The Las Vegas Shooting And The Many Riddles of The Sphinx – by Michael Novakhov | News and Reviews

The Las Vegas Shooting And The Many Riddles of The Sphinx – by Michael Novakhov

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M.N.: My answer to one of the “many riddles of the Sphinx“, as directly opposed and logically connected with the traditional but implied answer of Oedipus (“Man”), is: “Society, Culture, State, Country”, etc., etc. The human societies as biosocial organisms pass through their own stages of development: from four to two, to “three legs”, but they usually “speak in one voice”. This “one voice” part is the essential and the inalienable part of the riddle that cannot be omitted or excluded. It changes everything in its meaning and its interpretations. 

The idea and the ideological precepts of “America in decline”, in its “three-legged” devolution phase is the predominant one among many of the Russian politicians and political thinkers, including the military and the intelligence circles. More the reaction of the offended egos than the reflection of the truth, this idea nevertheless, is fashionable, although it is baseless.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Inability to comprehend the American society and its processes in depth may lead to the practical miscalculations and mistakes in practical policies and politics. So much for the “Society and Man” dilemma and its biosocial and historical formulations, mis-formulations, solutions, and mis-solutions. 

Oedipus Rex gave the wrong answer. He was allowed to proceed due to the Sphinx’s untimely and mysterious death, possibly from the shock resulting from such an ignorance, but Oedipus was punished for this mistake in the end. He did not see the truth and he blinded himself with his mothers’ dress pin as a suitable punishment for his crime. His mistake was that in his arrogance he did not recognize the importance of the social group as compared with the individual, the predominance of the society and its well-being over the “Man”, even if this man is called a king. Sorry, Rex. You should have seen and known better.

I think, this interpretation “rhymes” (fits in) nicely with the content and the conflict of the play, and viewing the riddles of the Sphinx as essentially unresolved makes the play richer.

Another aspect of the “many riddles” is the analogy and the continuity between the animals and humans: human society descended from the animal herd and shares many of its basic features. For example, when the human crowd was shot at in front of the Las Vegas Sphinx, the stampede might have resulted, and we do not know yet what part of the death tally was caused by the shots, and what part by this hypothetical but very probable stampede.

My overall idea in interpreting this incident is, that the place and the executioner were not chosen randomly and coincidentally, that these choices were carefully selected and planned, to contain and to convey the “message”. And this message, or the “many messages”, just like the riddles of the Sphynx and their various interconnected answers, and the interpretations of these “messages”, might be quite complex.

Does this complexity reflect the complexity of the author of this incident and the complexity of his (unlikely “her”) personality? This is a separate question. Hopefully, we will learn, who this “Sphynx” is. Semyon Mogilevich, for example, might be one of the candidates for this historical role, it looks like; as one of the heads of the Russian Mafia. We should consider a broad spectrum of other actors too, including The Boss himself, the vain V.V.P.  

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Besides and above all other mental associations, the place and the scene of this tragedy do ring with the ancient archetypal memories and the practices of human sacrifice, and the rejecting, self-righteous accusations and criticism: “You worship your Sphinx, your Idols of games, pleasures, excesses, and self-indulgence”. The tone of this murderous hypothetical sermon might sound familiar. 

This place and scene would have a quality of the mass spectacle, have it not been so real. And this feature of the Las Vegas and other mass shootings induces, in turn, some thoughts about their possible authorship. The questions arise about the hypothetical spectators also, especially about the ownership of the prime, front row seats in the adjacent Luxor hotel right above or below the Sphinx, which should be the focus of continuous interest on the part of the investigative bodies. 

Michael Novakhov


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sphinx in oedipus rex

See also the previous posts on this subject:



riddles of the Sphinx – GS-I

The riddle of the Sphinx

Tuesday October 3rd, 2017 at 11:06 AM

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The riddle of the Sphinx

An important element in Sophocles, Oedipus the King is the Sphinx and her riddle. To be sure, the content of the riddle is never specified in the play. There are, however, a number of specific references or allusions to the Sphinx in the play (H&P, p. 707, line 37; p. 710, line 131; p. 717, line 382; p. 720, line 485)Quite a few versions of the riddle are available, but most of these probably represent some distortion of the form in which it was familiar to Sophocles’ audience. The version which is most familiar today runs something like this, available on the web at History For Kids:

“What goes on four feet in the morning, two feet at noon, and three feet in the evening?” (H&P give essentially the same version, p. 693, but with “legs” in place of “feet”.)

Ancient Greek sources, such as Apollodorus and Athenaeus, on the other hand, give a different emphasis to the riddle.

Apollodorus’ version is the more widely available. It runs as follows:

“What is that which has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?”

Also important is Athenaeus’ somewhat fuller version, available at a Sophocles website, as follows:

“A thing there is whose voice is one;
Whose feet are four and two and three.
So mutable a thing is none
That moves in earth or sky or sea.
When on most feet this thing doth go,
Its strength is weakest and its pace most slow.”

Besides this relatively comprehensive version, there is also evidence for a shorter version, consisting of just one dactylic hexameter line, as follows:

“A thing there is whose voice is one;
Whose feet are four and two.”

One possible answer to this form of the riddle is “a pastoral society” (i.e., one in which humans and their animals live in close association with one another). Such a formulation of the riddle is important at various points in Oedipus Rex. For example, the plague is described near the beginning of the play (H&P, p. 707, lines 24-25) as affecting both the flocks and women of Thebes. Also, it is eventually the two shepherds (from Corinth and Thebes respectively), who have lived in close association with their flocks (H&P, p. 742, lines 1082-1090) who eventually provide the key evidence for explicating Oedipus’ background.

More generally, evidence for the importance of a variety of different forms of the riddle emerges in the confrontation between Oedipus and Teiresias (H&P, pp. 714-719, lines 289-453). This can be viewed in terms of Teiresias’ having realized that the riddle did not admit of any simple solution, whereas Oedipus, brilliantly, but with ultimately fatal consequences, picked out just the answer “man”.Particularly striking evidence of the importance of a multitude of riddles in the play comes in the concluding lines, in which, finally, there is a reference to riddles – in the plural – rather than a single riddle. This point is, however, obscured in many translations (including Cook’s translation, in H&P), in which the Greek plural ainigmata (which Sophocles uses in place of the singular ainigma) is translated just as “riddle”. For the original form of the text, though, see an on-line essay which includes the following translation by David Grene. (The passage from Grene’s translation is found near the end of the essay.) [Emphasis on word “riddles” added]:

You that live in my ancestral Thebes, behold this Oedipus,- him who knew the famous riddles and was a man most masterful; not a citizen who did not look with envy on his lot-see him now and see the breakers of misfortune swallow him! Look upon that last day always. Count no mortal happy till he has passed the final limit of his life secure from pain.


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Michael Novakhov