Sunday, 2 May 2021

Psalms 83

How is the software, or jellyware, of the human constructed? We possess the intricate coordination of nerves and muscles that allow us to sense, to move, to wake and to sleep, features we have not fully duplicated in our remote machines, though our cleverness is extraordinary. 

We have within us power untapped to shape, to calculate, to plan, to plot, and emotional capacity well beyond a silverfish that will still run an escape route when surprised by shadow in a suddenly lighted room. We name everything in sight, and explain beyond words and think we understand. 

We stare at screens anticipating our distant requirements and writing to or performing for unseen and unknown readers to influence, entertain, mold, or whatever we might imagine the feedback mechanisms of our social media may indicate to us. Many of these features of our systems we take for granted until some plague arrests us mid-stride, or some bug stops our control of the software we have manufactured.

And we can snarl. We can hate. We craft secrets, and conspire. We can believe we are the chosen, and project our fears onto our enemies. We can interfere in the fears and hopes of others to stop them from being able to seek their own good. We can act with kindness and mercy. We can feel shame. We can imagine and inflict punishment.

Can we assume we are self-made, responsible only to ourselves, and set against anything we might project as greater than us? Can we hide ourselves from our own face, making us unable to admit truth to save our faces?

Note how this violent poet prays for enemies. The chosen knows itself as ihvh's treasure, the loveliness of God. (All the names of God, El, Elohim, and Elyon, noted in the previous psalm are mentioned here and resolved to ihvh in the final verse. The connection with the prior psalm is shown by the first note in the music.)

thlim pg Psalms 83 Fn Min Max Syll
a wir mzmor lasf 1 A song. A psalm of Asaph. g 3e 4B 6
b alohim al-dvmi-lç
al-tkrw val-twqo't al
2 O God not mute for you.
Do not be silent. Do not be quiet, O God.
3e 4B 7
g ci-hnh aoibiç ihmiun
umwnaiç nwau raw
3 For behold your enemies snarl,
and those hating you lift up a head.
3e 4B 9
d yl-ymç iyrimu sod
vitiiyxu yl-xpuniç
4 Over your people they craft secret counsel,
and they conspire against your treasure.

3e 4B 8
h amru lcu vnckidm mgoi
vla-iizcr wm-iwral yod
5 They have said, Come now and let us conceal them as a nation,
and the name of Israel will not be remembered ever.
3e 4B 11
v ci noyxu lb ikdiv
yliç brit icrotu
6 For they conspire as one heart.
Over you they cut a covenant.

C 3e 4C 7
z aohli adom viwmyalim moab vhgrim 7 The tents of Edom and Ishmaelites, Moab and Hagarites. 3e 4B 15
k gbl vymon vymlq
plwt ym-iowbi xor
8 Gebal and Ammon and Amalek,
Philistines with those sitting in Tyre.
3e 4B 9
't gm-awur nlvvh yimm
hiu zroy lbni-lo't slh
9 Even Ashur is allied with them.
They have become the arm of the children of Lot. Selah.

3e 4C 7
i ywh-lhm cmdiin
csisra cibin bnkl qiwon
10 Do to them as Midian,
as Sisera to Jabin in the torrent of Kishon.
3e 4B 7
ia nwmdu byin-dor
hiu domn ladmh
11 They were exterminated at Endor.
They became compost for the ground.

3e 4A 6
ib witmo ndibimo cyorb vczab
uczbk ucxlmuny cl-nsicimo
12 Set their princes like Oreb, and like Zeeb,
and like Zebah and like Tsalmuna, all their libations,
3e 4B 13
ig awr amru nirwh lnu
at naot alohim
13 who said, Let us dispossess for ourselves,
even the loveliness of God.

3e 4B 9
id alohii witmo cglgl
cqw lpni-ruk
14 My God set them as a whirl,
as stubble in the face of the wind,
3e 4A 8
'tv caw tbyr-iyr
uclhbh tlh't hrim
15 as fire kindling forest,
and as a flame blazing hills.
3e 4A 6
'tz cn trdpm bsyrç
ubsuptç tbhlm
16 So persecute them in your tempest,
and with your storm-wind vex them.

g 3e 4B 9
iz mla pnihm qlon
vibqwu wmç ihvh
17 Fill their faces with disgrace,
so they will seek your name Yahweh.
3e 4B 7
ik ibowu viibhlu ydi-yd vikpru viabdu 18 They will be ashamed and they will be vexed for ever and ever and they will be disappointed and will perish. 3e 3g 19
i't viidyu ci-ath wmç ihvh lbdç
ylion yl-cl-harx
19 And they will know that you, your name Yahweh, you only,
are Most High over all the earth.
3e 4B 13

Tate considers this a late composition, with a constructed list of 10 enemies that were never all enemies at any one particular time. 

How do we consider that we can know the mind of this poet? Is it a small mind, a violent mind, a narrow view of God's chosen against the surrounding world? Or is that prayer for disgrace a prayer for opening the heart of the enemy that they might hear that God is merciful and kind, long-suffering, and open to a change of heart in the jellyware of his 'enemies'?

I suggest that every such prayer for enemies leaves the change possible from software settings of 'my freedom at your expense', to 'our mutual responsibility', in the mind of enemy and friend alike. This is a terrifying freedom, that I really am 'my brother's guardian'.

And still, mute, quiet, silence may continue from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.

Now I would pray that the consequential devastation from plague and social destruction might be reversed, that the old ruins might be rebuilt, the death-toll healed, the forest regenerated, the stubble recollected with the wheat to form a green stalk, the whirl unwhirled, the vexation ceasing. 

What would it mean - if meaning is sensible, to seek the name of ihvh? The software of God subtends all time and space. So G-d knows about imaginary numbers, that real stuff of the time dimension that we invented to explain the world to ourselves. And we, the children of what we imagine, may well use shame to carry us past our errors and into reconciliation and rebuilding. 

I make the music explicit as usual. Rhythm is the first R.

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