Even though the landscape is familiar, these poems are meditations on the attributes and value of words.
I sat by the lake,
under the hemlock,
flat needles carpeting the ground,
the familiar smell
mingled with close-by cedar.
The wind blew down
from the dry pine ridge,
over the alders below,
bordering the lake.
A lone fir tree towered
on the right,
a lonely sentinel.
We had scrambled up
a short rocky path,
rough steps set
in a pile of boulders,
tossed downhill by the last ice age
and rounded a small bog,
rimmed with hardhack,
blooms turned to brown.
Then over a slight rise in land,
and down to the small lake,
surrounded by rock bluffs
and mountains in the distance.
False box and oceanspray
lined the path,
but when I lay on the mossy ground,
and looked at the sky,
a huckleberry bush
hung over me,
ripe with tiny fruit,
and the sharp spurts of tart juice
wakened my mouth.
Words bring yesterday’s reality
Back to life in the mind
For those of us
Who don’t paint.
So here is one thing that I have been thinking over. “Everlasting,” and “forever” have the same meaning as “eternal,” but they lack an association with an abstract noun, so they are limited in transferring to a philosophical discussion of “eternity.” In Hebrew, the adjective often is the noun itself, in a form bound to another noun. So, no problem, the adjective is a noun. But in English, some adjectives dead end. For example, “beauty” leads to “beautiful” but “handsome” leads only to “handsomeness.” Therefore, it is thought that women possess a quality of “beauty” that men don’t, and men don’t have a comparable quality. They have “other” qualities. But historically, it has been important that men be beautiful. Look at David, in Florence, for example. Look at David in the Bible. He was beautiful, as was Joseph, also Saul, and David’s favourite son, Absolom, who was the most beautiful of all men in Israel.
So, does it matter if we use “eternal” rather than “everlasting” for God? Does it help us extend our thinking? How important is it the word we use is connected to a wider network of words that helps to develop the idea. Does this matter in Bible translation and do translators ever consider this?
Some of the things that I have been blogging about this fall are the trinity, and really trying to understand Augustine’s Book on the topic. I find the current teaching on the trinity to be very upsetting. I always hear it like this. “God sent his Son to do his will, to redeem humanity by dying on the cross, and blah, blah, blah, etc., this is a model for the marriage relationship, for how husbands should treat their wives.” That is how it sounds. So Augustine is quite a relief to me. Augustine makes it clear that there is no difference in authority between Father and Son, nor is the trinity a model for human relationships.
Second, blogging about the Eternal One, as in Adon Olam , has finally made the meanings of “transcendent” and “immanent,” relating to God, sink in. God is the one who existed before the material universe and will exist afterword. God is outside of matter, and all that is mortal. God is also supposed to be “present with us.” This is what Rosenzweig wrote in the early decades of this century. What does that mean, given the holocaust? This is the dialogue I am having with theology this fall.
“Alert” is an anagram of “Alter” – and Robert Alter’s meritorious translation and commentary of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes is currently on sale in hardcover for $14 exactly on Amazon – cheaper than Amazon’s price for the corresponding paperback.
I’ve scanned a number of lists of “top news of 2013,” but to my surprise, none of the ones I looked at included what was undoubtedly one of the most important stories of 2013: the discovery of Richard III’s remains under a parking lot in Leicester.
Seriously, this story will undoubtedly become a staple of books on British history. How can any future history of the War of the Roses – or of British middle ages – not include the story of the discovery of his remains in Leicester?
Now maybe this showed up on some “top stories of 2013” list, but how did it miss most of the lists?
This is a very familiar liturgical hymn for Jews, dating back to the 15th century liturgies, and supposed to be from the 11th century or perhaps much earlier. The first line has often been translated “Lord of the Universe” since olam can mean either “eternity” “a very long time” or “the universe/world.” The transition from “eternity” to “world” happened some time in the last two millennia. So, in modern terms, “Lord of the Universe” but in the biblical sense, and in the sense of the poem itself, “Lord of Eternity.” Update: This is a translation by Esther Hugenholtz. And here it is in Hebrew script.
