Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Genesis: We've Fallen and We Can't Get Up! (Part 3)

Caution: Don't Listen to Woman.

     So, now we are approaching the infamous “Fall of Man” story, which will be the final part of the Genesis creation story that I'll cover under the Cosmology section. I consider this the final part because up until The Fall we've learned of the creation of the universe and all living things, including us lovable humans. And we've even delved into the details of the creation of man via dust and woman via Baby Back Ribs®.

    And I'm sure we have all by now speculated on the impact of the notion of man coming first, and woman second, paving the way for patriarchal justification. Not to mention woman having little sovereignty since she is made from man. And we've witnessed the non-canonical story of Lilith, which illustrates deeper the tensions we've had (and by my guess will always have) between the sexes. While Lilith tried to be equal with Adam, he wasn't having any of it. He demanded to be superior. And so, the couple broke up, and God created a new woman—Eve, whom must have been a more submissive lover since we never hear of any sexual complaint by Adam. (Where was Love Line when you needed it? I think Dr. Drew would have been a better person to talk to then God in this case.) But...woman is not done messing up quite yet. What really nails in the coffin for woman as being perceivably wicked, which patriarchal societies use to their defense, was the sin of all sins....eating a fruit.

Before we start on Chapter 3, I just wanted to take a note of the last verse of Chapter 2, which states: “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” This line is important because it really shows the influence religion has had on the Western way of thinking about nudity (And I'm sure the Nudist colonies love using this line to push their free-balling ways.) But it is important to note that many cultures during Ancient times had no shame nor quarrels with nudity. Jewish culture began to sever thoughts on nudity in the West (yes, that was a circumcision joke.)


But then, the snake came...”Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'” At this point, I would be shocked that this creature just spoke. But given the earlier likely interviews Adam had with the animals, perhaps its safe to assume all of the animals spoke back then. Flinstones, you were right. 

So, Eve responds with God's rule of eating any fruit of the garden except the one in the middle.  “But the serpent responds said to the woman,'You will surely not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she always gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

This is, I think, the most interesting part of the story of the Fall...that the first sin was not simply disobedience to God, but in the vain attempt to be like God. The first sin was hubris (or arrogance and excessive ambition). This part of the story is also interesting because it shows man and woman's own particular weakness to sin. Woman's being wanting something that is delightful to the eyes. (Designer clothing ring a bell?). And man's particular weakness, listening to woman. :-P

I joke, of course, and I mainly do so to show you the kind of influence and relationship this creation story has had on our culture and how we view gender.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

After reading that verse, I often wonder why many artists depict Adam and Eve as having a single leaf. Perhaps they tried that fashion at first, but it was too risqué...or the wind blew it off.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” So, God also likes to take a stroll from time to time; who knew? “But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, Where are you? And he said, I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself. He said, Who told you that you were naked?” Ignorance had been lifted. Then God asks if he ate the fruit he told them not to eat. And Adam, being a good, loyal husband.,blames Eve!

“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

Oh, come on now Adam. Pointing the finger at someone else, very mature.

And then God turns to Eve, and of course, she blames the snake. And the snake blamed his behavior on a bad mouse lunch he had that was stuck in his throat....ok, not really. So, now, God being the all-loving and all-forgiving God we've all heard about, begins about to curse each of participants involved in the sin.

To the snake, he makes him crawl on his belly. So, we can assume before this the snake had legs. It does seem strange here to me that Moses would insert a children's story-like account of how the snake lost its legs among such an important story as the Fall of Man. It reminds me of “How the Elephant Lost its Trunk” story I read as a child, where a crocodile bit and pulled it's nose out to make it as long as it is today.  But oh well, It's good information to know.

To the woman, he multiplies her pain in childbirth. And if that wasn't bad enough. He also says, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

If there was any doubt before that the Bible creation story is sexist, then I think that verse should put a rest to it.

To Adam, God says, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it', cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shal eat bread, till you return to the ground...”

So, in other words, God gave man work. Before that, the Garden of Eden provided everything for easy picking. But now, Adam, and mankind thereafter was destined to a life of grueling labor.

