Month: March 2014

Day 15

Today has been a hell of a day. I drew my medicine card just now, after the end of it all, and it came up as a Contrary Blank. I don’t always know what that means, but today it feels like it has to do with the fact that no single card can encompass the day I’ve been through.

Good Fear and Bad Fear

The most interesting part of my day happened during work: I was out at a park when I ran into an awesome black grandmother who was there with her four grandchildren. We got to talking and I asked what she was reading; it turned out to be the Bible. Fitting, no?

Anyway, so I asked her why and I told her about my project. She said that she wanted to understand the Word for herself, that she wanted a deeper connection, and she wanted to understand what God wanted from her. I rephrased this as, “Give it to me straight, Lord!” She laughed.

We both were distracted but I did get to talk to her a little bit more and she told of a friend who I think was an atheist. This friend or acquaintance or whatever asked her why people were supposed to fear God. This wonderful woman said that for her, there were two kinds of fear: the good and the bad. She said that the good kind of fear was the fear of God, that which keeps people in line, so to speak. The bad fear was the fear of man, the fear that we have about our material life, the fear that drives us away from God and confounds our mind with mortal concerns. I told her I was going to quote her on this.

I of course decided to do my research and was richly rewarded. I immediately found this website, which has a wonderful breakdown of the different meanings of the Hebrew word yirah (יִרְאָה). According to this site, “there are three ‘levels’ or types of yirah.”¹ The first is what we normally think of as fear, or what the woman above called “bad fear.” This is the fear that leads us to do things or not do them only because we are worried about punishment or being cast out. The second type is what the grandmother called “good fear,” and “concerns anxiety over breaking God’s law.”¹ The Chofetz Chaim, “a holy book on the Jewish ethics and laws of speech,”² tells that

“even though the fear of God’s punishment may deter us from sin in the short run, by itself it is insufficient for spiritual life, since it is based on an incomplete idea about God.”¹

This is awesome, to me. This brings me to the third type of fear. I’m just going to leave this here:

“The third (and highest) kind of fear is a profound reverence for life that comes from rightly seeing. This level discerns the Presence of God in all things and is sometimes called yirat ha-rommemnut (יִרְאַת הָרוֹמְמוּת), or the ‘Awe of the Exalted.’  Through it we behold God’s glory and majesty in all things. ‘Fearing’ (יִרְאָה) and ‘seeing’ (רָאָה) are linked and united. We are elevated to the level of reverent awareness, holy affection, and genuine communion with God’s Holy Spirit.  The love for good creates a spiritual antipathy toward evil, and conversely, hatred of evil is a way of fearing God (Prov. 8:13).”¹

Reverence. Awe. These are the highest level of feeling that we are called to have in the name and in the honor of God. It is not fear in the human sense, but a seeing, a unity, a sense of presence and communion. This is what we need as a whole, is a “spiritual antipathy toward evil.”¹ It is clearly not enough to abstain from evil most of the time. We must actively do good, and cultivate our love of God and goodness so that there is no longer room for evil in our hearts and souls. Just as I vowed to not lash out against others in anger, so too do humans need to make a vow against evil. But we need to have the confidence and power to make such a vow. That power and confidence obviously can come from the Lord, but… I’m getting into a Catch-22 situation. The cycle of evil and suffering must at some point be broken. We are not perfect and we may not be able to leave it forever or in totality, but we can damn sure try.

Genesis 15

After all I’ve said above, I don’t feel the need to delve too deeply into Gen 15. Matthew Henry makes plenty of good points, some of which I will touch upon here and the rest can be found here by an interested reader.

Gen 15 begins with God coming to Abram in a vision; God tells Abram, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

Your eternal reward.

Your eternal reward. ³

At this point, Abram is having what seems to be a crisis of faith, perhaps this time motivated by the fear or concern that he will not be able to do what God asks, especially since he can have no children. God tells him not to worry, and says that He can prove it. Abram listens to God and makes a sacrifice of several animals; vultures come to eat the animals, but Abram drives them away. Here, Matthew Henry writes:

“A watch must be kept upon our spiritual sacrifices.”

— Matthew Henryª

We have to be attentive to God, and drive away distractions. After this, Abram falls into a deep sleep, where God speaks to him and lets him know about the future. God tells Abram that his descendents will suffer, but will suffer only material injury while enjoying spiritual wealth in the form of divine blessings. Abram wakes up to see “a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between [the sacrifices]” (Genesis 15:17). God makes a covenant with Abram, and Matthew Henry here says that “it intimates that God’s covenants with man are made by sacrifice…. And we may know that he accepts our sacrifices, if he kindles in our souls pious and devout affections.”ª

I really want to continue with this, but I have here reached the end, essentially, of Genesis 15. I have some things to say, but I will say them tomorrow. My partner is waiting in the other room and has no idea what I’m doing. She might very well find out soon just what exactly I’ve been up to.

Blessings to all of you, and peace be upon you. Good night.

 

¹ http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Eikev/Yirah/yirah.html

² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chofetz_Chaim

³ http://therewillbefilms.tumblr.com/post/11388120758/your-eternal-reward

ª http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=15&com=mhc

Day 14

Holy crow, yesterday felt like three days. I worked a solid eleven hours, mostly outdoors, and I can feel a slight crisp on the skin of my face.

I slowly struggled out of bed just now to eat a slightly dried chocolate muffin that I got from a church’s coffee shop. I might have to check out this church in the future; it seems like a pretty nice place. I’ve never consistently gone to church in my adult life, and I only once attended a Mormon service, sort of out of obligation.

Just as recently I had a vision of death, two nights ago I fully connected with my Spirit Council again and was shown something else. Anyway, I wrote a short poem about what happened. It doesn’t have a name.

I have seen the face of my anger
It is a swirling burning thing.
Crimson light bleeds from it
Like an image of an angry sun.
Into the four corners of my life does it spread
A profane cross of impotent rage
Fueled by the fear that hides in my heart.

I haven’t written poetry in a while, and I’m not terribly satisfied with it, but the whole point of this project is to “Learn by Doing.” I’m not only writing when I feel like writing because I’m often unmotivated and tired and too busy seeking other pleasures. I was listening to the book Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and he wrote that if he ever procrastinates writing something, he doesn’t ever use it and throws it out. I’m just not like that. I’m busy rekindling my writer’s spirit, and it’s going to take time and practice before this becomes a habit, before it becomes a burning need that I cannot ignore.

I wanted to tell you about my Left today, but I think I will save descriptions of my spirit animals for a later date. Although, without meaning to, I have already introduced one.

Genesis 14

I read this chapter today and didn’t think a whole lot of it. It describes a war between a handful of kings, but Abram and Lot get caught up in this mess. Long story short, at one point, Lot gets snatched up (it seems) while he is in Sodom, and the armies take his stuff.

