Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sandra M. Gilbert on Satan and the Serpentine Eve

Poet and Scholar

I'm still looking into ways in which John Milton depicts the fallen Eve as 'serpentine' in Paradise Lost. I'm not the only one who's ever thought about this, as yesterday's blog entry demonstrated. Today, I want to excerpt a passage by the feminist scholar Sandra M. Gilbert, from her article of 1978, "Patriarchal Poetry and Women Readers: Reflections on Milton's Bogey," in which she argues that Milton assimilates Eve to Satan:
[E]ven the briefest reflection on Paradise Lost should remind us that, despite Eve's apparent passivity and domesticity, Milton himself seems deliberately to have sketched so many parallels between her and Satan that it is hard at times for the unwary reader to distinguish the sinfulness of one from that of the other. As Stanley Fish has pointed out, for instance, Eve's temptation speech to Adam in Book IX is "a tissue of Satanic echoes," with its central argument, "Look on me. / Do not believe," an exact duplicate of the antireligious empiricism embedded in Satan's earlier temptation speech to her. Moreover, where Adam falls out of uxorious "fondness," out of a self-sacrificing love for Eve, which, at least to the modern reader, seems quite noble, Milton's Eve falls for exactly the same reason that Satan does: because she wants to be "as Gods" and because, like him, she is secretly dissatisfied with her place, secretly preoccupied with questions of "equality." After his fall, Satan makes a pseudo-libertarian speech to his fellow angels in which he asks, "Who can in reason then or right assume / Monarchy over such as live by right / His equals, if in power and splendor less, / In freedom equal?" (V.794-97). After her fall, Eve considers the possibility of keeping the fruit to herself "so to add what wants / In Female Sex, the more to draw [Adam's] Love, / And render me more equal" (IX.821-23).

Again, just as Milton's Satan -- despite his pretensions to equality with the divine -- dwindles from an angel into a dreadful (though subtle) serpent, so Eve is gradually reduced from an angelic being to a monstrous and serpentine creature, listening sadly as Adam thunders, "Out of my sight, thou Serpent, that name best/ Befits thee with him leagu'd, thyself as false / And hateful; nothing wants, but that thy shape, / Like his, and colour Serpentine may show / Thy inward fraud" (X.867-71). (Sandra M. Gilbert, "Patriarchal Poetry and Women Readers: Reflections on Milton's Bogey," Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, Vol. 93, No. 3 (May, 1978), page 372B)
I excerpted this passage from Gilbert's article after skimming the entire text, but I don't have time to deal with it fully this morning, and I'd first like to read the entire article carefully before commenting -- other than to observe that this looks interesting. Gilbert has noted various parallels in Paradise Lost between the falling and fallen Eve and the falling and fallen Satan, particularly in their reason for rebellion and their manner of tempting others.

More tomorrow, perhaps, but don't forget meantime that Adam is also partly assimilated to the serpentine Satan, as we have already seen in the fact that both are depicted as eating their fill.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

John Milton: Eve as Serpent in Paradise Lost?

Adam and Eve and Feminine Serpent
(Image from Wikipedia)

I want to return to a passage from Paradise Lost that I cited a few days ago, in which Adam castigates Eve as a "Serpent" for having tempted him to sin, and look briefly into some linguistic speculations on Eve's similarity to the Satanic serpent that tempted her:
Out of my sight, thou Serpent, that name best
Befits thee with him leagu'd, thy self as false
And hateful; nothing wants, but that thy shape,
Like his, and colour Serpentine may shew [ 870 ]
Thy inward fraud, to warn all Creatures from thee
Henceforth; (PL 10.867-872)

Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room, September 2010.
On "thou Serpent," the note by Thomas Luxon in his annotated Paradise Lost cites Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg, eds. The Oxford Authors John Milton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), who state: "It has been noted as early as the ancient rabbinic commentators that the name Eve is related to old Semitic words, that is, in Phoenician and Aramaic, for 'serpent'" (page 913). I don't have access to that book, so I don't know what evidence they give.

My copy of Alastair Fowler's 1998 edition of Paradise Lost, on its note for Adam's choice of "name" in line 867, states that "Some commentators interpreted 'Eve' as 'serpent.'" Fowler cites page 229f of John Leonard, Naming in Paradise: Milton and the Language of Adam and Eve (Oxford, 1990). I don't have access to that precise passage of that book, but I do have access to Leonard's annotated Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics, 2003), which says: "Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius had claimed that 'Eve' aspirated means 'serpent'" (page 431, lin 867). Leonard cites D. C. Allen, Modern Language Notes, 74, 1959, pages 681-683. According to Allen:
[The] statement appears in the Protrepticus of Clement of Alexandria, an author whose Paedagogus and Stromata were well known to Milton. In the Hebrew, says Clement[,] if the name of Eve is aspirated it is the same as the feminine of serpent . . . . Clement ties all of this in with the Bacchic orgies, the handling of serpents, and the shouts of [the name Eve] . . . . The same story is repeated in the Praeparationis Evangelicae libri XV of Eusebius, another of Milton's known authorities; this somewhat fuller account translates:
The Bacchants celebrate in their orgies the madness of Dionysus, holding a holiday every month with a raw flesh dinner, and, when they distribute the flesh of the slaughtered victims, they are crowned with garlands of serpents and call upon Eve, that Eve, through whom deceit came in and death followed closely. A consecrated serpent is the symbol of the Bacchic orgies. Therefore, according to the exact Hebrew pronunciation, the name Heva with an aspitate, is interpreted as a female serpent. (citing Ed. Heinichen (Leipzig, 1842), I, 70-1.)
So when Adam tells his wife that the name of serpent befits her best, neither he nor Milton is talking off the top of the head. (page 682)
Allen also notes:
The same account is found again in the fourth century S. Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses, PG, XLII, 802, an author who is mentioned by Milton, but I cannot find evidence that he read him. The chronologically first suggestion of Eve : snake appears in S. Theophilus, Ad Autolycum, PG, VI, 1098 where there is a simple statement that Eve translates as serpent. I can establish no connection between this text and Milton. (page 682)
I'll need to look into this further. I do know that the Gnostics played with a belief that Eve and the serpent were linked in some way, perhaps etymologically. I have my doubts that there's any real etymological relation -- in fact, I'm pretty sure that there is none, and that this is merely a bad pun -- but the wordplay could be something that Milton worked into his text.

