But wait … there’s myrrh!

But wait ... there's myrrh

But wait … there’s myrrh

The Christian holy day known as Epiphany “[commemorates] (at least in western tradition) the visit of the Magi and Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles” (from Finding a New Way Home) is celebrated on 6 January. According to timeanddate.com, “It commemorates the first two occasions on which Jesus’ divinity, according to Christian belief, was manifested: when the three kings visited infant Jesus in Bethlehem, and when John the Baptist baptized him in the River Jordan. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches emphasize the visit of the Magi when they celebrate the Epiphany. The Eastern Orthodox churches focus on Jesus’ baptism.”

All history is redaction – ie, it re-frames and retells our “old, old story” in such a way as to please the current audience. The past is perpetually being re-examined and reinterpreted.

Recent memes appearing on Facebook – but not including this one from catholicmemes.com – have commented on what three wise women would have done. One version asserts that they would have “asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, brought practical gifts, cleaned the stable, made a casserole … and there would be peace on earth.” (From mickiemuellerart.com)

I don’t think so! (Especially that last bit.)

Another version of the meme adds that “Three Wise Feminist Women would have … lobbied King Herod for gender equality.” In its lower right corner, the image carries the wording: Destroy the Joint. But, according to Helen Razer, “Destroy the Joint misses the point”.

My back is up, my hackles on end. If there is to be anything more than talk of gender equality, then it is blatantly obvious that the faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses of humankind will be owned (and owned up to) by all.

A mix of dream and discourse

With my strong editorial background, it’s almost inevitable that one of my favourite games — for the want of something better to do — is one I’ve dubbed Spot the Blue Pencil.

Mind you, I don’t seem to get many chances to rack up seriously high points (unlike Facebook Scrabble). But a couple of days ago I did, I believe, score a major Bingo.

I was reading the latest issue of ArtNews New Zealand, p13 — a preview piece for Hen’s Teeth, an exhibition of work by painter Joanna Braithwaite:

“Her work uses the power of the gaze to arrest, ask and question. A conversation begins which is a mix of dream, political, social, religious and environmental discourse.” (ArtNews New Zealand, Autumn 2011)

What on earth does that mean? I asked myself. It was time to play that game again.

What did the author write? 

Here’s my guess:

“A conversation begins which is a mix of dream and discourse — political, social, religious, environmental.”

Okay, the dash might be considered a trifle florid. What else could one use? — a colon? 

But the real question is: What did the editor make it mean?

Your guess is as good as mine.

__________
Hen’s Teeth is at Milford Galleries Dunedin, 18 Dowling Street, Dunedin, from 30 April to 25 May 2011. For more information visit www.milfordgalleries.co.nz .

What is actually true?

Friedrich Nietzsche asserted that “belief means not wanting to know what is true.” You might think that’s a bit harsh; but I’m inclined to think it doesn’t go far enough.  

The Gospel according to John, reporting a conversation Jesus had with his disciples, says: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. | You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). So there’s a matter of discipleship involved — which resonates with the text in John 14:6, in which Jesus refers to himself as “the way ands the truth and the life”.

Most of us are, I think it fair to say, more familiar with John 8:32 than we are with the verse that precedes it. (That’s another topic for another time, perhaps.)  

Gloria Steinem’s take on these well-known words is worth noting: “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” Which, when you think about it, is not far from what Nietzsche said.

But can anyone determine what is actually true? That’s probably what Andre Gide was thinking when he advised: “Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

So what’s the problem, then? “Nothing in the entire universe is hidden” (Dogen Zenji, 1200-1253).

Albert Einstein was on point when he observed: “Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds.” 

“Come on, now; be fair,” you say. “You’re mixing spiritual truth with scientific truth.”

Yes, I am. Quite deliberately. If there is such a thing as truth, it is certainly without divisions or distinctions.   

As the old Zen saying goes, “If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.”

But, as you may already have noticed, Zen can be a bit tricky: “Things are not as they seem. Nor are they otherwise” (The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra). And how does this sit alongside a typical existentialist statement: “Things are entirely what they appear to be and behind them … there is nothing” (Jean Paul Sartre, in Nausea)?

I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying. (Charles C Finn)

Cursing the internet?

I was just cursing the internet wasting time i don’t really have to waste … (Tom Goodenough)

Mr Goodenough’s opening gambit might be true enough; but I’d be surprised if that’s what he actually intended to say.

I’m picking that Tom was actually cruising the internet …

When we write a blog post directly onto the screen (like I’m doing now), we’re bound to slip up from time to time: typographical errors of one sort of another, grammatical goofs … even stuff we could have left out.

Not everyone’s as fussy as I am – Grammar Police is one of my nicknames – but it really is a good thing to proofread what we write … or have a friend check up on us from time to time.

BTW: Tom Goodenough’s blog is interesting – even if he spells interesting at least three different ways.

Devotion and respect

Devotion and respect should be offered to those who have shown us the Way. (Dhammapada v 392)

The last day of March – already. On the Christian calendar, this is Wednesday of Holy Week. My Buddhist calendar quotes from the Dhammapada, commending devotion and respect. And my atheist friend, winking, says: “This is Atheist Week, after all.”

Today, I found a cache of Harry Palmer quotes – one of which says: “The beliefs you truly hold, the ones you’ve decided to believe, your faith, will cause you to create or attract the experiences which will verify them. When you change your beliefs, your experiences will change.”

Shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods. (Albert Einstein)

A famous poem written by Seng-ts’an (the third patriarch of Zen) includes the words, “Do not seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.” From which we might conclude that our opinions are the only thing hiding the truth from us.

The Seng-ts’an poem later says: “The moment you think about right and wrong, the moment you unwittingly lose your true mind.”

Einstein’s understanding of the nature of truth – and the truth of nature – did not prevent him from contributing to our understanding of life on earth. His approach, he said, was to look for what is, and not for what he thought should be.