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July 25, 2014

Dog Days: Maddeningly hot with increasing existential dread by Monday.

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The six week period between July 1 and August 15 was named by the both the ancient Greeks and the early Romans after Sirius the Dog Star, the brightest star in the sky. In the Mediterranean region, the notion of linking that star to oppressively hot summer weather dates back well over 2700 years. But the Dog Days of Summer wasn't just about the heat.

If you are feeling not just hot but a bit strange, maybe confused or otherwise out of sorts this time of year--and you're not too much of a whack-job or flake to begin with--you may be on to something. Dog days of summer, it seems, was also associated with Chaos: "the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics and phrensies". Brady's Clavis Calendarium, 1813.

Chaos had a good side, too. Just two thousand years ago, and after he had given up the study of law that his family had foisted on him, Ovid (43 B.C. - 17 A.D.), the playful poet writing during Octavian's long reign, gave us a more famous--and less grim--take on Chaos in Book I of Metamorphoses. Chaos, he thought, might be the best possible starting point for anything worthwhile. But you will need to read Ovid yourself. Preferably alone--in a cool, clean, calm, quiet and well-lighted place.

Posted by JD Hull at July 25, 2014 03:22 PM

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