But I have to say that the evidence isn't strong, and a lot of speculation rests on Adam's intemperate words "thou Serpent" and "name." Adam does later pun angrily on "Eve" and "evil," so such a libelous wordplay might be present in the passage above, but I'm not yet persuaded.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mervyn F. Bendle on the New Left, Islamism, and Existential Terrorism

C. Wright Mills
Coining the "New Left"
(Image from Wikipedia)

Given the puzzling, yet observable sympathy that the Left often appears to have for Islamism, I thought that I might be able to clarify this through excerpting from -- and summarizing of -- Mervyn Bendle's article "Terrorism and the New Left in the 'Sixties," published in the National Observer (No. 71, Summer 2006/07, pages 8-28). First an excerpt setting up the enigma that demands explanation:
The popularity of such notions [as the legitimacy of violence aimed toward civilians, i.e., terrorism,] reflects the penetration into popular consciousness of the assumption that civil society and individual citizens have little or no unique value, autonomy, or integrity in themselves, but are merely components of totalised social systems and are therefore appropriate targets of terrorist violence. This outlook is a prime example of what Robert Jay Lifton has identified as "ideological totalism". This characterises Islamism’s global mission to destroy American power and ultimately bring the world under the rule of Sharia law in accordance with the Muslim insistence on the absolute Unity of God (tawhid) as the foundation of all individual and social life under Islam. However, a secular version of this totalist worldview is also present within sections of the Western intelligentsia that are heirs to the radical ideology of the New Left, and is seen in their willingness to defend terrorism in various ways, even when it serves the interests of an ultra-repressive theocratic absolutism that should otherwise be anathema to the secularism of the radical left. (pages 9-10)
If I might now oversimplify, Bendle traces the "Revolutionary Subject" from its identity as the proletariat in the analysis of the Old Left, which focused on class conflict within industrialized societies, to its identity as the Third World wretched of the earth in the analysis of the New Left, which focused on imperialism in the international system. Here's a relevant excerpt:
This theory of revolutionary internationalism was a crucial moment in the ideological history of the 'Sixties. It marginalised the traditional Marxist economic analysis that focused on the forces and relations of production within capitalist societies, and instead focused exclusively on the relations of exchange that apply between societies in the global economic system, reducing the latter to a zero-sum game where any gains made by Western societies were inevitably seen as losses incurred by non-Western societies. Similarly, it also rejected the Marxist political analysis that focused on class struggles occurring within nationstates, in favour of a model that elevated class struggle to a global level, occurring between the capitalist states at the core, and the dependent states on the periphery who constituted an "external proletariat". (pages 22-23)
Bendle gives an example of how this analysis came to justify "existential terrorism" -- terrorism that "seeks to undermine the taken-for-granted sense of ontological security that both underpins everyday life in liberal democratic societies and facilitates their dynamism . . . and . . . [that aims] not at forcing concessions from such societies but rather at achieving their extinction" (page 8). He offers the case of Germany's Red Army Faction (RAF), which turned, in principle, to existential terrorism after ordinary terrorist acts failed to garner support from the German people:
[T]he RAF responded with the precise type of logic that continues to characterise theories of existential terrorism. It decided that the reticence of the German people to ratify the terrorist actions of the RAF confirmed the assessment that the people had betrayed the revolutionary ideal. As [RAF] Ulrike Meinhof observed: the system "has pushed the masses so deeply into its dreck that they seem to have lost a sense of being exploited and oppressed", and in exchange for consumerist goods they "excused the crimes of the system". The national proletariat had betrayed the revolution, while the imperialist enemy "systematically sought to kill those it could no longer exploit". In this fashion, the revolutionary internationalism of the RAF propelled it into an abstract political realm where murderous violence against non-combatant civilians and the institutions of their own society was seen as a legitimate terrorist strategy. It fantasised that its terrorist campaigns formed part of universal history operating on a global stage. The Revolutionary Subject was no longer the actual proletariat of their own society with which they could engage in concrete political action directed towards achievable goals. Rather, the Revolutionary Subject had become an abstract "external proletariat" with which the RAF had not the slightest actual contact, while the enemy -- the agent of oppression and exploitation -- was one's own society considered as an inherently corrupt totality and therefore readily identified as a legitimate terrorist target. (page 25)
If I might again summarize, Bendle's further argument is that Islamists then took on this Leftist critique of Western 'imperialism' -- especially with its focus on America as the source of evil in the world -- and integrated it within Islamist critiques of Western capitalism and imperialism, turning this analysis into a justification for "existential terrorism" by Islamists. Here's another excerpt:
After the New Left, the most important subsequent step in the theory and application of existential terrorism was not taken until the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was articulated in such key statements as "The World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders", incorporating the purported Fatwa issued by Osama bin Laden declaring that "the ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it". By this time, little of the original theory of revolutionary internationalism remained unchanged, beyond a Manichean hatred of America and a conviction that it is the principal source of evil in the world. Nevertheless, its basic principles remain intact: the Revolutionary Subject is now identified with global Islamism, while the dominant revolutionary ideology has become Islamist Jihadism. One of the most striking things about this development is the extent to which the New Left's obsolete revolutionary internationalism of the 'Sixties lingers on within the Western intelligentsia, obscuring its comprehension of this world-historical event.
Bendle's twenty-page article deserves a longer analysis, but readers should by now have an inkling of the argument. I believe that Bendle is correct, that there is an ideological thread to be traced from the New Left to Islamism in their shared hatred of capitalism and their strongly similar critique of imperialism. I think, however, that Bendle has not yet clearly followed out the thread, at least not in this article, for that thread is not drawn tight. What I'd need to see are Islamist thinkers citing, or at least clearly using, New Left concepts, somewhat as Paul Berman has done in The Flight of the Intellectuals concerning the link between Fascism and Islamism by noting the way in which the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem collaborated with Adolf Hitler during WWII, offering radio broadcasts inciting Arabs to antisemitic hatred and support of the Nazis, the medium by which these things entered into current Islamist ideology.

My central question focuses upon Islamist "existential terrorism,"for I wonder if Islamists would really need New Left ideology to justify that sort of terrorist attack. From what I've seen, the Islamists draw on deep sources at the core of Islam. Now, it's true that the 9/11 attacks were unprecedented in their scale, and that Islamist existential terrorism is not so easily justified on Islamic principles, so New Left justification of it might have played some role. But I'd need to see clearer ideological links. Bendle has shown that Islamism reflects the New Left, but he needs to show that at least some aspects of Islamism radiate from the New Left. Nonetheless, I do now feel better grounded in plausible Leftist sources of Islamism, and I know what to look for.

By the way, I don't know what C. Wright Mills would think of the New Left as it turned out, for he died in 1962, before existential terrorism had clearly developed, but I like the Wikipedia image above, which reminds me of that other, still living New Leftist Noam Chomsky, and Wright did, after all, coin the expression "New Left" way back in 1960, so he's definitely in the pantheon and deserves a place of honor.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

John Milton: Eve as 'Serpent' in Paradise Lost

Serpent with Eve
Terrance Lindall

I'm still considering Milton's portrayal of Eve in the temptation scene of Paradise Lost, specifically, the moment in Book 9 when 'Death' is introduced through the fact of Eve's eating of the fruit of knowledge. But before focusing on that, I need to consider another passage first. In Paradise Lost 10.867f, Adam curses Eve as a "Serpent":
Out of my sight, thou Serpent, that name best
Befits thee with him leagu'd, thy self as false
And hateful; nothing wants, but that thy shape,
Like his, and colour Serpentine may shew [ 870 ]
Thy inward fraud, to warn all Creatures from thee
Henceforth; least that too heav'nly form, pretended
To hellish falshood, snare them. But for thee
I had persisted happie, had not thy pride
And wandring vanitie, when lest was safe, [ 875 ]
Rejected my forewarning, and disdain'd
Not to be trusted, longing to be seen
Though by the Devil himself, him overweening
To over-reach, but with the Serpent meeting
Fool'd and beguil'd, by him thou, I by thee . . . (PL 10.867-880)

(Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room, September, 2010.)
In this typically Miltonic passage, a thicket of clauses and allusions, Adam calls Eve a serpent in "heav'nly form" who is "pretended / To hellish falshood," which is puzzling until one remembers an earlier meaning of "pretended" as "stretched in front as a covering (OED 1)," as Alastair Fowler notes in his 1998 annotated edition of Paradise Lost (London and New York: Longman, page 587, line 872). In other words, her "heav'nly form" hides "hellish falshood." She's really just another serpent like Satan, the Devil himself, with whom she pridefully sought to vie in wandering from Adam's side, disdaining Adam's prelapsarian warning about temptation.

