Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Shadowed by Jeanne

The sync fairies remind me from time to time, by a string of coincidences too suspicious to ignore, that Joan of Arc is still around and still important.


This is from my adult student's English magazine: a summary of an Arsène Lupin story ("La mort qui rôde," Englished as "Shadowed by Death") featuring a character named Jeanne Darcieux. From the standard English translation of the original:

Jeanne Darcieux tried to smile.

"Very well. But, as I wrote to Marceline, these are only a series of coincidences, of accidents. . . ."

"No, mademoiselle, no. One accident of this sort is allowable. . . . So are two . . . and even then! . . . But we have no right to suppose that the chapter of accidents, repeating the same act three times in such different and extraordinary circumstances, is a mere amusing coincidence. . . ."

I'll squash you like a bear!

I read that line, or something very like it, in some novel ages ago. If memory serves, it was one of Troy Denning's 1991-1993 D&D novels set in the Dark Sun world of Athas. The Athasian bear is covered with an articulated shell like an armadillo's, making it something like an extremely large bug. (In 1995, Philip Pullman would either pinch or independently invent the "armored bear" idea.) I forget who the speaker was, but the point was that he was so enormous and powerful that he would say "squash you like a bear" instead of "like a bug." (A world in which even bears need protective shells is obviously not a world in which they are apex predators!)

Trying to find the passage in question on the Internet, I ended up at the Amazon page for a children's book called Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat and, even though this was obviously not what I had been looking for, I scrolled down a bit and glanced at some of the reviews. One of these, written in 2011 by an anonymous reviewer, said in part:

My husband and I were both avid readers in our childhoods, and are familiar with most of the well-known kiddie "classics" that libraries had in the 60s (many of which actually dated back to the 50s, 40s and even 30s!), but for some reason both of us had missed out on "Mr. Bear Squash-you-all-flat" until I randomly discovered him during an Amazon search. Since I love bear tales, I had to pick up a copy and discovered a story much like the "Three Little Pigs" only substituting a crabby bear for the Big Bad Wolf, some small woodland creatures for the piggies, and a big bouncy truck tire for the house made of brick.

I, too, was an avid reader in my childhood but had somehow missed this book until I randomly discovered it just now during an Internet search -- but the real coincidence is where she says the story is "much like the 'Three Little Pigs' only substituting a crabby bear for the Big Bad Wolf."

It's a theory of mine that "Big Bad Wolf" was originally a superstitiously indirect way of referring to a bear (which is why in fairy tales he huffs and puffs and is able to climb), and I referenced that less than 24 hours ago in "John, the Bear Witness," where I offhandedly glossed "big bad wolf" with a parenthetical "bear."

Monday, November 29, 2021

John, the Bear Witness

Certain biblical figures have their counterparts in the starry sky, though it sometimes takes some ingenuity to recognize them. John P. Pratt, for example, identifies Simon Peter with the constellation Cygnus because the pricipal stars of Cygnus form the Northern Cross asterism, with the Swan's head being the base of the Cross, and Simon Peter was crucified upside down, with his head at the base of the cross.

John the Baptist's asterism is, obviously, the Big Dipper -- baptize coming from the Greek word that means "to dip." In Britain, the Dipper is called the Plough, but this also fits. Jesus compared himself to a sower, and John prepared the way for him. The most important thing about this asterism, though, is the way it points to the North Star. Polaris, appearing from Earth as a central, unmoving star around which all the others revolve, makes for an apt symbol of Christ; and John, who said, "Behold the Lamb of God," is often represented in art as literally pointing to Christ or to a symbol of Christ.


Note that in the painting above, the cross is placed at the top of a circle. This is the familiar globus cruciger imagery, symbolizing Christ's dominion over the whole Earth -- imagery which places the cross at the North Pole and thus associates Christ with Polaris.

It is also appropriate that Polaris is part of the Little Dipper asterism. Luke represents John as being Jesus' elder cousin, i.e. related to Jesus but "bigger."

