Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christ's Onkos

Like Origen, that brilliant theologian of the 3rd century Alexandrine church, I'm not much enamoured of a 'birth day' for the baby Jesus. Saying that only sinners like Herod and Pharoah celebrated their nativity is perhaps a little too harsh, and when Christianity went calling in Rome it could perhaps not escape one of the more innocuous facets of pagan culture - the Natal Day. The Emperor had his games, and we have ours. Pin the tail on the donkey, or dress the Christian in a deerskin and release the lions. You get the picture. Perhaps this why I always preferred the just-the-(disputed)facts Gospel of Mark and the majestic Heraclitian Logos of John to the Nativity scenes of Matthew and Luke. Lest I risk being called a heretic, this preference is purely aesthetical. To my eternal shame I never was much of a diaper changer.

The Comet Lovejoy appeared in the East yester-eve like some latterday Star of Bethlehem. It is itself a miracle which should have been vaporized in its close passage to our Sun (which it passed within less than half the distance to our moon). Astronomers were amazed when it resumed its trajectory towards the outlands of the solar system, probably quite smaller in it's mass but no less spectacular in it's tail. Proofed by the refiner's fire, it endures - a symbol perhaps of a remnant Christianity and its founder death and resurrection. Soon, Christ will be a Christmas day black hole whose existence can only be discerned only by observing the bodies that have fallen into his intense gravitational pull until even their light cannot escape. Perhaps that is the way it was meant to be.

Folks increasingly seem unable to get beyond the natural and moral theodicies that run interference between them and God. But the Light that came into the world was always in a Superposition in which the humanity and divinity of the Crucified were there all along. Like the two-slit experiment in quantum mechanics, there is always interference, but the light always shines somewhere.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Suffer the Turkeys

As Thanksgiving Night passes into Black Friday, I pause and reflect upon the proto-holiday as celebrated at the Plymouth Colony in 1621, and it's intitutionalization by Lincoln smack in the middle of this nations bloodiest chapter, the Civil War. I think of President Obama's pardoning of the two turkeys (one is a 'second', should the first one die of natural causes before somebody had the opportunity to chop its head off), which naturally leads to Ben Franklin's musings on the turkey being a more appropriate symbol for the newly minted nation than the bald Eagle (and here I second him). Finally, I think of Thomas Granger.

Poor Tom Granger was born into the Plymouth Colony some four or five years after that proto-Thanksgiving. Sixteen or seventeen years after that he would become the first person hanged in the Plymouth Colony, on or about September 8th, 1642.

He [Thomas Granger] was this year detected of buggery, and indicted for the same, with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey. Horrible it is to mention, but the truth of the history requires it. He was first discovered by one that accidentally saw his lewd practice towards the mare. (I forbear particulars.) Being upon it examined and committed, in the end he not only confessed the fact with that beast at that time, but sundry times before and at several times with all the rest of the forenamed in his indictment. And this his free confession was not only in private to the magistrates (though at first he strived to deny it) but to sundry, both ministers and others; and afterwards, upon his indictment, to the whole Court and jury; and confirmed it at his execution. And whereas some of the sheep could not so well be known by his description of them, others with them were brought before him and he declared which were they and which were not. And accordingly he was cast by the jury and condemned, and after executed about the 8th of September, 1642. A very sad spectacle it was. For first the mare and then the cow and the rest of the lesser cattle were killed before his face, according to the law, Leviticus xx.15; and then he himself was executed. The cattle were all cast into a great and large pit that was digged of purpose for them, and no use made of any part of them.

from Bradford's Of Plymouth Colony

In an act of speculative anthropology on the origins of turkey pardons in the Americas, I must note the date September 8th, and the fact that while all the cattle were paraded before the condemned teenager, no mention of fowl is made. That turkey got eaten. Count on it.

As for myself, I'll take a Honeybaked ham anytime.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Raptorially Splendiferous Left Arm

In August 991 the English led by the Earl Brythnoth suffered a defeat at the hands of Viking raiders at the Battle of Maldon. Brythnoth was an old man and his rag-tag militia stood no chance against the Vikings, professional killers and extortionists one and all. What survives of the anonymous early English poem begins with Brythnoth, presumably, ordering his men to drive off their horses in preparation for pitched battle against the raiders as they came across the causeway from Northey Island on the Blackwater River, then almost as an afterthought:

Whereat one of Offa's kin, knowing the Earl
would not suffer slack-heartedness,
loosed from his wrist his loved hawk;
over the wood it stooped: he stepped to battle.

(Translation from the old English by Michael Alexander, from the Penguin book of The Earliest English Poems.)

Offa will lead the Angles after Brythnoth falls, but it is his anonymous kinsman who lets his hawk fly free that foreshadows the disaster that will befall. To drive off the horses is a military expediency, to let fly the hawk is an acceptance that death comes stalking the battlefield. Offa's kinsman must have really loved that hawk to ride with it onto the brink of battle. After it ends badly for the English, the old Heroic Faith is roused by Bryhtwold, himself almost as old as Brythnoth, as he stands near the body of his Earl: "Courage shall grow keener, clearer the will, the heart fiercer, as our force faileth. Here our lord lies levelled in the dust."