Then, someone comes and tells Abram, “Hey, so these guys up and kidnapped your nephew, Lot.” Abram mans up and arms his servants and chases the offending army as far north “as Hobah, which is north of Damascus” (Genesis 14:15). That’s a pretty damn long way.

Abram saves Lot and heads back home; it would appear that on his way or upon his return, he is met by a) Bera, the king of Sodom and b) Melchizedek, king of Salem.

Melchizedek is a very interesting character, if he be a character at all. He “brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). Firstly, he brings bread and wine, which most of us associate with Jesus Christ and the idea of body and blood. Secondly, while Abram and his family have been described as being the righteous ones, Melchizedek, who has no ancestry mentioned thus far, is a holy man, a “priest of God Most High.”

There are a lot of odd mysteries surrounding this name and this person. Some identify him as Shem, descendent of Noah. The Dead Sea Scrolls identify Melchizedek, if not this Melchizedek, as a divine being, sometimes giving unto him the name Elohim, traditionally associated with God. Even his “name” itself may mean “the king [of] righteousness,” from malki tzedek, which contrasts with a mention in the Dead Sea Scrolls of a “Melchi-resha,” which means “king of evil,” the name for an angel of darkness. ¹

Jehovah’s Witnesses – An Aside

I was just interrupted from my work by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who come to my house frequently because I invite them back. Today they invited me to their annual event commemorating the day on which Christ gave His life that we may all live. They also talked to me for a while, and I told them about my project. They told me to pay attention when I get to the story of Joseph (of Technicolor Dreamcoat fame), because he has something to say about interpretation. I want so badly to look ahead but I am reading this Bible chapter by chapter and I will wait. The gentleman today brought his wife, who seemed like a charming lady, and she slipped a hint as to what Joseph says, but I will not yet mention it.

What I will mention, though, is John 17:3.

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

— Jesus Christ, John 17:3

The Witnesses told me essentially that it is Good to study the Bible, that by reading it and learning of it, we can know God and Jesus, and thus gain eternal life. The gentleman said that everything in the Bible tells us about God. Interesting when contrasted with the ideas of, say, the Eastern Orthodox Church, which believes that

“The words do what they can do, but the nature of the Trinity in its fullness remains beyond our comprehension and expression, a Holy Mystery that can only be experienced.”²

Perhaps God is knowable for practical purposes but a Holy Mystery in totality, the way Albert Camus describes man in The Myth of Sisyphus. We can know God and seek union with Him enough to be saved and to know, sense, or feel what He wants for us. But the nature of God? The essence of God? The spiritual form of God that exists in contrast to the material? At least in this lifetime, in these bodies, it cannot be understood.

The King of Sodom

There are but a few verses left in Genesis 14, but before reading about Melchizedek, they were the only thing that interested me. The king of Sodom offers to trade Abram: Abram gives him back the people (his people? Previous subjects? I’m not super clear on this) in exchange for stuff. The stuff is really unimportant; the important part is that Abram says no. Abram vows in the name of God to not take even “a thread [or] a sandal strap” from the king (Genesis 14:23).

Abram remembers God’s promise and realizes that he has no need for these material things. Abram chooses the people because he knows that God has plans to make him rich in spirit, a wealth to which material substances cannot compare.

Peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchizedek

² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_Church#Trinity

Day 13

No more weird premonitions of death this time around.

This morning just presented me with an amazing dream: think Terminator: Salvation meets Inspector Gadget, by way of The Incredibles. Or something like that.

Last night is a different story. I got upset, I took something personally and my fear and shame became anger. I lost my temper and I blew up for no good reason. I was afraid to say that I’d never do it again, because I was afraid of making a promise I couldn’t keep, but this project has shown me that I have the dedication. In only 1176 more days I’ll have proven it.

The anger served another purpose, though: it allowed me, in my stress and sorrow following the incident, it allowed me to re-connect spiritually inward, and for the first time in a while I had a full “meeting” with my council of spirit animals. I have neither the time nor the inclination to enumerate them here, but interested readers will learn the details soon.

Anyway, I slept poorly last night and now I have a long, long day of work ahead of me. I’m going to crack open this Bible and get on with…

Genesis 13

Abram leaves Egypt with Sarai and Lot. At this point, Pharaoh didn’t bother to take back any of his stuff it seems, probably because God gave him enough trouble for messing with Abram already. So Abram is a wealthy man and returns to his place and his altar mentioned in Gen 12:8.

The new problem here is that Lot and Abram both have lots of stuff and big herds and they can’t live comfortably in the same area. “There was strife” between their respective teams of herdsmen (Genesis 13:7). Abram tells Lot that it’s time for them to go their separate ways; Lot heads east to the plain of Jordan. This was before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, so sayeth Genesis 13:10, and it seems to me that their destruction must have been “common knowledge” at the time, because this event has not yet been mentioned. The plain of Jordan is “well watered everywhere… like the garden of the Lord,” apparently referring to Eden. So Lot dips out.

Abram is once again told by the Lord to look around, and God reaffirms his promise to grant this land to Abram’s descendents. God once again offers his gifts as soon as Abram returns, ready to have faith and accept them.

“And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.”

— God, Genesis 13:16

Once again, Abram settles his tent near the terebinth trees, this time in Hebron.

This guy.

Me again. ¹

So ends Genesis 13, and so begins the rest of my day. Blessings to you all, energy drinks to me…

Peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pistacia_palaestina

Day 12

I had the strangest experience last night.

I had an overwhelming sensation that I wasn’t going to wake up in the morning. Or at least that the “me” that was going to wake up in the morning was not the same “me” that was lying in bed.

There is an illusion we call continuation of consciousness, and I suddenly became aware of it in a very big, big way. I felt as though I was going to die, whether that be in a literal or figurative sense. I felt as though the person who woke up in my body would be someone else, an alien who would have forgotten things that I was thinking, would have different motivations, hopes and dreams. It was all very strange.

As I was lying in bed I had a number of bizarre visions as well; I had visions like an hourglass running out, looking as though it were limned by the infinity symbol. I watched it run out, tried to envision it turning over, only to watch it run out again. When I tried to visualize my council of spirit animals (more on that later), I came up empty. I instead envisioned a blank gray wall which receded from me until I realized I was looking at a large skull that became part of the form of a Grim Reaper-like figure. It was then with this figure positioned over me that I suddenly became aware of the presence of my spirit animals once again. My Left cried out against this figure and I felt strongly implored to take up my “sword” and defend myself against this manifestation of Death.

All in all, it was both a deeply humbling but empowering experience. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but as much as any man can say this, I know I’m here today.

