Archive for the ‘ancient history’ Category

The Teacher

June 1, 2017

Over there in the middle of the world there seems to be a controversy about who is in charge of the place.

There are some people who will not accept the fact that the Jewish people have a very long history there; their ancient saga originated in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. So now that the Jewish people have crowbarred their way back into that land strip, which they call Israel while many Arabs and Muslims call it Palestine, we do have a problem.

It is a very old problem, and yet it is new every morning.

Gutnbg

On this morning, I contemplate the words of a Teacher who claims to have been king over Jerusalem several millennia ago. This king/teacher is known by the name Solomon; he is reported to have been a very wise man.

Solomon’s notes reveal that he wrote down such thoughts as this:

“That which has been is that which will be,

and that which has been done is that which will be done.

So there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one might say,

‘See this, it is new’?

Already it has existed for ages

Which were before us.”

Now this wisdom is somewhat of riddle, because as I tap this musing, and my own musing along with it, out on this keyboard, I realize that there is some contradiction here between what Solomon intended to say way back in the mists of time, and what I experience here and now in the world as it exists in 2017 c.e.

Because this laptop could not have existed during the reign of King Solomon. So, there is something–this laptop–which I can say is, in fact, new.

Electronic devices did not exist in Solomon’s time.

So, does this discrepancy call into question the validity of Solomon’s message to me? Is the Wise king contradicting the obvious truth of technological development? Is he flat-out wrong about my silly little MacAir being “nothing new” under the sun?

Did his successors go online to discover his wise sayings?

Did Jeroboam use Windows? Was Rehoboam a Mac guy?

Is that what they were fighting about after Solomon died?

No, no, no and no.

Nevertheless, I am reading the wisdom of Solomon as it has been passed down through the ages in the Bible. His wisdom-seeking questions and pronouncecments, as found in the book of Ecclesiastes, arrive at my historical doorstep as a book of the Bible.

Now we all know the Bible is controversial.  Many people consider it to be the Word of God, while many other people think it’s just an old history book with a lot of errors and contradictions.

I say it is a valid history of our Creator’s plan to bust into human consciousness during a certain period of time, with ecclesiastical wisdom that is applicable for all time.

Modern folks who disdain the Bible often think that we believers are just naive, gullible, and subject to the manipulations of religious leaders who want to use us sheepish believers for their own financial gain or power.

Bible-believers generally accept the Bible in faith. What they don’t understand about it, they just chalk up to the possibility that we cannot figure everything out, so at some point, for the sake of getting on with life, we just need to believe the revelation that we accept as a basis for navigating the challenges of this life.

Smart people, cerebral people, on the other hand have to get everything figured out. They generally analyze  our ancient fuddy-duddy faith proclamations  to death, and relegate them to the realm of mythology, tall tales and wishful thinking.

But here’s the real deal: What smart people call cognitive dissonance, people of faith  call “faith.”

Believers understand that they can’t figure out this whole thing called “life” so they are willing to submit themselves to the legacy of faith that has been presented to them since childhood, or since crashing at the bottom of their own sinful limitations and cognitive confusion.

We’ll never get the cosmos all figured out: at some point out there in this never-never land, we have to believe in something, something “out there” that can carry us through the mountains and valley’s of this life.

Now maybe smart folks don’t need faith because they think they’ve got it all figured out.

Whatever.

I think that, somehow, this is what Solomon is getting at. Consider this observation that Solomon wrote:

“Also, the sun rises and the sun sets;

And hastening to its place it rises there again.”

Okay, so Solomon obviously had jotted this ditty down before Copernicus and Galileo came along and proved that the sun does not move, but rather it is the earth moving around the sun that produces our daily sunrises and sunsets.

Does Solomon’s ignorance about the actual machinations between sun and earth negate the quality of his wisdom?

No.

That is my statement of faith about Solomon’s wisdom. We know what he’s saying; it’s not rocket science. The Hubble had not been invented yet, but wisdom is as old as the hills of Judea.

So I’m not going to analyze a thousands-of-years-old nugget of wisdom to death, simply because Copernicus and Galileo figured out our solar system and subsequent scientific data has confirmed their observations.

Solomon was a wise king, even if he did have the sun/planets physical relationship turned around backwards.

We all have our blind spots; not a one of us sees the whole picture.

