“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it.”
– Voltaire, from a letter to Étienne Noël Damilaville
In 1733, the 39-year old Voltaire began a relationship with the Madame du Châtelet, a married mother of three. The pair would spend the next 15 years studying the natural sciences and becoming the leading French proponents of the work of English mathematician Isaac Newton.
But on a visit to Paris in 1744, Voltaire embarked on a new affair. His new lover was his sister’s daughter, Marie Louise Mignot (a/k/a Madame Denis). For obvious reasons, Voltaire and Madame Denis never married, though they lived together as husband and wife and stayed together until Voltaire’s death over 40 years later.
But the men with the biggest influences on Voltaire’s thinking were philosopher John Locke, scientist Isaac Newton, and William Shakespeare, whose plays Voltaire found both vulgar and compelling. Writing to a friend in Paris, Voltaire exclaimed:
“If you had seen a whole play of Shakespeare’s, as I have, you would think that our love scenes were pretty feeble.”
“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him” — Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet — aka Voltaire — was one of the leading figures of the French enlightenment. He advocated tolerance, equality, and separation of church and state, in a time when these were still radical ideas. In his best-known work — the satirical novel, Candide, ou l’Optimisme ( “Candide, or optimism”) – Voltaire challenged the assertion by German philosopher and mathematician, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”
What is less known about Voltaire is that in his youth he was considered a royal pain in the ass. As a result, he was beaten on numerous occasions. He was exiled from France several times, and imprisoned for almost a year in the Bastille.
It turns out the Scientologists aren’t the only ones who claim we come from space. The Dogon – an indigenous tribe of Mali – claim that the germ of all things originated in a super-dense “egg of the world”—what we now know as the star “Sirius B.” Sirius B is the twin to Sirius, the so-called “Dogstar,” the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major.
But the real kicker is that the Dogon made their claim in the 1940s. And a diagram for the Sirius system is shown in Dogon artifacts over 400 years-old. Sirius B wasn’t even discovered by astronomers until 1970. So how did the Dogon know it was there?
To answer that question, we need to take a look at Dogon creation myths. But first a warning – these may not be appropriate for all readers.
Joshua Milton Blahyi is a Christian preacher in Liberia. But he was once better known as General Butt Naked, one of the most brutal warlords in Liberia’s 14-year civil war. Every night for 14 years Blahyi talked with the devil. Every night the devil told him to do things… bad things… including sacrificing and eating children.
Blahyi’s creation as General Butt Naked started before he was even born. He was conceived on the orders of Krahn tribe elders and born on September 30, 1971. From the time he was a child, Blahyi was told his destiny was to be a priest and a warrior. When he was seven, his father handed him to the tribal elders, who schooled him in the rituals of the priesthood. His initiation as a priest was as senseless as it was brutal.
Against the beating of a drum, a man in a carved black mask led Blahyi to an altar. The elders brought him a little girl. Her clothes were removed and her body smeared with clay. The elders ordered Blahyi to kill her. Over the next three days, Blahyi ritualistically ate the little girl’s heart and other parts of her body. He was officially declared a priest. He was 11 years-old.
Noblewoman… mother… prostitute… widow… pirate. In the 14th century, Jeanne de Clisson – the “Lioness of Brittany” — was all these, and more.
Actually, no one really seems sure about the prostitute part. What is true beyond doubt is that the Lioness of Brittany was as vicious as any male pirate. The reasons for her rage, however, are perhaps a bit more compelling.
It wasn’t until almost 30 years after its founding, however, that the Secret Service began protecting President Grover Cleveland. And even then it was only on an informal, part-time basis whenever the president traveled. Not until 1902, following the assassination of President William McKinley, did the agency assume the responsibility of protecting the president around the clock.
We often use the word “gall” in phrases such as “I can’t believe she has the gall to…” or “that really galls me.” But what exactly does “gall” mean?
In its first sense, gall is a synonym for “bile.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, however, these days “gall” applies only to animals. Either way, gall (or bile) is a bitter-tasting, yellowish substance that aids in the digestion of fat. Because of its taste, gall can also be used to refer to anything that is bitter or severe.
The word gall comes from Old English gealla (meaning bile), a cognate of Greek kholē. It may also come from Old English geolo (yellow), a possible reference to bile’s color. The two roots may, in fact, be related.
The last 30 years of the 19th century in the United States (the “Gilded Age”) saw a huge growth of industry and wealth. But that growth was fueled by economic and political corruption. No one represented both the highs and the lows of the Gilded Age better than Rockefeller and Standard Oil. And not even Rockefeller could predict that his worse nemesis would turn out to be not his competitors, but a woman — and one born in a log home .