But God was not without total compassion. He did make them new clothes out of skins. I'm sure it sure beat the single leaf or fig loincloth.

In verse 22, God says something very interesting, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest her reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 
A Celtic rendition of the Tree of Life, by Jen Delyth.

This verse is interesting for two reasons. For one, because God still uses the plural when referring to himself, translated as “us” in English. So, who is God talking about? Him and who else? Angels? Other Gods? We can only surmise. The second reason its interesting is because it mentions the tree of life. No where else before had this tree been mentioned. And of course, later, Christianity uses the tree of life as symbolic of Jesus and/or the cross.

Finally, the chapter ends with the not-so-fortuitous excommunication of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. And the last verse reads, “He(God) drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”

If you're wondering what a cherubim is, here is a picture.
It's pretty much Napoleon's favorite animal. It's like a lion and a tiger mixed... bred for its skills in magic. 

No wait, sorry, that is a Liger, from Napoleon Dynamite.

Cherubs, or Cherubim (plural), aka: Heaven's pet, turn up from time to time in the Bible, They are a kind of heavenly and highly symbolic creature. They often consist of a combination of animals, similar to the griffin. They sometimes are thought to be angels, but they seem unique in that they have a number of animal characteristics. Here's are more accurate depictions of them.

Cherub, described by Ezekiel.
Cherubs are also a part of Mesopotamian and Egyptian mythology, which some believe is where the Hebrews picked it up from.
  As for the flaming sword.  You might be wondering why God would put such a ominous( yet pretty nifty) weapon next to the tree of life.  A flaming sword says to most people, I would think, "Stay Away".  Some believe that the fire, though usually bad and used to destroy throughout the Bible, is a cleansing type of fire, one that purifies man from sin.  And the sword is thought to dissuade the sinful from entering. The authors of the New Testament talk copiously about the symbolism of the formidable deterrent.   Indeed, it would take a brave and sinless man to walk past a flame-sword wielding cherub, although nun-chucks would've sufficed .  But I think the ultimate point here is, that getting back to God will not be easy.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Genesis: The first man and women? (Part 2)

    [If you haven't read part one yet, go back here]

    Chapter 2 of Genesis opens up with God resting on the seventh day and making it holy.  Not exactly a hook into the story per se, and I'm not really sure why they didn't end chapter 2 with God resting, but oh well.  Maybe because this resting day is so important in Judaism and Christianity in creating the special no-work Sabbath Day (which is Saturday for Jews, and Sunday for Christians) that they decided to start the chapter with it.
God chillin' like a villain...or, erm, perhaps the opposite, eh?

    Then the story takes a step back and explains the creation of man in more detail.  Okay, now we're back on the sixth day.

"When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens--and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had sprung up for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground--the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

    I know what you're thinking.  Didn't god create vegetation back in Day 3?  I didn't include the actual verse before, so here it is now: "Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seeds in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so. The land produced vegetation..."

    Indeed, Grandpa Moses is at it again.  (It brings new meaning to the Singing in the Rain lyric "Moses supposes erroneously".)  And so, God needed man to work the fields before he sent rain to grow his veggies.  It seems here man was destined to work.

    After God created man (Adam), he put him in the Garden of Eden, where he made all kinds of trees, including the infamous tree of the knowledge of good and evil smack dab in the middle.  Kind of a precarious location for a forbidden fruit.  Come on God...couldn't you have hidden it or put a thorn bush around it or something?  *Sigh*...But I guess it wouldn't be temptation then.  So already I'm wondering God's intentions of even creating the tree, much less putting it in the center of the garden. God warns man explicitly, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." 

After God warned Adam, he then went about to create a partner for him.

The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him."

Then God gathered all of the beasts and birds for Adam to meet and name.  He named each one, but alas, "no suitable helper was found".

So I'm wondering here what kind of helper Adam needed, why God and Adam were looking among animals to fill in the helper role, and exactly how the interviews went down.