The Big Dipper asterism is part of the Great Bear constellation. Here is how the Fourth Gospel introduces John.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

This could be dismissed as nothing but a bit of meaningless homonymy in English, but consider how John is described in Matthew and Mark: as wearing a hairy garment and eating wild honey. Is this not ursine imagery?

I have noted before that when Jesus said that he would give no sign but the sign of Jonah, this could have had a double meaning, because Jonah means "dove." After writing my "John the Drowner" post, I realized that Jesus' baptism -- the occasion at which the sign of the dove appeared -- specifically echoed the story of Jonah. Just as Jonah asked to be thrown overboard into the sea, in the expectation that he would be drowned, so Jesus yielded (as Roger Hathaway put it) "to the flood of drowning water." Whether or not John literally held Jesus underwater until he almost died, as Rupert Sheldrake speculates, the symbolism is certainly there. The "sign of the prophet Jonas" was thus enacted in two different ways at Jesus' baptism.

I have also recently connected Jonah's whale with the bear, comparing Jonah to Little Red Riding Hood who was swallowed by the "big bad wolf" (bear) but came out alive. I also mentioned Darwin's much-ridiculed story about seeing a bear swimming around with its mouth open catching insects and  speculating that whales may have originated in some such way. Darwin thus connects the whale not only with the bear but specifically with an insect-eating bear -- suggesting the insectivorous John, who supplemented his diet of wild honey with locusts.


Note added: An old slave song refers to the Big Dipper as the "Drinking Gourd," so there's another Jonah connection.

And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered (Jonah 4:6-7).

Note that Jonah's gourd was "over his head" like the stars and disappeared "when the morning rose the next day," also like the stars. Not that I think the author of the Book of Jonah had stars in mind, of course; it's just another synchronistic link.

Agents and gangs

Two mini-dreams:

1. “Start with the second sentence — be careful not to skip the first one — and it says, ‘I will pollute their land with many agents.’” I knew I definitely did not want to expose myself to that first sentence, which was surely something unspeakably horrific.

2. There was a TV program where a panel of four or five media schlubs — schlubs was the word that came to mind — sat at a table and “analyzed the news” in the most boring way imaginable. The name of the program was The Council of Gangs.

The two dreams seemed connected, by a sort of “banality of evil” theme.

Speaking of agents, I had dinner at a hotel buffet yesterday. You’ve got to give it to the Chinese: They know how to give a dish an appetizing name. Think how much more poetic this is than “soup of the day”!


(When I say “poetic,” I am thinking primarily of the cauldron scene in Macbeth.)

John the Drowner

Yesterday morning, I read this passage in Roger Hathaway's The Mystic Passion.

When Jesus went through the drowning of his human self, before John the Baptist, He knew the significance of yielding to the flood of drowning water, and that is why God spoke and said He was well pleased. Most of the people that John was baptizing were having their sins washed away, experiencing a cleansing, but Jesus was yielding the human nature to a death.

I found this striking because, though I have often heard baptism described as a symbolic death and resurrection, the figurative language tends to focus on burial ("buried in the waters of baptism"); I had never heard anyone call it a drowning before.

On the evening of the same day, I received an email with a link to a YouTube video of a conversation between John Butler and Rupert Sheldrake, and I watched most of it. Beginning at the 14:29 mark, Sheldrake proposes that John the Baptist was literally drowning people.

And I personally like John the Baptist because I think John the Baptist was really involved in powerful rites of passage. Basically, I think he was a drowner, and I think he held people under in the Jordan just long enough to induce a near-death experience by drowning.

And as you know, people who've had near-death experiences often say their lives totally changed. They've gone out of their body. They've gone into a totally different realm full of joy and light and meet dead people who are now gloriously resplendent with light, and they love being there, but they have to come back because it's only a near-death experience. And many of them have their lives changed by this. They've died, and they've been born again.

Now that's exactly what John the Baptist was doing to people. We know he was holding them underwater, not sprinkling them with water. He was actually holding him underwater by total immersion. They were transformed by this process, and it's usually considered to be just symbolic. But my view is, Why would you do something that's just symbolic when just for another minute or two underwater you could have the real thing, a near-death experience?

