Making the World Ugly and Evil

Nietzsche said the Christian decision to make the world ugly and evil has made the world ugly and evil. Of course the Christians were only mimickers and mirrors of the neo-Platonism and Gnostic perspectives that became so influential in late Antiquity. Quite a contrast to the Hebrew Bible. Demons, Satan the Devil, eternal Hellfire, and the idea of the “total depravity” of humankind. It is not so much there there was nothing “new under the sun,” but rather nothing good under the sun. As several ancient Greek funerary prayers written in thin gold sheets and rolled up to be put in graves record the “great confession ” of Late Antiquity: I am a child of earth and  heaven but heaven alone is my home!” Salvation became an ascetic denial of “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” Nietzsche was not so much an atheist but a rejector of the “schlechte Luft” that fouled our European culture world and its quest to stamp out every “Heresy.” As Empedocles put it–long before Plato and the Gnostics: “I was once a bird, a fish, and now a man–I wept, I wept, when I saw this dreadful place.” Rather than the “good earth” as the place to be (i.e. Frost: “The earth’s the right place for love, I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”), as the ancient Creation Hymn of Genesis has things, this dark world was a hopeless prison into which we had fallen.

I began my academic biblical studies with New Testament Greek at the tender age of 17–my freshman year of college. And I have more or less shifted to a more “Hebraic” perspective, as I explain here in this article I want to share with my readers. For more see my article “Death as Life and Life as Death: Revising Rohde.”

HebBible NT JRJ 1990

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times…

What is the state of things on planet earth? As Dylan said in his “Song to Woody” 
Seems sick and it’s hungry, it’s tired and it’s torn
It looks like it’s a-dyin’ and it’s hardly been born 
Oh planet earth, so tired and old from blood and death, torture and injustice, waste and poverty, ignorance and oppression. Yet I believe things infinitely BETTER in our time than at any other time in history. All the indices one could point to are slowly arching toward truth, justice, and a more kind and equitable world of peace and goodness. It seems slow but if you could somehow gauge any other time in the past you would be stunned at the progress. The 100 years War. The Thirty Years War for that matter. And wars through the ages beyond calculation. The Inquisition. Crusades. Slavery. Child abuse. Denigration of women. Rich over poor. Genghis Khan…I am being random here, jumping from this to that, traversing millennia. No one could possible take it all in. Not to mention the tragedies of “Nature,” with millions starved, frozen, crushed, drowned, or otherwise wiped out with this or that disaster, plague, or disease. We historians know this. That does not diminish in the least the personal tragedies, injustice, waste, and evil, that happen close to us and all around us and touch our lives. We mourn and hurt and cry and try to turn back to our individual lives, trying to make this world a “better place” in some way large or small. Sounds trite but as one gets older–and yes, I am beyond your three-score and ten–one realizes what Dylan expresses in his incomparable song, both lyrics, music and his uniquely haunting voice, “Every Grain of Sand.” Listen and feel the message. Short of a decent sized astroid hitting, a nuclear winter, or our climate going into complete chaos, we can have hope. 
In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.

Happy New Year to All My Readers!

Happy Biblical New Year, Nisan/Aviv 1, the 1st day of the 1st month…Exodus 12:1 “This new [moon] shall be the beginning of the months [news moons] for you…A time to think back and forward and begin afresh, with Spring Sprung and the early “harvest” getting ripe. Aviv means “spring” or new.

The Day the Earth Died (Almost)

Of his discovery, DePalma said, “It’s like finding the Holy Grail clutched in the bony fingers of Jimmy Hoffa, sitting on top of the Lost Ark.”

The current issue of The New Yorker (April 8, 2019 print edition) has a “grippingly sobering” article by Douglas Preston titled “The Day the Dinosaurs Died.” No matter what you know of or have heard about this “event,” if we can minimize it with such a vapid characterization, one should read Preston’s account for its sheer art of narration–not to mention the remarkable discoveries of DePalma.

For we North Americans it hits “home” in a particularly disturbing way, since we are close to “Ground Zero” for the most cataclysmic disasters in our earth’s “recent” living history–namely the Yucatán peninsula. Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” should be watched and listened to monthly if not weekly by our  homo stultus species, and yet it comes across like a peaceful wave of nostalgic longing compared to the utterly TERRIFYING cosmic violence and chaos of our Solar “System.” Freud, Norman O. Brown, Becker, and Koestler, all had it right. We desperately “long to count” in our tiny little socially constructed perceptual “worlds” projected onto a “physical” reality that seems utterly dead to our longings and dreams. And yes, frightening “things happen” outside these Gates of Eden in the Land of Nod that yields only thorns and thistles. Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return. Ah, but the Serpent me beguiled and I did eat. The Bible tells me so.

 

The End of All Things Is At Hand–Not From Heaven but On Earth

Is it not ironic that it might well turn out that we, the species who longs for a dramatic “end of all things at hand” ends up bringing it about through our own mismanagement of our good earth and its abundant resources. “Tending the garden” is fine but we have unleashed such disruption we well might be past the tipping point. Joseph Romm’s new book, Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know, is the best I have seen in terms of a readable “just the facts please” report. And he largely leaves out factory farming, and methane gas, and deforestation in the Amazon, which some argue is a larger factor than our burning of fossil fuels–see the film “Cowspiracy” (it is on Netflix) and you will never think the same about eating meat that is so produced.