Monday, October 5, 2015

Wells of Prophecy

There's something of a trick to recognizing a prophecy fulfilled. Uncle Gilbert described (in The Napoleon of Notting Hill, I believe) a joke played by the young, upon the old, at their ascending in turn to venerable age... the game of Cheat the Prophet, which consists of attending carefully to all predictions of their future, and then carefully doing nothing of the sort. And the comical opening of The Napoleon was that so many strange changes were predicted under Edward VII (or whom you will) that the only cheat available was to change practically nothing in the next generation.

But, of course, that's not the usual sense of "Prophecy". Genuine Prophecy and mere Prediction are different games, and So. The game of Cheat the Theological Prophet can be played by either tact: the simple one of doing nothing of the sort, OR the surprising one of doing exactly that, simply because it was written in a Prophecy.

For instance, between the Imperium of Augustus and that of Hadrian, there were at least two Men to arise in the province of Palestine, said to descend from David son of Jesse, said to be annointed, who raised or rose against the wrath of Rome. The later one had an abler army, but was eventually beseiged and executed with a band of loyal followers. The earlier one was abandoned by his friends and crucified about 786 AUC, and then conquered Rome about three hundred years later.

At most one was not, whether unwittingly or fully conscious, trying to Cheat the Prophets: to fit his life to those parts of the written prophecies that his contemporaries recognized and he could reasonably pull off. The trouble with things that can actually be done and are predicted is that, if they are written, anyone can then go ahead and do them. It were as if someone had published a password long ago that later on many publicly said they would use.

So, properly recognizing a prophecy fulfilled is going to be more like engaging in prophecy ourselves; because a genuine prophecy shouldn't be a published password, but more like a hash or checksum, one has to carefully compare against prophecy those events of moment and currents of mood that overtake him through life.

Which brings me to Wells. Herbert George, that is. Wells wrote in The Time Machine of vision in which it seems two species of human exist together in a strange relationship: one lives mostly below ground and keeps various important machinery working, while the other lives mostly in gardens and arcades maintained by the various important machinery — and are occasionally food for the first species. And he named these two creatures Moloch and Hevel. No... Sorry. Morlock and Eloi. actually, no, I'm not sure what Wells had in mind behind the name "Eloi"; I hope it wasn't "LHM", which is to say, a Hashem; but one can't be sure, on the internet... Let us say it again: Wells envisioned a future in which a life of vain ease is apparently supported by the cult of Death.

Now, it's more than possible H.G. thought he was writing a critique of contemporary affairs — much as Dickens criticised workhouses and the Chancery Courts and other Georgian attrocities; and some have certainly thought he was talking about class matters. That's all very well for Wells the writer, but Wells the prophet (indulge me) has something profounder in the words. Because, the surprising pattern-match is that Moloch and Hevel are, more than in Wells' time, today's demons.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What was Beowulf's Sword?

... would he perhaps wield an Vlfberht?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Applied Poetics

There has been a trend, recently, in public singing of the Canadian National Anthem, to alternate between the Two Official Languages so as not to be jumping into the middle of a sentence: for a long time, the break was "From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee./[...] Et ta valeur..."; not to mention the logical interruption and the dull flavour of the middle English/final French couplets, this older switch also had the curious effect of completely secularizing the Anthem as sung. More recently however, one has usually heard
O Canada, our home and native land
True patriot love in all thy sons command
Car ton bras portait l'épée, il sait porter la Croix
Ton histoire est un époppée des plus brilliants exploits
God, keep our land glorious and free
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee
Altogether, it's got more "Canada" than the older form, appeal to the Divine and commemoration of the Cross as the Cross borne by the faithful (which weren't together in either language separately). Altogether, I might heartily approve of the change, especially if those who sing it also mean it.

I pray it does us some good, too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"I will harden the heart of Pharaoh..."

I have contended elsewhere that the title text need not imply any extraordinary action on God's part, and it is sufficient for the narrative that God allow Pharaoh's heart to harden itself.

At the same time, being an individual of some stubbornness and occasional truculence, I know so closely how it's quite possible that what hardened Pharaoh's heart was the knowledge of goodness (and, again, there is Malachi). Can you imagine a voice speaking truth in Pharaoh's heart: "You have let them start out, and that will be to the good; but are you still reluctant? See how futile your beast gods have proved! and how weak and sickly their service has made your children, your firstborn! Will you not turn to me and join your worship with my people's?" et.c. For: Pharaoh has a choice to make: to forsake the gods that proved false, or to try still to serve them. The choice was foretold, but that does not mean it was made for him or without him.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


This afternoon, blogger told me
European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent.

As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies.

You are responsible for confirming that this notice actually works for your blog and that it is displayed.

Permit me to register some confusion: I am not in any way a resident or citizen of the European Union, I do not receive or transmit funds with anyone "in" the EU, and I don't run a proxy server located within an ISP hosted in the EU either. What the EU may have to do with me, I can't imagine. If you are in the EU and visiting this website in the ordinary way, caveat utor.

That said, You are probably reading this using a web-browser pointed at some website. Probably, that website is hosted on a server owned and operated by Google. I can't control who plagiarizes my text, so I can't guarantee that, but I don't own any webservers. Google's, or the borowers', web servers may ask your browser to record or report on particular cookies — I can't say for sure, but even if they do, I definitely won't ever see those, and its up to them to abide with whatever laws actually apply to them.