    Adam: So, umm...can you dig the ground?
    Pig:  Oink oink!
    Adam:  Ah, great! Okay, umm...can you fill in this void in my chest that tells me I am the only one of my species and that I'll never mate or have children?
    Pig: ...oink?
   Adam: Um, alright. I think we're finished here...I name you "Pig!".  Now begone.  Next!

So then God creates woman, first putting Adam under a deep sleep, then stealing one of his ribs and creating woman, who was named Eve (hence the word "Evening")
Maybe its been too long since I've had Chili's Baby Back Ribs, but this story makes me hungry.
    We can only imagine the surprise Adam felt when he awoke from his deep slumber to find a strange woman laying next to him.  (Sounds like a typical college night if you ask me.)

     The chapter finishes with: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.  The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."

     Now to address the issue that was bugging me in the end of the last post (and perhaps you too), about God having created man and woman first.  And then later, in chapter 2, woman was created after man and from man.  Does this mean there were two women??  Some interpret chapter one's mention of man and woman being created as simply a summary of the later events we learn about in the following chapter.  But others, have created from this discrepancy -- the Lilith myth!

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

   We all know this song as a Lullaby.  And just thinking of it is making me sleepy actually (I'm writing this at 2am now).  But where does the lullaby come from?  Here's another famous, and older lullaby, called Brahms Lullaby.

Lullaby and good night, with roses bedight
With lilies o'er spread is baby's wee bed
Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed
Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed

Actually, Lullaby is a word derived from the words "Lilith Bye", which eventually became "Lullaby".  Lilith, who is thought of to be a former Sumerian demon, or evil spirit, was known for taking the lives of infant children in their sleep (perhaps SIDS?).  Thus, the "lulla-bye" was a incantation to wish the evil disease-bearing spirit, Lilith, goodbye.


Another verse of Brahm's lullaby:
Sleepyhead, close your eyes, mother's right here beside you.
I'll protect you from harm, you will wake in my arms.
Guardian angels are near, so sleep on, with no fear.
Guardian angels are near, so sleep on, with no fear.

Mesopotamian Lilith

So here again, we see within the old lyrics themselves , the mother's comforting words her child (and probably to herself as well) that no harm will come while sleeping.

So how does the lullaby and a baby killing demon enter into the Adam and Eve myth?  Well, because Genesis' dual creation account, Lilith, who once started as a Mesopotamian demon, later entered Jewish folk mythology thanks to The Alphabet of Ben-Sira, which is attributed to Ben Sira, a jewish scribe who wrote the Sirach, a deuterocanonical book (or one not quite accepted as 'legit' by the powers that be).  However the Alphabet is thought of to be written from 700A.D. to 1000A.D., and is considered satircal in nature.  Considering this was during the renown "Dark Ages" of Europe, I suppose someone felt inclined to spread the joy of comedy. Can't say I blame whoever it was.  But either way, whether this work is credible or not, the influence it had and even has today is resounding.  This version of the story of Lilith not only got in between the canon of one of the most important books of the Bible, but Lilith also made its way in between Adam and Eve, quite literally.
I urge you to read the whole account of Lilith below, as it is quite entertaining and interesting to read.  It plays out like a daytime soap opera...but with demons and angels.
      Soon afterward the young son of the king took ill.  Said Nebuchadnezzar, "Heal my son. If you don't, I will kill you."  Ben Sira immediately sat down and wrote an amulet with the Holy Name, and he inscribed on it the angels in charge of medicine by their names, forms and images, and by their wings, hands, and feet. Nebuchadnezzar looked at the amulet. "Who are these?"
   "The angels who are in charge of medicine: Snvi, Snsvi, and Smnglof. (I have no idea how to pronounce these names!  Though it would make a good Law Firm name.) After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone' (Gen. 2:18). He then created a woman for Adam, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while am to be in the superior one.' (Oh come on! What guy today would argue with his lover about the woman being on top?!) Lilith responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: 'Sovereign of the universe!' he said, 'the woman you gave me has run away.' At once, the Holy One, blessed be He, sent these three angels to bring her back.
   "Said the Holy One to Adam, 'If she agrees to come back, fine. If not she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.' The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God's word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, 'We shall drown you in the sea.'
   "'Leave me!' she said. 'I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.'
   "When the angels heard Lilith's words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: 'Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.' She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels' names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers."

