Saturday, March 30, 2019

Wrestling with the idea of meaning

In this world it is not hard to be outside - and imagine others on the inside, and vice versa. B K Blount whom I think I may have met or at least heard in a distant life, has this statement about otherness (Blount, B. (2019). The Souls of Biblical Folks and the Potential for Meaning. Journal of Biblical Literature, 138(1), 6-21. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.15699/jbl.1381.2019.1382)
Those who hold interpretive power establish those outside their circle as Other and assign to them the status of Problem and subsequently the problematic task of working their way out of their Otherness by becoming less like themselves and more like those holding such power.
You don't need to be visibly different from the crowd to feel this way.

In this article, Blount uses two words I avoid, soul, and meaning. Can I redeem those words for myself?

I continue to read the Bible. How could I do otherwise even if I never lifted a book again. It is embedded within me. I recognize both what I was first taught and what I reject as being without foundation, and the faith that enabled me to read this text. Truth is there somewhere, but should I try to name it? For me to 'put my finger on it' will untruth someone else. I have already put to one side some of those who taught me, both early and late.

Such rejection was not a part of my birth. It was bred in me by a residential school experience, uncertainty at home, growing up under the shadow of the Holocaust, a scientific background, and the usual slings and arrows. A recipe for implosion if I ever heard one! Early teachers taught with a stick and hid their own needs. As for family, who keeps a family together easily in any age? How did Christendom produce such bitter fruit, such unholy prejudice? When science conflicts with reading, which one should win? I was converted by one who, having died, probably knows better now.

Meaning is one of those words I avoid because it reduces sense to a mean. There is sense. And there is signification, but there is not just 'potential for meaning', but rather a multiplicity of potential meanings. The need to reduce them to one is an act of power rather than of love.

Curiously, I was just reading an English first world war novel with a scene in a small French town at a café. Someone asks: Is this chair taken? The Anglais could not understand the French question. The chair was there and empty. It isn't just the language that is a problem. It would have been equally silly to ask, Is this chair occupied? What was the meaning? That the questioner wanted to take or occupy the chair? Or was there an unseen person temporarily absent or expected shortly? Or, is it a reflection of social custom not to express one's own need first. May I have this chair? or May I sit here? Was the chair implicitly assigned to another table? Or did it belong to the one sitting at that table?

Then a few minutes later, talking to an old friend, an empty chair between them seemed to contain another mutual friend. So unoccupied, it was nevertheless occupied by a ghost. What is the ghost in this case but that part of the absent person's soul which she could never have known of. Yet is it a part of her soul as surely as she is in the minds of the two who are present? And as her soul is connected to them, are they also connected to her soul? The nature of the connection? Is everyone whom I have encountered a part of me as I am a part of them? If so, then we are one organism, one integral group. The soul is bigger than the individual.

The idea of this one body is implicit in the Shema. But perhaps I jump from rock to rock too quickly and maybe lose my balance. Ah well, someone will pick me up. I don't think this is a bad start for mutual responsibility and interdependence. I have already noted how dependent my project has been on people I have never met, especially noting the complexity of the technical environment I use.

On another front, one only has to think about the food we eat to know how dependent we are for every day needs on whole interacting systems of people. Who planted it, grew it, picked it, packaged it, sent it, bought it, sold it, prepared it, and who made what we can eat it with, and who built the house and its facilities that will receive our waste, and manage our cleanliness, and ensure that all these systems work on our behalf.

Are all these people part of us? And the people who fall by the wayside for whom the systems do not work, refugees, people near and far, whole and damaged, equally in need. Are they too part of my soul?

I cannot eliminate those who are past, saints or otherwise. One vast communion. Sheep and goats together. If Hitler had not persecuted Jews, then Haïk-Vantoura would not have had the same questions of her father... and I would not have written my program to run her key against the Leningrad codex. Even those in error have played a role.

So though, as a local individual in a small borough, I have to defend myself within a confined space and be defended by law and enforcement of law, I cannot allow this local culture to define a rigid other who is outside. My gates must remain open regardless of who is outside. Perhaps they have othered themselves, but perhaps they can also become other than what they seem to be to me now. And I may not be the keeper of the gates. Perhaps there are yet gates I must enter and overcome the otherness in myself from another's vantage point.

I don't have my copy of the JBL yet. It is thoroughly delayed by systems that are currently not working, so I have been reduced to scanning it online. My take from Blount may be quite peripheral to his intent. I hope he will forgive me for taking the empty chair next to him without asking.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Volume 2 of The Hebrew Bible and its Music

Volume 2, The Former Prophets, of The Hebrew Bible and its Music is now available.

