Sunday, 29 June 2014

Becoming Arrow 3: An Inner Journey?

As I put on the costume and start playing the character, something interesting starts to happen. It is quite an awkward feeling to be walking with a hood almost covering your eyes. You are forced to look downwards, and you are ‘shading your eyes’ , as if they would betray you by being visible. This creates a sense of smallness, of invisibility that, as I realize, is capturing the stealthy nature of this character so well. I gradually notice that I start to feel alone in what seems to be a increasingly strange and hostile world. As my character, I am observing my surroundings and what I see, I am weighing and judging. I place myself at what looks like ‘strategic points’ from which I can oversee parts of the convention area, where I ‘freeze’ and attempt to melt into the shadows.
And gradually I start noticing that the people around me start interacting, not with me, but with the character. A certain distance seems to be setting in between my fellow fans and me, some attempt to start a conversation, but fail to continue it when confronted with this character. I am a bit amused by this, as I know first hand how difficult it is to interact with someone who is in 'full character'! By way of an experiment, I deliberately " drop him" a few times, and immediately, the interactions with my surroundings become profoundly different. And then something remarkable happens. As I enter an elevator, already with some people, conversation stops while I stand there brooding and observing. It does not take long, but as we all exit, one of the girls bends towards me and whispers, just for my ears: “Have a great day, Oliver!” and for a moment I am actually stunned. In character, I reply that she better keep that knowledge to herself, upon which she grabs her camera and takes a picture.

This –and other little events like these- convince me that something really interesting is happening and that there is more to ‘playing’ this fictitious character than meets the eye. Apparently, somehow, the image I am building inside, the emotions and feelings, are being picked up by the people around me.

As I continue doing this, other weird things start to happen. Remember the keywords I used to build up Arrow: ARCHETYPE, FORCE FOR GOOD, ANONYMOUS, HIDDEN, MISSION, FACELESS? These are still there but, as I walk around, I am also getting new insights into this character: he possesses a great Strength as he seeks to bring Justice according to a finely attuned sense of Judgment as he fulfills the role of an archetypal Archer. It is insights such as these that convince me something very interesting is going on, as this seems to grow beyond simply roleplaying a character: the character itself seems to come alive through me. I do a number of ‘cosplay’ sessions in character and gradually it becomes apparent that “Arrow” has a lot to tell me.

Now, I am not an actor, but I imagine this is the kind of thing an actor would also experience playing certain characters, especially if these are of an archetypal nature. I recall the many stories from actors who played in series such as Battlestar Galactica, on how playing their characters who went to all kinds of transformations and ordeals actually changed them personally as well. It seems that what started as an innocent and fun cosplay will now shift into a more personal journey, if I allow it. That is great, as I have already found out that cosplaying as a competitive art is not something I enjoy. I am not the only one with an Arrow costume, however, the others look more screen-correct and therefore better than mine. I need to take this into another direction, and this sudden shift into such an ‘inner journey’, to me, is much more valuable! I cannot wait for the next opportunity at London Film and Comic Con to “put him on” and, in the meantime, I have some ideas on how to improve a bit on the costume. Let’s see what he will tell me then!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Becoming Arrow 2: And now for the 'play' !

After the costume is done, the next thing is to actually 'play' the corresponding character. It may be sufficient to make a costume, put it on and that's it, but to me the attraction is to actually try to become that character in some way. That is where "roleplaying" comes into the whole thing.

At the Convention where I was going to cosplay Arrow for the first time, a few pointers were given by the actors present on how to build a character, from scratch, if necessary. To give an example, as actor Barry Jenner points out in one of his panels: "It all starts inside. Acting is only going to work if the actor believes inside in what a character is trying to achieve and which barriers he/she is facing and tackling. A good character is written in such a way that an actor can dig deep and find things that will enable him/her to recreate the character in a unique and personal way."

So, in order to play Arrow, I start by asking myself questions like: "Who am I really going to play? Oliver Queen, the hero of the story who becomes Arrow? Or "Arrow", what- or whoever that may be? What actually happens when Oliver becomes Arrow? How much of 'Olly' is in Arrow? Where to begin?

Let's just begin with asking: Who is Arrow?.  I don't really think of him as a person, the way he looks and acts is more in the way of a symbol, an archetypal image. He hides his face, he hides his entire identity, he becomes an anonymous and faceless creature performing a function and a mission: to bring justice and order to a corrupted world. He thus becomes a force for good in a world of evil.

