Sunday, February 11, 2007

In Danny Kaye's Around the World storybook I read when I was a kid, a offshoot of Danny Kaye's work for the United Nations, I noticed that I had a hard time staying with stories from the Middle East and that general area. I noticed it was because they were longer, they went on and on, and they didn't do the one, two, three thing.

Like, the first bear, the second bear, the third bear. Or Red Riding Hood's first comment to the wolf dressed as her grandmother , her second comment, the third comment and action.

Older stories from Europe are big on one, two, three. Current jokes in the US are big on one, two, three. So three guys went into a bar. So three animals went into a bar.

There's an adjective, "Byzantine" which sometimes is used to mean complex and sneaky.

The western part of the Roman Empire fell apart in the 400's of our current year counting system. The eastern part stayed together and at least somewhat functional until the late 1400's of our current year counting system. That empire was sometimes called the Byzantine empire.

So you can the people in western Europe having simpler and simpler lives where if three things happened that was a lot.

You had people in and around the Byzantine empire having a bureaucracy, a government ruling widely separated, wildly different people. That level of organization was beyond western Europe for hundreds of years.

When someone used to the village life of western Europe got a view of how a large, complex government worked, they might have had a hard time getting it. They might have retreated into thinking "[I don't understand this so] it must be complex and sneaky."

The complex government gave some people time to live and imagine stories that went on and one, where varied things happened, not just three variations on the same thing.