was still brutal, there were rules to war where everyone was on the same page rather than it being a free-for-all.
(51:21) The book has an interesting way of depicting the dynamics of male relationships. Achilles was extremely distraught over the loss of Patroclus. What was the extent of their friendship and how much of it has to do with the translation over time?
(56:17) Adil shares his experience reading the Qur’an where the author offers different translations side by side to help the reader get the full Arabic meaning of the text. When you translate a text into English, a lot of the meanings and artistry in the original language may get lost.
(1:00:15) We all have ideas and concepts that we have focused on for long periods in our lives. Once you exhaust the value from an idea, you move on to new ideas and viewpoints that build from the previous. For example, you may read something early on in your life but not extract much value from it until later in your life when you have a new foundation on a given topic.
(1:03:01) Gaining experience to attach your newfound knowledge to. We each experience things at different points in our lives. Examples: losing a loved one or having kids. These experiences often change how you may think about things in your life.
(1:07:53) A monastic person spends a lot of time alone with the voices in their head, and they in some way become a trusted person when it comes to certain matters: Interpreting dreams, helping others to identify the significance of their thoughts, understanding consciousness, etc.
(1:08:58) In most good books, it’s clear who the good vs. bad characters are, but this is not true in all cases. There are many books and movies with very complex characters that go deeper than just whether they’re good or bad.
(1:10:59) That wraps up this episode! The next book on our list is The Odyssey by Homer then it’s back to the Bible for the book of Deuteronomy. You can catch our previous 3 episodes of the Great Book Series here – Epic of Gilgamesh, Genesis, and Exodus.
If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS, @adilmajid, @nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.
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Thanks for listening. See you next time!