Next: why Arrow? Why can't Oliver himself become such a power for good as the person that he is? Why does he need to adopt this anonymous character in order to do what he - apparently- is compelled to do?

These are questions that are quite significant for the character building, but at this time I cannot answer them. The answers -if available at all- are hopefully found in the series, and I cannot go into that that right now. So, for the first try-out I will focus on a few keywords and see what happens when working with these. ARCHETYPE, FORCE FOR GOOD, ANONYMOUS, HIDDEN, MISSION, FACELESS, are among the words that I let run through my mind like a mantra as I put on the costume, clasp on the quiver, apply the make-up and finally lower my hood. And what happens then will be in part 3.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Becoming 'Arrow' 1: The 'cos' in Cosplay

The 2013 edition of FedCon brought us actor John Barrowman who, in turn, brought me into contact with his current work on a TV series, Arrow. The London Film and Comic Con later that year showed me the fun of cosplay, which is basically a combination of creating a scifi or fantasy costume and 'roleplaying' the corresponding character. So, after all that, I sat down and started watching the Arrow series, first season, which turned out to be one of the more amazing shows of our time. Arrow is the story of Oliver Queen, an engaging rich boy, who falls victim to what later turns out to be a conspiracy and is shipwrecked and needs to master various survival skills  in order to ultimately get back to his own city which is ripe with corruption and deprivation. He then picks up the persona of "Arrow": a hooded vigilante archer in order to cleanse and purify his world. The series follows Oliver in both time frames, both when learning his skills and while using them for the greater good.

Half way through the first season, I started to feel a growing need to 'do' something connected to this show, moreover as I became acquainted with leading actor Stephen Amell through his Facebook activities. He struck me as a person who by virtue of his work is on a ride towards a bit of self-discovery and that sparked my interest even more. And then in my mind, these two ideas came together and thus the idea was born: to ‘become’ Arrow. So first of all, a costume needed to be acquired. So let’s start with the ‘cos’ in cosplay!

I quite quickly abandoned the idea of making a ‘screen correct’ (i.e., looking exactly like what you see on the show) costume which is the objective of many cosplayers. In this case I foresaw an endless search for the ‘right’ materials as well as a thick, warm and uncomfortable costume, as that is usually the tendency of ‘Hollywood costumes’. I instead set out to capture the essence of his costume and the various accessories as well as possible and do the rest by roleplaying. Besides, there is not one exact ‘look’ of ‘Arrow’ as he is often seen in the shades where all colours are blurred. Upon study I noticed his jacket and hood had various shades of green and green-brown, depending on the picture and the lighting. I then searched the Internet for materials and fabrics that I could use, and a dear archer friend provided me with some used arrows to be used in the costume.

Then I made a costume design, transferred that into patterns for the jacket and the hood, and decided to deal with the pants later. And then disaster struck; as I was happily sewing all parts together, my –quite old- sewing machine gave up on me and refused to sew another stitch. I was thus forced to complete the costume by hand; I almost gave up at that point but somehow found the patience to complete the work. Looking back, this may actually have been a blessing since in this way I was able to ‘empower’ the costume with an energy that would later be able to help me with the roleplaying part.

The result is a not-screen accurate costume that I am quite happy with as it captures some of Arrow’s essential character qualities: stealth, secretiveness and the ability to hide in the shadows, much more than a dark green costume would do. Adding a fitting pair of pants, a LARP bow (for safety) and a quiver with some painted arrows completed the costume.

I have now worn this several times and cosplayed the character (with some surprising results, and I’ll talk about those when discussing the ‘play’ in cosplay!) and there are some thing I am going to change: the hood is too large now, and the quiver needs a better and more stable ‘harness’ to be worn comfortably. That will be ready before the next occasion I’ll bring him out: The London Film and Comic Con.

Stephen Amell as Arrow (autographed)

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Ron's Mini Bio, deel 2: Mijn huwelijk en spiritualiteit!