Furthermore, if your browser actually runs ECMAScript — "javascript", informally —
  • there may be cookies stored on your computer by MathJax, for the purpose of remembering how you might have fine-tuned MathJax's rendering of maths on this page (if you're seeing it on this page),
  • and there may be a cookie stored on your computer by sitemeter, perhaps noting the IP address that told sitemeter it was visiting, perhaps when the same browser visited before, and perhaps what link got you here. Some of that information I might see; I definitely don't see all of it. None of it is information that Google can't obtain by closer means and never show me.
  • If you mail a post-card overseas, the franking on the stamps will contain information about where it came from and how it got to its addressee.

As someone has said “There Is No Privacy in the Web, unless you are tunneling your own unpublished encrypted protocol through a steganographied unpublished onion router. And even then.

“I cannot guarantee the safety or security of any data transmitted via the servers hosting this blog or its elsewhere-hosted components, or protect them from global adversaries, closed circuit video cameras, or strangers reading over your shoulder.”

Here is a Reasonable Referrence.

Friday, July 24, 2015

All ye heights of Heav'n adore

It says "a mere 2.5 Million light-years away"; this means that light has echoed between us roughly fifty times since Tyranosaurus Rex last stalked ... whatever it was they were after (they were found in layers of rock officially characterized in Crete, rather than those in the Jura), though we've only gone 'round our orbit of our own galaxy a bit more than one turn. For comparision, we record echoes between Earth and Pluto in about nine hours. The Andromeda galaxy spans a wider part of our sky than the moon does (unless you're on the Moon...) and is visible from most of both hemispheres, but it appears much fainter in the spectrum we humans see. It seems to be getting closer to us, too!

Most of the very-round spots in this picture are individual stars of the Milky Way, a thousand times closer to us than Andromeda; the fuzzier blobs include mini satelite galaxies orbiting Andromeda and huger galaxies much further away.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dipping into the book of Job

6 Now on a certain day when the sons of God came to stand before the Lord, Satan also was present among them. 7 And the Lord said to him: Whence comest thou? And he answered and said: I have gone round about the earth, and walked through it. 8 And the Lord said to him: Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a simple and upright man, and fearing God, and avoiding evil? 9 And Satan answering, said: Doth Job fear God in vain? 10 Hast not thou made a fence for him, and his house, and all his substance round about, blessed the works of his hands, and his possession hath increased on the earth ? 11 But stretch forth thy hand a little, and touch all that he hath, and see if he blesseth thee not to thy face. 12 Then the Lord said to Satan: Behold, all that he hath is in thy hand: only put not forth thy hand upon his person. And Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

The conversation presented in Job between God and Satan is sometimes described as God "making a bet" with the fallen angel: God speaks, as it seems, only well of Job, and Satan speaks only to cast doubt on Job's character. Here, however, is the Thing: God knows Job and Satan perfectly, and Satan knows God and Job (and himself) only imperfectly. Given that God knows Satan perfectly, what is the purpose of His asking: "Hast thou considered my servant Job ... ?"? Here in the beginning of the book, as when the whirlwind blows in Hus, God asks questions to cause an effect. So here, at the beginning, let us consider this question carefully:
You have walked round about the earth and walked through it, so you know my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a simple and upright man, et.c.; but say now: what do you think of him?
and the answer Satan gives — he must twist it, but he cannot deceive God — Satan says: "outwardly he may seem all right, but how can he show what he's made of if he has never endured trial?" Satan puts the answer upside-down, of course, accusing God of molly-coddling this "simple and upright man" — as if any inner failings Job might have and their hidden-ness are the result of some fault or unfair dealing on God's part.

Some folks, of course, decide they agree with Satan's insinuation on this point. If that were the intent of the Author, then we should probably excise the book; some folks, as it happens, find a middle ground of believing that the Author intends otherwise, but nonetheless is too realist for his own good, and that the text ends up arguing against the Author more than for. Myself, I rather think something else is going on.

Let us consider Job ("have you considered Job?"): he is wealthy, which suggests he has some practical capability; and he certainly acts in public "simple and upright" and avoids evil, and he even offers sacrifice on his children's behalf just in case they have sinned. Is he a good man? Well Aristotle and [Batman Begins'] Rachel Dawes would suggest "it's not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you" ... (who am I lifting this parallel from? I read it in a blog quite recently... sources would be credited! I'm a sloppy and reluctant thief!) or, less poetically as that other film imagined C. S. Lewis would paraphrase the Poetics, "plot is character". Unto his neighbours, Job is a good man. So far so good. Here's a harder question: is he God's friend? Is he fit for heaven? Or, put it another way: why does Job avoid evil? It is good to avoid evil, but even a good thing can be done for poor motives! And why does he offer sacrifice against his children's potential sins? It might be that he truly loves them and sincerely petitions God's forgiveness and grace for them; but it is also possible that Job does these works superstitiously, from scrupulosity, rather than for love.

And, even if we agree with Aristotle and Ms Dawes, let us not imagine that what one speaks in his heart is part of who and not what one does: an act of the inner will is no less an act than is walking.

Well, if Plot is Character, Job endures material hardships, looses his family, and sins not, then is subject to sickness in his body and sins not, and then falls prey to Good Intentions... note that God speaks to Job direct, but Satan does not: rather, Job's friends come and speak with him a while. And then does Job cry out and curse the day he was born.

It would be foolish, vicious, to say that all sufferings are earned. It would even be foolish to say that Job's sufferings are earned, or that his weakness caused his wife and children to die. It would be misunderstanding the book even to think that all suffer for the same reasons in the same way as Job — the same is not even true of all who suffer in this book. The book, Job, is not about why sufferings come. It seems rather about how there are worse things than pain.

And it also contains a promise, that God does not wish us to ultimately end in pain.