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American Gods Question 1: Which themes affected you and why? 
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Robert Tulip wrote:
A deeper theme here is the potential redemption of technology through the validation of ancient wisdom.


Robert, do you have a suggestion as to how this can be done?



Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:51 pm
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Thomas Hood wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
A deeper theme here is the potential redemption of technology through the validation of ancient wisdom.
Robert, do you have a suggestion as to how this can be done?
Tom, yes I do have a suggestion, but it is a secret. In American Gods, Gaiman initially gives the impression that technology may be unredeemable. This is an interesting plot device, opening the question of how we find meaning in the world, if many things we think are meaningful are actually not. He implies that old frameworks for meaning and purpose have much to offer to the new frameworks, but you will have to read the book to find how this resolves.



Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:07 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Thomas Hood wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
A deeper theme here is the potential redemption of technology through the validation of ancient wisdom.
Robert, do you have a suggestion as to how this can be done?
Tom, yes I do have a suggestion, but it is a secret. . .


Alas, Robert, had I but world enough, and time, I'd read everything at BookTalk, but Time's winged chariots are hurrying near. The solution to the redemption of technology is as old as The Antigone. The only secret is how closely Gaiman approximates the ancient answer. Technology can be redeemed by a successful technology of the self, productive of self knowledge, that is, a perfection of Tiresian learning.

Tom



Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:18 am
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Robert Tulip wrote:
American Gods is an epic novel dealing with many big themes, including sacrifice, loyalty, betrayal, love and faith. Which theme affected you most strongly, and why?


American Gods is a wonderful book. This is actually the second time that I have read the book, and I loved it even more this time.


I think that one of the most profound themes in American Gods is the that of betrayal. Throughout the book, people and gods struggle with whom to trust and whom not to trust. The text is rife with moments of trust given and trust broken. From the beginning, Shadow is betrayed by his wife Laura who is having an affair with his best-friend Robbie. While the dead Laura who visits Shadow in his hotel room claims that she would never have left him for Robbie, she also explains that the sex with him was good. When Shadow objects to knowing this, Laura states, “I’m sorry. It’s harder to pick and choose when you’re dead…. It doesn’t matter as much” (61). Yet, it does matter to Shadow who is still among the living. Laura has doubly betrayed him – by cheating on him and by telling him about it in detail.

In Chicago, Mr. Wednesday also betrays Shadow to Czernobog, although it is not obvious at the time. At the time, Czernobog refuses to have anything to do with Mr. Wednesday because he does not trust him. Czernobog and the women that he lives with claim that all Mr. Wednesday does is bring bad news and badness down upon them. Shadow, in an effort to help Mr. Wednesday, gambles over a game of checkers. In the end, Czernobog must come to Mr. Wednesday’s aid, but he also gets to take a swing at Shadow’s head with his hammer. The reader finds out about this betrayal when Mr. Wednesday congratulates Shadow on his victory while admitting that he would have brought Czernobog around eventually. Thus, Mr. Wednesday has allowed Shadow to put himself in unnecessary danger.

[spoiler]Hinzelmann of Lakeside also turns out to be one of the books biggest betrayers. First, the argument can be made that he is betraying the town by sacrificing its children unwillingly to keep it healthy and prosperous. Secondly, he broke his word to Mr. Wednesday that he would keep Shadow safe and out of trouble. While he claims that nothing in the town happens without him knowing it, Shadow points out that Aubrey and Sam, people who would recognize him, both came to town. In addition, Laura was able to find him there. Hinzelmann argues that he did what he did and does what he does because Lakeside is a good town, and he wants to keep it that way. Thus, Hinzelmann has betrayed the trust of the town, Mr. Wednesday, and Shadow himself.

However, the greatest betrayal of the book is perpetrated by Mr. Wednesday – Odin. He has schemed with Loki to create a war between the new gods and the old gods. The battle would then be dedicated to his name which would give him greater strength here in America while wiping out many of the other smaller gods. Odin and Loki both lied to the gods that followed them into battle so as to create a certain outcome. They started off as traitors to their kind – ready to kill as many gods as it took to raise power for Odin. [/spoiler]



Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:21 pm
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Krysondra wrote:
In Chicago, Mr. Wednesday also betrays Shadow to Czernobog, although it is not obvious at the time. At the time, Czernobog refuses to have anything to do with Mr. Wednesday because he does not trust him. Czernobog and the women that he lives with claim that all Mr. Wednesday does is bring bad news and badness down upon them. Shadow, in an effort to help Mr. Wednesday, gambles over a game of checkers. In the end, Czernobog must come to Mr. Wednesday’s aid, but he also gets to take a swing at Shadow’s head with his hammer. The reader finds out about this betrayal when Mr. Wednesday congratulates Shadow on his victory while admitting that he would have brought Czernobog around eventually. Thus, Mr. Wednesday has allowed Shadow to put himself in unnecessary danger. [spoiler]Hinzelmann of Lakeside also turns out to be one of the books biggest betrayers. First, the argument can be made that he is betraying the town by sacrificing its children unwillingly to keep it healthy and prosperous. Secondly, he broke his word to Mr. Wednesday that he would keep Shadow safe and out of trouble. While he claims that nothing in the town happens without him knowing it, Shadow points out that Aubrey and Sam, people who would recognize him, both came to town. In addition, Laura was able to find him there. Hinzelmann argues that he did what he did and does what he does because Lakeside is a good town, and he wants to keep it that way. Thus, Hinzelmann has betrayed the trust of the town, Mr. Wednesday, and Shadow himself.

However, the greatest betrayal of the book is perpetrated by Mr. Wednesday – Odin. He has schemed with Loki to create a war between the new gods and the old gods. The battle would then be dedicated to his name which would give him greater strength here in America while wiping out many of the other smaller gods. Odin and Loki both lied to the gods that followed them into battle so as to create a certain outcome. They started off as traitors to their kind – ready to kill as many gods as it took to raise power for Odin. [/spoiler]
Hi Krysonda. I don't think Wednesday betrays Shadow. Czernobog comes up with the hammer idea, and Wednesday is genuinely shocked and recommends Shadow not bet with Czernobog. The issue here is that the battle of old and new is genuinely dangerous and unpredictable, so if the hammer deal is a betrayal you could say that Wednesday betrays Shadow just by employing him. I don't think this is true, as it means that any risk that goes wrong becomes a matter for accusation of guilt and blame about who betrayed whom. Wednesday is honest to Shadow in their mead and spit deal, and tries to look after him when they recruit Czernobog. Wednesday needs allies, but each ally has his or her own interest. A theme illustrated here is the purity of sacrifice with which Shadow puts his life at the service of Wednesday. Initially this reads as a moral sacrifice, but later appears more ambiguous.[spoiler]In the end, Czernobog just touches the hammer to Shadow's head, seeing that Shadow has prevented the war and does not deserve to die. Loki is a great betrayer, appearing as Low Key Liesmith in jail with Shadow and then again as Mr World, playing both sides of the street by colluding with Odin and with Odin's enemies. Honour among thieves. Shadow, by holding to the purity of Baldur, including Christ-like sacrifice for flawed beings, is the hero of the book. Through his vigil for Wednesday he acquires cosmic power to mediate and reconcile the confrontation between mythology and technology.[/spoiler]



Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:42 pm
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Thomas Hood wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Thomas Hood wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
A deeper theme here is the potential redemption of technology through the validation of ancient wisdom.
Robert, do you have a suggestion as to how this can be done?
Tom, yes I do have a suggestion, but it is a secret. . .


Alas, Robert, had I but world enough, and time, I'd read everything at BookTalk, but Time's winged chariots are hurrying near. The solution to the redemption of technology is as old as The Antigone. The only secret is how closely Gaiman approximates the ancient answer. Technology can be redeemed by a successful technology of the self, productive of self knowledge, that is, a perfection of Tiresian learning.

Tom
Hi Tom. Maybe The Antigone would be a good book to read.
Some info is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antigone How do you see it relating to the redemption of technology?

How I think about this is illustrated at some recent comments
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The Diagram of the Vedic Yuga and the Great Year is a fruitful tool for analysis. We can see that the centre of the Golden Age, at +- 12882 years AD/BC, coincides with the time when the South Celestial Pole is closest to the star Canopus. Hence, the Golden Age of Awareness of God coincides with a time when Canopus is the Pole Star. Invisible from northern latitudes, Canopus is the star of Osiris. This is informative as a way to imagine how Egypt built the pyramids, which encode immense ancient wisdom. The pyramids link the earth at its central focal point to stars including Sirius, Orion and Draco. It may be that earth had links with these stars, but the knowledge of these links has been forgotten, and will gradually re-emerge as we move towards a new Golden Age.

A puzzle here is that writing was only invented about 5000 years ago, and it is hard to imagine how a Golden Age Atlantean civilization could have disappeared. How I imagine this is that Atlantis was built on floating freshwater sacks in the open ocean, deliberately avoided interaction with the continents, and was destroyed by a global tsunami, only remembered as the flood. This theory of Atlantis matches the Egyptian idea of the realm of the dead as the field of reeds, which could have been an Atlantean freshwater lens located in the Mediterranean Sea, due west of the mouth of the Nile, as a point of interaction between humanity and the Gods. This mythological speculation provides a hypothetical way that Osiris, Isis, Horus, Nephthys and Thoth could be refugees from Atlantis to Egypt, building the high ancient star wisdom into the pyramids. Without such a hypothesis, I find it hard to see how the Egyptians built the pyramids at such a large scale with such high precision and mystery.



Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:32 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Maybe The Antigone would be a good book to read.
. . . How do you see it relating to the redemption of technology?


A summary: Creon (atheistic totalitarianism), tyrant of Thebes, violates the will of the gods and the rites of death by denying burial to the brother of Antigone. When Antigone disobeys by sprinkling dust on the corpse, he again violates the rites of death by burying her alive. When warned by the seer Tiresias of his doom, he questions Tiresias's motives, although blind Tiresias is the only one who sees truly the morbidness of the Thebean big picture. When Creon begins to have second thoughts about the revolting situation his godless arrogance is creating, it is too late: his son and wife commit suicide. The second chorus of Antigone constrasts man's technological power to the powers beyond:

Quote:
Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man; the power that crosses the white sea, driven by the stormy south-wind, making a path under surges that threaten to engulf him; and Earth, the eldest of the gods, the immortal, the unwearied, doth he wear, turning the soil with the offspring of horses, as the ploughs go to and fro from year to year.

And the light-hearted race of birds, and the tribes of savage beasts, and the sea-brood of the deep, he snares in the meshes of his woven toils, he leads captive, man excellent in wit. And he masters by his arts the beast whose lair is in the wilds, who roams the hills; he tames the horse of shaggy mane, he puts the yoke upon its neck, he tames the tireless mountain bull.

And speech, and wind-swift thought, and all the moods that mould a state, hath he taught himself; and how to flee the arrows of the frost, when 'tis hard lodging under the clear sky, and the arrows of the rushing rain; yea, he hath resource for all; without resource he meets nothing that must come: only against Death shall he call for aid in vain; but from baffling maladies he hath devised escapes.

Cunning beyond fancy's dream is the fertile skill which brings him, now to evil, now to good. When he honours the laws of the land, and that justice which he hath sworn by the gods to uphold, proudly stands his city: no city hath he who, for his rashness, dwells with sin. Never may he share my hearth, never think my thoughts, who doth these things!

http://classics.mit.edu/Sophocles/antigone.html

Technology is redeemed when it is restrained by the humane wisdom of a Tiresias.


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Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:45 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Hi Krysonda. I don't think Wednesday betrays Shadow. Czernobog comes up with the hammer idea, and Wednesday is genuinely shocked and recommends Shadow not bet with Czernobog. The issue here is that the battle of old and new is genuinely dangerous and unpredictable, so if the hammer deal is a betrayal you could say that Wednesday betrays Shadow just by employing him. I don't think this is true, as it means that any risk that goes wrong becomes a matter for accusation of guilt and blame about who betrayed whom. Wednesday is honest to Shadow in their mead and spit deal, and tries to look after him when they recruit Czernobog. Wednesday needs allies, but each ally has his or her own interest. A theme illustrated here is the purity of sacrifice with which Shadow puts his life at the service of Wednesday. Initially this reads as a moral sacrifice, but later appears more ambiguous.


Hi, Robert. After re-reading the compact and the scene, I find to I have to agree with you. Wednesday did not betray Shadow at that juncture. However, isn’t involving Shadow in the bank robbery a breaking of the compact? After all, Shadow clearly states, “I won’t go back to prison. Once was enough.” (38). Shadow could easily have gone to jail for being involved in that scheme.

However, what I find more interesting is the parallel theme to betrayal that runs throughout the book – trust. Without trust, there can be no betrayal. So, it is important that the characters develop trust in themselves and each other in order for them to betray and be betrayed. At the same time, not all trust in this book was made to be broken.

[spoiler]First of all, Shadow is loyal to Wednesday up to the very end. He does everything that is asked of him, including holding Wednesday’s wake. Shadow trusts that Wednesday would take care of him when he was alive, and after Wednesday died, Shadow’s loyalty leads him to complete his part of the pact.

Another example of trust in this book is the character Sam. She hitches a ride with Shadow – a man who is a complete stranger to her. Then, later, when they turn up at the same dinner table, she follows his cues to act as though they had never met. When he is being arrested, she kisses him to show the bar where her loyalty lies, and she refuses to talk to Loki’s people when they come asking about Shadow.

The gods themselves also prove an element of trust in the novel. They place their trust in Loki or in Odin and follow them into battle. Without some sort of trust or faith in their leaders, they would never have been able to organize themselves into groups and rally to the war cry.[/spoiler]

There are many other examples of trust in the book. I have simply picked a few that came to mind. It seems that there is just as much trust as there is betrayal in the book.



Fri Jun 26, 2009 6:43 am
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