In 1995 ging ik voor het eerst naar Gay Pride in San Francisco, twee weken lang me onderdompelen in dat enorme feest en tegelijkertijd die weergaloze stad en zijn omgeving goed leren kennen. En het jaar erop was het raak: toen ontmoette ik in mijn hotel degene die een paar jaar later mijn man zou worden. Daardoor is mijn leven volkomen veranderd. Eerst natuurlijk een jaar vol spanning van de lange-afstandsrelatie. We hadden toen torenhoge telefoonrekeningen en er stond niks op de bank van al het heen en weer vliegen naar de USA en terug. Eigenlijk al heel snel wisten we dat het menens was en uiteindelijk kwam Bill naar Nederland. Hij vond eigenlijk al snel werk in de internationale omgeving van Den Haag, en een paar jaar later zijn we dan ook in de “Haaglanden” gaan wonen. In Vlaardingen zijn we eerst in 1998 “gepartnerschapt” en later in Rijswijk getrouwd op 31 oktober 2002 (Samhain, voor degenen die dat iets zegt).

Bill heeft me in contact gebracht met drie zaken die in mijn verdere leven bijzonder belangrijk geworden zijn. Laat ik gewoon eens beginnen met datgene waarvan ik gemerkt heb dat sommigen dat vreemd, raar en zelfs wel een beetje eng vinden: mijn spiritualiteit. Bill bracht me in contact met “paganisme”; een moderne vorm van voorchristelijke op de natuur gebaseerde spiritualiteit. Wat hij me erover vertelde en wat ik erover las sprak me erg aan en voor ik het eigenlijk wist was ik daar ook volop mee in de weer: achtmaal per jaar een seizoensfeest vieren en na verloop van tijd ook stilstaan bij de betekenis van de volle maan.

Dat doe je dus via meditaties en rituelen, en dat is, als je daar helemaal niet mee bekend bent, vreemd en misschien ook wel wat ‘griezelig’. Ik heb in die jaren veel geleerd over mijzelf en vooral over hoe ik in deze wereld sta. Dat is tussen haakjes voor mij ook het belangrijkste doel van “spiritualiteit”: mezelf ontwikkelen tot een volledig mens in harmonie met zijn omgeving.
Na een jaartje of tien kwam ik zoetjesaan op een ander pad terecht, dat bekend staat als de Westerse Mysterietraditie, ook wel genoemd de “Yoga van het Westen”, maar dan “Yoga” in de zin van een geestelijke discipline. Dat pad bleek naar onvermoede diepten en hoogten te leiden en na enig aarzelen ben ik zo’n zes jaar geleden toch met ferme pas dat pad opgegaan. En ik ben er tot op de dag van vandaag dankbaar voor dat ik die stap heb gezet, want wat dat ‘werk’ me heeft opgeleverd is met geen pen te beschrijven. Dit is echt een enorm belangrijk onderdeel van mijn leven en het is precies dit wat bij velen tot onbegrip en onrust leidt, want “hij zal toch niet in een sekte zitten?”. Ik kan ieder gerust stellen: dat is niet het geval. Het gaat allemaal nog steeds om wat ik al schreef: mijn ontwikkeling als mens. En die is voorlopig nog lang niet klaar!

Volgende keer wat luchtiger zaken: hoe ik in de SciFi scene terecht ben gekomen, en hoe ik karateka geworden ben.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Ron's Mini-Bio, Part 1: On house parties and fitness...

I recently found myself at a reunion talking about what had happened to me since a 20-25 years ago. It occurred to me that perhaps this is a good topic for a blog post as a sort of mini - biography and maybe a pre-run for what may become some more extensive memoirs.

Let’s - totally random – begin this with the period since I stopped doing competition ballroom dancing, sometime around 1993. Until then, ballroom dancing in addition to my studies and work were my most important activities, but at one point that was just enough.
At the same time, I also tried to find my niche as a gay man in the world and after the elimination of all dance classes , training nights and competitions there was plenty of time for that as well.  Pretty quickly I came into contact with the Dance scene that, at that time, was still largely 'underground'. Before long I was dancing quite a few nights away in the most bizarre outfits and entourages.

Actually, this was a belated acquaintance with the 'nightlife ', for which previously I barely had the time as my nightlife consisted mainly of free dancing at the dance school!
At those that parties I was primarily busy with ' wandering away' on my own imagination, because that's what House and Trance Music eventually enable you to do. No drugs, no pills, nothing of the sort, just the music, my body and my mind .