Is Adam right? Fowler notes that "[s]ome commentators interpreted 'Eve' as 'serpent,'" a linguistic point perhaps worthy of a blog post of its own. What's Milton's own view? Is he speaking through Adam? Paula Harms Payne, in A search for Meaning: Critical Essays on Early Modern Literature (Peter Lang, 2004), notes that this "misogynous speech" is made by the fallen Adam, implying that Milton does not agree with Adam shifting of blame onto Eve (pages 134-135). But does Milton let Eve off so easily? Like Adam, he portrays Eve as serpent-like. Recall my argument of August 4th (2010), on Eve eating 'Death':
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint,
And knew not eating Death: Satiate at length,
And hight'nd as with Wine, jocond and boon,
Thus to her self she pleasingly began. (PL 9.791-4)

(Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room, September, 2010.)
After quoting this passage, I went on to not that the line "And knew not eating Death: Satiate at length" has a caesura, with an implication:
After that break, after that pause, Eve becomes evil, Satanic, "satiate at length," as though serpentine in sound and shape -- if one might draw out the length to which Milton goes to emphasize Eve's radical alteration. Think on the description of Satan "stretcht out huge in length" (PL 1.209), or even more clearly in Satan's own description of being "sated at length" (PL 9.598; emphasis again mine) in his deceptive claim to have himself eaten the forbidden fruit, an unmistakable verbal parallel that conforms Eve to Satan's image.
We might then think that Milton entirely agrees with Adam . . . except that Milton also portrays Adam as serpentine. Early in the passage where Eve is being tempted by Satan, she is told by the 'Serpent':
Amid the Tree now got, where plenty hung
Tempting so nigh, to pluck and eat my fill [ 595 ]
I spar'd not, for such pleasure till that hour
At Feed or Fountain never had I found. (PL 9.594-597)

(Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room, September, 2010.)
Now in fact, the 'Serpent' possessed by Satan never did take even a single bite from the Tree of Knowledge, but note the Devil's claim: "I spar'd not" to "eat my fill." As with the verbal parallel between the 'Serpent' being "sated at length" and Eve being "satiate at length," a verbal parallel links "eat my fill" with Adam in his own temptation scene, specifically, when he is described as eating:
. . . Adam took no thought,
Eating his fill . . . (PL 9.1004-1005)

(Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room, September, 2010.)
Adam is thus precisely as 'serpentine' as Eve, for this verbal parallel from PL 9.595 comes just in advance of the verbal parallel to Eve in PL 9.598. Milton is implicating both Adam and Eve as Satanic in the same foreshadowing passage of PL 9.594-601, for the Fall has parallel effects upon both of them, as the second eating of the fruit 'iterates' the first (cf. PL 9.1005-1006) and thereby 'completes' the original, deadly sin (cf. PL 9.1003-1004).

Adam is thus correct that Eve has become a 'Serpent,' but so has Adam himself, unbeknownst to him, for the fruit of knowledge has left him ignorant of self-knowledge, and he projects onto Eve his own fallen nature, though he happens to be right since she is also fallen.

More on this another time . . .

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mervyn F. Bendle: Email Response

Blogger must be acting up again, for my old cyber-friend Kevin Kim has informed me by email of his unsuccessful attempt to post a comment to my blog entry on Mervyn F. Bendle's "Existential Terrorism," quoting me in bold font and concurring with my point:
"I'd really want to see how Islamism is heir to Augustine."

I think you hit the nail on the head. When I was about halfway through your blog post, a similar question was burbling through my mind.
Well, in the meantime, I had shot off an email on this very point, along with a second query on Leftist influence on Islamism, asking Dr. Bendle himself, who replied:
Thank you for your email and the interest with which you have read some of my published work. In response to one of your questions I think that you yourself provided an insightful assessment when you said:
"Clearly, this interpretation of Augustine's two cities is a controversial one . . . . I'd really want to see how Islamism is heir to Augustine. Is there supposed to be a direct line from Augustine to Islamism, or some influence via Leftist ideology (or via Fascism?), or is the "Augustinian paradigm" an ideal construct describing a system of thought that can arise within different traditions without direct or even indirect influence?"
I suspect that the latter is the case and that the underlying totalizing tendency (along with an associated obsession with 'purity') is inherent in this (monotheistic/monist) tradition and remains so. The alternative -- that this is a world-view that originated with Augustine -- seems unlikely to me -- given its archetypal quality. At any rate, there is a difficulty with tracing through a direct/indirect chain of influence from Augustine to early Islam and thence eventually to contemporary Islamism in that we cannot be very sure about the early history of Islam -- whether it emerged as it claims to have or whether, e.g., it emerged as a 'believers movement' within a matrix of heterodox Jewish and Christian communities, only claiming to have been a new revelation a century or so later (cf. Fred M. Donner, Muhammad and the Believers (2010)).

Regarding your other question, I think that Islamisim been most definitely directly (and indirectly) influenced by the Left ideologically, especially in its analysis of imperialism (of which it sees the Muslim world as a victim), in its organizational structures, and in its adherence to Comintern techniques of agititation-propaganda ('agitprop'). After all, for much of the 20th century substantial proportions of the Muslim world (esp. its intellectuals) were directly or indirectly informed by Marxist-Leninist thought, only swinging away from this form of secularism following the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the shift to an Islamist ideological paradigm (cf. Rapoport's 4 waves of terrorism).
With regard to Donner's work on early Islam, there's a lot of current scholarly investigation into pre-Islamic sources and speculations on Christian and Jewish communities as the matrix for early Islam (cf. Christoph Luxenberg), so that's something that I'm generally familiar with. Such Christian communities probably weren't Augustinian, though, so the "Augustinian paradigm" turns out to be something like what Max Weber called an "ideal type," I suppose. Augustine gets some bad press in some significant strands of intellectual history. Hans Blumenberg sees Augustine as having left a profoundly Gnostic imprint upon Western Christianity that had to be overcome in the late Medieval period for a 'Promethian' Modernity to emerge. The expression "Augustinian paradigm" thus might fit the West as more than simply an ideal construct. I wonder if it might better be jettisoned in analyses of Islamism. But what should one replace it with? Would Weber's ideal type of "sect" fit better? Is Islamism what Weber might call a "world-denying" sect? It certainly devalues the world, seeing whatever is not Islam as mere jahiliyya, i.e., ignorance of Allah, and therefore unworthy of preservation, deserving of destruction. But Islamists seek worldly power, so the expression "world-denying" can also be misleading.