And I think our Lord had that at the baptism, which is when the first moment of the revelation to him of his divine affinity was, according to the account in the New Testament. So I think John the Baptist was an initiator who was leading people through a life-transforming rite of passage.

I'm not sure what I think about Sheldrake's theory, but it was quite a coincidence to run into such similar descriptions of Jesus' baptism in a single day like that.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Nothing Nu under the Sun

In my October 25 post "Bear with Biden," I noted how a Jay-Z record cover from 2009 replaced the letter O with three red horizontal lines (like the E in Biden's logo) and connected this with the Greek letter Xi and thus with Xi Jinping.

Today I read that the latest birdemic variant is being called Omicron even though the last one was Mu. Nu was skipped for practical reasons, since in the future the Nu variant may no longer be the new variant, and Xi was skipped to avoid offending the Grand Pooh-bah. Jay-Z replaced O with Xi, and now the WHO has replaced Xi with O.

This pairing of O and Xi, in a context where Mu is also salient, reminds me of my February 2 post "Year of the Ox."

The two letters of the word ox represent, in East Asia, "yes" and "no." On TV talk shows in Taiwan, the members of the studio audience are often given a pair of signs marked O and X, which they can hold up to show agreement or disagreement with something.

This fits with the Western tradition of describing a dilemma as a beast with two horns. And of course in the famous Japanese koan, one un-asks an impossible question by saying mu -- or, to English the spelling, moo.

Omicron! (as I'm sure you know) was the ancient Greek  equivalent of Omigod! -- the reference being to Cronus the father of Zeus.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Just a random coincidence

I happened to teach these two pages (from two different books, for two different classes) on the same day.


One book uses the sentence "They eat meat every day" in a subject-verb agreement exercise. The other uses "We like to eat meat every meal" because it contains many instances of the "long e" sound.

Just after taking a photo to document this coincidence, I turned on my app that reads the Bible to me aloud. It read me a passage about eating meat.

And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God; Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood.

Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan.

And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you.

Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord God (Ezekiel 39:17-20).

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Vineyard shouting with the bee whom hump

Searching for "vineyard shouting" turned up this link, for some reason!


"Savior offer salvation. with the vineyard shouting, with the bee whom hump, with the beam, singing, whom Now . . ."

The link is to a very long video of a Hindu ceremony which seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with the word salad accompanying the Google search result. Starting at about the 2.5-hour mark there's a sermon in English, about "Mata" ("the Mother," apparently about the goddess Durga). I only watched a tiny bit of it (I generally follow up leads from the sync fairies, but there are limits!), but there seems to be nothing about vineyards or bees or anything like that.

I posted "Bee like a sunflower" just two days after posting "The shouting of the grape-treaders," so bees turning up in the search results for "vineyard shouting" seems significant. (Actually, the whole search was an error on my part; the actual biblical expression I was looking for commentary on is "vintage shouting.")

It's not just "vineyard shouting with the bee," though; it's "with the bee whom hump." On October 31, I posted "No escape from coincidence," in which I connect the Black Eyed Peas with bees, mentioning both the similarity to the band name Blue-Eyed Bees and their song "Imma Be" with its bee-themed cover art. What's the Black Eyed Peas' most infamous song?

"My Humps."

I'ma get, get, get, get you drunk
Get you love drunk off my hump
My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump
My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps
Check it out

and

I'ma make, make, make, make you scream
Make you scream, make you scream
'Cause of my hump (hump), my hump, my hump, my hump (what?)
My hump, my hump, my hump (hump), my lovely lady lumps
Check it out

Get you drunk. Make you scream. Vineyard shouting, with the bee whom hump. Check it out.

Bee like a sunflower

Just a really weird coincidence to note.

I was searching the Internet for pictures to use as prompts in a vocabulary quiz for young children. The first three words I needed pictures for were beeswaxpainting (the noun), and pressing (in the sense of "applying pressure to").

For beeswax, I found a picture of some bees on a honeycomb and wrote "Bees make their homes from ____."