It was also my first experience with altered states of consciousness ( in other words, trance ) and the wonderful things that those can bring. It was huge fun, and an exciting as well as ultimately exhausting time, because all those nightly activities eventually start taking their toll.

A bit later I discovered the gym and with it the various forms of what was called then " Aerobics" .
The party scene was already going a bit into the background and Ron changed from a party animal into fitness junkie, sometimes spending three , four times a week a few hours in the gym with various forms of cardio fitness, aerobics and weight training. Not really aiming to become super muscular, but doing something healthy and fun at the same time. I started this Ceasar 's Sports, at that time on the Korte Voorhout in The Hague , and I still have some great memories from my time there. I am now quite a few gyms further down the road, but the fitness and - now - the Zumba workouts still belong to my regular weekly activities palette. House -parties no more, though, I feel I am really too old for that. And my trance experiences, I now get someplace else. Which is for a next time !



Ron's Mini-Bio, deel 1: Over house parties en fitness...

Ik zat onlangs tijdens een reunie een heel verhaal te vertellen wat er zo allemaal met me gebeurd was sinds een jaar of 20-25 geleden. Ik bedenk me nu dat dat misschien wel een aardig onderwerp voor een blogje is: een soort mini-biootje als aanloop voor wat misschien ooit wat uitgebreider memoires zullen worden.

Laten we-volkomen willekeurig- beginnen met de periode sinds ik ergens in 1993 stopte met wedstrijddansen. Tot die tijd was ballroomdansen –naast mijn studie en werk- toch wel mijn allerbelangrijkste bezigheid, maar op een gegeven moment was dat gewoon in een keer genoeg. In diezelfde  tijd probeerde ik ook mijn draai als gay in de wereld te vinden en daar was met het wegvallen van al het lessen, trainen en wedstrijden dansen nu ook voldoende tijd voor. Ik ben toe eigenlijk vrij snel in contact gekomen met de toenmalige Dance–scene die voor een belangrijk deel nog redelijk ‘ondergronds’ was en heb daar aardig wat nachten weggedanst in de meest bizarre outfits en entourages.

 Eigenlijk was dit een verlate inhaalactie op het ‘uitgaansleven’, waar ik voor die tijd nauwelijks tijd voor had; mijn uitgaansleven bestond voornamelijk uit vrijdansen op de dansschool! Ik was op die parties eigenlijk vooral bezig met ‘wegzweven’ op mijn eigen fantasie, want dat is wat House- en Trancemuziek uiteindelijk met je doen. Geen drugs, geen pillen, niks van dat al, gewoon de muziek, mijn lijf en mijn geest. Het was ook mijn eerste kennismaking met veranderde bewustzijnstoestanden (oftewel: trance) en de wonderlijke dingen die die te weeg kunnen brengen. Een enorm leuke, spannende  en ook enerverende tijd, want al dat genachtbraak gaat je na een tijdje niet in de koude kleren zitten.

Ietsjes later ontdekte ik de fitness en daarmee de verschillende vormen van wat toen “Aerobics” heette. Het partygebeuren was inmiddels een beetje op de achtergrond geraakt, en van party animal werd Ron een fitness-junk, met soms drie, vier keer per week een paar uur in de sportschool met verschillende vormen van cardiofitness, aerobics en gewichtstraining. Niet met als doel supergespierd te worden, maar vooral lekker en gezond bezig te zijn. Ik ben daar begonnen bij Ceasar's Sports, toentertijd nog op het Korte Voorhout in Den Haag, en heb daar nog steeds fijne herinneringen aan. Inmiddels ben ik aardig wat sportscholen verder, maar de fitness en -inmiddels- de Zumba-workouts horen nog steeds bij mijn vaste palet wekelijkse bezigheden. House-parties niet meer, daar ben ik echt wat te oud voor. En mijn trance-ervaringen haal ik inmiddels ergens anders. Waarover een volgende keer meer! 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Stephen Lawhead’s “Taliesin”: Historical fantasy versus sacred storytelling

I am currently caught up in Stephen R. Lawhead’s Pendragon series, which I am actually reading for the first time. Stephen Lawhead is an engaging storyteller of what might be called “historical fantasy” and in his case with a definite Christian undertone. His Pendragon series –currently consisting of six books- tells  the stories of King Arthur, Merlin and the Grail from this particular historical fantastical viewpoint. He is not the first or the only one to do this with the Arthurian legends; perhaps the most famous of such “fantastical retellings” is Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Mists of Avalon” and the contemporary BBC TV Series “Merlin” does the same.
Now as a student of the Western Mysteries, the Arthurian and Grail legends hold a special-and rather sacred- place in my heart. They contain some very powerful teachings and very soon a complete weekend retreat will be devoted to the Mysteries of the Grail. So, what are my feelings when reading these ‘fantastic’ retellings of such materials? Is that a problem?