Perhaps some knowledgeable readers can help me out on this?

As for the Left's impact on Islamism, I'll have to look further into this to see the kind and degree of influence. Dr. Bendle has not only directed me to Rapoport's article, he has also kindly sent me a couple of his own articles that might enlighten me on this point, and if so, I'll report back.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mervyn F. Bendle on "Existential Terrorism" and the "Augustinian Paradigm"

City of God
(Image from Wikipedia)

I've just read Mervyn Bendle's article "Existential Terrorism: Civil Society and its Enemies," Australian Journal of Politics and History (Volume 52, Number 1, 2006, pp. 115-130), which is available online through subscription. Here are the first three paragraphs, which clarify Bendle's point that much contemporary terrorism, the prime example being Islamist terrorism, aims at undermining the very possibility of civil society, that "social realm between the family and the state," and which also assert, though without yet clarifying, some connection between this contemporary terrorism and the thought of St. Augustine (page 115):
This paper relates a central trend in terrorist strategy to the history of attitudes towards civil society. Contemporary terrorism increasingly eschews attacks on political, military, diplomatic or corporate targets, and instead selects targets within civil society designed to maximize civilian deaths and injuries. This existential terrorism seeks to undermine the taken-for-granted ontological security that makes everyday life possible. This paper seeks to identify and analyze the origins and meaning of the ideological world-view that gives rise to such a terrorist strategy.

Civil society is the social realm between the family and the state composed of interrelated networks of intermediate institutions, including businesses, unions, voluntary associations, educational facilities, media, the Internet, charities, and churches, and that accommodates the free play of economic and cultural forces, and individual and group interests and differences. The importance of civil society is widely recognized in the social sciences, as Fukuyama notes: "Today [. . .] virtually all serious observers understand that liberal political and economic institutions depend on a healthy and dynamic civil society for their vitality." (Francis Fukuyama, Trust (Harmondsworth, 1995), p. 4.)

A vital aspect of the current crisis is that contemporary terrorism targets not only people and institutions that operate within the realm of civil society but civil society itself, i.e., terrorism targets the very possibility of an autonomous realm of everyday life, a social space of spontaneity, freedom, and difference. This impulse was manifest in the policies of the Taliban -- Al-Qaeda's Islamism in action -- but it is found in any group, regime, or society that has fallen ideologically under the control of what might be called the "Augustinian paradigm" of civil society. The present exploration of this situation provides insights into both contemporary terrorism and the nature of civil society. (page 115)
This is an intriguing insight, namely, that "contemporary terrorism targets . . . the very possibility of an autonomous realm of everyday life, a social space of spontaneity, freedom, and difference," in short, it targets civil society's very existence. Bendle finds this targeted attack on civil society by Leftists and Islamists, whose critiques of civil society are apparently interconnected, though Bendle doesn't demonstrate precisely what these links are. He does note the Left's post-1968 turn to the "Third-World" out of disappointment over the proletariat's nonrevolutionary character (page 127), but he doesn't clarify the Left's precise ideological impact on Islamism despite asserting that Islamism was influenced by Marxism-Leninism (page 116).

Bendle's identification of the "'Augustinian paradigm' of civil society" as culpable for the targeting of this "autonomous realm of everyday life" might seem odd, but he has already explored this to some extent in his article on "The Apocalyptic Imagination and Popular Culture," published in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture (Fall 2005, Volume 11). Perhaps we can excerpt, for clarification, the specific work by Augustine that Bendle holds responsible for the terrible devaluation of civil society, namely, The City of God:
Book XIV Chap. 28: "Of The Nature Of The Two Cities, The Earthly And The Heavenly"

Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, "Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head." In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. The one delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, "I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength." And therefore the wise men of the one city, living according to man, have sought for profit to their own bodies or souls, or both, and those who have known God "glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves to be wise,"--that is, glorying in their own wisdom, and being possessed by pride, -- "they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." For they were either leaders or followers of the people in adoring images, "and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever." But in the other city there is no human wisdom, but only godliness, which offers due worship to the true God, and looks for its reward in the society of the saints, of holy angels as well as holy men, "that God may be all in all." (Paul Halsall, editor, Medieval Sourcebook: Augustine (354-430): The City of God: excerpts on the Two Cities)
In Bendle's reading, this Augustinian tradition of two cities gives rise to a pessimistic view of civil society, the locus of evil and impurity, over against the optimistic view of a utopian, pure society someplace up above or sometime in the future. Two aspects are emphasized by Bendle as characteristic of the "Augustinian paradigm": 1) totalism and 2) apocalypticism. Concerning the former, both Leftists and Islamists (though also Fascists, he notes) deny civil society its autonomy and seek to replace it with a different, totalizing system in which everything is controlled by the Leftist state or by the Islamist elite. Concerning the latter, Leftists and Islamists claim access to a 'revealed' truth of the utopian society to come, especially if the path to that future society is blazed by apocalyptic violence.

Clearly, this interpretation of Augustine's two cities is a controversial one. I'm not yet persuaded Bendle's is the most reasonable reading of Augustine, and I'd need to see more on this point. The interpretation looks to me to be of a radicalized Augustinian tradition. But even if this interpretation were the most reasonable, I'd really want to see how Islamism is heir to Augustine. Is there supposed to be a direct line from Augustine to Islamism, or some influence via Leftist ideology (or via Fascism?), or is the "Augustinian paradigm" an ideal construct describing a system of thought that can arise within different traditions without direct or even indirect influence?

I'll look around some more, but I might need to shoot an email to Dr. Bendle . . .

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Mervyn F. Bendle on the Left, Islamism, and Religious Extremism