One thousand and seven years later Matthew Botvinick and Jonathan Cohen conducted a famous experiment at the University of Pittsburgh wherein healthy subjects experienced a artificial arm made of rubber as being their own. The subjects felt the stroke on the artificial right arm while their own real arm was hidden from view. The phenomenal self-model has long been know to expand our sense of ourselves into space (think of driving a car, riding a skateboard, skiing etc...wherin you experience those things as an extension of self) but in the experiment the mind was tricked into expanding its PSM into a discrete, seperate physicality. And so we come know that a hawk on the fist is no different for Offa's kin. Even so, the hawk is on the fist. There is a contiguity that is not there in the Botvinick and Cohen experiment. Yet I conjecture that Offa's kinsman, if he had an out-of-body experience upon his death at Maldon, watched it through the eyes of his loved hawk

Two nights ago, after an intense manning session with a Red-tail hawk wherein you perambulate about house and yard, introducing the hawk to things it would rather not see (humans, dogs, daytime television) I fell asleep on the couch after I had put the hawk in its mews. I fell into that twilit world while reading my Amazon Kindle, and it was poised in my left hand some inches above my chest and equidistant from my face. On that cusp between consciousness and unconsciousness, I had the distinct feeling that the hawk was on my wrist. I was consoled that as he looked down he could not help but see a human dead to the world, like those hundreds of corpses on the Blackwater River. But I woke with a start before I could fly off in him.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who Told Thee Thou Wast Naked?

Chapter Three of Genesis relates the Fall of Man from that prelapsarian state of innocence and grace of Eden into sin and enmity betwixt man and his Creator in the World. An understanding according to the Letter, the literal proposition that Man purchased death with his transgression, is merely the other side of the eliminative materialistic coin. Let us call it reductionist religion, and leave the Fundamentalists to toss rocks back and forth with the Scientific Atheists who for their part are just as willfully ignorant of the anthropological insight that is at stake here. The anthropomorphic God who walks through the Garden in Eden during the breezy part of the day searching for the proto-man and finds him ashamed of his nakedness knows that the real sin is the first Self-Conscious Being has come into the world. Clearly, Yahweh's anger is such that we must acknowledge that this is something He might have believed should not be. Consciousness as epiphenomenon - a clear concordance between Scripture and Evolution.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Real German Genius

It's no surprise that it is impossible to find a serviceable English translation of Philipp Mainlander's Philosophy of Redemption. Americans are only too happy to flirt with Schopenhauer, to get randy with Nietzche, to fake it with Heidegger, but Mainlander's theology of the God who wants to's really too much. Mainlander believed that un-created God grew weary of contemplating his own beatus and created the world in time in order that he might extinguish himself with it. Mainlander mounted to the self inflicted hangman's noose in his own quarters on a stack of copies of the recently published Philosophy of Redemption. Let no one say he lacked the courage of his convictions - or the will to follow his Christology to its logical conclusion.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why Obama Should Tell Bibi Netanyahu to go Bugger Himself

Ah, good times. A time to throw red meat to the Neanderthals parked round their infotainment centers. A time for former house painters, CBS flunkies, and mean reverting oxycontin addicted Top 40 radio station DJ's to cry "Ecce Homo" - yes behold the Man-President who would trash the Zionist-American relationship. Throw in the Mormon whose college career consisted in dropping out of a Christology class at Yale Divinity School and the zoo keepers shine forth in all their populist 'fair-and-balanced' integrity and concern for Israel.

What the rabid right shares with Osama Bin Laden is the view that the President is somehow an apostate Muslim. Just look at that name for Chrissake. Yet this is important. It is an ingress for us into Girard's Mimetic Theory of Violence - a characteristic of which is that the antagonists increasingly resemble each other and mirror the others' hatred. One of my reservations about the Girardians, however, concerns how little space they've devoted to comparing the similiarities in the bizarre love/hate triangle of the three great monotheistic faiths - except to hint at some vague triumphalism for Christianity and its concern for the victim.

On first glance at the picture above it would perhaps be easy to mistake it for one of Al-Queda's 1998 embassy bombings in Tanzania or Kenya. In fact, it is a picture of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem after it's bombing by the Irgun in 1946 with the tacit knowledge of the Haganah and the Jewish Agency. Irgun and the JA would of course, produce two Israeli Prime Ministers - Menachem Begin and David Ben-Gurion, the former actually being in on the plot and the latter having knowledge of it. Yet Americans could gnash their teeth and wring their hands over the likes of Arafat, who merely mirrored Begin's and Irgun's 'freedom fighting' tactics. Incidentally, the King David Hotel bombing still has the distinction of being the single deadliest act of terrorism inside of Israel, and it was committed by Jewish terrorists. But one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, as Bibi Netanyahu was still eager to point out when he attended a 60 year anniversary of the bombing in 2006 and sought to morally differentiate the Irgun, Israel, himself, from equivalency with the Palestinean (as in ARABS) 'terrorists'. Bibi and all the rest of the Irgun apologists truly think they did nothing wrong. By the logic of Irgun and Israel, which commemorates the site with a plaque not as a tragedy, but as a stepping stone to Israeli statehood two years subsequent, every Palestinean (ARAB) act of terrorism that might eventuate in a Palestinean state is LEGITIMATIZED. If Obama is to be an honest broker, he must rub Netanyahu's face in the shit-stew no less than Hamas or the figment that remains of the PLO.

Monday, May 16, 2011

An Exasperating White Dwarf

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven of afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark."
Stephen Hawking (2011)

"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships...having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they might reach."
Stephen Hawking (2010)

I get it. In Stephen Hawking's worst dreams anthropomorphized aliens engage in acts of terrorism equivalent to British Soldiers handing out smallpox infected blankets to Native Americans. How scientific. We must brush aside Paul's seventh heaven and make elbow room for Hawking's umpteenth universe. At the same time, like a little child, he is half afraid of what he might find out there in dark.