‘The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.’
It’s with heavy hearts that we welcome you to the last print issue of being. Unexpectedly — as everything seems to be lately — we are leaving Hong Kong. being has been such a joy to make that we’ve decided to continue creating and publishing it at an online address (www.being-zine.com). If you’ve enjoyed reading our humble little zine, perhaps we’ll see you there (/here!).
Thank you for your support, open hearts, and kind e-mails.
Keep living the good slow life and fighting the good fight.
Cover image: Central Green Trail, HK, being
Cover quote: Ann Lamott
G O O D S T U F F
Follow (and read)
Happy Readings is an e-newsletter by the people behind delightful literary magazine The Happy Reader (all created by Penguin Books). The monthly newsletter mainly focuses on one book, providing interesting facts, charming observations, and tales of famous fans, as well as offering other general book-related notes drawn from the news. We’ve found ourselves reading certain books because Happy Readings inadvertently persuaded us to — and we’re yet to be disappointed!
Created by artist Julia Cameron (in book The Artist’s Way), morning pages are a practical tool to help clear mental clutter and make space for creativity. The gist is simple: when you wake up, handwrite three pages of, well, whatever. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to say anything in particular, hell, it doesn’t even have to make sense (a recent one of mine included: e-mail the people. Cats. Why that dream?). If you don’t know what to write, then write that until you do. The idea is to ‘brain dump’ all of the things on your mind so your creative brain can thrive.
Celebrate good times (and equinoxes)
The Vernal Equinox (20 March) marks the end of winter and the start of spring, the most fruitful and promising of the seasons. As spring is associated with fresh starts and rebirths, it’s common for people to pause and celebrate this moment of transition. Popular rituals include planting seeds, cleansing (your house, your body, your car, etc), and walking in nature during the day to make the most of the returning sunlight.
N O T E S O N
The first appearance of pizza was believed to be back in 29 BC, specifically in Virgil’s Latin poem The Aeniad. Protagonist Aeneas and his pals use ‘thin wheaten cakes as platters for their meal’, topped with mushrooms and herbs found in the woods. They end up eating the platters, too, and exclaim, ‘Look! We’ve even eaten our plates!’. Fast forward to 1880 and pizza as we know it was created in Naples. The city, a burgeoning trade spot, was growing at an alarming rate and many of its inhabitants were falling into poverty. Enter: pizza.
Originally flatbreads with simple, cheap ingredients (such as salt, garlic, horse milk cheese, basil, and sometimes tomatoes), they were carried around the city in boxes by vendors and cut to the size or price the customer requested. For a long time, pizza was snubbed for its association with the poor, even after those same people rose up and opened pizza restaurants. It was in 1889 that pizza got the credit it deserved when Queen Margherita of Savoy, fed up with fancy French food on her jaunt in Naples, was served three different types of pizza. She loved them, especially the last one — tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. And so came the birth of margherita pizza. After that, pizza shed its pauper reputation, spreading across Italy thanks to Neapolitans taking their cuisine with them as they moved cross-country for work and then the war. By the end of the century, Italian immigrants had taken pizza to America.
The king of takeaway pizza, Domino’s, appeared in 1960 (originally named Dominik’s) in Michigan, starting the pizza delivery revolution that changed our lives. Today we’re blessed with pizzas of all kinds: stone baked, frozen, deep dish, wood fired, takeaway, stuffed crust, and all topped with anything the heart desires.
A L B U M S F O R W H E N E V E R
“Love Me 4 Me”
“Who’s Gonna Save U Now?”
British-Japanese singer Rina Sawayama cites the ‘90s and ‘00s tunes she grew up with as a major influence on her music. On Sawayama, the result is a unique sound (dubbed ‘Y2K nostalgia’ by critics) that combines catchy r&b with distorted guitars, and sweet pop with dark, nu-metal vibes. Expect to travel through space and time, journeying through pure ‘90s pop (“Tokyo Love Hotel”), anthemic nu-metal (“Who’s Gonna Save U Now?”), ‘00s r&b (“XS”), epic belters (“Dynasty”), and ‘90s club music (“Lucid”), and beyond.
The 31-year-old’s record focuses on identity, in particular her own personal experiences with belonging, family, and stereotypes. It consists of 13 tracks, but the deluxe edition includes three extra songs. (A testament to the album: it was very difficult selecting just three standout tracks.)
Sawayama self-released EP, Rina, in 2017. In 2021, she released “Free Woman” with Lady Gaga, and last year, “Beg for You” with Charli XCX. She also appeared on a Metallica tribute album. For more on this album, check out The Making of Sawayama on YouTube.
D I V E I N
Greek Goddesses (and the Patriarchy)
Goddesses date back to Neolithic times but perhaps we’re most interested in them from the ancient Egyptian period onwards, thanks to the colourful stories and legends that followed. We know of powerful female icons in Hindu worship and Chinese legend, ancient Egyptian lore and Roman tales, but there is something about Greek goddesses in particular that seems to translate smoothly into our modern world, regardless of custom or country. The Bronze Age deities have seamlessly slipped into popular culture: we mention Aphrodite, goddess of love, when we’re talking about beauty or romance, and inadvertently reference the goddess of victory, Nike, on a regular basis.
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Just as with every Greek god, every Greek goddess had a different power. Athena was the Olympian blessed with wisdom and strategy; Gaia, the ‘mother’ of Mother Earth fame; Styx, a Titan and ruler of the river; Hecate, the goddess of magic.
And yet, despite their might, Greek goddesses were still subjected to endless sexism.