I have invented a sort of automated proof-reading tool. It looks at the variations in phrasing that I used for words taken 3 at a time in the context of words taken 6 at a time and I ponder them. How did that variation happen? Sometimes it is a first encounter of a text and a second without necessarily realizing that I had seen it before - perhaps I had not yet perfected by automated look-ahead translation algorithm for repeated phrases. Anyway, I can still usually detect a reason. Here's a trio that occurs 31 times: The three stems על פנה אדם occur in succession in two different forms: מעל פני האדמה and על פני האדמה - not much different. But enough that I have two separate phrases for them, from or from off the surface of the ground, and on or over the face of the ground. I think I am pleased that my inconsistency is reasonably consistent. I also like the sounds-like character of face and surface, the former seeing the ground almost as personal, the latter seeing it as material from which the subject is separated. As usual, English prepositions vary.

Still there are thousands of such triplet sequences and I won't manage to proof-read them all. When proofing these though, as I have reported before, I have found lots of inconsistencies and corrected them through other algorithms based in part on commonly known problems and on the redundancy built into my data.

There are some great benefits to reading a new version of Scripture that is designed with the music in mind. You can find the book here and a description of the resources available through the music here. (With a new podcast - 3 minutes from me...)

And these are the verses I was looking at... (31, I confirmed the count by an independent query). It will give you a taste of the phrasing and vocabulary that I use.