Yesterday, I excerpted Mervyn F. Bendle's review of Robert R. Reilly's Closing of the Muslim Mind, and I'm now quite glad that I did, for I was introduced not only to Reilly's argument but also to a very interesting scholar in Bendle himself. He's apparently controversial in the Australian academic world because he expresses a rather vehement critique of the Left, as here, for example, when he takes on some Leftist treatments of terrorism:
[I]n 2006 I published two articles in the Australian ("Don't mention the terror", September 6; "Status quo defence fails", September 20) and another in On Line Opinion ("9/11: Treason in the Academic Comfort Zone?", September 11). These described the way in which the study of terrorism had either been ignored in Australia or had been colonised by the radical, postmodern Left, which was assimilating the study of terrorism to its prevailing ideological paradigm based on class, race, gender, anti-Americanism and cultural relativism, often under the guise of the neo-Marxist "critical terror studies" approach. My assessment was supported by two University of Queensland terrorism experts, Carl Ungerer and David Martin Jones ("Delusion reigns in terror studies", Australian, September 15, 2006). (Mervyn F. Bendle, "Hijacking Terrorism Studies," Quadrant Online, September 2008, Volume 52, Number 9)
Bendle goes on to offer an example of one 'expert' on terrorism who likens the July 2005 bombers to the Chartists, both groups having supposedly been similarly motivated by anger over a "democratic deficit" in Britain. According to this 'expert':
[There is] a parallel . . . for the four young men [that is, the Islamist terrorists] who ruthlessly attacked innocent London commuters in July 2005. The Chartist years were not that long ago. (Bendle, "Hijacking," Quadrant)
Concerning this sort of equivocating equivalency, Bendle angrily points out:
This is ridiculous: the Islamists who carried out the July 2005 bombings were not seeking political reform like the Chartists. In fact, Islamists are not seeking to extend democratic rights but rather to extinguish them. They adhere to an anti-democratic, violent, intolerant, exclusionary, xenophobic, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and ultra-repressive political ideology that seeks to create a theocratic state akin to that imposed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and ultimately a "new Caliphate" stretching from Spain to Indonesia. (Bendle, "Hijacking," Quadrant)
Bendle is right about what such Islamists believe in and strive for, particularly those drawn to terrorism, yet the substance of Islamist ideology is often dismissed by the Left in favor of attention to "root causes" that shift blame to the West. I wouldn't tar all Leftists with the same brush, of course, for there are also scholars like Paul Berman on the Left, but Bendle is largely correct on this point.

From what I can gather, so far anyway, Bendle seems to be a solid scholar. Take a look at his fascinating article on "The Apocalyptic Imagination and Popular Culture," Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Fall 2005, Volume 11, which analyzes the apocalyptic mentality pervasive among the Christian Right in America, some of it very far on the radical Christian Right, and the ways in which it overlaps with more secular forms of apocalyptic visions on the Right (as well as with American popular culture more generally). Bendle specifically notes such writings as the explicitly religious, evangelical Left Behind eschatological series and the rather more secular, albeit ultimately theistic, dystopian Turner Diaries, which happens to be virulently racist and ideologically antisemitic as well. Here's a sample paragraph from Bendle's "Introduction":
As this paper will show, the twentieth century saw a crucial shift within the apocalyptic tradition, from what might be called a Promethean to an Augustinian view of human nature and history, i.e., from a belief in human self-determination to a conviction of human sinfulness and weakness. In secular terms this was a shift from a utopian to a dystopian vision, from humanism to anti-humanism, from progressivism to conservatism. It involved a move away from a basically optimistic outlook that complemented secular faith in human progress based on reason, science, technology and social amelioration, towards a far more pessimistic view that distrusts these values, and instead sees the near future in terms of social disintegration, violence, war and ultimate catastrophe, before a final deliverance brought by divine power . . . . It is this dark vision that now shapes the contemporary apocalyptic imagination in both its religious and secular forms. (Bendle, "Apocalyptic Imagination," Journal of Religion and Popular Culture)
Bendle can therefore not easily be construed as merely some rightwing ideologue. He's broader and more interesting than that, so far as I can tell from reading a few of his articles.

I may look further . . .

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mervyn F. Bendle on the Muslim Mind's Closing

Mervyn F. Bendle

My online friend Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, recommends this review by Mervyn F. Bendle of Robert R. Reilly's Closing of the Muslim Mind. I've not read Reilly's book, though I've half a mind to, for Bendle's review makes the book sound remarkably cogent. Here's Bendle's summary of how Reilly accounts for Islam's rejection of reason (the pages cited being from Reilly):
Islam encountered Hellenic thought in the Byzantine and Sassanid (the last pre-Islamic Persian empire) territories that it conquered in its early years . . . . [This Hellenic thought] took the form of various ancient works in logic and philosophy, natural science, medicine, engineering, mathematics, alchemy and astrology, often in translations made by Christian scholars. Muslim scholars felt compelled to engage with this thought and to marshal philosophical arguments in support of their own faith. "Thus, by the late eighth and early ninth centuries, a new kind of discourse began to affect Islamic thought that had hitherto been largely doctrinal and jurisprudential. New words were created in Arabic to take in Greek concepts. Philosophy opened the Muslim mind in a way in which it had never been before in the spirit of free inquiry and speculative thought" (p. 14).

The Mu'tazilite school emerged as champions of Hellenistic philosophy and of reason and rationalism with all that this entails about the nature of God, the universe and humanity's place within it, especially with regard to humanity's capacity to use reason to come to knowledge of the universe and of God. They were also advocates of free will who questioned predestination. When the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750 this became a politically useful position and the Mu'tazilites gained the support of the regime. Crucially, they also insisted that humanity was free to interpret revelation, and that the Qur'an was created in time -- claims that outraged traditionalists. However, once again these were politically useful views as they enhanced the authority of the Caliph and reduced the influence of the clergy. Soon the Mu'tazilites had established the first fully developed school of Islamic theology, one that felt comfortable enough to allow learned debate with Christian theologians about the relative views of the two faiths and issues of joint interest.

This triumph proved to be short-lived, and by the mid-ninth century the Ash'arites were entrenching themselves and their opposing views of God, scripture, the universe and humanity within the Sunni Muslim tradition. The emphasis shifted in all key areas; above all, God came to be seen in terms of Will alone, outside and above any notions of reason, rationality and natural law, which were all seen as subsidiary and contingent, and subject always to the divine Will. The Ash'arites were also wreaking their revenge for their previous poor treatment: "holding the Mu'tazilite doctrine became a crime punishable by death. The Mu'tazilites were expelled from court, removed from all government positions, and their works were largely destroyed" (p. 41). By the end of the century, copyists and booksellers were prohibited from trading in works of theology, philosophy and dialectical disputation associated with the Mu'tazilites: "the long process of dehellenisation and [intellectual] ossification had begun" (p. 42).
The basic point, and Islam's fundamental problem, is that Allah's will came to be understood as superior to His rationality, what Bendle and Reilly call the "dehellenization" of Islam, an outcome that I think could only lead to the denigration of reason in an irrational appeal to fideism, the consequence of which is that all issues must, ultimately, resort to superior force for justification. Insha'Allah, after all.

But the more fundamental question for me -- and I haven't read the book by Reilly -- is why Islam made this choice to elevate Allah's will above His reason. Similar debates took place in early Christianity, and still take place, but Christian theology generally defines God's nature as supremely rational, thereby subordinating His will to His reason.

I suspect that the reason for this difference lies in the different historical circumstances in the early era of these two religions. Christianity lacked political power for it first 300 years or so and had to rely on persuasion, which included rational persuasion, to find converts among educated classes. Islam, by contrast, grasped political power within the lifetime of its founder, Muhammad, and thus had little need to rely on the force of reason to persuade educated nonbelievers when a more immediately effective type of force lay ready at hand.

For early Islam, the sword was mightier than the pen, and the religion spread rapidly that way, but there was a long-term price to pay for such intellectual bankruptcy in the closing of the Muslim mind: imperial decay and worldly powerlessness.

Or so I gather, but I need to read the book . . .

