I’ve finished The Happiness Project now. The point is that an accretion of small things (or a lack of accretion of small things, in the case of negative stuff) is what forms a greater sense of happiness.
One of the small things that I pondered was the way she describes her books of clippings, trivia, etc., and I was going to start one of those, but, being me, I would much rather babble on about those things and share them with other people than have a book on a shelf that only I and my family might consult.
One of my major sources of trivia off the beaten paths is looking things up for stories. Here’s some of the trivia that I ran across for Lady of the Floods.
- Babylon is a johnny-come-lately of civilizations. Tales of the flood in Babylonian literature come from earlier civilizations, like Sumer. Here’s the short chronology timeline, which places the sack of Babylon at a mere 1531 BC. For some reason, I had it in mind that Babylon was ancient, even among the ancients. But Hammurabi was about the same time as the Old Testament Patriarchs.
- The flood myth is all over the Mediterranean: Egypt, Greece, Sumer, Israel, etc. The Sumerian flood myth was written down in 2150 BC, and I saw all kinds of possible dates for it. The Sumerian myth involves the city of Shuruppak.
- Shuruppak was supposedly a city of grain storehouses and is known for The Instructions of Shuruppak, which has aphorisms that would make Nietzsche proud: “You should not have sex with your slave girl; she will chew you up” “You should not curse strongly: it rebounds on you” “Fate is a wet bank: it can make you slip.” The major concerns are running a business, running a household, and maintaining a good reputation. A far cry from the Ten Commandments; they’re more worried that you obey your parents than that you obey any gods or not kill people.
- A flood wiped out Shuruppak in 2900-2800 BC. According to the Sumerians, the gods created humanity as slaves, and some of the gods finally got sick of them about 2900 BC and tried to kill them all in order to get some peace and quiet. So I can see where worshiping the gods might not be a high priority for that culture.
- I found a theory saying that asteroids caused Noah’s flood. I like, no matter how realistic or unrealistic it is. I mean, it should be pretty obvious if it’s true: similar deposits should be all over the place from the same period, yet they aren’t, as far as I know. But people who could calculate the seasons using the stars might possibly notice that something new has showed up in the heavens and is moving quickly. I wonder if, in a culture that is tied to the water for transportation, it might be natural to have boats around that are designed to survive the seasonal floods. In Noah’s case, they were a bunch of sheep herders, so it kind of sounds weird. But for a community based on moving a lot of grain around, it makes more sense.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh doesn’t come from Babylon but from Sumeria (post-flood). Gilgamesh was so famed for raping women (“Gilgamesh does not leave a girl to her mother(?) The daughter of the warrior, the bride of the young man, the gods kept hearing their complaints”) that the gods begged Anu (the chief of the gods) to create him a male lover, because it was just too disruptive. That’s right. When you’re too macho for the women, you get promoted to being gay.
I had fun doing the research for the story, but the style was really hard to catch. The Epic of Gilgamesh’s language is so concrete that it’s poetic. In English, we have all kinds of tricks that allow us to skip past concrete language–this sentence, for instance. Which made for interesting writing, but was like pulling teeth to get on the page.