Today, many anthropologists believe that the first ever god was feminine (relating to beliefs that creation was achieved through self-fertilisation, sans males). However, back in ancient Greece, the patriarchy ruled all. The mythological stories that came to be were based on the state of affairs at that time, and so Greek goddesses were forced to live in a god’s world.
The easiest place to see this is in the hierarchy. Nobody was more powerful than Zeus. His wife (and sister) Hera, one of the twelve Olympians, was the goddess of marriage, childbirth, and women in general. She was immortal and had the ability to bless and curse marriages, but most of the stories told undercut her power, frequently portraying her as being antagonistic and jealous. Tales depict her being faithful to Zeus, even as he chased and harassed other females, and choosing to punish the women who bore his children.
Goddesses were still expected to carry children, and often what happened to those children was out of their control. For example, Rhea’s husband Kronos ate five of his children, having heard that they were destined to overthrow him someday. Rhea managed to keep their final child (Zeus) safe by tricking Kronos and keeping the future misogynist hidden in the mountains.
There are countless tales of goddesses being objectified (most notably in the Iliad: in one tale, Trojan prince Paris awarded Aphrodite a golden apple in exchange for Helen) and gods sexually harassing goddesses until they got their way. Zeus was notorious for this, fathering around 100 children and regularly changing himself into different animals in order to catch women.
One of his many children was Persephone. The goddess of spring and vegetation was kidnapped by Hades and taken to the underworld (a ploy approved of by her father), where she was held hostage as Hades’ wife. Her mother Demeter, goddess of agriculture and harvest, frantically searched for her missing daughter for four months, the depths of her despair leading to an arid season in which nothing grew and nothing was harvested (what we know as winter). In the underworld, after Zeus begrudgingly ordered Hades to release Persephone (pressured by the starving people), Hades tricked Persephone by offering her a pomegranate. She ate the seeds, not knowing that by tasting the food of the underworld, she was forever obliged to spend four months of every year down there as Queen of the Underworld (or ‘dreaded Persephone’, or ‘Queen of the Dead’). A grand title, maybe, but not one she wanted.
Females were demonised or discriminated against all the way from Mount Olympus down through the various echelons of power, right to the bottom. The monsters of Greek mythology, from Medusa with her cold death stare to Scylla with her raging limbs, were always depicted as female. Mania, the spirit of insanity, frenzy, and the dead, was also female. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, beautiful Aphrodite was depicted as forever in favour among men and often hateful towards other women.
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In 2016 novel Circe, Madeleine Miller gives the title character a voice. The book is an adaptation of various Greek myths (including the Odyssey), told completely from Circe’s perspective. Circe, a witch, is deemed by those around her as unattractive and powerless. She falls in love with mortal man Glaucos and uses a flower potion to turn him into a god, but he ends up falling for beautiful nymph Scylla. In a moment of jealousy, Circe poisons Scylla, turning her into a sea monster, and consequently gets banished to a remote island. It’s while she’s in exile that she hones her witchcraft, making magical potions using nearby flora and herbs. She becomes self-sufficient, simultaneously raising her son and turning lecherous sailors that wash up on her shores into pigs until they respect her.
Unlike in ancient tales which depict Circe as a petty, useless witch, this version paints her as a full, complex character; disgusted by the misogyny and hierarchy on Mount Olympus; empathetic towards her uncle who was punished for helping mortals; extremely remorseful for what she did to Scylla; kind towards Penelope (the wife of Odysseus, Circe’s former suitor and the father of Circe’s son), letting her stay at her home and teaching her how to protect herself; saving her son from Athena’s wrath; and finally, turning herself into a mortal so she can travel the world. Also in contrast with the traditional tales is the deep shame Circe’s son, Telemachus, feels after killing female slaves (as ordered to do so by his father Odysseus).
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I wonder if there are goddesses among us. Real women, made of skin and bones and strength, who could move mountains without mysticism or mythology coursing through their veins. The ones in real life, on documentaries, on the news, in stories from friends and strangers. Women hunched over small tables folding dumpling after dumpling until their thumbs and forefingers have no feeling left. Running businesses, their acumen and savvy the steering wheel for huge companies and start-ups alike. Raising children with their bodies, hearts, and minds. Fighting for their voices to be heard. Sometimes doing all of these things seemingly at the same time. Are these women, so extraordinary in the face of normalised inequality, goddesses too?
R E A D S F O R W H E N E V E R
Ten Percent Happier — Dan Harris
Not just another book about meditation, Ten Percent Happier is mostly memoir — and by a former sceptic, no less. American TV anchor Dan Harris divulges his journey with meditation, from total disinterest and disbelief in anything ‘spiritual’ to meditation essentially saving his life. The thing that stands out most about this book is how honest Harris is. It’s a completely candid account of his own experience including the ‘industry’ people he’s met (from gurus to scientists). Harris’ personal story encourages our own investigation into meditation, tends to our biggest (and often unanswered) questions, and reminds us that it’s always a work in progress (and that some queries may not have clear answers!).
R O O T S
The quarantine we’re facing right now is of undetermined length and permanence, but originally ‘quarantine’ referred specifically to 40 days. Emerging in 1377 during the plague, ‘quarantine’ (from the Latin quadraginta, meaning forty) was a Venetian policy that forced ships from plague-riddled countries to wait at its port for 40 days before entering the country. In the 1500s, ‘quarantine’ came to refer to the number of days a widow could legally remain in her dead husband’s house. In 1660, it returned to its infectious roots: ‘period a ship suspected of carrying contagious disease is kept in isolation’. A decade later it referred generally to periods of forced isolation.