Reasons Given in the Psalms For Long-Term Optimism

      The Psalms offer many reasons for long term optimism – optimism for the future, even if everything around you now seems dark and your fortune looks grim. God's promises in the Psalms are our reason for long-term optimism. In the Book of Psalms, David (and many other psalmists) sing praises to God in spite of their difficulties, because they have reason to put their faith in Him and they rejoice at his promises to them. The greatest of God's promises is the guarantee of life after death, an eternity in heaven with Him. This is a great promise indeed, but it will only come to pass after our deaths, which must inspire us to keep our faith and hope in Him until then.
      A fantastic example of the long-term optimist is David, who time and time again came up against his enemies, both enemies of the flesh and enemies of his own sin, and time and time again he finished all of these trials with a song of praise to God, in whom he had put his faith and trust. David relied upon God to bear him through his hardest times, and God did not abandon his servant. God never abandons those who put their faith and hope in Him, and this is why we are to have long-term optimism.

Socrates and Plato

      What was the disagreement Socrates had with the Sophists?
      Around the time when Socrates was a philosopher in Ancient Greece, there was a school of philosophical thought which called itself the Sophists. Socrates had made it his life's mission to discount the Sophists and their arguments, primarily because he believed the worldview that they taught was twisted and corruptive. The Sophists were a type of school specializing in rhetoric and the art of persuasive argument, which was a highly prized skill in the mob-democracy government of Athens at the time. The Sophists did not, however, teach persuasive argument for the right or truth; instead, they taught how to argue any case from any point and make it sound reasonable, no matter how wrong or untruthful it may be.
      The Sophists were some of the world's first most famous cynics, teaching that there was no such thing as an ultimate "Good", and that all laws and rules of society were mere convention: for example, laws against murder and theft being in place only because a society will run better in an atmosphere without murder or theft. This was the basis upon which Socrates disagreed with the Sophists. He (along with most of Athens) believed the Sophists were corrupting Athenian youth and diluting basic morals, and so Socrates made it part of his life's work to discredit this party.

      What was Plato's point in his allegory of the cave?
      In Plato's Republic, in which he stages a dialogue held between characters in order to get his own views across, he explains his idea of the Forms. Essentially, Plato believed that for every object that exists, a perfect "essence" of that object must also exist on an immaterial plane, and that is how we recognize every object by its nature – for instance, we recognize every chair as a chair, no matter what kind or style of chair it is, because there exists a perfect Form of a chair, encompassing all that it is which makes a chair a chair.
      Plato's allegory of the cave was meant to illustrate his idea of Forms. In the cave, he says, is seated a row of people, who are all chained facing the cave wall, their heads bound in place so they can only look at the wall. Behind them there is a great fire and objects moving in front of the fire, casting shadows upon the wall. Because the people can only see the wall and the shadows that are cast upon it, they begin to name the shadows they see. "That is a book," they say, looking at the shadow of a book as it crosses the wall. Because the person has never seen a real book, they do not know that it is only a shadow of a book that they are seeing, and that the real book is actually in front of the fire that burns behind the chained people.
      This is Plato's idea of Forms. The objects moving in front of the fire, he says, are the Forms – perfect essences of things that exist in the world, but we cannot see them no matter how hard we try because our heads are chained by the ability of our eyes to only see material things. The shadows dancing across the wall that the chained people must face represent the physical things in our world – but in Plato's work, these are only shadows of the perfect Forms.

The Significance of Historical Sanctions in the Psalms

Historical sanctions are a very important concept in the Psalms. They act as both a promise and an assurance – the assurance that God will punish evildoers, and spare no mercy for the wicked. A concept like that must have had great significance in the days of the Jews in Israel, and that still holds true today. The sanctions are a promise by God to keep His people safe from those who would do evil to them. For those who know that they have a future life in heaven with God, this ought to be very comforting indeed! For those who do not have that assurance, the sanctions can serve as a motivator – a guarantee of what will happen to them if they continue to practice wickedness.
           Historical sanctions are rife within the Psalms. David, whom many recognize as the primary Psalmist, constantly cried out to God for help against His enemies who wish to do His servant David harm. David relied utterly on God's protection under His sanctions, and God answered David's prayers for help and protection. God always answers the prayers of those who have faith in Him, and His sanctions are a promise for those He has chosen to be His people.


Homer's Odyssey: Odysseus and the Cyclops

      Read Homer's description of the Cyclopes (plural) in Book 9 of The Odyssey. Would you describe them as having a civilization? Why or why not?
      The Cyclopes described in Book 9 of The Odyssey were a monstrous people that lived together on an island where Odysseus and his men landed. Although the Cyclopes lived together on one island, they cannot really be described as having a proper civilization. They were shepherds, and each Cyclops kept largely to himself, not bothering with his neighbors. There was no central government – no government at all, except for the self-governing practiced by each Cyclops. The Cyclopes, though they lived together and practiced the same occupation, had no real civilization, according to The Odyssey.
      What happens between the Cyclops and Odysseus and his men? How does the story end?
      When Odysseus and his men are first trapped by Polyphemus, the Cyclops, Odysseus tries being reasonable – bargaining to let the men go. Polyphemus refuses, and just to punctuate his refusal, he kills and eats two of Odysseus's men. Then Odysseus begins to scheme. Knowing that Polyphemus will never let them go willingly, he has some of his men fetch a great quantity of wine from their ships for Polyphemus to drink. While Polyphemus is getting drunk on Odysseus's wine, the Greek hero has meanwhile been sharpening a great stake, which he heats to a red-hot point in Polyphemus's cookfire. While this is happening, a drunken Polyphemus asks for Odysseus's name, saying he will give him a gift if he answers. Odysseus replies by telling the Cyclops his name is "Noman", or "Nobody", and Polyphemus tells "Nobody" that his gift is that he will be eaten last of all. Then the Cyclops falls into a drunken sleep.
      While Polyphemus is asleep, Odysseus drives the fire-hardened stake into the Cyclops' one eye, blinding him instantly and driving him awake with pain. Polyphemus's neighbors hear his shrieks and call out to find out what is the matter, but when Polyphemus shouts that "Nobody" is hurting him, his fellow Cyclopes decide that it must be divine punishment and advise Polyphemus to pray. Meanwhile, Odysseus has been working on his escape plan. He ties his men into the thick wool on the undersides of Polyphemus's sheep, and ties himself underneath the ram of the flock, so that when the Cyclops lets the beasts out to graze then the men will be free. As Odysseus planned, Polyphemus lets his sheep out to graze, and the men with them. But the Cyclops suspects that all might not be well. Unable to see, he feels the backs of each of his sheep as they leave the cave in case there are men riding atop them. But Odysseus's cleverness pays off as Polyphemus doesn't think to check the beasts' undersides, and the men go free.