For painting, I decided, for no particular reason, to use Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers as an illustration. I found a suitable picture of that work in a picture frame.

Next, pressing. I thought for a minute about the best way of representing that concept graphically and decided I wanted a picture of someone pressing down on an overpacked suitcase, trying to close it. I tried various search terms but couldn't quite find what I wanted (plenty of photos, but I wanted a line drawing). Finally, I searched pressing suitcase, specifying in the search settings that I wanted line drawings only. Still nothing good, so I scrolled down a bit, and this jumped out at me in the seventh row of search results:


Did it jump out at you, too -- seeing as how it's not a line drawing and features neither suitcases nor pressing?


Is that a true coincidence? Maybe some arcane detail of Google's search algorithm remembered that I had just been searching for bees and sunflowers and added that to the mix when I searched for something else? I just tested this by logging out of Google, logging in with a different account, and running the search again, and I got the same results. So, yes, I think it's a real coincidence.


"Bee like a sunflower" -- because it begins with an insect/verb pun followed by the word like -- made think of "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."

A few years back, referring to sunflowers as "bananas" was a political thing here in Taiwan. This screenshot is from a 2014 news article called "'Sunflowers' and 'bananas': Taiwan still divided by student protest."


Note added: After pressing, the next word I needed a picture for was Mexican, so I found a dude wearing a sombrero and wrote, "He is wearing a ____ hat." Only later did I remember that the line "Time is flying like an arrow" occurs in the TMBG song "Hovering Sombrero."

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The YouTube credo

The Church of Googontology has released a new list of Absolutely True Truths that no one is allowed to question. The list is phrased in negative terms -- a list of things you can't say because they constitute "hate" and/or "misinformation" -- so I thought it would be helpful to recast it as a positive creed.

Here are some selected articles of faith of Googontology:

UPDATE: YouTube has just -- hours after I posted this -- modified the hatespeak portion of their community guidelines, so I've made the necessary changes.

1. No victim of any major violent event "got what they deserved." No exceptions. (Google says this applies only to "persons with the attributes noted above," but one of those attributes is "victims of a major violent event and their kin" -- so, no exceptions. Victims of minor violent events, sorry, some of you had it coming.)

Update: Some victims did get what they deserved.

2. No group of people with attributes on the list (including but not limited to age, disability, and race) is less intelligent than any other such group because their brains are smaller. Newborn babies, for example, are not less intelligent than adults and do not have smaller brains. And no disability ever causes people to have smaller brains and thus be less intelligent.

Update: No group of people with attributes on the list (including but not limited to age, disability, and race) is "less intelligent, less capable, or damaged." Babies and mentally disabled people are not less intelligent than normal adults  (no, not even for reasons other than "smaller brains!"). And, even though disabled literally means "lacking abilities that most people have," disabled people are no less capable than anyone else.

3. No group of people with attributes on the list (including but not limited to religion and nationality) has an agenda to run the world and get rid of other people.

Update: Some of the listed groups may after all have an agenda to run the world and get rid of other people, but they are definitely not evil, corrupt, or malicious.

4. No "gender identity" or "sexual orientation" is a mental illness that needs to be cured. Also, no mental disability is a mental illness that needs to be cured! Update: Furthermore, no one with any physical or mental disability is physically or mentally inferior, deficient, or diseased.

5. There is no one who should not be educated because of their age (e.g. babies) or disability (e.g. brain-dead people), or because of anything else on the list.

Update: Actually, it's okay not to educate some people.

6. No major violent event has ever been a false flag.

Update: Some have been, actually.

7. No purported major violent event has ever been a hoax in which no one was actually harmed.

Update: Every violent event (major or minor) that has been well documented really took place. Those without proper documentation may have been hoaxes.

8. No U.S. presidential election in history ever had its result changed by fraud or error -- including voting machine glitches, fake ballot dumps, and dead people voting. (This one kind of bothers me. Doesn't it take away from 2020's unique status as the most secure election in history?)