     And so, because of a sex position dispute, and because Lilith demanded equal treatment (she is now regarded as a feminist icon), the first human couple broke up.  Why couldn't they compromise and do it side-position, I wonder?  In any case, this story goes to show not only this author's sentiment toward women, but also those whom adopted this tradition later on.  And it could also be seen as a natural reaction (or even criticism) to the already patriachial values that had been held for so long.  Although this idea of Adam and Lilith being the first humans didn't become very popular until the 17th Century, the myth of Lilith is more ancient than any of the Hebrew texts themselves, and her spirit has been as still is ever pervasive.  It goes to show that even a dubious noncanonical script such as The Alphabet of Ben Sira can have wide ranging effects for future generations. 
John Collier's painting of Lilith
           A few unanswered questions I have is: Since one hundred of Lilith's children are killed every day, who is fathering these children?  Were the first batch of demon babies from Adam himself?  And since according to Genesis, Adam and Eve parented all of mankind, then I suppose Lilith could be mating with their offspring as a form of revenge, or Lilith could be mating with the Devil, as well.  But the former theory has a lot of support, actually.  Lilith, is later known to be called the "seductress", and is associated later with witchcraft.  She is known to lure weak men in with her power of sexuality.  But also, in a Kabbalah account, there is another myth that states that there are two Lilths and that one procreates with a demon named Asmodeus. 

      However, we are getting too far away from the original Genesis story now.  To me, Lilith is a very interesting character.  And even Carl Jung makes a note of her as a powerful Terrible Mother archetype, and that her leaving Adam is a perfect symbol like losing a half of oneself, and how Adam needed her (or another woman) back to feel complete.

So, In short, do not want to be refered to as a "Lilith".

By the Dutch modern artist Johfra Bosschart.

In the next section, we will end our final look at the Genesis creation story with The Fall.  Stay tuned!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Genesis: Moses' wacky senile tale (Part 1)

     Ever listen to your grandfather tell a story but not quite understand all of it because it was--well, incomprehensible?  You would listen, smile, and nod, of course, giving him the benefit of the doubt since his senility was ever increasing as he aged and neared his death.  But as you listened on, you realized that what Gramps said two minutes ago in the story, he must have forgotten, because the facts don't add up.

    That's what it must have been like to listen to Moses (who's commonly held to be the author of the Torah) tell his story of Genesis.  It's a great and fantastic story, but parts of it just don't make sense if you read it in order.  Many scholars solve this problem by claiming that the order in which the first five books of the Bible were written (or told) were not really the original order.  And even within the first book, Genesis, many scholars believe that the first chapter was written after the second.  

    But just to show the incongruities of Genesis, if read in the order its presented, I will explain the creation story:

Day 1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth".... But, before you get an image of earth and heaven, which most might when imagining the first sentence...
"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."
God(Right) hovering over, what we can presume to be, the waters.
Okay, so everything was in darkness, but they were there.  Alright, I can imagine that.  Just like when I am in dark room and I stub my toe on a table leg.   Got it.  

And God said, "Let there be light."
While the Bible doesn't say where this light comes from, many believers think it was a light from God.
Great! Now we can see.  There is a godly light.  Now we can see the earth and heavens.  During the rest of the first day, God separated the night and the day.  Booyah, day one complete. 

Day 2:  "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate the water from water." God now separates the water, creating upper water (sky), and lower water(ocean).  Damn it, I already put in a picture of the earth with clouds up above.  Why couldn't you tell me this earlier, Moses!  Now I gotta change the image.
Addendum: Earth with no clouds(left), then god separates, creating clouds(right).
Day 3: "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear."   If you look close at my picture above, the land is already in the picture, too, just like the clouds were.  Well, forget it, I'm not changing another image!  Sorry, but when I think "earth" I either think of the whole Earth or ground/dirt. Yet, here, until Day 3, Moses only means a water earth.  (I sense a Water World prequel idea, Kevin Costner).

