Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Lamanites were all eaten by Tyrannosauruses

You can find pictures of anything on the Internet.

I saw wars between the Nephites and Lamanites (two of the peoples whose history is related in the Book of Mormon), culminating in a pitched battle on an open plain. The battle ended when the Lamanites escaped into what looked like a vast tropical forest, at which point the Nephites gave up the pursuit.

The narrator or guide (a disembodied voice that often accompanies such dreams) said, "And so they believed that the Lamanites had escaped into the wilderness, but . . ." The camera zoomed out to an aerial view, revealing that the "vast forest" was in fact a tiny island of woodland, an acre or two at the largest, in the middle of an enormous grassland.

"So," I said, addressing the voice, "the Lamanites never made it to America at all."

"That's right. Only Nephites. The Lamanites were presumably all eaten by Tyrannosauruses. It is highly probable that not a single one survived."

*

Thus ended the dream, and thus began my hypnopompic, and later waking, attempts to make sense of it.

"The Lamanites never made it to America at all" seems an odd statement, since on the conventional reading of the Book of Mormon the Lamanites originated in America and never lived anywhere else. However, I had recently read Ralph Olsen's book The Malay Peninsula as the Setting for the Book of Mormon, which argues for pretty much what it says on the tin, and the dream was presumably influenced by that alternative understanding. Olsen hypothesizes that representatives of the various Book of Mormon peoples (not only Lamanites) eventually made it to the Americas by way of Polynesia, but that the Book of Mormon narrative itself takes place entirely in Asia. (I will perhaps post a review of Olsen later.)

Now, about those Tyrannosauruses.


First of all, being eaten by Tyrannosauruses is hardly consistent with never making it to America, since I believe that genus of dinosaur was confined to the continent of Laramidia, now part of North America, and never existed anywhere in what was to become the Old World. And of course, there's the little problem that there were no Lamanites to eat until about 65 million years after the extinction of the Tyrannosaurs. Anyway, let us grant the premise that there were "Tyrannosauruses" of some sort in the area and proceed.

It is implied that if the Lamanites had in fact escaped to a large forest, they would have been safe, and that their being eaten by Tyrannosauruses was a result of their unwittingly entering a tiny wood instead. I suppose it would be quite difficult for something as large and bulky as a Tyrannosaurus to navigate a dense forest and that they would have hunted only on the plains. In a wood too small to support them, though, the Lamanites would have had no choice but to venture out onto the plain, where they would have been picked off by Tyrannosauruses until there were none left.

But if the forest was the only safe place, and if to venture onto the Tyrannosaurus-infested plains was death, how to explain the fact that the Nephite-Lamanite battle had been fought on the plain -- and that the Nephites apparently felt safe on the plain and were afraid to pursue the Lamanites into the forest?

It is tempting to conclude that the Nephites were the Tyrannosauruses. Nephiim (Nephites) is awfully close to nephilim (giants), and we know that their progenitor Nephi was "large in stature" (1 Nephi 2:16, 4:31) and that a Nephite was normally much stronger than a Lamanite (Helaman 4:24). (See more here.) It is also said of certain Nephites that "like dragons did they fight" (Mosiah 20:11). Could "Tyrannosaurus" be a metaphorical way of saying "Nephite"? Still, while Nephites would certainly kill Lamanites, we can hardly believe that they ate them. And in the Book of Mormon it is of course the Lamanites that annihilate the Nephites, not the other way round.

If the Tyrannosauruses were more or less just that -- large dinosaur-like predators (in the spirit of "horses can be tapirs," perhaps they were late-surviving specimens of Gastornis xichuanensis or something of the sort) -- then we can only assume that they didn't mess with Nephites, perhaps because Nephites were larger and stronger than Lamanites and had superior weaponry. But if the Nephites were sufficiently badass to walk among Tyrannosaurs with impunity, how is it that they were afraid to pursue the Lamanites into the forest? Well, the Lamanites were born and bred in that briar patch, and perhaps the Nephites would have been no match for them on their home turf. Or, depending on just how large the Nephites were, they may have found the forest impassable for much the same reasons that the Tyrannosaurs did.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

More Freudian syncs


I make no apologies for my admiration of the uncannily perceptive Sigmund Freud, even though just about everyone in my circle hates him. I don't have much patience with Freudians, or with the system to which they subscribe, but the man himself was one of the great observers of the human condition.

I find that my reading of his works tends to trigger synchronistic goings-on, the most notable of which (qv) being the time my wife and I both suddenly forgot the name of the country Monaco -- only to read the next day Freud's account of forgetting the same thing.

