18 January 2016

Life as an act & new vs. old…


I wake before the sun rises. I lie in bed, in the dark. Thoughts come to me: they arrange themselves, effortlessly, into the most beautiful sentences. So I leave the bed and go to my desk—but just as I ignite my writing lamp, the ideas flee away. They’re gone now…

From this, I conclude that ideas love the dark; they’re afraid of the light. And I have nothing more to say.

But how should we live? It’s almost as if we’ve got to act ourselves like characters, like roles in a play. …And here’s another reason why it’s hard to write blog entries in The Age of Info—after you say what I just said, about the necessity of performing your own self like a role that has been assigned to you by a playwright, you remember the famous quote from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, spoken by Jaques (in 2:7), who is one of the sons of Sir Rowland de Boys:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.

To trace connections, out of simple curiosity, you research this quote in an electronic encyclopedia… There, you find that apparently Pythagoras, who predates Socrates, similarly likened existence itself to a playact. And, roughly a generation before Shakespeare, so did Erasmus. His name caught your eye because your old Baptist church held him as the one responsible for compiling the Greek texts from which King James’s translators made their version of the New Testament—plus you’re familiar with his book, In Praise of Folly, which contains a thought that was translated like so:

For what else is this life but a kind of play in which men in various costumes perform until the director motions them off the stage.

Still, I wish that my ideas hadn’t fled from me this morning. Maybe I should’ve let myself aimlessly ramble… Fresh thoughts might’ve appeared. All of the above source-citing consumed time and energy that could’ve been used to create new observations about the world.

Should’ve, might’ve, could’ve… I remember Ralph Waldo Emerson mentioning this problem: the way that we living beings allow the past to dominate us. Some think, “If it’s old, it must be good: it’s probably authoritative.” Sometimes that’s true, I guess—maybe one could even say that it’s often true… But is it always the case that a thing possesses veracity strictly on account of its age? I say that old ideas and new ideas alike should have to prove their worth to us.

Nobody pours fresh wine into old wineskins. If they did, the wineskins would burst and spill the wine. Fresh wine must go into new wineskins.

Jesus states the above in at least four gospels: the one according to Mark (2:22); the one according to Matthew (9:17); the one according to Luke (5:37); and the one according to Thomas (47:4). The translation that I quoted is by Guy Davenport and Benjamin Urrutia, from their book called The Logia of Yeshua. Obviously the reason it came to mind is that I was talking about old and new—but I don’t think the quote sheds much light on what I was saying beforehand. Another statement of Jesus seems even to refute me:

Who wants to drink a new rather than a vintage wine?

I like to compare wordings: the nuances and possibilities of language—I find it all so fascinating… Here is that same saying of Jesus, as rendered by the King James translators (Luke 5:39):

No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

Yahweh and Yeshua. Jehovah and Jesus. Old and new… But father and son? Yahweh appears on Mount Sinai and says “An eye for an eye.” Then Jesus shows up, many years later, saying “Ye have heard Yahweh command ‘An eye for an eye’; but I say unto you: Resist not evil…” Then he talks about turning the other cheek, and I always wonder if he’d advise us also to offer our remaining eye after the first gets plucked.

But back to the idea of the child correcting the parent, or the student besting the teacher, or Jesus revising Jehovah…

Actually, no—I don’t want to get into all that. I just want to copy a full passage from the Gospel of Thomas (47), for one last example to compare to the renderings above. The following was translated by Bentley Layton:

Jesus said, “A person cannot (at the same time) mount two horses or draw two bows. And a slave cannot serve two owners, but truly will honor the one and scoff at the other. No person drinks vintage wine and immediately desires to drink new wine. And new wine is not put into old wineskins lest they burst. And vintage wine is not put into new wineskins lest it go bad. And old patches are not sewed to new garments, for a rip will develop.”

Many modern musicians cannot read musical notation. Is what I just said true? It feels true, to me; but I am unlearned.

Is it irresponsible for a poet to remain illiterate? I think about this frequently: Written language did not always exist; it had a birthday that one might indicate with a point on a timeline. (Or did it?) At least there seems to be a noteworthy difference between an ancient way of writing (with a so-called alphabet that contains no vowels, for instance) and our modern way of using a virtual keyboard to send text messages…

Yet, could it be that our wireless signals are disturbing the angels? These signals fill the air, and humankind cannot hear them. How can we know if we’re causing pain to extradimensional beings; and should we be concerned? …I mean, their world is senseless to us: doesn’t this fact imply a sort of license to ignore them?

How would we even know that the angels were angry with us? Whenever they try to afflict us with evil, we just keep praising God: we find a way to interpret every event, however tragic, as a part of The Divine Masterplan. And (forgive me for mentioning this—I’m getting bored with the entry and probably I’ll stop writing it now) just think: someone once put boxing gloves on a kangaroo.

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