Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Working towards completeness

At last, the third thought-petal of my five which I first listed here with elaborations herehere and here. But this is more than a petal. It is the stamen itself.

Completeness indicates the end of the story. Completeness is another synonym for the whole. The word for complete in Hebrew has the three-letter root taf-mem-mem תמם. And it appears at the end of the movie, thus: תם, tam, meaning 'THE END'.

This word is used quite frequently in the Psalms. As in English, it can mean ended as in finished, wiped out. And it can mean completed in the sense of filled full. So it belongs in the domain of finishing, consuming, and satisfaction. Some of these words overlap with the semantic domain of destruction. In my very terse analysis of the Psalms by semantic domain here, I list this word as one of 11 under the idea of wholeness. The full list is long winded and full of fuzzy decisions.
אחד once, one, single 
גמל grow, benefit, mature, pay back, nursing child, reward
חסד loving-kindness, covenant mercy, mercy, reproof, show kind, and חסִִיד

these I treated as separate roots though they are really the same. I gloss them as loving-kindness or some variation on kind or mercy. The noun is merciful one, or in the plural, those under mercy, and also stork. Traditional glosses for the plural include saints, or holy ones, and for the singular, godly, all a bit misleading in my opinion.
יחד together, altogether, one, unique, solitary
כל all, every
כלל כלל, glossed as perfection, occurs only once in the Psalms, in Psalm 50. from Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shined. It is a strange verse for today, when perfection is not exactly what we could associate with trouble in the land.
צמד couple, see Psalm 106:28 for example.
רפא heal, also its homonym, used as shades in Psalm 88.
שׁלםשׁלם is perhaps the most obvious of the group, glossed as peace, make whole, but also pay and payback. It is part of the name Salem and Absalom.
תמםcomplete, and once as filled full. Psalm 73 
How in a moment they are desolated
floundering, filled full from frights.

According to that psalm, this is the sudden 'end' תם of the wicked.

What constitutes my end - is it complete or not? Is such completion desirable? Can I know it before the end? Do I know in advance what is complete for me? or for others? or with others? The word perfect is often the gloss used for תם. So God says to Abram (before his name change to Abraham), Walk before me and be complete. Or as in the King James Version, be perfect. It is Yahweh, appearing to Abram as the mysterious El Shaddai, saying

Walk in my presence and be complete. אֲנִי־אֵל שַׁדַּי הִתְהַלֵּךְ לְפָנַי וֶהְיֵה תָמִֽים׃

These are hard questions, and do not admit of an easy theoretical answer. The answer comes through error, struggle, and destruction of barriers to the wholeness that is sought. Perhaps that is why Jerusalem is such an image of conflict in its whole history. The place of peace cannot find its achievement. The Holy is elusive.

The question then is focused: by what means did Abram find this walk? And how shall we? Let's leave the question there for the moment. Perhaps by the time we get to the fifth petal, the form of the stamen will be more in evidence.

Hint: death is proleptic.

Ponder the mystery in that inimitable poem by T. S. Eliot. A proleptic Death is equally available in the faith of Abram as it is in the faith of Abraham or of the NT through the circumcision of the Anointed.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down 
This set down 
This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? 
There was a Birth, certainly 
We had evidence and no doubt. 
I had seen birth and death, 
But had thought they were different; this Birth was 
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. 
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, 
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, 
With an alien people clutching their gods. 
I should be glad of another death.