Personally, I have absolutely no objections against anything like this, provided is faithfully and tastefully done. With ‘faithfully’ I mean that the characters are left as they are and not unduly embellished or misrepresented. And ‘tastefully’ means that the general feel of the storytelling remains more or less intact (and not all of a sudden is time shifted into a more modern world, for instance).

It is, however, important if you work with these stories ‘for real’, to keep in mind that these are fantastic retellings and do not belong to the historical ‘corpus’ of Arthurian writings. The fate of “Mists of Avalon” speaks volumes in this respect, as this is by many considered to be an accurate representation of paganism in Arthurian times and accordingly ‘followed’ as such.

Back to Lawhead’s Pendragon series from which I finished the first volume “Taliesin” and are one quarter into the second book, “Merlin”. How does so far work with these books? “Taliesin” – apparently, a historical Brythonic bard from probably the sixth century C.E- starts very promisingly with two simultaneous storylines, one in Britain involving the bard Taliesin’ s adoptive parents and the other on Atlantis before the Cataclysm, dealing with Lady of The Lake, Charis. She is destined to become Taliesin’s spouse and mother to Merlin after crashing on the shores of Britain after the destruction of Atlantis.
Lawhead does a masterful retelling of Taliesin’s story from the actual Middle-Welsh Ystoria Taliesin. I also found the Atlantis component quite surprising, which according to Lawhead accounts for the “Fairie” element in the Arthurian stories. There are parts in this book that are indescribably beautiful: the difficult birth of Merlin for instance and the mourning of Taliesin at the end. 

So far, Lawhead seems to have done something very interesting with “Taliesin”: he made a rather obscure Middle Welsh story available to the general public as well as placed the Atlantis and Arthurian mythologies alongside. We are going to see how this plays out in the following volumes!

Monument for Taliesin, Snowdonia, N. Wales

Monday, 3 March 2014

“Congratulations, New Shodan!”

It is always with pride and happiness that we welcome one of our Karate and Kempo students into the rank of what we commonly call “The Black Belts” but is officially known as the “Dan” grades. People have worked long and hard to get to this point, and only those who have walked this path know what it means to become a “Shodan”. But what is that you have actually achieved and why is this so special?

The word “Dan” means “step” or “stage” in Japanese, so, becoming a “Sho-dan” literally means: “He who has taken the first step”. To get to this point means working hard and studying hard for a minimum of at least four years. Someone who has some previous Martial Arts experience may actually do this faster (we after all offer “Fast Track” options if you qualify!). But still, you need to learn perform nine different katas, twenty combinations, master more than a hundred basic techniques as well as various assorted blocking systems, and you need to learn how to defend yourself in various ways. Yet, this is only the first step? Apparently so...You may hesitate to think what will be involved to be able to take the next step.

All that went before, all the differently coloured belts and their assorted tests, all that is part of the first step upon the path to become a martial artist. The step from Red Belt to Shodan is a big step, indeed, this may well be the biggest step in a martial artist’s carreer, as it represents a ‘coming of age’. When bowing in and showing respect to the Masters who went before us, as a Shodan you may do so in the knowledge that you yourself are one of the masters now as well. New students will learn from you and also bow to you, and, by teaching them, you will learn new things yourself.

Yet, at this point it is so easy to start thinking that you have achieved it all. You have been working so hard towards that “Black Belt” that you cannot really see what lies beyond that. Then it is time to remember this is only The First Step. There are many more steps to come and each come with its own challenges and new vistas. New material, new katas and combos are waiting for you, but also a gradually deepening knowledge and understanding of that which you already own. And, ultimately, a wisdom which makes you into a complete person. That is, after all, the ultimate goal of our style of Martial Arts training at American Dragon Martial Arts.