To continue, God then adds vegetation.  I'm going to go the easy route here and use Sim Earth screen shots to illustrate.
"Was creating the world as fun as Sim Earth for the Super Nintendo?" is a question I would ask God if I got a chance to meet him.
Third day- done.

Day 4: "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night...God made two great lights-the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night."  Wait a sec, didn't God already separate night and day?  Isn't this a little redundant?  Okaay...just smile and listen on...  At least now we can mark seasons and days and years now.
What happened to the godly light before?  Did the sun take its place?  Was it offed by the co-conspirator, Moon?
Fourth, finished.

Day 5: "Let the waters teem with living creatures, and let the birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky"

Day 6: "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals each according to its kinds."
I wonder, when were insects created?
But Day 6 isn't over yet!  We humans are created next!  
"Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth."
   Yes! And here God gives us total authority over the earth and its creatures.  Not a bad gig, huh.  However, did anyone notice that God refers to himself in the plural here?!  "Us", "our image", and "our likeness"!  At this point I would've had to stop Grandpa Moses and ask him, "What do you mean, 'us' and 'our'?"  Unfortunately, we can't do that, and this verse has led many scholars believe that the Hebrews were once polytheistic (believing in many gods).   Either that, or angels...but then that wouldn't make humans uniquely created by God in his image alone, now would it?  There is definitely something fishy going on here, that I'll return later to in another post.

Verse 27 goes on to say, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created him." (The repetitiveness here is definitely a characteristic of old age).

So, here, we have God creating Adam and....EVE?!
Eve has some muscles on her!  No wonder why Adam listened to her and ate the fruit.
He was probably scared.
Why,that's not the normal Michelangelo depiction of God creating man first!  What's going on here?  We turn to chapter 2 of Genesis.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

In the beginning...(Two eggcellent stories)

    I thought a good place to start my teachings section, would be with the beginning. That is, the beginning of the world or universe. Every ancient culture had their own creation myth. And heck, we even have our own creation myths today (aka: Big Bang Theory), which of course is based on modern scientific understanding, though nonetheless is still a creation myth. While each culture's creation story is unique, they also shared some common elements. For example, both in the Japanese and Greek creation stories, the world is born from an egg.

    In the Japanese story, it is a shapeless egg of swirling gases (Is that why eggs give me gas?). It's interesting to note here that this idea is not too far off from the modern Big Bang Theory, that the creation of the universe started from a single point. But thats where the similarity seems to ends, whereas in the Big Bang, the universe expands outward in all directions, usually thought of in an explosion; in the Japanese story, the lighter gases simply rose upward,forming the heavens, and the heavier gases sank to form the earth. A much calmer rendition of the Big Bang, one could say.
A sketch drawing of the Japanese creation story.
     In one account of the Greek creation myth, there was nothing but a void in the beginning, and there was this bird called Nyx. Nyx, or Night, laid a golden egg one day (though it seems silly to say “day” since there was no such thing then), and that egg, once hatched, bore Eros, the God of Love! That's right, Eros, the same god whose name we derive erotica, eroticism, and erogenous from. So this god of love, Eros, represents the sexual desire to create an ordered universe from the Chaos. And create he did. The broken halves of the shell, the top rising, and the bottom falling, created the heavens and earth. Eros named the sky Uranus and the earth Gaia. Although shouldn't Ur-anus be the lower section of the universe? (Ahhaha...that's right, I went fifth grade humor on that one). After Eros (called Cupid by the Romans) named them, he made them fall in love. After Uranus and Gaia did the nasty, the Titans were born! And thus, from them the Greek gods we've all come to know and love, like Zeus, Hades, Ares, Hera, and that gimpy one.

I think both creation myths are eggstrodinary. In fact, they're downright eggsitential. Or maybe I'm just eggzaggerating a bit... (Okay, that's enough egg puns!)

