Thursday, March 27, 2014

Miletos and Nicaea

While on television, Russell Crowe [the late Admiral William Crowe 1925-2007 -- an adopted son of Oklahoma whom years ago I saw on TV exclaim "Oklahoma is not forty-nine on anybody's list" -- pronounced it cra-ow with a short a, not crow with a long o as Russell does -- whoever thought of a four-star from Oklahoma! I always admired him as something of an intellectual, unlike most of the retard admirals I knew, and he served as ambassador to the UK too] talks about the film Noah (there's a lost antecedent for you) and as Russell talks I visualize ancient times as the Bible sage awkwardly melds the “J” and “P” (or was it “J” and “E”) stories of the Great Flood, and my mind is on two books I just ordered about the human condition and ancient human origins. 

My old Navy buddy (truthfully, I’m the old one, he’s not 75 yet though maybe close, but I remember when he was 32 and I was 36 and he was smarter than me then too, smarter than I) is an intellectual and thinker with a keen mind for political and literary things. Well-rounded, he reads a fiction book and a nonfiction book. If I were to do that, Bubba wouldn't be such a dull boy. I pretty much read only nonfiction for a couple of reasons, one being that my brain’s alert time is short each day/week and is spent (yes, that’s the word, spent, worn out, used up, exhausted) reading and preparing for something such as Bible study, Sunday school, or yet another one of my nonsensical pulpit ramblings, in the world of scholars who seem to know everything, but certainly more than I -- that is where I must wander as I prepare, with the result that there's not much aware time for fiction. 

Fiction I can love, but I one don’t have time for it, two prefer short stories especially essay-length short stories to long novels, and three can get so buried in a novel’s story that I hate to see it end, hate to come out of it, really hate having to surface from a good tale like Midnight's Children. Or there's desolating despair on finishing it, as with The Road and Earth Abides. 

So, I don’t read much fiction. There are two bits of fiction on the floor at my feet here, both by Brad Leithauser, one is The Oldest Word for Dawn a book of his poems. The other is Darlington’s Fall about a boy then man named Darlington, a novel written in verse, poetry, it’s both interesting and -- well, fun. Darlington sits here unfinished even though I was enjoying it. One needs to finish a novel, but one doesn’t need to finish a book of poetry, just pick it up and read a bit now and then, as I love doing with Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. There’s a Tomas poem that I especially enjoy about lovers on a cold winter night, turning out the light. 

Mixing fiction, verse, and patience, yesterday after mentioning Goethe, reading Faust which is free online. Free to read, not free verse. Well, my German's not good enough to read Goethe so I read an English translation of his Faust Part I which is a two-hour-read play in rhyming verse about Faust, Mephistopheles and Gretchen (or Margaret). It goes through Scene XXV and Gretchen is saved while Dr. Faust seems stuck with the demon. Although I've read that some versions of the legend have Faust saved by Margaret (Gretchen)'s loving intervention. That would seem as trite and story-spoiling as the dummies who didn't understand Mark so felt compelled to add more after 16:8. Quite frankly, you can have Faust although the person who did the translation did a wondrous work with the verse, and it's stacked so can be read very fast and still followed closely. A lot of good quotes in there, although I did not see "nothing is worth more than this day," and I'm not about to read more of Goethe, Faust was plenty even though he's given credit for being the German intellectual second only to Luther

Evidently, Goethe did say it though -- at least, the quotable quote appears in every list of his quotes that I scanned.

Whoever sorts through my stuff after sprinkling me here and there in accord with my wishes can have all my books. Better, put them in a church library where nothing ever gets read but the conscience is salved because nothing gets thrown in the trash. That's the way with most priests' supposedly impressive enormous personal library. 

So my two new books coming, one because of yesterday’s intriguing delanceyplace selection on Miletos from Europe Between the Oceans 9000 BC-AD 1000 by Barry Cunliffe. The other is a book Amazon recommended along with Cunliffe, After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC by Steven Mithen. Am I recommending these two books? Not at all, I just thought they may help, even enrich, my appreciation of early human development and possibly even help my understanding of the evolution of our spiritual, religious side, how we became what we are and how we came to believe what we believe, and come to believe it so firmly that (notwithstanding Hebrews 11:1) we come to regard it as knowledge instead of faith, and don't like for it to be challenged. Nevertheless, seek the truth, come whence it may, cost what it will.

That’s an object of EfM also, especially years Three and Four, reading and discussing to understand the evolution of our Christian faith to become what it is today. And, for the thinkers in the group, to realize that Christianity is still on its way someplace, hindered only by piles of old carved in stone ruins that we call creeds. Maintaining at least a measure of orthodoxy, they nevertheless remind me of Miletos, once a thriving coastal city but "today a gaunt ruin, isolated by marshlands that have crept relentlessly seawards, a victim partly of changing sea levels and partly of erosion from the flanking hills left bare by overgrazing." Yep, that's us.

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