Monday, 24 February 2014

On Learning Gaelic...

Bilingual road sign in the Highlands

As some of you may know, I am studying Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, to be exact. I am currently approaching the half-way point of the online course that I am taking –, and one of the activities now is to listen to people talk about why they started and continued to learn this language, in fluent Gaelic. I am still nowhere near that point, but I have learned to understand a great deal, and gradually worked up to understanding it at the normal speaking pace. The course gradually builds up to that, and this helps you come to grips with listening to people just engaging in everyday conversations.
But why did I start learning it?
I have always been fond of learning languages. At quite a young age I became interested in French and English and in school I was always enjoying these lessons as well as taking classes in classical Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well! Besides that I taught myself bits of Spanish and Italian.
Later, I discovered the Celtic languages with their often very quirky spellings and enigmatic –and mysterious!- “look”. First Irish, but after a while I became frustrated with the –at that time- rather uninspiring learning materials. And now, Scottish “Gàidhlig” which I find grammatically easier than Irish and there are also some superb learning materials available.
Bilingual welcome!
Our first vacation to Scotland sparked this interest, as “Gaelic” is quite visible there, even in cities like Glasgow or Edinburgh, but more so as soon as you are approaching the Highlands. All of a sudden, the road signs are bilingual, with yellowish words that at first glance seem unpronounceable. And in several places you actually hear people converse in it, on the Isle of Skye for instance. And then there is always the music, from the classical and vast Gaelic folk repertoire to the contemporary rock songs by Runrig.
Still, this is just the interest, but there’s more. By learning Gaelic on a regular basis I also ‘make contact’ with at least an important part of the Scottish ‘group-soul’. The material that I use, on, is made by Scots, and performed by Scots at locations in Scotland, some of them very familiar. And there is also a lot of local news and interesting articles communicated through the medium of Gaelic, which you gradually learn to appreciate first-hand. The language has an intricacy and exhibits a special world view that cannot be adequately put into English. And it is a great feeling to actually be able to follow at least some of that.
"Keep Calm and Speak Gaelic"
There is one wish only, and that is that I actually need to learn how to speak it. And unfortunately, that needs someone with whom I can speak it! I could always tape some monologues and study them, and maybe I will just do that to get practice in that area. For now, my focus is to complete this course within a year or so and then maybe delve deeper by taking immersion courses in Scotland itself. First things first, though…

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

On translation- and what to do with ancient Greek and Latin

 I do not like translations. Whenever possible, I try to read books in the original language. As most of what I read was originally written in English, that usually presents no difficulty. I noticed a long time ago that something is lost in translation, and that something is actually very often quite a lot. There are peculiarities in each language that cannot be transferred to others, and that is what makes a language unique. That is also what makes the job of translation so fiendishly difficult, at times. But I have found several awesome books become completely unpalatable upon translation into Dutch.

So what makes for a good translation and what will turn it into a bad one? It helps tremendously if a translator has an affinity with the text he or she is translating, otherwise what will come out is nothing better than what Google Translate produces: mechanical, inflexible and methodical word-for-word, with hopefully a semblance of good grammar. Harbouring preconceptions is also deadly; that is why many translated fantasy or scifi novels are found to possess a rather childish tone to the language, as if the translator cannot bring him- or herself to take the subject seriously.

It is actually killing if a translator does not understand the subject of the text at all. Translation means a continuous search for the best possible words to describe as accurately as possible what the original is saying. Very often, words have multiple meanings in other languages and a wrong choice completely distorts the meaning of a text. A grueling example from ancient spiritual texts is the categorical translation of the Greek word ‘δαιμων’ into “demon”, whereas the usual meaning of this word is “non-corporeal being, spirit”. It is also noticeable in translations from for instance Greek, Latin or Arabic alchemical texts, which are notoriously obscure and opaque anyway, and which are usually unreadable and completely incomprehensible when translated.

Fortunately, I have studied Greek and Latin in my –somewhat remote- past and I feel it is time to dust that off, brush it up and start putting it to good use. I am currently looking for original texts that I can study in this way. Working that closely with a text really lets you dig into it and ponder its meaning, word by word sometimes. The first one to tackle will probably be Iamblichus’ De Mysteriis in the Greek version. This will be an interesting –and time consuming- project!