So, as I explore further in Solomon’s Ecclesiastes, I see that, a few sentences later in the first chapter of Solomon’s Ecclesiates, he writes this:

“All things are wearisome;

Man is not able to tell it.”

I mean, I’m tired of thinking about it, y’all.

Which is to say, we’ll never get it all figured out. At some point, we just need to stop trying to decipher the DNA and the Cosmos and the Pangeatic records etcetera etcetera, and just go with life itself.

Here’s an example from the conclusion of the 2nd chapter of Ecclesiastes:

“There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good (even if it contributes to climate change -ed.). This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.

For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without God?

For to a person who is good in God’s sight, God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner God has given the task of gathering and collecting so that (s)he may give to one who is good in God’s sight. This too is vanity and striving after the wind.”

And if you’re still wondering what it is I’m trying to say here, I will release you from my wandering thoughts with this ecclesiastical proverb from cousin Bob, who is, with his 20th-century wisdom, not unlike Solomon:

“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”

My conclusion: Just Believe, and get on with the business of life, making use of what you find helpful and productive, because we’ll never figure it all out.

King of Soul

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We all live in a Blueish Bussarine

April 13, 2017

It’s amazing what we humans have done with techno throughout the ages of time

Way back in the mists of anthropological mystery some Croation CroMagnon got a bright idea to knock off the angular faces of a stone. He kept chipping away at it until the thing was more or less round; it looked so cool he decided to make another one. Then he got the history-rocking idea  to punch a hole in the middle of each stone and  then connect the two together with a wooden pole.

Next thing you know he’s wheeling his stuff around on a cart, gathering his food a la cart. This was definitely an improvement.

Human history rolled along at a quicker pace after that.

Eons of time went by. Then a while back ole Isaac Watts put mind and metal together with the the potentialities of heat and water.  in an advantageous arrangement. that became know as the steam engine and so it wasn’t long before we homo sapiens were using the thing to power everything up. Some guy came along and slapped that steam engine onto a cart with a set of wheels and whammo we humans had ourselves a powered vehicle for purposes of transporting ourselves and all our stuff.

Wow!

Henry Ford happened along and he paired up assembly line strategy with mass production productivity. Next thing you know, everybody and their brother is out driving around on Sunday afternoon in a Model T or Model A.

Soon afterward, some other folks come along and did their version of Ford’s world-changing whirligig, so then we had wheeling around not only Models A and T but also models GM and MG and model GTO and BMW and model ’57 Chevy and ’65 Mustang and so forth  and so on.

All along the way, these fossil-fuel-powered motorized mobilizers were extending their influence into the other elements such as air and water.

Airplanes in flight, Boats on water, millions of them puttering along with their enginary cousins everywhere here there and yon and all over the world.

In 1966, a scant year after the historic ’65 Mustang made its mark on the prairies and the dusty deserts along Route 66, the Beatles came up with a new idea, the yellow submarine.

“We all live in a yellow submarine,” they sang.

This is a fascinating concept.  The Beatles never stated it blatantly in their song, but the idea is this: in our evolving 20th-century consciousness we can surmise that this planet–even as huge as it is–is nevertheless a closed ecological system, not unlike a submarine.

Another expression of this idea is seen at Disney World in what the Disneyites call “Spaceship Earth.”

While our ancestors thought of the earth as somehow infinite in its distances and its capacities, we 21st-century world-dwellers are understanding that what comes up must come down. Pollution up, pollution down. Carbon up, carbon down, and everything (as the stuff spewing from our exhaust pipes) that goes up eventually comes down. All that stuff we spew into  the air and all that stuff we bury in the landfills, it doesn’t just magically go away.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is a fallacy that perpetuates our fantasy of an earth that possesses infinite capacity.

We the people who inhabit the so-called “developed world” are now starting to take this emissions stuff seriously. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, the so-called “third world” and “developing nations,” those folks are trying to develop their economies and their infrastructures under the constraints of our post-modern enlightened consensus about us all living in a limited-capacity closed ecosystem–a sort of yellow submarine.

In our present world, India seems to be in a developmental category that is somewhere between “developed world” and “third world.”

As I was strolling along yesterday on a high-tech promenade of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I lingered to appreciate this old disabled bus.

It used to be a carbon-emitting transportation machine in a third world country, but now it has morphed into an ice cream booth in our hyper-entertained theme park of USA inc.

