14 January 2010

Inhabiting the Divine Aesthetic

What I choose to call the Divine aesthetic is essentially minimalist, readily comprehensible, and devoid of pretense. I recall a man once, who when asked what his accomplishments might be, said that he collected views. Those who thought that he was making an obscure reference to an accumulation of paintings or photographs, perhaps even picture postcards from a life-time of holidays, were wide of the mark. The old fellow simply meant that when he climbed a hill, or turned a bend in a country lane, or watched a sunset over the water, he appreciated the beauty of what he saw, and he absorbed the moment with subdued joy. They then asked him, "yes, but what did you do with your life?" He thought for a moment, having misunderstood the intent of the question, and chimed, "I said thank you for those views."

The Divine aesthetic is much like this example. Nothing is accomplished, yet here is where life is lived. We prosper in the gift of our own creation, and not in the illusion of our attainments.

God collects a bit of dust, and makes a man. Man responds by gathering a bit of dust and making a pot.

That was, possibly, the birth of hutzpah. Better the man had said "thank you" for his life, and inhabited the Divine aesthetic without guile or motive.

13 January 2010

Arab Muslims Were Better Colonizers Than Europeans

In 1187 the Kurd Salakh e-Dinn (Saladin) defeated the combined Crusader army near the hills seen in the distance. Photographed from Korazin, near the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). This defeat was a noteworthy bad hair day for the Roman religion, and the European attempt at colonizing the Holy Land. Many Arabs consider it a victory of Islam over conquering Europeans. All of which is very interesting, considering that the Arab world was, before the rise of Islam, confined to one place--the Arabian peninnsula.
Now how did it come to be that so many non-Arab countries and cultures ended up being called "Arab" countries? Why are non-Arabs from Moroccan Berbers to Egyptians to Syrians and Lebanese Phoenicians all called "Arabs" today? Well, let me tell you.
Outsiders, conquering Arabs, did what the Crusaders did, but with one big difference: the Muslim Arabs were much more succesful colonizers than the European Catholic colonizers. And you know what they say--the victor writes the history.


11 January 2010

See Shells by the Sea Shore

I am frequently to be found collecting shells by the sea shore in Israel. These specimens were found by a firing range which extends to within a few meters of the water. Among the cockles, whelks, limpets and murex, they caught my eye. They'd be real collectors items if only they weren't so common.

09 January 2010

RODS & STAVES: Being There when it counts: Psalm 23

The Lord is my sheperd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for He is with me; His Sceptre and His Support, they comfort me. Psalm 23

I took a close look at the Hebrew text of this Psalm, and decided that I might translate it a little differently. Not that rod and staff are bad translations, as much as, perhaps, they are less complete as conveyers of the nuances of intent than other words. I like sceptre and support better than rod and staff. A sceptre is a symbol of the power of the throne of God; and God supports His people, Jew or Gentile, with an outstretched hand, which though unseen, will catch us when we begin to fall, steady us on uncertain or hazardous journeys.

Or maybe:
"Your power and authority, and your concerned loving kindness, they protect and sustain me in all travail."

Best would be two or three English words footnoted in the text to explain each Hebrew word, but then, that would make a cumbersome book that scholars might love, but nobody else could easily read.

There is a Being There, when being there really counts, and that is the point.

Paw Print in the Sand

Ah, winter! Walking on the seashore in my shirt-sleeves, on a clear, breezy day, with the snow-covered peak of Mount Kheirmon off in the far distance. Some people dress according to the calender, so I pass people on the footpaths in coats and hats. Others dress by feel, and thus the joggers in shorts and T-shirts. Some check out the weather report--they usually tie a sweater or jacket around the waist or neck, just in case.

Then there're the romping canines, oblivious to anything but the joys of running naked in the sand, and chasing crabs and surf froth, and sniffing dead jelly fish. Hot, cold, wet or dry, nose to the wind, and off he flys.

Its a Dog's Life for me!