Genesis 12

Here in Gen 12 we have the departure from Abram from Haran, where his father Terah lay dead. God tells Abram to go, leave for a new land. Abram feels this conviction from God and takes his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot to the land of Canaan, which if you recall from Genesis 9 was basically cursed by Noah and by the Lord. Or at least its inhabitants were. So the godly man, Abram, is cast by God Himself into the realm of the ungodly, the Canaanites. And the Lord sayeth, “Trust Me on this one.”

One verse of note is Genesis 12:3, wherein God tells Abram, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” According to our old friend Matthew Henry, this is to signify the coming of Christ, that by the line of Abram shall the world be saved.

So when Abram finally settles near “Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh” (Genesis 12:6).

This guy.

This guy. ¹

It seems there is a great deal of discourse surrounding this tree business. Matthew Henry does not touch on the nature of the tree or any symbology thereof. This website, the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine, mentions that tree worship existed in some form in ancient days. They suggest that by being “rooted in the earth and [reaching] toward the sky,” trees represent a bridge between Heaven and Earth, or symbolize man’s journey from the latter to the former. Apparently at some point this practice was discontinued, possibly to mitigate confusion and prevent blurring between the holy religion of Israel and the idolatrous religions of the Canaanites.² Interesting. Now back to Abram.

Abram carries his faith with him throughout his journey and sets up an altar wherever he makes his home.

“Wherever we go, let us not fail to take our religion along with us.”

— Matthew Henry ³

God blesses Abram and tells him that his descendents will inherit this land, this land of Canaan that is currently in possession of the ungodly. As I said recently, perhaps as recently as yesterday, worldly goods cannot fill a spiritual void. In time, the cruel and evil will fall and the righteous will rise. I’m not necessarily using “righteous” to mean “Christian,” here, but I believe in the inherent goodness of humanity, or at least the potential and desire for good.

Man is often his own worst enemy, and our desire for righteousness must overcome our desire for comfort in sin. Man must become accustomed to some level of discomfort in order to break the cycle. In our modern society, we have food and shelter and entertainment but these things do not bring happiness. Our comforts are worldly and fragile; satisfaction of the soul, peace with the Divine, is forever.

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.”

— The Eagles, “Already Gone”

But I digress. Things become difficult for Abram once there is a famine in Canaan, as described in Gen 12:10, so he leaves and heads to Egypt. Even a godly man such as Abram is burdened with doubt and disbelief in this trying time, and he lies because he is afraid. Abram pretends that his wife Sarai is his sister because he fears for his life and safety, believing he will be killed by someone who wishes to claim her.

Once the Pharaoh’s men see her, they take her to the Pharaoh, but God has other plans. Even though Pharaoh treats Abram well, the Lord shakes things up, perhaps so that Abram will not be comfortable in this land but will return to his God-given destiny. God plagues the hell out of Egypt (a preview of things to come) and Pharaoh realizes the problem, gives Sarai back to Abram, and kicks him the hell out. Matthew Henry’s commentary fits well here:

“Those who set out for heaven must persevere to the end. What we undertake, in obedience to God’s command, and in humble attendance on his providence, will certainly succeed, and end with comfort at last. Canaan was not, as other lands, a mere outward possession, but a type of heaven, and in this respect the patriarchs so earnestly prized it.” ³

Just as is in The Four Agreements, Matthew Henry equates Canaan as a state of mind, a type of heaven. Though the story in the Bible is about a land, there is more than meets the eye. It is symbolic of the gifts that God grants to the faithful, it is symbolic of peace, serenity, and love. God did not let Abram settle in a land of fear, a land of suffering and deceit. Abram found no peace in the land of Egypt, and so too do we find no peace while we are burdened by our lies and our mistrust. Abram initially trusts God to provide, but when times get difficult, he abandons the dream and promise of Canaan for worldly “security” elsewhere.

It seems to me that this was a lesson that Abram needed to learn the hard way. God is not a wizard, but had He wanted to, I am sure He could have prevented the famine in Canaan. But God does not make our lives easy; instead God teaches us to have faith in the most difficult times. God does not clear the skies and calm the waters, but instead dances with us in the rain and teaches us to weather the storm. This is how we learn and grow stronger. Like a parent to a child, God allows us to suffer and be injured that we might grow wise and strong.

God does not always appear to us and tell us where to go and what to do, but if we pay attention to ourselves and to our feelings, we can know right from wrong and find a good path for ourselves. We will not be comforted in Egypt, and must find our way to Canaan. In Canaan we will find peace, and our faith will be rewarded. It may be a long road, full of setbacks and obstacles, but faith can move mountains, not by magic, but by inspiring us and motivating us to take up our pickaxes and start chipping away, one stone at time.

I feel as though I am repeating myself and rambling; I will end here for today. Love and be loved. Spread joy wherever you go.

Peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pistacia_palaestina

² http://www.jhom.com/topics/trees/worship.htm

³ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=12

Day 11

For heaven’s sake… God is not going to make this easy on me.

Today is the first day that I’ve actually had difficulty doing my writing, and I foresee more challenges on the horizon. Work is ramping up in a big way and I need to get it under control before it controls me. I’m also not getting enough sleep and not enough personal leisure time.

One consolation that I forgot to write about came in the form of my horoscope from 3/25/14. This happened to be the day or the day after I told my friend about this project and worried about my lack of motivation. My horoscope read:

You have more command over your emotions than you think you do, which you’ll find out by taking control of your environment.

That’s the kind of information I need these days. I wish the “taking control of [my] environment” part wasn’t such a pain in my ass. My room and my house are a terrible mess. All my work folders and paperwork are disorganized. I feel like I have neither the time nor the inclination to change this, because it feels like an overwhelming undertaking at this point. But I have to work and I have to pay my bills and I have to have to have to.

I’m just going to bang my head on the keyboard for a while and see what comes out.

Genesis 11

Gen 11 reminds me of Gen 2, in that it appears to conflict with the previous chapter. Genesis 10 shows all the different genealogies of all the families and constantly lists them as “according to his language, according to their families, into their nations,” or some form thereof (Gen 10:5). It shows that all these people were separated into different cultures and languages.

Genesis 11 comes along and says that “the whole earth had one language and one speech” (Gen 11:1). It seems that, like Genesis 2, Genesis 11 is here to elaborate on the narrative of the previous chapter.

With their one language, people started building a tower “whose top is in the heavens… lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:4). I love this verse because they’re like, “Oh boy, we better not get scattered to the four winds! That would be terrible!” And then the Lord sees them and does exactly that. Once again, the Lord refers to Himself in the first-person plural: “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language” (Gen 11:7).

So God does this apparently because humans will be able to do anything they want! With one language, they could build a tower straight up to Heaven, which once again points back to the Hebrew mythology of a heavenly realm located physically above the Earth.

