2004-05-06 06:00:30 UTC
T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The principal one
was that I saw a new and large fragment of Lawrence of Arabia
on TV the other night. Over the years I've seen several
hunks of it, and with this large contribution, I think I've
seen a fair majority of it.
It came on late ( I missed the very beginning, so there's still THAT,)
and I watched it til 3AM, but this only took me up to the taking
of Aqaba. Well, I got very interested in the factual basis of the
whole thing as an outgrowth of wondering exactly what desert were
they crossing to get to Aqaba. The secondary circumstance is
the nature of current events, so possibly this is what impelled
me to the bookstore.
So far I've read some of the beginning, and the "book" on Aqaba.
Naturally, I found that the movie greatly simplified events for
dramatic purposes. I was somewhat surprised, though, that two
of the most dramatic elements - Lawrences backtrack to rescue
a compatriot, and his summary execution of a man to prevent
a blood feud, were taken pretty directly from the book, except
for a certain dramatic embellishment.
The main difference was that this was a long and meandering trek
which wandered north and east of Aqaba before moving west and
south to take it. Also, most of the military encounters were outside
Aqaba proper,and it was the collapse of the Turkish military
presence in the broader area which led to their entry to the
city proper, which is not even described in the book.
Re current events, you can see right away that we are in the
place of the Turks, as promoters of western civilisation
in the region, and Lawrence's actions are recognizably, and
distrubingly, terrorist in nature, insofar as they consisted
largely in destruction of the Hejaz railway, which was extremely
vulnerable. Of course, the Turks threw their lot in with Germany,
so that was that, but I'm talking about the general nature of
Lawrence also makes various general remarks about Arab society,
psychology, and history, which have striking cogency for today.
Then you have little asides, such as an early pargraph where
he says the Arabs are by nature "continent", but this is merely
a preamble to an admission, not to say an endorsment, of
rampant faggotry among the ranks of his desert band. Curious.
Ah yes, the eclipse. One night raid on the approach to Aqaba
was in doubt due to the full moon, which was as revealing
as daylight as far as the raiders were concerned. Lawrence
happened to know that a total eclipse was due that night, and
carried out the raid with the additional advantage of superstitious
terror on his side. This was the night of July 4, 1917, and
is labeled as "Lawrence of Arabia's eclipse" on a website listing
historical eclipses. Of course, just two nights ago there was
a total lunar eclipse visible in Arabia, but not here.
There was also an account of a discussion of the aims of
Astronomy among his party, occasioned by one of them lying
supine and remarking at the stars viewed with Lawrence's
field glasses. They wondered at the utility of cataloging
more and more stars, which was assumed to be what was gained
by using larger and larger telescopes. "Why does the westerner
want everything?" was the way it was put.
Lew Mammel, Jr.