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Newsweek on "Corporate Learning"

Image from GCCU

Mac Margolis has written an article on "Corporate Learning" for Newsweek (September 13, 2010) and thereby clued me in to a trend of which I'd been totally unaware despite my many years in academia:
Today, corporate colleges are considered the fastest-growing sector in higher education. Their numbers have more than doubled in the last decade and now top 4,000, according to Annick Renaud-Coulon, who chairs the Global Council of Corporate Universities. More than 4 million individuals are studying at a company university, where by some estimates enrollments may soon outnumber those of traditional universities. Once a luxury for the Fortune 500 brands, the corporate academy is now standard practice, with every self-respecting business boasting a campus or sharing one with other companies. Unlike traditional universities, corporate campuses generally do not grant degrees (though many partner with traditional colleges that do), concentrating instead on short-term immersion courses tailored to enhancing particular careers and business disciplines. Renaud-Coulon calls them "spaces of applied education to put business strategies into motion."
Hmmm . . . if these corporate universities don't offer degrees, in what sense are they "universities"? But I see why I'm caught unawares by this phenomenon -- the growth has come recently and occurred quickly. I'll try to pay more attention from now on since continued growth of this new model for education is certain to have an impact on my future in academia, for better or for worse. But why is this happening?
Today, with new technologies and management methods constantly tested and toppled in the crucible of the workplace, businesses have developed learning needs of their own. And some skills simply cannot be bought or outsourced. Every year campuses disgorge engineers, economists, and managers, but few are schooled in the fine points of producing biofuels, assembling aircraft, or moving millions of tons of ore across oceans . . . . The challenge is even more daunting in developing nations, where failing traditional education forces companies to teach the basics . . . . In Brazil, the skills void is even more dramatic. Often blue-collar laborers at even the biggest corporations lack rudimentary education . . . . In response, some companies are taking their education down the learning chain . . . . [The Infosys Global Education Center in Delhi, India] picks bright but often poorly trained recruits and turns them into world-class techies on its own campus.
From this thumbnail summary, I gather that this new model for learning comes as much from the failure of traditional education as anything else. Students aren't learning the old skills well enough, nor the new skills fast enough. I can't blame businesses for wanting well-skilled recruits, but I do wonder why these corporations feel the necessity to borrow on the prestige of the term "university," and I'm not alone:
Not everyone is happy about this arrangement. Many traditional academics won't hear of putting "university" and "corporate" in the same sentence and claim that business is enslaving universities to the profit motive. Academics in Australia complained so bitterly that corporate universities there had to rebrand with names like "leadership centers," says Renaud-Coulon. There is certainly a case to be made for disinterested scholarship. But in an economy increasingly driven by knowledge, where talent is scarce and corporate universities are outpacing traditional ones, the protests sound increasingly academic.
As my online friend and fellow 'academic' Carter Kaplan remarked in a recent email to me, "I suppose the author thinks he's being clever in the last line." I agree, though I've also occasionally stooped to that academic pun. But humor aside, I think that I'd agree with my distant Australian colleagues. Corporate 'universities' ought to drop the term "university" and turn to something along the lines of "leadership center" until such time as they offer accredited degrees and guarantee academic freedom.

Incidentally, there's something that puzzles me. Margolis cites Annick Renaud-Coulon as an expert in corporate education, but who is she, actually, and what are her credentials? Her biography at the Global Council of Corporate Universities says nothing particularly specific of her own educational background or academic standing. I'm suspicious, I admit, but consider the wording of this excerpt from that biography:
[Renaud-Coulon] organised the first truly global event on Corporate Universities in France in April 2008. Participants from 24 countries and five continents met for three days at Campus Veolia Environnement, in Jouy-le-Moutier near Paris and Sorbonne University in Paris.
If I read this right -- and I am reading it closely -- Campus Veolia Environnement is not even in Paris proper, let alone at Sorbonne University. In fact, it's in Jouy-le-Moutier, nearly 30 kilometers northwest of the city center and has no official connection to the Sorbonne. Or is the English merely obscure? A French version has this:
Annick Renaud-Coulon a organisé en 2008 au campus Véolia Environnement et à la Sorbonne, le premier forum mondial des Universités d'entreprise.
This implies that the conference took place in two places, one of which was the Sorbonne, but even if this was the case, Campus Veolia Environnement has no official connection to the Sorbonne that I can see. Moreover, since Renaud-Coulon mentions no educational background of her own in her bio, yet proudly extols the honor of her National Order of Merit, I have to wonder if she even has a degree. In The Corporate University Handbook (2002), edited by Mark Allen, the bios to an article authored by her and a certain Mike Morrison note that he has a doctorate, but say only this about Renaud-Coulon:
In addition to studying law, Annick Renaud-Coulon has been a teacher, head of human resources in an industrial organization, a consultant, and head of an enterprise. She currently works as an independent consultant and conference speaker with a network of partners in France and abroad. (page 278)
In The Next Generation of Corporate Universities (2007), also edited by Mark Allen, her bio says much the same thing. Neither bio is specific about her study of law and her work as a teacher. Both merely associate her with law and with teaching. On this point, note some advice offered by Renaud-Coulon in her article on "Branding Your Corporate University":
Be ambitious for your corporate university. Make a myth and a legend of it. (Next Generation, page 106)
She seems to be following her own advice in branding herself, but also -- and of more significance -- in branding corporate education as corporate university education and in associating Campus Veolia Environnement with Sorbonne University.

So again, what are her academic credentials? Anyone know? And why does Margolis rely so heavily on her as an expert. Is she truly that knowledgeable?

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bike Trip to Cheonggye Stream, Downtown Seoul

My wife and I began celebrations a day early for Korea's harvest festival, Chuseok (추석), by riding our bikes some seven kilometers down along the Jungnang Stream (중랑천) yesterday afternoon until we reached the place downstream where the Cheonggye Stream (청계천) flows into the Jungnang, whereupon we switched streams in mid-ride and followed the Cheonggye upstream for about five kilometers.

Somewhere along that upstream bike ride, we encountered this unusual sight, an old, rickety-looking building on stilts that had me wondering if some of my hillbilly cousins had kept right on going past Beverly Hills and somehow made their way across the Pacific Ocean to settle along the Cheonggye.

Sun-Ae and I approached for a closer look, but my clever wife had already figured out that this was a traditional building associated with the museum looming in the background, identified by my wife as the Cheonggyecheon Museum, which documents the history of Cheonggye Stream. Anyway, I discovered later that these traditional houses really were supported in part by stilts, as shown in the history section of Wikipedia's Cheonggyecheon website. Here's our closer photo, taken from directly across the stream.

Further along the path, and at my prompting, Sun-Ae took this photograph, which I like for those vertical and horizontal lines that converge on the odd, old building.

At this point, we were officially informed by three men riding past in a golf cart that biking on the path along the Cheonggye Stream isn't allowed, so we went up to street level and there made our way further upstream to Gwangjang Market (광장시장), a special market under arcades offering a smorgasbord of culinary delights. As you see, we chose a rather thick version of the salty Korean 'pancake' (빈대떡, bindaetteok).