This baffles me a little, and Matthew Henry gives me no placating explanation. I think… firstly the location of Babel is in the land of Shinar, which was mentioned previously as part of the kingdom of Nimrod in Gen 10. So we already know that these are not supposed to be the godly folk. With that in mind, it seems that their hubris was their undoing; with one language they could have accomplished many great works but instead decided to essentially rebel against God by saying, “Screw the rules, we’re building our way to Heaven!” And the Lord says no.

So He punishes them for their hubris and their disrespect by confounding their language and scattered them all over the world. Apparently this is part of the plan, that humanity will be divided. The eventual reunification will come with Christ, apparently. So sayeth Matthew Henry:

“The children of men never did, nor ever will, come all together again, till the great day, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and all nations shall be gathered before him.” ¹

Mankind does seem to have this problem where we help each other in our misery rather than lifting out of it. Ruiz says as much, that we have agreements to help each other suffer.² Suffering is comfortable because we are so used to it, but the company of angry, fearful fellows does not beat the serenity that can be found within. It is a hard lesson to learn, but the more people that learn it, the better we will be as a species.

Genealogy

The rest of Genesis 11 is dedicated to the genealogy of the family of Shem.

We have:

  • Shem
    • Arphaxad
      • Salah
        • Eber
          • Peleg
            • Reu
              • Serug
                • Nahor
                  • Terah
                    • Haran -> deceased
                    • Abram — Sarai
                    • Nahor — Milcah
                      • Lot

Yikes. I think that’s everybody. So at the end of Genesis 11, Terah takes his son Abram, Abram’s wife Sarai, and Lot, Abram’s nephew and Terah’s grandson, and they leave Ur, headed toward Canaan. They stayed in Haran, or Charran, for a time, where Terah passed away. Matthew Henry ends this portion of his commentary with the poignant thought:

“Many reach to Charran, and yet fall short of Canaan; they are not far from the kingdom of God, and yet never come thither.” ¹

I’ve heard a similar sentiment regarding general or business success, but here it applies spiritually as well. Ah! Found it:

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

—  Napoleon Hill

Most of the time we never know how close we are to something, to achieving a goal, and our tendency is to stop or turn around, often just before we make a breakthrough. Persevere! Today I will leave you with one last quote, the other of which I was thinking:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter
hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as
much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first
blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last
blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

— Jacob A. Riis
Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Every blow weakens the stone, just as every step in the right direction, no matter how small, leads closer to one’s destination.

Blessings to all, and peace be upon you.

 

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

Jacob August Riis

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

Jacob August Riis

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=11&com=mhc

² Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements

Day 10

Woo! Ten days in a row. So far so good!

So I added a new page, which I will be sure to whore out every day until it starts receiving regular attention. Basically I’m soliciting interpretations from the good people out there reading this blog. I have my opinion and I have Matthew Henry’s opinion, but I want to hear from a broader variety of people. I’m interested to see what people from different walks of life think about the Bible.

The submission page and guidelines can be found here. Click the link and go at it!

Also I want to clarify something before I get into today’s chapter: I keep referring to my partner as just that, my “partner.” I know someday she is going to read this and probably be confused as to why I chose that word. A few reasons:

  1. It does signify a close bond, as we go through our lives together.
  2. Saying “girlfriend” seems cheesy, even though I’ve already outed her gender.
  3. Part of it seems distant and mysterious, and for purposes of this blog, I kind of like that.

That’s all there is to it, really. Just wanted to clear that up because I know someday she’ll read this. (Yes, you. ♥)

Genesis 10

Today we have the weird inbred genealogy of the sons of Noah. I know Biblical genealogy is concerned with the lineages of sons, and that daughters are not mentioned, but seriously, either back in the day people knew that these were stories and that there were other people to be found on Earth… or people were just totally a-okay with a lot of incest and inbreeding. Maybe they just didn’t read into it.

What was that about inbreeding?

“Well, golly! Only people round here to beget with are my cousins, my sisters, and my mother!” ¹

So we have the sons of Japheth (see above), who become the Gentiles, who “separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (Genesis 10:5).

Then we get into the sons of Ham: Pork, Bacon, Loin, Cubed, Shaved… Alright, I’ll stop. But seriously, the sons of Ham. Eventually through his lineage, we get one of Canaan’s nephews, the mighty hunter Nimrod, whose reputation lasted right up until Bugs Bunny came along and turned him into an insult. I wasn’t going to write much about him but then I looked up the Matthew Henry commentary. I’ll just leave this here:

“Nimrod was a great man in his day; he began to be mighty in the earth, Those before him were content to be upon the same level with their neighbours, and though every man bare rule in his own house, yet no man pretended any further. Nimrod was resolved to lord it over his neighbours. The spirit of the giants before the flood, who became mighty men, and men of renown, Genesis 6:4, revived in him. Nimrod was a great hunter. Hunting then was the method of preventing the hurtful increase of wild beasts. This required great courage and address, and thus gave an opportunity for Nimrod to command others, and gradually attached a number of men to one leader. From such a beginning, it is likely, that Nimrod began to rule, and to force others to submit. He invaded his neighbours’ rights and properties, and persecuted innocent men; endeavouring to make all his own by force and violence. He carried on his oppressions and violence in defiance of God himself. Nimrod was a great ruler. Some way or other, by arts or arms, he got into power, and so founded a monarchy, which was the terror of the mighty, and bid fair to rule all the world. Nimrod was a great builder. Observe in Nimrod the nature of ambition. It is boundless; much would have more, and still cries, Give, give. It is restless; Nimrod, when he had four cities under his command, could not be content till he had four more. It is expensive; Nimrod will rather be at the charge of rearing cities, than not have the honour of ruling them. It is daring, and will stick at nothing. Nimrod’s name signifies rebellion; tyrants to men are rebels to God. The days are coming, when conquerors will no longer be spoken of with praise, as in man’s partial histories, but be branded with infamy, as in the impartial records of the Bible.” ²

Come on, Matthew! You’re making me look bad, over here. I’m making incest jokes about Gen 10 and he’s busy analyzing that Nimrod is a tyrant, a “rebel to God,” which would make a kick-ass band name. But seriously, wow. Matthew Henry expands on this point in his analysis of the line of Canaan. I can’t not share this.