    That's another common characteristic that is found among creation stories, that they consider the earth the Mother, and the heavens (or sky) the Father (see Aborigine Creation Myth). And speaking of the Father, I want to start with the creation story that is familiar to most people – the Jewish/Christian/Islam one. But I should be careful not to refer to this as “one” story, although many people think that because they come from the same source, that they all believe the same creation myth. This is far from the truth. As religions and cultures developed, so did their creation myths. And as you'll see, even the Abrahamic religions underwent vast changes and editing.

    So, in this section, you will learn about the various creation myths of the world. I'll start with the popular ones, and eventually get to the more obscure ones.

Warning: I will not only be teaching about these stories, but also lightly poking fun at them and sometimes even challenging them. So, if you believe in any of these stories and you are offended, then well...too bad. Get over it, and learn to laugh at yourself. :-)

Eros enjoys his naming of the celestial entities.
And just for fun, and because I really haven't grown up since Junior High School... here is a list of my top 10 favorite Uranus jokes:

10. Lying on my back under the night sky, I reached up for Uranus.
9. I hear they found creatures in Uranus.
8. The noxious gases of Uranus could kill a man.
7. Who do you think will be the first to colonize Uranus?
6. I hear they've plunged quite a few orbiters into Uranus.
5. Uranus is under constant assault from unidentified objects.
4. (Friend's name) was a simple man with a simple dream: to reach Uranus and claim it as his own. 
3. T-SHIRT: I'm huge in Japan Uranus!
2.What does toilet paper and the starship Enterprise have in common?
They both circle Uranus looking for Klingons
1. Keep the Earth clean.  It's not Uranus!

To be enlightened or stay human? That is the question.

It's always been a struggle with me to figure out this conundrum of a problem...

    Much of philosophy and religion deals with this idea of being enlightened. Philosophy takes on a mental approach, whereas religion usually deals with a spiritual method. While the idea of enlightenment may seem Eastern in thought, even the Western monotheistic religions have such a concept with their idea of submitting to a god. Despite the connotations you may get from the word "enlightenment", I mean simply this by it: To overcome natural human tendencies (whether you label this good, bad, or neutral is up to you) and raise the individual above basic human instincts, and the like.  Not necessarily being engulfed in an aura of light whilst meditating. Although, that would be a pretty cool perk (would make for a neat trick at night clubs!).

    And here lies the problem. For if we accomplish this, we rise above humanity. We become something greater and bigger. By doing this do we sever our understanding and sympathy with normal people? By rising above, we naturally put others below, and create a hierarchal dichotomy of the illumed and those who reside in darkness.  Though some would argue becoming enlightened would turn you more sympathetic toward humanity at large.  I do agree with that possibility, but if one was enlightened then there whole world is changed, ridding themselves of their former selves, and their humanity.  It would be like a robot who's only programmed for good, trying to relate to the suffering of humans.  Furthermore, who wants to live the life of a robot?. Perfectly wise and content.  While it might sound nice at first glance, we humans thrive off of drama and the ups and downs of life.

Robo Buddha

    Is this fair to do? Can any such person be enlightened, to the point where they raise themselves above another human being? Humility has its uses in social context, but even the most humble enlightened person may still view his path (or at least a path such as his) as something distinct and separate from those normal, ordinary people who choose to live a layman's life.

    Does enlightenment (spiritual or philosophical) effectively estrange a person from humanity? Is it not better to live life as a human, and accept our position in the cosmos, instead of reaching for this higher state?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Philosophy...of Philosophy?

What is philosophy?

    When you take a Philosophy 101 at University, on the first day the professors usually explain the etymology of the word: "philo-",meaning "loving", and "-sophia", meaning wisdom.  So, etymologically, philosophy is the "love of wisdom".   And I don't mean the erotic kind of love, although Philosophers back in Ancient Greece were known to get-it-on often times.   So, perhaps, after a long day of philosophizing, between themselves they did have a kind of "erosophy".  But anyways, the meaning of philosophy has, of course,  gone into further debate by probing the meaning further, as most philosophers do (not in that way, sicko!).  Some would say philosophy is a method of conceptual analysis, in order to discover the truth (as Plato so vehemently sought).   But even this idea of "truth" is unclear, whether we're referring to the verifiable knowledge kind of truth such as "4+4=8", or logical truths like "All cats have four legs.  Mr. Purrkins is a cat. Therefore Mr.Purrkins has four legs" least until he got hit by the semi-truck. :'( ...OR referring to a wisdom-character, the type of person who knows what to do in any situation, like Yoda, Mr.Miyagi or Mr.Wilson from Home Improvement ("hi-de-ho neighbor!").
Yoda, considered one of the most wisest creatures in the universe.