Stuffed full with that salty 'pancake', and thirsty anyway from the biking, we stopped along our way back at a sidewalk cafe for drinks. My lovely wife had something bubbly though non-alcoholic, but toasted me anyway.

She then snapped a photo of me enjoying my first of two Heinekens but looking rather like a bewiskered Jed Clampett, minus the oil wealth (unless you count this).

After leaving the emptied bottles behind, we soon came again upon that traditional hillbilly home in Seoul, and I decided to drop in on my long-lost cousins . . . to no avail. Not a soul in sight unless you count mine (assuming that I still have one). Note my frustrated stance, arms akimbo, at disappointment over no "heapin' helpin' of their hospitality."

At this point, we were concerned about the lowering sun and the gathering clouds, so we pressed more quickly on, homeward bound, intent on arriving before dark or rain . . . or both. Thus no more photos.

But have a wonderful Chuseok . . .

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Terrance Lindall's Revelation

Apocalyptic Visions of St. John the Divine
Painting by Terrance Lindall

As regular readers know, I like the surreal, absurd art of Terrance Lindall (b. 1944), whose style and subject matter recall those of Hieronymous Bosch (1450-1516). Lindall, an intellectual artist who has illustrated John Milton's Paradise Lost and takes Milton's ideas seriously, recently called our attention on the Milton List to "the first Western Christian version of Paradise Lost"
To my mind, the first Western Christian version of Paradise Lost was The Revelation of St. John the Divine. A lot of visionary obscurity as opposed to Milton's Appolonian approach, but inspiring nonetheless. Here's my version as a gold mounted tryptich (14 inches tall) done for Brian Offie in Montana.
The Revelation of St. John the Divine, of course, is another name for The Book of Revelation, sometimes mistakenly call Revelations. In case you want to go looking for it, just turn to the last book of the Bible.

Anyway, if you've read both books -- St. John's and Milton's -- you'll see what Lindall means by his remark about Revelation being the first Paradise Lost.

Though I'm unsure which one has more aerial warfare, a point still subject to debate by literary critics . . .

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Everybody Draw Molly Norris Out of Hiding Day"

Molly Norris
Painted by Nakkaş Osman
(Image from Wikipedia)

The above image, painted by Nakkaş Osman [c. 1595] and used as illustration in The Life of the Prophet (Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul [Inv. 1222/123b]), cannot be of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad at the Ka'ba, for Islam doesn't allow depictions of Muhammad, so no Muslim would ever produce one.

I therefore suggest that the above image is of Molly Norris, who currently has reason to go about veiled after being threatened for drawing Muhammad and encouraging others to do so as well:
[O]n the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, 'going ghost': moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity. ("Comic Riffs," The Washington Post, September 15, 2010)
That might very well explain that ghostly white veil in the image above, the 400-year-chronological discrepancy between Osman and Norris notwithstanding.

There's a distinct possibility that Ms. Norris might end up going even more thoroughly ghostly, however, so I have a suggestion for solving her problem. Let everybody draw Molly Norris as each individual imagines her countenance, and the plethora of images will effectively hide her identity since the Islamists won't know which one, if any, is right and won't be able to kill everybody who resembles one or another of the multiple depictions.

In other words, let's have an "Everybody Draw Molly Norris Out of Hiding Day." I suggest October 31st, Halloween, since that's a day of masks. My depiction of Ms. Norris is given above. Not my own drawing, admittedly, but I'm no artist and thus have to beg, borrow, or steal.

No need to thank me for this idea, just keep me in mind when you need a concept-cruncher . . .

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tenkara Fishing: From Japan to the Ozarks

Crooked Creek
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

As a kid, I was always a low-tech fisherman, the sort Neil Young sang about:
Baby mellow my mind,
Make me feel like a
schoolboy on good time,
Jugglin' nickels and dimes,
Satisfied with the
fish on the line.
I'm still like that about fishing. A sapling rod, a piece of string, and a rusty old hook with a crawdad tail for bait. That's enough for me.

But En-Uk and Pat -- my son and my older brother, respectively -- might be interested in a recent New York Times article by James Card, "A Japanese Form of Fly Fishing Gains Fans in the U.S." (September 15, 2010):
Misako Ishimura waded knee deep into the current, the water temperature perfect for both swimming and soothing relief from the afternoon sun. But Ishimura, 58, had other things in mind as she swept back her rod and flicked the line upstream in a controlled, gentle cast. The soft-hackle fly dropped into the surface film and drifted near a rock undercut.

A shiver vibrated up the line, and Ishimura leaned back with her rod and brought in a scrappy longear sunfish. From a distance it appeared she was fly fishing in the usual style, but the long, supple rod that she cast had no reel, and the line did not run through ferrules. The line was knotted at the very tip of the rod and formed a direct connection between her and the fish.

That is the minimalist essence of tenkara, a form of traditional Japanese fly fishing that has begun to attract anglers in the United States.
Normally, I wouldn't report on this sort of thing, but the waterway wherein Ishimura is fishing is Crooked Creek, a stream that flows through the Arkansas Ozarks and into the White River not far from where Misako Ishimura and her husband Mark Romero live, in Lakeview, Arkansas. But how did they get there?
Ishimura, a Japanese citizen with permanent residency in the United States, grew up in Osaka and became obsessed with jazz. The best place in the world to hear it, she was told, was at a club called Bradley's in New York. She shocked her family by leaving for New York in 1977. While exploring the jazz scene, she met her future husband, Mark Romero, then a sound engineer for jazz musicians. Neither of them fished, and one of their jazz friends hounded them about the joys of fly fishing. In 1989, they fly fished for the first time in the Catskills.

They now travel half the year from their home in Lakeview, Ark., to participate in fly-fishing and fly-tying events across the country. Romero, 60, specializes in tying wild, imaginative flies that push the limits of the art. Ishimura serves as a goodwill ambassador for the International Women Fly Fishers and is captain of Japan's national fly-fishing team.
Lakeview is located on the shore of Bull Shoals Lake, not far from Mountain Home, Arkansas, an area that I know pretty well, having even hauled hay there in that general area back in my hillbilly days. As for Crooked Creek, here's what Fishing the Arkansas Ozarks has to say about it:
Crooked Creek, an Ozark highland stream, starts in Boone County, south of Harrison, and flows approximately 80 miles through oak-hickory hardwood forests, cedar glades, and pasture land until it converges with the White River below the town of Cotter. Its stream bed is composed primarily of limestone gravel, boulders, bedrock, and sand . . . . Crooked Creek contains one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in America and anglers from over 20 states fish it regularly. It is one of Arkansas' two Ozark Blue Ribbon Smallmouth Streams (the other being the nearby Buffalo River) . . . . Crooked Creek also contains an excellent fishery for Ozark bass in the one Pound class. Largemouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, green sunfish are fairly common.
A sunfish, you'll recall from above, is precisely what Ishimura caught in that creek. Perhaps Pat and En-Uk can one day visit Crooked Creek for some tenkara-style fly fishing. I'd be satisfied to tag along with that sapling rod and just mellow my mind.