I would like to  thank the Artist(s) of India, whoever he or she was who decorated this bus. Nice work!

And I would like to commend the Disney person(s) who saw the historic value of this work of art. To me, it represents the idea that we all live in a blueish bussarine, and not everything that wears out must be thrown away.

Glass Chimera

from Ridiculous to Sublime

September 28, 2016

A couple of nights ago, I briefly tuned into that  greatly over-hyped debate. Donald was blathering about Hillary’s emails and she was going on and on about his failure to release tax returns.

Nothing new here, just more of the same old same old blah blah.

So I ditched it, and went back to what I had been doing before, because, I thought, this is ridiculous.

Well then a day or two rolls by.

This afternoon, while listening to WDAV on the radio, my soul was stirred profoundly by the hearing of an amazing selection of music. And I found myself wondering, what is it about this music that moves me so much?

I don’t know, but I can tell you one thing. This music it is sublime.

What is sublime? you may wonder. I cannot adequately explain to you what the word sublime means, but I can show you where the meaning is clearly demonstrated if you will listen to this:

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOofwWT3Edc

As the changing drama within the music builds up, pay particular attention to these     minute-time points in the video: 2:58, 4:00, 5:55 and 8:32.

I recently read something about how or why  this artistic dynamism moves us so much. In his book, A Secular Age,

  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002KFZLK2/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Charles Taylor says . .

“. . . such art can serve to disclose very deep truths which in the nature of things can never be obvious . . .”

This music is, after all physical analysis is said and done, merely a pounding of wood and metal beneath the orchestrated hands of trained men. How can it be, then, that it moves me so?

To try to understand why or how, you might as well try to comprehend how or why, over two centuries ago, some men and women like you and me had a luxurious building constructed and then  walked around on its mosaic floor like they owned the place and then later a bunch of other stuff happened and things changed and it got covered up for a long time and then one day some other people came along and dug it up and said . . .

“. . .well, gollee, what do you know about that?”

“Gosh, Jeb, it’s a mystery to me.”

RomanAthens

Glass Chimera

The Narrative of the Ancient !con

February 20, 2016

Statu!con

In this episode

we find  PMUnicomm inquiring among the projection heads as to what is going to happen next and how should we proceed from this point and what strategy should we devise to beat the numbers because they be indicating correction ahead and NIRPy deadends between buyin dips and sellin peaks and rockofdebt and hardplace of reality, so Arioch chiefofstaff say to PMUniCom:

BLS-BS say UnEmp be way down and thats good but LabrPart don’t match up to historical precedental expectations so we brought in DaProphit to make recommendation for FEd shells to be moved thus and such so game can go on and broncos can beat panthers and bulls chase bears off into sunset. So here be DaProphit and he say:

You, O PMUnicomm, were dreaming and behold there was a single great !con on your !phone, which was large and of extraordinary splendor and it was standing in front of you and its number of followers was awesome, like in datrillions.

And you saw, O PMUnicomm, the head of the !con was made of silvergold, its breast and arms of ironsteel, its belly ass and thighs of assets, its legs of stokbond, and its feet partly made of toxi and partly made of asset.

You were like this is awesome what the hell is it and while you were grokking it a rock was cut but not with human hands because the hand was busy writing on the wall and the rock suddenly smashed the feet of the !con to smithereens and the toxi and the assets and the stokbond and the ironsteel and the silvergold came tumblin down and humpty couldn’t put the dumpty back together again. But the rock that struck the !con became a great mountain and filled the earth.

And as you watched, PMUnicomm, the credits began to roll on your !device and it was time to find another fluffup.

Glass Chimera

Between Jerusalem and Damascus

January 29, 2016

JerGoPeace

Along the regions of the Jordan River valley, about three thousand and twenty year ago, there was a war going on between two descendants of King David. Asa king of Judah, and Baasha king of Israel, were contending for two different regions within the land that had formerly been, in one brief, shining moment of history, Solomon’s united domain. This situation might have been, then between two Hebrew monarchs, a little bit like what they have today in Israeli domains between, say, Likud and Labor. Or maybe not, anyway. .

The dispute was more about bloodshed then, more about politics today.