BookCh/Vs65432words 1Text
GENESIS4.14האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל fromהיום todayאתי meגרשׁת you expelLo, you expel me today from the surface of the ground and from your face I will be hid,
and I will be a vagabond and aimless in the earth and it will happen that anyone who finds me will slay me.
GENESIS6.1האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל overלרב to multiplyהאדם the earthlingהחל startedAnd it happened that the earthling started to multiply over the face of the ground,
and daughters were born to them.
GENESIS6.7האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offבראתי I createdאשׁר thatהאדם humanityAnd Yahweh said, I will wipe out humanity that I created from off the surface of the ground, from human to beast to creeper and to the fowl of the heavens,
for I regret that I made them.
GENESIS7.4האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offעשׂיתי I constructedאשׁר thatהיקום that was placedFor in yet seven days I will cause rain upon the earth, a forty day and forty night span.
I will wipe out all that was placed that I constructed from off the surface of the ground.
GENESIS7.23האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל onאשׁר that isהיקום that was placedכל allAnd wiped out was all that was placed that is on the face of the ground, from human to beast to creeper and to the fowl of the heavens and they were wiped out from the earth,
and the residue was but Noah and those who were with him on the barge.
GENESIS8.8האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offהמים the watersהקלו the dwindling ofלראות to seeAnd he sent the dove from him,
to see the dwindling of the waters from off the surface of the ground.
EXODUS32.12האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offולכלתם and to consume themבהרים in the mountainsאתם themWhy should Egypt say, saying, With evil intent he brought them out to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from off the surface of the ground?
Turn from your fierce anger and be comforted, against the evil for your people.
EXODUS33.16האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל onאשׁר that areהעם the peopleמכל from allAnd how will it be known here that I find grace in your eyes, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us?
And we will fall out, I and your people, from all the people that are on the face of the ground.
NUMBERS12.3האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל onאשׁר that isהאדם humanמכל more than anyBut Moses was a very gentle person,
more than any human that is on the face of the ground.
DEUTERONOMY6.15האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offוהשׁמידך and exterminate youבך in youאלהיך your God(for a jealous God, Yahweh your God, is within you),
lest the anger of Yahweh your God burn in you and exterminate you from off the surface of the ground. S
DEUTERONOMY7.6האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל onאשׁר that areהעמים the peoplesמכל from allFor a holy people you are of Yahweh your God.
Yahweh your God has chosen you to be for himself a people, a treasure trove, from all the peoples that are on the face of the ground.
DEUTERONOMY14.2האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל onאשׁר that areהעמים the peoplesמכל from allFor a holy people you are to Yahweh your God.
And Yahweh has chosen you to be a people for himself, a treasure trove, from all the peoples that are on the face of the ground.
1 SAMUEL20.15האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offאישׁ each oneדוד Davidאיבי the enemies ofAnd you will not cut off your kindness from my house for ever,
... not when Yahweh has cut off the enemies of David, each one from off the surface of the ground.
2 SAMUEL14.7האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל overושׁארית or residueשׁם nameלאישׁי for my manAnd behold all the family arose against your handmaid, and they said, Give the one who struck his kin, that we may put him to death for the integrity of his kin that he has slain, and we will exterminate also the heir.
So they will quench my coal that is still here, so as not to lay up for my man, name or residue, over the face of the ground.
1 KINGS8.40האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל overחיים liveהם theyאשׁר thatSo that they may fear you all the days that they live over the face of the ground,
that you gave to our ancestors.
1 KINGS9.7האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offישׂראל Israelאת --והכרתי then I will cut offThen I will cut off Israel from off the surface of the ground that I gave for them, and the house which I have sanctified for my name, I will send away from my presence,
and Israel will become a parable and a gibe among all the peoples.
1 KINGS13.34האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offולהשׁמיד and for exterminationולהכחיד and for concealmentירבעם JeroboamAnd in this matter was the sin of the house of Jeroboam,
and for concealment and for extermination from off the surface of the ground.
1 KINGS17.14האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל overגשׁם showersיהוה Yahwehתת givesFor thus says Yahweh the God of Israel, The pitcher of flour you will not finish, and a thin wafer of oil, you will lack not for,
until the day Yahweh gives showers over the face of the ground.
1 KINGS18.1האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל onמטר rainואתנה and I will giveאחאב AhabAnd it was many days, and the word of Yahweh happened to Elijah in the third year, saying,
Go. Show yourself to Ahab, and I will give rain on the face of the ground.
ISAIAH23.17האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל overהארץ the earthממלכות the kingdoms ofכל allAnd it will be at the end of a seventy year span, Yahweh will visit Tyre and she will return to her fee,
and will play the harlot with all the kingdoms of the earth over the face of the ground.
JEREMIAH8.2האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל overלדמן for compostיקברו they will be entombedולא and notAnd they will unfold them to the sun and to the moon, and for all the host of the heavens whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have searched out, and whom they have worshiped.
They will not be gathered and they will not be entombed, for compost over the face of the ground they will be.
JEREMIAH16.4האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל overלדמן for compostיקברו they will be entombedולא and notDeaths by disease they will die. They will not be bewailed, and they will not be entombed.
For compost over the face of the ground they will be, and by the sword, and by famine, they will be consumed, and their corpses will be as food to the fowl of the heavens and to the beasts of the earth.
JEREMIAH25.26האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל onאשׁר that areהארץ the earthהממלכות the kingdoms ofAnd all kings of the north, the near and the far, each to its kin, and all the kingdoms of the earth that are on the face of the ground,
and the king of Sheshak will imbibe after them.
JEREMIAH25.33האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל overלדמן for compostיקברו they will be entombedולא and notAnd the profaned of Yahweh will be in that day from one extremity of the earth, and to the other extremity of the earth.
They will not be bewailed, and they will not be gathered and they will not be entombed. For compost over the face of the ground, they will be.
JEREMIAH28.16האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offמשׁלחך I will send youהנני note me wellיהוה YahwehTherefore thus says Yahweh, Note me well. I will send you from off the surface of the ground.
This year you will die because you have spoken revolt to Yahweh.
JEREMIAH35.7האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל onרבים manyימים daysתחיו you may liveNor house will you build, nor seed will you sow, nor vineyard will you plant, and it will not be there for you.
But in tents you will sit all your days, so that you may live many days on the face of the ground where you are guests.
EZEKIEL38.20האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל onאשׁר that isהאדם humanityוכל and allAnd they will quake in my presence, the fishes of the sea, and the fowl of the heavens, and the living of the field, and every creeper that creeps upon the ground, and all humanity that is on the face of the ground.
And the hills will be overthrown and the steep places will fall, and every wall, to earth, will fall.
AMOS9.8האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offאתה youוהשׁמדתי and I will exterminateהחטאה sinBehold the eyes of my Lord Yahweh are on the kingdom of sin and I will exterminate you from off the surface of the ground,
but, ... for not to exterminate do I exterminate the house of Jacob, an oracle of Yahweh.
ZEPHANIAH1.2האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offכל for allאסף havocאסף I will wreakI will wreak havoc for all from off the surface of the ground. An oracle of Yahweh.
ZEPHANIAH1.3האדמה the groundפני the surface ofמעל from offהאדם the humanאת --והכרתי and I will cut offI will spread havoc for human and beast. I will spread havoc for fowl in the heavens and fish in the sea, and the stumbling-blocks are with the wicked.
And I will cut off the human from off the surface of the ground. An oracle of Yahweh.
2 CHRONICLES6.31האדמה the groundפני the face ofעל overחיים liveהם theyאשׁר thatSo that they will fear you, to walk in your ways all the days that they live over the face of the ground,
that you gave to our ancestors.