interesting times

Lief Eriksson

I've always enjoyed the ancient Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times". I've loved the ambiguity of it... its the kind of statement that at first glance seems innocuous or even encouraging, but when you're not looking it comes back to bite you.

It seems doubtful that it actually was a Chinese curse, or if it is, it is like putting a phrase into babelfish or some other online translation site. You can translate it from Chinese to English but when you translate it back again, it looks nothing like the original.

If its not actually a Chinese curse, we have Robert F Kennedy to blame. He is credited with making the statement popular in South Africa, and possibly abroad. In a speech in Cape Town on 7 June, 1966, he said: There is a Chinese curse which says, 'May he live in interesting times'. Like it or not, we live in interesting times...

I like another story that came out of his visit: He saw the graffiti for the JFK gang and was touched by what he fondly believed were the frequent references to his brother!

When I was researching whether the curse actually exists I found this, even more sinister reference, on a site which was mainly in Chinese: "May you live in interesting times. May you get that which you prayed for. May you come to the attention of people in high places. May your friends always be at your back. And may your enemies be patient."

The same source pointed out that "interesting times" actually was the translation of the word for anarchy.

Scary stuff.

We're certainly living in interesting times in South Africa at the moment. I found an interesting take on the effects of Mbeki's ousting here and the transcript of Terror Lekota's speech about his "divorce from the ANC" is here

Who knows what the outcome will be? Anarchy and patient enemies? Hope not.

So why the picture of Lief Eriksson? Today is Lief Eriksson Day in the US (see, they don't just remember Columbus) and although he looks like a bit of a wally in this picture from Reportrait he certainly lived in interesting and often turbulent times.


Anonymous said…
Lekota's Divorce Speech is great news - we can do with a smaller ANC.

Have fun blogging!

Anonymous said…
Your blog is absolutely beautiful! Like the simplicity of the layout. I love the Maribou Stork. They are my favourite kind of birds. They have such a dignified manner about them – despite the rather grisly heads. Awesome creatures. Africa has so much to offer and I also hope that my braai grid gravestone doesn’t pop out in Europe somewhere. I also blog but it is more like a section of my portfolio that I refer people to. Incidently there is a Maribou stork on mine too. Check it out.

Happy blogging

Skoorby said…
What's a Wally?

Living in the US, it came as a bit of a shock to hear last week that Monday would be Columbus Day. I know it happens every year, but my sense is that Columbus' perceived role in the discovery of the New World and the expansion of European interests in it may have reached something of a tipping point. Fifty years ago, his primacy would have been unquestioned. Today, it seems quaint. To the point where, when I realized it would be Columbus Day on Monday, my first reaction was: why? Except for Postal and Federal government workers, I don't think anybody even gets the day off.
Lynne said…
A wally is a bit like a dweeb. Just look at the pic.... how would you describe him? Extreme curvature of the spine, limply pointing into the distance... he just looks a bit ineffectual... nothing like the big hairy viking I'd expect him to be. I mean, would he inspire you to trust him as a leader?
julochka said…
hi lynne--thanks for stopping by my blog (i just accidentally commented on one that you're following, i don't have that following thing down quite yet, tho' i added a bunch of those this morning myself). anyway, i digress. "may you live in interesting times," is indeed an ambiguous phrase. i think i choose to see it positively. but, like you, feel a bit like it's slightly too close to home with the political situation in the country of my birth as well (the campaign has gone downright insane in the US). at least i have the advantage of living outside of the madness, tho' our bank nearly failed last week thanks to the mess in the US. anyway, Leif Eriksson--he's a viking and we can all admire a good viking, can't we? :-) (i have to say that, living in denmark and all.)

i think i'll go back into the mirror now, i'm not making much sense today...

again, glad you stopped by since it led me to your blog. :-)


Popular posts from this blog

inspiration in a coffee shop

9 things

standing room only