So in the course of Israeli history about three thousand and twenty years ago, Baasha king of Israel (based in Shechem) went up against Judah (based in Jerusalem). Towards that end, Baasha built a fort in Ramah, just a little ways northwest of Jerusalem, in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to collaborate with Asa king of Judah.

Then Asa took all the silver and the gold which were left in the treasuries of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and the treasuries of the king’s house, and put them into the hands of his servants, so that they could deliver those precious goods  to Benhadad, king of Aram, who lived in Damascus.

Thus King Asa of Judah was was proposing a treaty between himself and Benhadad, that is–between Judah and Aram, or as we might think of it today–between the Jews and the Syrians.

Asa was saying to the Syrian king, hey look, I have sent you a present of silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so that he will get the hell out of my face and leave us alone over here in Jerusalem.

Well guess what, Benhadad listened to King Asa,  and so he sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of northern Israel.

When Baasha heard about it, he withdrew from his southern position at Ramah, and ceased fortifying it.

Then King Asa made a proclamation to all Judah, and they carried away the stones and timbers that Baasha had used to fortify Ramah. And King Asa used the building materials to build Geba and Mizpah.

Thus we see that not much has changed in the last three thousand years, pertaining to how peoples settle their disputes, except nowadays it’s more about concrete and steel than about stones and timbers. And nowadays how likely would it be that the Judean entity, lead by Benjamin (Netanyahu) would ally itself with a Damascus-based warlord such as Assad?

As for the other events of Israeli/Palestinian territories, are they not written in the annals of Semitic history?

Smoke

Sukkot, Hawaiian style

September 28, 2015

About 3000 years ago, Moses led his people, the Hebrews, out of Egypt. The people had been oppressed under Pharoah’s enslavement for a long time.

Their need to bust out of oppression had came to a certain fullness, and so Y_H the Lord appointed Moses to direct them out. By fleeing Egyptian oppression, they escaped slavery.

But their newfound freedom was no walk in the park; they soon found themselves in what seemed like a never-ending arid land of deserts and perilously adverse wilderness.

During that new phase of their development as a people, Y_H the Lord gave Moses instructions and laws that would enable them to live together as an independent people, and ultimately establish themselves among the nations.

Their God-given set of laws included the well-known–now infamous–Ten Commandments. But those commands were only the first of many, many more laws that numbered more than 600.

Among that long collection of principles for healthy, spiritual living, was an instructive celebration called Sukkot, also known as Succoth, the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths.

The Sukkot was a celebratory commemoration by which Y_H ensured that they would not forget the Egyptian oppressions from which they had recently escaped.

Instructions given in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus include an annual arrangement, during harvest time, of leaves and branches to form numerous huts as temporary dwelling places for each family. The Hebrews would, by living in these tabernacles (sometimes called “booths”), call to remembrance the poverty and oppression from which they had escaped through their Exodus from Egypt.

In subsequent history, the Hebrews came to be known as Jews, because, many centuries later, their last vestige as a landed nation (until 1948) had been established in the land called Judea, along the Jordan River.

Some Jews and Christians, even today, observe the Feast of Succoth ceremonially by constructing and camping in palm-thatched huts such as those Hebrews of old might have done in the wilderness of Sinai.

I have never seen such a hut or tabernacle, but I have read about it in the Old Testament. I have also, from time to time, heard or read of Jews and/or Christians who still celebrate the Feast of Sukkot in this way.

A few days ago, I was reminded of Succoth while visiting the big island called Hawaii.

On the upper slopes of the volcano Mauna Kea, I saw what appeared to be a kind of hut or tabernacle that resembles the Succoth structures of ancient days.

A group of zealous Hawaiians known as We Are Mauna Kea had constructed this structure:

Protst2

The Hawaiians with whom I spoke there called the hut a Hale (Ha-lay),  built by human hands to commemorate their heritage of regarding the Mauna Kea volcano as a sacred place. The sacred designation of the place is now imperiled by construction of massive buildings on the peak. The large structures–some already built and others proposed–are used for purposes of scientific observation and electromagnetic data-gathering.

As I pondered this Hawaiian Hale hut, I was reminded of the Succoth hut in the ancient Hebrew scriptures.

Methinks there is something fundamentally human going on here, between the ancient Hebrew Succoth tabernacle and the legacy of  Hawaiian Hale to revere Mauna Kea.

I’ll call it, in both cultures, “wanting to get back to our roots.”