“The posterity of Canaan were numerous, rich, and pleasantly seated; yet Canaan was under a Divine curse, and not a curse causeless. Those that are under the curse of God, may, perhaps, thrive and prosper in this world; for we cannot know love or hatred, the blessing or the curse, by what is before us, but by what is within us. The curse of God always works really, and always terribly. Perhaps it is a secret curse, a curse to the soul, and does not work so that others can see it; or a slow curse, and does not work soon; but sinners are reserved by it for a day of wrath. Canaan here has a better land than either Shem or Japheth, and yet they have a better lot, for they inherit the blessing. Abram and his seed, God’s covenant people, descended from Eber, and from him were called Hebrews. How much better it is to be like Eber, the father of a family of saints and honest men, than the father of a family of hunters after power, worldly wealth, or vanities. Goodness is true greatness.” ²

Wow. This is a beautiful description, an amazing interpretation. It reminds me of everything I have read thus far related to goodness and success. It reminds me especially of that wonderful book, The Four Agreements, where Don Miguel Ruiz describes the dream of Hell in which mankind is living.

“We cannot know love or hatred, the blessing or the curse, by what is before us, but by what is within us.”

— Matthew Henry

This reminds me especially of something written in The Myth of Sisyphus:

“It is probably true that a man remains forever unknown to us and that there is in him something irreducible that escapes us. But practically I know men and recognize them by their behavior, by the totality of their deeds, by the consequences caused in life by their presence.”

— Albert Camus

All these authors and writers are privy to a truth that many of us feel but have no words to describe. No matter what shows on the outside, man suffers in the absence of God. In the Bible, Noah curses Canaan and his lineage, but in truth he need say nothing; Canaan curses himself and his children by his actions, by leading them down a bad road, away from the grace and love of the Lord.

Ruiz knows that we live in Hell, that men suffer in silence in the depths of their souls because we have abandoned love and truth and beauty. We are wounded, lost children, and we strike at others out of fear and anger. No matter the heights of our success, in the end we are empty and miserable. We cannot be placated with material things; gold does not fill the coffers of the soul.

Camus would not be thrilled that I suggest turning to God to rectify this, but let me clarify: the feeling, the knowing of God can be had on Earth by mortal men. One does not have to cling to a hope of a distant heaven. Ruiz says as much himself: Heaven is a state of mind, and it is possible to attain. There are people on Earth who live lives of happiness, who do not suffer despite having excuses to do so.

I recognize God, I love God, and I accept God, in my own way, but I also recognize and accept the absurdity of “the human condition.” I cannot prove God to you. But my experiences and my life have been nothing short of miraculous, and if you have the eyes to see it, you will realize that your life is the greatest miracle and the highest truth. God works his magic through you. Look at all the “coincidences,” learn from them, see where your life has come from and where it has gone. There is no place you could be but here, no time you could be but now.

This moment is yours.

Seize it.

 

¹ http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/25574/gomer-pyle-usmc-the-complete-first-season/

² http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=10

Day 9

One of my three best friends is now the only person who knows the extent of this project. I probably should not have told anyone. I feel as though my drive to complete it has lessened.

Perhaps this is my challenge, and this is my way of overcoming that lazy aspect of my psychology. This is the day when I can tell people of my plans and see them through nonetheless.

I can complete this project. I will complete this project. I must complete this project.

For when I have shown myself that I have the dedication to read the Bible and write every single day for the next three years and then some… I will know that I can do anything.

I am tired today, and from the past week and from yesterday I am fairly overwhelmed. This overwhelmèd-ness probably doesn’t help my mood and my desire to write, but I must press on. I am not a failure and I am not a coward and I will do this; I will complete this project by the grace of God because I must.

So, yay, day 9 (of 1189). Only 1180 more days to go!

Overconfident Drinker

This is pretty much how I feel right now. I know I used Comic Sans. Deal with it!

I better just shut up and get on with it.

Genesis 9

Here we have the end of the flood story. The flood ends, God is satisfied at the offering from Noah, and God gives unto Noah a promise or a covenant. God tells Noah that never again will he destroy the Earth via flood.

A lot of people, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, I believe, use this story and any related later verses as proof of the fact that God will never destroy the Earth. Not now, nor 10 billion years from now. Although explicitly that goes back to yesterday, Genesis 8:21, where the Lord says “nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.”

But I suppose destroying the Earth would not necessarily entail destroying all living things. We have space travel now, and we’re getting better at it. We’ve identified several “earth-like” planets, and it’s likely that one or more of them would be habitable. My JW friend once said, describing the Lord not destroying the world, “You don’t build a house for your children just to destroy it.”

His logic is admirable. I told him I disagreed, seeing as the Earth is a tiny fraction of all the matter in the universe, and probably an even tinier fraction of the near-infinite volume of the universe. The number of planets that are like earth in our own galaxy, let alone neighboring galaxies…. Yes, granted, any neighboring galaxy is insanely far away my the standards of modern space travel, but in the future, who knows? I retorted to my friend that “One does not build a cradle for His children and expect them to live in it forever!”

It seemed in the olden days that the garden of Eden, the Fertile Crescent was the cradle of civilization. But our view of the universe has expanded considerably. We are no longer the center of everything. There is a vast emptiness beyond the sky of our tiny planet, and speaking practically, it gives absolutely zero f***s about humanity.

Pale Blue Dot

Yeah, that’s right, Earth. You want some of this? ¹

That tiny pixel circled above is the Earth suspended in a sunbeam as viewed from Voyager 1. Carl Sagan’s writings regarding this image are awesome, and you should read them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_blue_dot#Reflections_by_Sagan

But I digress. So God tells Noah some stuff, like “Don’t eat the flesh while it still has blood,” Genesis 9:4, and “I swear you guys, I won’t do it again.”

The blood thing confused me and especially the continued writings about things like “From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of a man” (Genesis 9:5). I turn of course to Matthew Henry. Henry, take it away.

“The main reason of forbidding the eating of blood, doubtless was because the shedding of blood in sacrifices was to keep the worshippers (sic?) in mind of the great atonement; yet it seems intended also to check cruelty, lest men, being used to shed and feed upon the blood of animals, should grow unfeeling to them, and be less shocked at the idea of shedding human blood. Man must not take away his own life. Our lives are God’s, and we must only give them up when he pleases. If we in any way hasten our own death, we are accountable to God for it.” ²

Seems fair? So we have blood sacrifices to keep in mind the necessity of atonement. This is like what my partner told me that I related to all of you a few days ago: before Christ, there was a need to give early man a way to redeem themselves of their sins. So, animal sacrifices and other ways to show humility and faith were necessary. For a time.

So anyway, let’s wrap this up. I have to leave for work in short order.

Noah gets plastered (Genesis 9:21). He seriously cannot handle his alcohol. I get it, Noah, he’s a holy man, God’s chosen to save the world, etc., but really. Even I know my limits. The good Mr. Henry says that we need to be careful not to use God’s gifts to excess. Seems fair. Especially the “green herbs,” if you know what I mean (Genesis 9:3). It’s probably for the best that there’s no record of Noah getting really high.