Adon olam asher malach
Lord of Eternity Who reigned
b’terem kol yetzir nivra
before anything was created
Le’et na’aseh b’cheftzo kol
In the hour of Creation, He willed all
azai melech shemo nikra
and so His Name is known as King
V’acharei kichlot hakol
And after all is completed
levado yimloch nora
only He will reign in awesomeness
V’hu hayah v’hu hoveh
He was, He is
v’hu yihyeh betifarah
and He will be in splendour
V’hu echad v’ein sheni
He is Alone, there is no second
lehamshil lo lehachbirah
to rule Him in fellowship
B’li reishit, b’li tachlit
Without beginning, without end
v’lo ha’oz v’hamisrah
and His power is not shared
V’hu eli v’chai go’ali
Yet He is my God, He is my life and my Redeemer
v’tzur chevli be’et tzarah
my rock in vanity in my hour of need
V’hu nisi u’manos li
He is my banner and my shelter
menat kosi beyom ekra
He is my Cup [of salvation] on the day I call
Beyado afkid ruchi
In His hand I place my spirit
be’et ishan v’a’ira
in the hour of my sleep and waking
V’im ruchi geviyati
And with my spirit and body
Adonai li, v’lo ira
the Eternal is with me, I shall not fear
Here are two arguments for “Master/Lord of the Universe.” There is a conservative/liberal split in Judaism on whether this prayer/hymn should open with “Lord of the Universe” or “Eternal Lord.” A bit complicated. I have my own issues with Artscroll.
However, we do know that in the Hebrew Bible El Olam means Everlasting/Eternal Lord. In French and German this was translated as “Eternel” and “Ewige” which are equivalent to “Eternal.” They morph easily into a name for God. In English, “Everlasting God” has not become a popular name for God. Here are various translations for El Olam in Genesis 21:33,
בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה, אֵל עוֹלָם.
the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.
το ονομα κυριου θεος αιωνιος
nomen Domini Dei aeterni
le nom du Seigneur, Dieu éternel
dem Namen des HERRN, des ewigen Gottes.
I can’t help feeling that in Greek, Latin, French and German, the use of the word for “eternal” lead to using this as a name for God, in a more popular way than in English. “Eternal” is easily abstracted to “eternity” and the quality of being “eternal” in a way that “everlasting” is not. In any case, I don’t think that Olivétan really brought about a paradigm shift in using “L’Eternel” for the name of God. He had access to a great deal of material, scholarly and rabbinical works for his translation.
In short, this poem emphasizes that God existed before matter, a Platonic position, rather than an Aristotelian one. God shares power with no one at all. God is one. God is represented by many metaphors that somewhat represent the nature of God, but none that exactly represent this eternal being who existed before matter. God cannot be anthropomorphized. God relates to humans today. God is redeemer and sustainer of life.
Positioning God before the creation of matter, outside of the beginnings of mortality, distances God from sex. Sex is created for the necessity of continuing the propogation of mortal species. God exists entirely outside of that. However, the Kabbalah, deeply dependent on this tradition, did develop a strong gender theology, sometimes very negative to women and sometimes not so much. It seems that there is a strong human tendency to anthropomorphize God, and to make God in the likeness of humans. Such is life.
If you click on the tag “Eternal” at the top right of this post you should get all 7 posts in this series.
Here is a selection of books, old and new, that are about women, by women, and about participation in the world of ideas, institutions, wars, market economy, art, exegesis and life in general.
Elizabeth Gaskell – 19th century, any movies or books (Kindle Editions $2.00 or under some free) “North and South” “Mary Barton” “Wives and Daughters.” “Cranford” and many more.
Middlemarch by George Elliot 19th century (Kindle Edition is $1.06)
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, 2013, an ingenious tale of moral and philosophical dilemmas, takes place in the Jewish and Syrian neighbourhoods of 19th century New York.
Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini, 2013- a true story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a woman who ran a spy network during the Civil War.
Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle, 1993, an adult novel, fully secular and fully exegetical, unique, – a woman writing exegesis by novel.
Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence by Jane Fortune, 2009
The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen, 2011, about Sofonisba Anguissola, Renaissance artist
The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln, trans. by Marvin Lowenthal, 1987, a Jewish woman merchant of the 17th century
The Life of Christina of Markyate by Fanous, Leyser, Talbot, 2010 about an 11th century determined young women who becomes a spiritual director. Lots of plot twists in her true life.
Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox. 2013, The true story of deciphering Linear B, the Mycenean written language, with emphasis on Alice Kober’s ground breaking work.
On exhibit at the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth is show of art called “The Age of …”; here, today I took a photo from the outside in (since photography isn’t permitted within).
Once inside, I studied carefully the 107 pieces, mostly paintings and some sculptures. I’d read the brochure, one paragraph of which I’ll also share with you:
Now, I guess you noticed that the one name I’ve highlighted for you is ambiguous: “Would that be, Marcel Duchamp?,” you ask. Well, yes, his works were there too.
But what if I told you this work was there (which I’ve copied from the webpage of the Art Institute of Chicago)?
Yes, you’re right. It’s by Marcel’s little sister, Suzanne Duchamp-Crotti. And her piece was there with his pieces.
But the following is not one of his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his either.
That one you may recognize is the single piece in the exhibit by Gabriele Münter.
Then there’s this one. Who’s it by? Well, I don’t blame you if it takes you a while given all those named on the brochure and those for whom the exhibit is prominently named. Yes, not one of those guys. Rather, this third piece of the one hundred and seven works of art shown is the one by Nathalija Gontcharova.
(I’d gone with my son to the exhibits at the Modern Art Museum across the street. Not much different. We saw two pieces by women, as I recall. All the other hundreds of pieces of modern art displayed were by men. Now, my son is a professional artist and one of my daughters is a painter and a college student, who, by the way, just did her own home improvement project last evening by tiling a bathroom floor. I’m just not sure what the implicit message by the art museums is here, are you? We pay money to see art, and we see art predominantly produced by men. There are token pieces by women, but don’t they belong to their age and to ours in equal measure?)
I read this with great interest and sympathy, China of my Mind . I to0 have many aunts and uncles, in laws and outlaws, who were in China, one being the first Brit to transverse China from ocean to India, another starting a boarding school, some incarcerated during the war and so on. We too had Chinese vases and embroideries. We had students from different parts of China living with us for many years, as well as a Chinese penpal from an orphanage in Hong Kong.
I also have a sister who lived in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing for years, writing letters home to Mother every week. She has published her autobiography and is a celebrated Sinologist. I have even been to China. But could I write about it?? I don’t think so. But I haven’t read this book so perhaps it is well done. I can’t say.
I had never walked in a Beech Wood before,
The bright emerald green in the sunlight
And the rustling sound of the wind,
the large simple shape of the leaves
and the majesty of solid trunks and solidarity among the trees.
In winter the skeletons all show against the sky
and the leaves on the ground have rotted into the earth
I walk not on Beech leaves, but on the rough leather of
intermingled undecayed alder and oak leaves, red, white, pin,
and the smell of pungent balsam and fir is absent,
like a live thing that I had thought would walk through
these woods with me. But it isn’t there. I didn’t realize.
No needled scent from the ground rises up to my nostrils
and beckons me down to that rich aroma of dirt and duff
I lift my eyes instead to the sky
and float among the dark interlaced and spindled branches
thrown into relief against the dying lemon yellow sky
of a fast approaching winter night.
HT Challies. I had so many perplexing moments lining up for black tea with homo milk and a serviette, while wearing a tuque and my skookum boots! There seemed to be some suggestion that I was just making all these words up. But no, here it is on the internet. I honestly find living without the Robertson screw head a real pain. I am constantly shredding threads and that just isn’t possible with a Robertson. Icing sugar. I can live without that.