Probably one of the wisest quotes uttered upon mankind.
Some of the wisest men never show their whole face.

    Others would say it is a world-view, like when people ask you, "What is your philosophy of life?", which is a rather annoying question, I if most people can spout that as easily as saying their phone number.  Although, some do come up with annoying clichés like "to be happy", "to love and grow", or to "serve humanity", or whatever.  Most people say these thing without a moment's thought; but these answers are so apparent and simple (who doesn't want to be happy, and love, and grow?...I think most do) that the question itself becomes almost absurd, which perhaps it is.  But many philosophers from every age have tried to tell other people how to live and what kind of world-view is best.
    Other philosophers, like Socrates, simply wanted people to think for themselves...and think rationally, hopefully.  After him, Mythos, believing in all of those gods and legends,  in Greece gradually lost its weight.  However, in the world of mythology and religion, philosophy can be applied as well.  Some have even claimed that the age of rationality and sciencific thinking that Socrates ushered in is, too, just another mythology that we humans have created.  So even here, things aren't so clear.  More blurriness sets in.
But philosophy doesn't only deal with religion, mythology, and other-worldly issues like the question "If God created the universe, what created God?". Indeed, philosophy is so ever-pervasive, that it can touch upon any subject, no matter how seemingly mundane.  Whether its ethics, law, science, technology, music, art, or literature, philosophy can be a part of any of these subjects.
    And that's what I love about philosophy.  That any subject under the sun can be viewed under the philosophical lense.    And that lense is simply asking questions.  Just like when a child asks his parents a barrage of innocent, though sometimes annoying, questions, a philosopher, I believe has to have the heart of the child.  After all, children know nothing and Socrates is famously quoted to have said "All I know is that I know nothing".  Wait, so does that mean Socrates is a child?  Did I do that logical equality equation right?  Well, in any case, I believe he had the mind of a child (why else did he not work?) and I think a part of being a good philosopher is humbling yourself, like he did, so to realize that you don't have all the answers.

Calvin, known for his inquisitive nature.
    But as we get older, philosophy doesn't seem like the kind of activity that a child would do or have fun with.  But in fact, they are the best at it because of their inquisitive nature.  But to most adults, philosophy seems very complex and dry, which it often is.  Many great philosophers are known for their circuitous, and sophisticated way of speaking.  Reading a philosopher's work can be painstaking at times.  I remember reading some of Descarte's work in University and having to reread passages dozens of times for it to make sense in my brain.
    Philosophy can be intimidating, and is often thought of as too sophisticated for the common layman.  And I agree entirely.  Sadly, philosophy has developed more and more into an unreachable and confusing subject.  It takes patience and passion to read many works by the ones we consider "philosophers".
    But I believe everyone can be a philosopher, and has the potential to simply think for themselves and ask questions.  And it can be really fun!
    And that is the goal of this blog.  To bring philosophy to the masses in a fun, light-hearted way.  I am not only dedicating this blog to teach certain philosophies,  but also for my musings, rants, interesting thoughts-of-the-day, and most importantly to encourage others to express their own thoughts and their philosophies as well.
    So, the etymological meaning of philosophy, "the love of wisdom", isn't too far off from my own view.  I want everyone to have a love for philosophy (a friendship love! Or, okay, a friends-with-benefits love is fine, too).  I want everyone to be familiar with certain important philosophical concepts and ideas.  I also want to show the universality of philosophy and dismantle the view that it's only for those sophisticated echelons.  And I want to do this while having fun.
    So I hope you like this blog and you continue to stop in to see what's new.  Because since philosophy's range is so ubiquitous I think there will be something for everyone.