Double Rainbow

“Oh my God! Double covenant, all the way across the sky!” ³

So, the jerk son of Noah, Ham, goes and gossips about his father. Nope. The other two brothers, Shem and Japheth, don’t look at their naked father but instead cover him with a garment. When Noah woke up, he was expecting to be naked apparently, because after seeing the clothes, he realized that someone had gone gossiping about his nakedness. So he curses Canaan, son of Ham.

Matthew Henry points out that Shem is the father of the Jews, Japheth the father of the gentiles, and Canaan, well, the father of the Canaanites, coincidentally enough. Matthew Henry condemns it, but he points out that this chapter was used for a long time to justify black slavery the world over, since Noah curses Canaan to be a “servant of servants,” pretty much the lowest of the low (Genesis 9:25).

Django

“And buddy, that’s pretty f***ing low.” ª

Anyway, Matthew Henry points out that when Noah prays for God to allow Japheth to “dwell in the tents of Shem,” he is expressing his desire that these families, these groups will someday be united. Mr. Henry asserts that this foretelling will come true through the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

…Who we won’t even see or hear about for another 505 pages of this Bible. Oy.

Have a blessèd day, everybody. Thanks for reading, and peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PaleBlueDot.jpg

² Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=9

³ http://i3.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/003/128/doublerainbow.jpg

ª http://www.eonline.com/eol_images/Entire_Site/20121112/reg_1024.Django.mh.121212.jpg

Day 8

And on the eighth day, I finally published my blog.

This has been a stressful week, and I’ve already spent almost two hours today just formatting and copying everything I’ve written into this blog. Welcome to In Excelsis Deo.

I’m already tired and the day has just begun. I’m looking at the very few flimsy pages of the Bible that I’ve covered and it makes my head hurt. Such a long book…

But I shouldn’t complain. I’m ready to do this. I’d better be! I’ll be doing this for the next three years and then some.

I’m feeling better overall, getting a sense of style down. Life outside of my writing is going well; I’m getting a handle on my work and my schedule, and I’ll even have some time to see some friends today. I’ve been doing some reading and perhaps soon I can work on one of my old writing projects, a novella that I never finished. We’ll see when I have time for that, but my passion for writing seems to be flaring once again.

And now on to my task:

Genesis 8

The first thing I did today was re-read Genesis 7. I was so distracted yesterday that I barely read the whole thing, and I remembered very little. But today is about Genesis 8, which I also read. After reading it, I went and looked up the Matthew Henry commentary. I finally looked up who he is, too. Matthew Henry was a Presbyterian minister who lived 300 years ago, roughly. June 22, of this year, 2014, will be the 300th anniversary of his death. I will be… somewhere in Exodus at that point, by my reckoning.

So anyway, here we are in Genesis 8. God shuts off the water and lets everything start draining out. Remember that bit about Hebrew mythology? Waters and firmaments and all that.

The ark rests “on the mountains of Ararat.” I just realized that this sounded familiar, and in the computer game Diablo II, in its expansion, there is a sacred mountain known as “Arreat.” I have a feeling this is less than a coincidence; the game incorporates a good deal of Judeo-Christian influence.

So the ark rests, the waters begin to recede, and Noah sends out two birds: a raven and a dove. Now, a raven is black (typically associated with darkness and sin) and a dove is white (typically associated with purity and light). The raven does not return, but the dove does. Mr. Henry posits that the raven represents the sinner, who is satisfied with the world. He suggests that the raven survived by “feeding on the carcasses that floated.” ¹ The dove, however, represents the person who keeps God in their heart and is not satisfied with the world. The dove returns to the ark, having found no satisfaction in the outside world. I like this.

In a lot of ways, it bothers me when people say that they want more than this world, or they’re meant for something more. I understand, they’re speaking of a spiritual realm, a higher realm, but as long as you inhabit a human body, you may as well deal with it. One does not need to indulge in sin; there is much joy and happiness and love to be had in this mere physical realm. There are mountains and flowers and trees and amazing works of art and beauty, both created by man and otherwise. Every time we experience awe, in my opinion, we are feeling what some call the Holy Spirit. We are touching on the realm of God.

It is a “good thing” to study the Bible and to hold to one’s morals and values, to refrain from sin and to be like the dove, returning to the metaphorical ark that God gives us. But even the dove returns with an olive branch. Even the pure dove finds something of value in the world. We are human, we are mortal, and we are sinners. But God knows this, and He speaks to us in a language we can understand. He speaks to us in a language of the world.

It is not a language of words but of feelings and experiences. It is a language written in the winds and waters, in the land and trees and stars. It is a language which speaks nothing but beauty and truth. It is all around us, always being spoken, always being told to us through our sight and sound and smell.

For some reason, I am almost brought to tears right now by the idea of the smell of fresh baked bread, by the idea of a cool breeze as I stand atop a mountain, by the idea of the color and scent of a beautiful flower. Stop and think. Stop for a moment and really enjoy something. Really take the time to hear things, to see things, not as little flits of something darting to-and-fro in our vision and fading fast from memory, but as a real thing of beauty. Some study or some scientist once said that most of the time we only see the “idea” of color. Our eyes send a signal to our brains and our brains save energy by matching the image up with things we already know. But the word “blue” does nothing to tell you about the beauty of the sky. It tells you nothing of the vast, incomprehensible depth of the ocean.

The language of the world speaks to us. God speaks to us. Always.

I was a little worried about five or ten minutes ago because I don’t want this blog to just be a parrot of Matthew Henry’s exhaustive commentary. I have to find my own voice and I have to remember to interpret these chapters and verses as they mean something to me. I can observe that by reading Genesis 8:14 we can learn that the waters covered the earth for one year and ten days. I can quote and cite the verses all day long. But the Bible is very readable, and Matthew Henry’s words are very accessible. No one needs me to tell them things that they can find elsewhere; no one needs me to share words that have already been written.

My voice is coming, and every day I write this I learn something new and my voice grows stronger. I wasn’t that excited about the flood story but now I am. I understand it a little better with Mr. Henry’s commentary and I find it appropriate for me today. Henry says, “The same hand that brings the desolation, must bring the deliverance.” God is always present, and through Him we find out difficulties and our solutions. But the flood did not recede in a day. Everything takes time, and we must have patience. We must get comfortable on our arks, and learn to enjoy life on the sea.

And when the waters of our troubles recede, we must not forget to give thanks, as Noah does. The first thing he does when he comes out is to build an altar to the Lord, and make an offering. God is with is in the good and the bad. He is not a conductor, orchestrating our ills and blessings in a traditional sense, as humans would understand. It seems more to me that God is the Language of the World, and the Language of the World is God. Every breath, every beat of our tiny human hearts, every movement of our dust-speck bodies, _____ God. There’s a verb there that I’m missing. It doesn’t exist in English and I’m not sure it exists in any language on earth. The closest word I can think of is one I’d forgotten: “grok.” Everything we do groks God.