But I am a bit worried that if the New York Times itself is reporting on tenkara fishing in Ozark streams, then my rural paradise might be about to be discovered, and I don't exactly want that . . .

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Falling Down . . .

Thales of Miletus
(Image from Wikipedia)

I've previously noted a curious, telling anecdote about the presocratic philosopher Thales of Miletus, but I thought of it again yesterday and realized that it applies to me as well:
[Plato writes in one of his dialogues about] the jest which the clever witty Thracian handmaid is said to have made about Thales, when he fell into a well as he was looking up at the stars. She said, that he was so eager to know what was going on in heaven, that he could not see what was before his feet. This is a jest which is equally applicable to all philosophers. (Plato, Theaetetus, translated by Benjamin Jowett, Part 1, Page 39)
The implied criticism here is that Thales and other philosophers lost in abstraction ignore at their peril the practical path stretching out before their feet.

I had a similar experience as an adolescent. One of the ways in which I occupied myself as an Arkansas lad in my tiny Ozark hometown of Salem was to read copiously from the somewhat limited shelves of books in the Fulton County Library. I had a tactic to ensure that I was constantly reading. As I neared the end of a book, I would mentally calculate the time needed for finishing the pages still remaining and start off at the proper moment for the library, which was about a five-minute walk away, reading as I strolled along the town's streets, a peripatetic loner. On one of these literary perambulations, as I neared the library, I was so utterly engrossed in my book that I failed to see the big garbage can positioned on the downtown sidewalk, though it came up past my belt, and I stumbled over that large container, knocking it over and nearly falling down myself, to the great embarrassment of my brothers across the street in the courtyard, who might well have echoed that Thracian maid, that I was so eager to know what was going on in my bookish haven that I couldn't see what was before my feet.

My life has generally been a bit like that experience, for I've kept my nose constantly in books, learning a lot, I guess, but ignoring the practical aspects of life, even to the exclusion of those pragmatic skills in which mastery is needed for surviving within my chosen realm of academia.

That also probably explains the occasional academic mess that I've stumbled into, and over which I've even fallen down . . . but such experiences have at least taught me a certain pedestrian wisdom.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sa-Rah Ahyoga Hwang: Artworks for Kim Hyo-Yeon, of Girls' Generation

My daughter Sa-Rah is thirteen and loves the Korean pop band Girls' Generation (소녀시대; 少女時代) and was selected by the fan club to compose a birthday letter for band member Kim Hyo-Yeon (김효연). Sa-Rah went beyond her duty and also designed an artful envelope, both sides.

Below is the obverse of the envelope, before and after coloring:

Of these first two images, Sa-Rah says:

I chose the image of a harlequin because this is a birthday letter, and clowns are often associated with birthdays. Also, clowns are very colorful, so I thought it would look bright and joyful to have a harlequin on the envelope. The Korean writing on the apple says, "Fresh Apple Princess," which is one of Hyo-Yeon's nicknames. It sounds better in Korean than English.
Below is the reverse of the envelope, before and after coloring:

Of these second two images, Sa-Rah says:

The flower is a star-flower, which has a star as the blossom and is shining more brightly than anything else. The letters "A-HY" stand for "Aster-Hyo-Yeon" because "aster" means "star." I chose this image as a wish that Hyo-Yeon become a star of the world.
Sa-Rah has already sent the birthday missive to Kim Hyo-Yeon, though there's no guarantee that it will reach her since it has to first be vetted by the the organizer of the fan club . . . and probably by the company, SM Entertainment, which 'owns' Girls' Generation.

Oh, to be a young teenager again . . .

UPDATE: Sa-Rah's birthday greeting for Kim Hyo-Yeon must have made the grade, for it appears on the website Girls' Generation Naver Fan Cafe CISTUS as about the 31st image below (just scroll down close to the bottom).

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Albert Barnes on "God-Breathed"

Albert Barnes
(Image from Wikipedia)

In searching more on a possible allusion to Genesis 2:7 in 2 Timothy 3:16, I discovered that at least one commentary (and probably more if I were to look further) allows for this possibility, the New Testament Notes, by the American Calvinist theologian Albert Barnes (1798-1870), who has this to say about θεόπνευστος in 2 Timothy 3:16:
Is given by inspiration of God. All this is expressed in the original by one word -- Θεόπνευστος Theopneustos. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, God-inspired -- from Θεός Theos, God, and πνέω pneō, to breathe, to breathe out. The idea of breathing upon, or breathing into the soul, is that which the word naturally conveys. Thus God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life, Ge 2:7; and thus the Saviour breathed on his disciples, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," Joh 20:22. The idea seems to have been, that the life was in the breath, and that an intelligent spirit was communicated with the breath. The expression was used among the Greeks, and a similar one was employed by the Romans. Plutarch ed. B. ix, p. 683, 9. τους ονείρους τους θεοπνεύστους tous oneirous tous theopneustous [the inspired dreams]; Phocylid. 121. της δε θεοπνεύστου σοφίης λόγος εστιν αριστος tēs de theopnoustou sophiēs logos estin aristos [the word of inspired wisdom is excellent]. Perhaps, however, this is not an expression of Phocylides, but of the pseudo Phocylides. So it is understood by Bloomfield. Cicero, pro Arch., 8. poetam -- quasi divino quodam spiritu infiari. [a poet -- as if breathed upon by a certain divine spirit] The word does not occur in the Septuagint, but is found in Josephus, C. Ap. i. 7. "The Scriptures of the prophets who were taught according to the inspiration of God, κατα την επίπνοιαν την απο του Θεου kata tēn epipnoian tēn apo tou Theou [according to the inspiration of God]" In regard to the manner of inspiration, and to the various questions which have been started as to its nature, nothing can he learned from the use of this word. It asserts a fact -- that the Old Testament was composed under a Divine influence, which might be represented by breathing on one, and so imparting life. But the language must be figurative, for God does not breathe; though the fair inference is that those Scriptures are as much the production of God, or as much to be traced to him as life is. Comp. Mt 22:43; 2 Pe 1:21. The question as to the degree of inspiration, and whether it extends to the words of Scripture, and how far the sacred writers were left to the exercise of their own faculties, is foreign to the design of these notes. All that is necessary to be held is, that the sacred writers were kept from error on those subjects which were matters of their own observation, or which pertained to memory; and that there were truths imparted to them directly by the Spirit of God, which they never could have arrived at by the unaided exercise of their own minds. Comp. Intro. to Isaiah and Job.
Barnes does not make a strong case for an allusion to Genesis 2:7 in 2 Timothy 3:16, but he offers more examples on "inspiration" for our consideration. He does offer an intriguing suggestion: "The idea seems to have been, that the life was in the breath, and that an intelligent spirit was communicated with the breath." The suggestion is intended to connect the two verses hermeneutically, life and intelligence being infused with the same breath given by God, but this depends upon an already established allusion to Genesis 2:7 in 2 Timothy 3:16, and that hasn't yet been shown.

Perhaps I'll try to check other commentaries . . .

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