I’d like to think that Alex Haley, author of “Roots”, would agree with me. “Roots” is about African huts and heritage.

The purpose of Sukkot is remembrance of past slavery, and deliverance from those oppressions. The Hebrews were delivered from slavery, and they should never forget it.

Everybody know the Jews are unique in the history of world cultures. Here is one reason why:

The Jews, with help from Y_H the Lord, were one of the first people-groups in the world that was able to effectively retain, preserve and extend their history and their worship of God through the ages. Part of that enduring oral/written/celebratory heritage is this Succoth practice, established for purposes of not forgetting the past–not forgetting the “oppression from which we were delivered.”

But the Jews are not the only people who should remember the sacred elements of their past.

Likewise, the Hawaiian Hale pictured above represents, it seems to me, a similar inclination to call forth the people’s identity with their ancient culture, to remember “who we are and where we came from.”

And maybe of little bit of “Don’t mess with us!”

WhitSton

Glass half-Full

458 B.C., when Iranians and Jews worked together

June 20, 2015

The God of Providence sees to it that his people have opportunity for historical renewal when it becomes necessary.

Such is the lesson that this Christian believer distills from my reading of a scholarly treatise in biblical history and theology, written by Kyong-Jin Lee: The Authority and Authorization of Torah in the Persian Period,  (Peeters 2011)

Now I am no scholar. However, I am a student of history; I have appreciated this book, and managed to learn from it, even though it was written mainly for academic scholars.

Professor Lee explores the working relationship between 5th-century BCE Achaemenid rulers and the the local priests whose leadership legitimatized Persian channels of authority throughout their vassal countries.

Following well-worn paths of scholarly research, Kyong-Jin Lee examines several case studies in which the ancient Persian kings and their appointees consistently worked within pre-existing channels of local authority, religious and political, to collectively maintain a Pax Persicus. Her exegesis reveals a modus operandi of very practical Persian administrations. Regional satrapies, appointed by the Achaemenid King, generally sought to understand how each vassal state had habitually operated religiously and politically. Then the dutiful satraps  acted in an informed manner to legislate effectively. Utilizing native leadership, the Achaemenids would work to construct productive channels for effective localized administrations. Thus a network of King-appointed priests or governors worked to maintain peace and order throughout the Persian empire.

Through Kyong-Jin Lee’s careful analysis of steles and documentary fragments from Egypt and Asia Minor antiquity, a consistently Persian legislative approach to governing emerges for the reader. It is inclusive, cooperative and ultimately pragmatic. Her chosen precedent case studies help the reader gain understanding about  the main object of Lee’s study: the working relationship between king Artaxerxes and his emissary to the Jews of Jerusalem, Ezra the scribe. About ~458 BCE.

This Christian reader has little experience navigating the meticulous academic exegeses of such scholars as Peter Frei, Joseph Blenkinsopp, Lisbeth Fried, Juha Pakkala and other noteworthy scholars upon whose research Kyong-Jin Lee builds her case. Nevertheless, I must say:

Reading this book has been quite a learning experience for me.

Circa the 5th-century BCE, the rise of the Achaemenid Persians under the conquerors Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, brought about new political conditions favorable for the Jewish people, who had been deported to Babylon about seventy years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar. By an edict of the Persian king Artaxerxes, the Babylonian Jewish scribe Ezra was commissioned to travel to Judea on a fact-finding mission which eventually became a Persian-backed restoration of Jewish religious practice in Jerusalem. Imagine that. This development contributed not only to political stability in the Judean “beyond the River” satrapy, but incidentally also contributed (Providentially, from my faith perspective) to Torah, and later the written Bible.

So I find my 21st-century Biblical reader-self feeling cognitive gratitude to these Persian monarchs of long ago–Cyrus, Darius, Artaxerxes, whose benevolent rulership facilitated a rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and hence the continuing worship of Y__H. Therefore, this believer infers this historical lesson:

After a time of great trial–an era of captivity and chastisement under an oppressive (the Babylonian) empire– the God of history can arrange for the restoration of his people. He can raise up foreign potentates to facilitate their homeland aliyah, and thereby allow the ministrations of the loving, Providential God to continue among them through the ages, right up to the time of his supreme Sacrifice for the good of us all, such a time as then and now, when a Passover lamb would no longer be necessary.

Smoke