“Grok” is impossible to define in English and probably in any human language. It can be felt and understood but not well defined. It is from the book Stranger in a Strange Land, and how appropriate that title seems to me now as I sit here, half-dazed and half-hypnotized, lost in some religious reverie, sitting at a desk with an open Bible. In the book, the word comes from the Martian language. It means “to love,” “to hate,” and many other things, but it mostly means “to drink.” Water is sacred to the Martians in the story, and indeed many spiritual traditions on earth, both old and new, revere the power of water. By drinking with another person, we share of ourselves, we bond. Humans do this whether we realize it or not: we make toasts and then immediately drink. We celebrate by drinking.

I hate leaving that above sentence unfinished because it was about to flow really well and be very beautiful, but it is better this way. I was originally looking for a preposition. I was going to say “is with,” or “is aligned with” or “connects with,” but none of those things work. I needed a word that combines separateness and oneness, that combines understanding with accepting and becoming. I needed a word that describes connection and unity while implying that nothing was ever disconnected in the first place. Grok is a beautiful word and an even more beautiful concept. I’m glad I remembered it. Scratch that. Somewhere, somehow, I can feel God smiling. I know that today was my day to remember this, and that through this task, He made it possible. He is with us and through us.

At the end of Genesis 8, in verse 22, God tells Noah… wait, no, God tells Himself,

“While the earth remains,

Seedtime and harvest,

Cold and heat,

Winter and summer,

And day and night

Shall not cease.”

Somehow, this a perfect way to wrap everything up today. The day and night, the change of seasons, the movement of the sun, moon, and stars… we can look at these things and see God’s presence. It is possible to look at these things and see natural laws and celestial mathematics, but even these are truths, part of the Language of the World. As I sit at this desk, the whole world is engaged in a beautiful dance with the universe. All the worlds and stars in the heavens dance to a silent song that echoes through the outer spheres and resonates in the hearts of men. There, within the chambers of the heart, vibrating in the confines of men’s souls… it is there you will find the power, the Being that we call God.

 

¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=8

Day 7

You know, I really hope when this goes live, that I can still find the font I like. (Update: Nope.)

My partner is resting in the other room. She still doesn’t know about this project because I don’t want to the pressure yet of her reading it. But this means I have to work quickly.

While doing some cleaning this past week, I found my copy of The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays by Albert Camus. Two confessions:

  1. I have not actually read any of the other essays because they are not nearly as exciting or as engaging as The Myth of Sisyphus.
  2. Even though I know he is French, I almost cannot help pronouncing his first name with a hard “T” sound and his last name as “CAY-muss.” Somehow, “Cah-MOO” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

But anyway, finding this book and reading it has helped me, at least partially, to resolve my crisis of faith by re-solidifying my position as an absurdist. For those not familiar, there are roughly three schools of philosophical thought when it comes to the meaning of life and the universe. I know there are probably more but I will break it down simply:

  1. Existentialism: There is some meaning to life/the universe.
  2. Nihilism: Nothing means anything.
  3. Absurdism: Who can tell?

This is basically a great oversimplification, as existentialism actually posits a more human- and individual-focused philosophy, and there are often more facets to nihilism… but for my purposes, this is sufficient.

Absurdism basically recognizes that man is or feels essentially alone in a confusing universe that appears to be devoid of meaning. The absurd condition is not an inherent property of the universe, nor is it a property of man, but rather it arises seemingly naturally from man’s existence within the universe. The absurd is what arises when man tries to find objective meaning and comes up with nothing. Camus writes that there are two ways of escaping this: hope, and suicide.

But neither is necessary! He says instead embrace the absurd, be comfortable with “those waterless deserts where thought reaches its confines.” Many try their best to escape, or to quit their lives and end the confusion, but Camus writes that “[t]he real effort is to stay there, rather, in so far as that is possible, and to examine closely the odd vegetation of those distant regions.” I just love his writing. If I knew French, I would read it in French.

Odd Vegetation

After beginning again The Myth of Sisyphus I was plunged back into awareness of the absurd and I reveled in it. I forgot what it felt like to be free. My entire crisis of faith revolved around my trying to escape the desert, but what I really needed to do was embrace it.

Do I believe in God? No. I am aware of God and I know that God exists in some form. But God is neither an escape nor a diversion for me. My particular spirituality, which I feel I will need to explain soon, is based on nothing but my personal experience. It works because it works for me. It does not help me escape absurdity because that is not my goal, but it does help me make the most of my life. Spirituality is important for me, but I’m happy to remember the absurd and the place that it has for my personal philosophy. I am happy to remember it, happy to stop clawing for hope and escape.

I am happy to bask in the desert.

Genesis 7

I feel like this is a chapter that I don’t need to talk a great deal about. I’m sure the Matthew Henry Commentary (who is that guy, anyway?) has plenty to say that has much more Biblical pertinence than my ramblings here. But regardless, here we have the beginning of the flood.

I read somewhere that the number “forty” was often used to simply mean “a big number.” This could possibly be the case. God tells Noah in Genesis 7:4 that He “will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights.”

Either way, that is a long time. So on whatever the ancient equivalent of February 17th was, “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11). This seems to correspond to the old Hebrew mythology I read about yesterday that describes the Earth floating in the midst of waters both above and below. Because in the real world… where would all this water come from? Where would it go afterwards? On the other hand, I think some scientific something-or-other just found a bunch of water trapped underground somehow. Or maybe that was oil. If I find what I’m thinking of I’ll come back and post a link.

But seriously. The Bible says that “all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered” (Genesis 7:19). Even Everest? Because that is a s***load of water.

Genesis 7 ends with Gen 7:24, where the Bible tells us that “the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days.”

I always heard the bit about the forty days and nights of rain, but I didn’t realize it was literally five months at sea. Noah gives Kevin Costner a run for his money.

Why the neck flaps?

“You son of a bitch! Let me out of this movie!” ¹

So God destroys all of man (and possibly those pesky giants) and “all living things which were on the face of the ground” (Genesis 7:23). Fun times!

I still think the Noah story is an important story but that it is mostly based on myth and speculation likely stemming from the fact that ancient peoples could see that at one point there had been water-dwelling creatures where there is now land. There may very well be some basis in fact, perhaps related to a filling of the Persian Gulf after the last ice age, but at this point it seems impossible to tell.

Also, my partner is up and about, and besides that I’ve said just about all I want to say today regarding Genesis 7. I’ll touch on the conclusion of the flood tomorrow and go from there. Soon, I plunge into uncharted Biblical territory. Thus far, everything has been fairly familiar. I’m excited to head into parts unknown (to me, anyway), and I hope you’re excited to join me!