This most recent one is not so impressive, but it still got my attention. I had just dreamt the night before of going into a Starbucks, clad only in a pair of boxers, and ordering a coffee, a sandwich with the self-contradictory name "Giant Smallstar," and a hockey jersey. I was not at all embarrassed about being in public in my underwear, and no one else seemed to notice it, either. The day before the dream, I had read an adaptation of The Emperor's New Clothes as part of a children's English class. The day after the dream, I happened to pick up a volume of Freud after a long hiatus in which I had been reading other things. On the next page after the one where my bookmark was, I read this:
In a dream in which one is naked or scantily clad in the presence of strangers, it sometimes happens that one is not in the least ashamed of one's condition. But the dream of nakedness demands our attention only when shame and embarrassment are felt in it. . . . 
The persons before whom one is ashamed are almost always strangers, whose faces remain indeterminate. It never happens, in the typical dream, that one is reproved or even noticed on account of the lack of clothing which causes one such embarrassment. On the contrary, the people in the dream appear to be quite indifferent; or, as I was able to note in one particularly vivid dream, they have stiff and solemn expressions. This gives us food for thought. 
The dreamer's embarrassment and the spectator's indifference constitute a contradiction such as often occurs in dreams. It would be more in keeping with the dreamer's feelings if the strangers were to look at him in astonishment, or were to laugh at him, or be outraged. . . . [This dream] has been made the basis of a fairy-tale familiar to us all in Andersen's version of The Emperor's New Clothes . . . . In Andersen's fairy-tale we are told of two impostors who weave a costly garment for the Emperor, which shall, however, be visible only to the good and true. The Emperor goes forth clad to this invisible garment, and since the imaginary fabric serves as a sort of touchstone, the people are frightened into behaving as though they did not notice the Emperor's nakedness. But this is really the situation in our dream.
Not all of this can be ascribed to coincidence. Reading The Emperor's New Clothes may have prompted a dream about being naked in public, and the memorable dream may have prompted me to pick up Freud -- but it's still impressive that Freud mentioned by name the story I had read the day before, and that he mentioned the atypical dream-situation of being naked but not embarrassed.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

An ancient garden

I dreamt that, for some reason not entirely clear, it was necessary for me to knock at the door of one of my neighbors (not identifiable as any particular person from my real life) and ask permission to walk through their house and out their back door. I believe some sort of road construction made it necessary for me to take this circuitous route to wherever I was going. The door was answered by a Southeast Asian maidservant who seemed pretty annoyed but nevertheless did show me through to the back door.

Coming out, I found myself in a completely unfamiliar part of the city, the most striking feature of which was a few blocks of parkland where the close-cropped lawns were dotted with gigantic old trees, obviously dating from several centuries before Christ. (One of my favorite trees in real life is a red cypress supposed to have sprouted in the year Confucius was born. These had the same vibe.) They had obviously been planted, with different sorts of trees in different areas. Figs here, acacias there, and over yonder what looked incongruously like beeches.

I thought about the implications. Millennia-old trees in virgin woodland are one thing, but these had been planted -- not an ancient forest but an ancient garden. A garden, not a forest, is the ideal. I thought of the garden of Eden, but of course all its trees would have been young. This was what it might look like today, if we had been able to keep it.

Later, back at home, I kicked myself for not using my phone's GPS to ascertain the location of the ancient garden. The neighbors wouldn't be likely to let me walk through their house again, and I was sure I wouldn't be able to find it any other way.

Friday, July 5, 2019

High-wire unicyclists

I just happened to teach the following two passages in two different classes on the same day. They're from two different books, published by two different companies, with two different pedagogical purposes -- but they both mention riding a unicycle on a high wire in a circus. (Neither actually uses the word unicycle, though; both instead describe it as a one-wheeled bicycle.)


"Hannah works in a circus. She rides a bike with one tire. . . . 'Sometimes I ride my bike on a high wire.'" The passage is from a phonics unit focusing on "ire" and "ore."


"Most Chinese acrobats join the circus . . . . acrobats use 'monocycles' (bicycles with one wheel). . . . Brave acrobats walk, cycle, or jump on a wire that is high in the air." The passage is for general reading comprehension, and for students to discuss using comparative and superlative adjectives.

(By the way, what planet is the author of that second passage from? "Monocycles"? "Gastriloquists"? Is that some sort of Philip Pullman alternate-history English or what?)

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Pyramids and Sphinxes from A to U

From time to time I dream about reading this book or seeing it on someone's desk or on a shelf.


Something about that title just makes me smile every time -- like the author couldn't think of any pyramid- or sphinx-related words for the letters from V to Z but just decided to go ahead and publish it anyway. (Hey, Raymond Saltshaker, ever hear of a ziggurat?) Somehow, U is the perfect letter to leave off on, too; "A to X" or something wouldn't have been so funny.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Birds that go straight

Corvids: a family of birds comprising the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs, and nutcrackers.

"As the crow flies" means in a straight line.

The chess piece that moves in a straight line -- called a chariot or castle in most languages -- is known in English as a rook.

When Noah released birds from the ark, the dove returned -- flew in a circle -- but the raven did not.

When, instead of making a detour to the nearest crosswalk, one opts to traverse the shortest distance between two points, one is said to be guilty of jaywalking.

Friday, June 21, 2019

John 3 with paragraphs and quotation marks

Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus

[1] There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: [2] The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."

[3] Jesus answered and said unto him, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

[4] Nicodemus saith unto him, "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?"

[5] Jesus answered, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [7] Marvel not that I said unto thee, 'Ye must be born again.' [8] The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

[9] Nicodemus answered and said unto him, "How can these things be?"

[10] Jesus answered and said unto him, "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? [11] Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. [12] If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?"

*

The author's commentary

[13] And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

[14] And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. [16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [17] For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

[18] He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

[19] And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. [20] For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. [21] But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

*

John the Baptist endorses Jesus

[22] After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judæa; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. [23] And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. [24] For John was not yet cast into prison.

[25] Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. [26] And they came unto John, and said unto him, "Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him."

[27] John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. [28] Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. [29] He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. [30] He must increase, but I must decrease."

*

The author's commentary

[31] He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. [32] And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. [33] He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. [34] For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. [35] The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. [36] He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

The Lamanites were all eaten by Tyrannosauruses

You can find pictures of anything  on the Internet. I saw wars between the Nephites and Lamanites (two of the peoples whose history is ...