Have a wonderful day, dear readers.

Peace be upon you.

¹ Waterworld, 1995 Universal Pictures, from http://moviecultists.com/2010/03/01/cult-movies-to-watch-waterworld/waterworld-kevin-costner-mariner/

Day 6

Part of the reason I don’t want to talk about this project with people, especially my partner, is because of a peculiar property of my psychology, wherein talking about things with others helps to relieve me of pressures or feelings of incompleteness. I seem to handle things best by expressing them, “venting” and talking about my emotions.

I don’t want to lose my drive to complete this project and part of me has a fear that I will not make it. This project, when seen to completion, will have taken over three years of my life and several thousand hours of my time.

The other thing that freaks me out, which I touched on yesterday, is this whole crisis of faith thing. I realized this morning just before I sat down to write this that just because I’m reading the Bible and immersing myself in Christian mythology dogma, that doesn’t mean that my previous memories and spiritual experiences are false.

"Why? Because I'm a black man!"

The thirteenth apostle reminds us that “God hates it when it’s referred to as ‘mythology.’” ¹

I have a feeling that at some point during this lengthy process, I will be reading other spiritually-focused works, such as the Bhagavad Gita or books on different Native American faiths in order to maintain my sense of balance. As it stands now… honestly, the Bible freaks me out.

I have a hard time not taking it literally, perhaps because so many vocal and outspoken “Christians” do so. I have a hard time feeling like it is okay to see the book as metaphor. I just read a pamphlet from the Jehovah’s Witnesses that discusses interfaith organizations and how they seem to deny the Bible. They cite Matthew 15:14, where Jesus calls other religious leaders “blind guides.” They also cite verses from 2 Corinthians 6, where Paul tells Christians “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” His reasoning? “What does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?” I would argue a great deal. Hope for the future, the ability to love, live and respect other human beings, a desire for safety and security… many things do humans have in common with other humans, no matter what our beliefs.

In Romans 10, Paul says that “Because of not knowing the righteousness of God,” people are “seeking to establish their own.” The JW pamphlet cites Matthew 7:21-23 to say that without God, people’s faith is “in vain.”

I have a difficult time reconciling this. I don’t understand how God can create all these cultures or allow them to exist if he’s going to send more than two-thirds of humans on earth to hell. This just does not make sense to me or seem fair. I don’t f***ing get it, and it frustrates me and freaks me out. According to most Christians I’ve ever talked to, the more than 4 billion people in the world that do not accept Christ as their savior are going to go to hell. Part of me wants to scream right now.

The Jehovah’s Witness pamphlet likens the Bible to a blueprint which “contains God’s standards.” I guess this is why I’m reading this, so I can better understand what that means.

Genesis 6

Genesis 6 describes some things that are explained in much greater detail in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, so much of this is not terribly clear. For example, it states that “sons of God saw the daughters of men” and took them as wives (Genesis 6:2).

The Matthew Henry commentary on Genesis 6, accessed via biblestudytools.com, interprets the “sons of God” as preachers or holy men, saying that they took wives based solely on physical attractiveness and allowed themselves to be corrupted along with the rest of the world.

This interpretation says that the “giants” in Genesis 6:4 are simply large, powerful men of renown. I like the explanation found in the Book of Enoch, where the “sons of God” are corrupted angels, and the giants are their half-mortal offspring. Of course, there’s no record of this on the earth as far as I can tell, but it sure makes for a kick-ass story.

So in Genesis 6:5 God realizes that man is continually evil, that evil fills the hearts of men, and in Genesis 6:6-7, the Lord laments.

“And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth…”

— Genesis 6:6, NKJV

The Lord vows to destroy mankind. So if God is omniscient, He would have seen this coming, right? If anyone’s read the graphic novel Watchmen, this reminds me of Dr. Manhattan. He can see all possible timelines, he can see the past and future simultaneously, and when asked why he didn’t intervene to prevent a catastrophe, he remarks that he is “a puppet that can see the strings.”

God knew the Fall of Man had to happen to Adam; He knew where it would lead… but when the time came, the Lord was filled with sadness nonetheless. God sees Noah and realizes that Noah, of all people, “was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

And now we get to the ark. There are lots of interesting theories and commentary on the ark. I’m just going to go ahead and copy this section from Wikipedia:

“The story of the flood closely parallels the story of the creation: a cycle of creation, un-creation, and re-creation, in which the ark plays a pivotal role.[20] The universe as conceived by the ancient Hebrews comprised a flat disk-shaped habitable earth with the heavens above and Sheol, the underworld of the dead, below.[21] These three were surrounded by a watery “ocean” of chaos, protected by the firmament, a transparent but solid dome resting on the mountains which ringed the earth.[21] Noah’s three-deck ark represents this three-level Hebrew cosmos in miniature: the heavens, the earth, and the waters beneath.[22] In Genesis 1, God created the three-level world as a space in the midst of the waters for humanity; in Genesis 6-8 (the flood story) he fills that space with waters again, saving only Noah, his family and the animals with him in the ark.[20]” ²

So Noah’s ark represents rebirth and recreation. Another article states that the universality of the flood story around the whole world could possibly be because of people finding seashells and fish fossils very far inland or on mountains.

Criticisms of the literalism of Noah’s ark and the flood story revolve around a few major points, such as: how did all the animals and people spread back over the whole world? and how did animals and people reproduce without producing horribly inbred offspring? I suppose in either case you could simply say, “God did it,” but that’s rarely been a good enough explanation to me, and it often feels like a hand-waving justification.

Regardless, it is impossible to deny that the story of the flood and the ark has connections and parallels to myths and legends the world over, such as Hinduism, Mesopotamian mythology, and Greek mythology. I reiterate my point that stories employed to teach a lesson are more effective than the lesson itself, because human beings connect emotionally with narratives. If God wanted this lesson to be taught, then it seems reasonable that before the writing of the Bible, the narrative would still exist in some form or forms in the rest of the world.

Interested readers will direct their attention to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flood_myth if they wish to learn more or compare flood stories from around the world.

I myself am tired and hungry, in need of food, a haircut, and a shower. My partner and I have been together for six months today, and it is an occasion which we will be celebrating this evening. I am looking forward to it. I think I’ll stop at a nearby Christian bookstore and see if I can find her a little present. I would usually buy her a book or something but she needs support, not more things to consume her limited time.

Anyway, thank you for reading. I was going to apologize for the short post today but I realized it’s still three typed pages and almost 1500 words long. So nevermind, haha. I hope your day is as good as mine, if not better.

Peace be upon you.

¹ Pic credit: Dogma, 1999, Lionsgate Films and View Askew Productions, from http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/hxBY50A0Sqo/hqdefault.jpg

² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah%27s_ark