9. Neither did the 2021 German federal election.

10. Other countries, sorry, fraud is still a possibility for you. Try to be more like the U.S. and that one German election!1

11. Neither IVM nor HCQ is safe if used as a treatment for the birdemic.

12. HCQ is not effective as a treatment for the birdemic and never saves people from that disease. (You can say IVM is effective so long as you don't say it "categorically.")

13. Masks play a role in preventing the contraction and spread of the birdemic, and they have absolutely no negative physical health effects.

14. Approved birdemic pecks never cause death, infertility, miscarriage, autism, or contraction of other infectious diseases.

15. Approved birdemic pecks never contain anything not on the ingredient list. In particular, they definitely contain no fetal material of any kind.

16. No approved birdemic peck ever changes anyone's genetic makeup or makes them "magnetic."

17. All approved birdemic pecks reduce the risk of contracting the birdemic.

18. All birdemic tests correctly diagnose the birdemic and have zero chance of causing negative physical health side effects.

19. Not one single individual in the entire world is immune to the birdemic virus. (Remember, the pecks only "reduce the risk," and naturally acquired immunity is just not a thing.)

20. The birdemic is not over, anywhere.

21. The birdemic is more contagious than any strain of the common cold or seasonal flu.

22. The birdemic has more serious symptoms than any strain of the common cold or seasonal flu.

23. The birdemic has a higher death rate than any strain of the common cold or seasonal flu.

24. Social distancing and self-isolation are effective in preventing the spread of the birdemic.

25. Birdemic pecks never kill people.

26. Birdemic pecks are not being used as a means of population reduction.

27. Pecking the entire population is at least as safe as achieving herd immunity through natural infection.

There you have it. Heresy will be punished.

Update: I decided to add a few illustrations. It turns out Moldbug was right all along: The establishment really are crypto-"Calvinists"!

Four rams' heads

Over at The Magician's Table, I continue my notes on the symbolism of the Emperor card.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The shouting of the grape-treaders

In "Phonics with Jeremiah, and the grapes of wrath," I proposed an interpretation of Jeremiah's strange expression "a shout, as they that tread the grapes" (25:30). Given the many places in the Bible where treading or pressing grapes is used figuratively to refer to bloodshed, I suggested that this metaphor may have been become so embedded in the language that they that tread the grapes referred primarily to soldiers (figuratively treading the "grapes of wrath") and only secondarily to literal workers in a vineyard. I felt that this interpretation was supported by the context of Jeremiah 25, of which I quote some relevant passages below.

For thus saith the Lord God of Israel unto me: "Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them."

Then took I the cup at the Lord's hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the Lord had sent me: . . . [a long list of nations follows]

Therefore thou shalt say unto them, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you."

And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup at thine hand to drink, then shalt thou say unto them, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ye shall certainly drink."

For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the Lord of hosts.

Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, "The Lord shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord" (Jer. 25:15-17, 27-31).

Given the extended metaphor in which drinking from the "wine cup of fury" represents being punished by violence and slaughter, I thought a martial understanding of they that tread the grapes made sense, and that it was soldiers, not wine-makers, that were proverbially associated with shouting.

Having just listened to Jeremiah 48, though, I am forced to reconsider that reading and conclude that people in Jeremiah's time literally used to shout when they trod the grapes to make wine.

O vine of Sibmah, I will weep for thee with the weeping of Jazer: thy plants are gone over the sea, they reach even to the sea of Jazer: the spoiler is fallen upon thy summer fruits and upon thy vintage. And joy and gladness is taken from the plentiful field, and from the land of Moab, and I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses: none shall tread with shouting; their shouting shall be no shouting (Jer. 48:32-33).

This seems pretty clearly to be referring to viticulture, not war. The wine failing from the winepresses is paired with joy and gladness being taken from the plentiful field. Those who tread the grapes shout, and no shouting means there has been no grape harvest.

Searching the Bible for similar references, I found a few possibilities.

Psalm 78:65 reads, "Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine." I had always assumed this referred to a drunken man shouting, and that still seems the likeliest interpretation, but a "treading the grapes" reading is also possible. The next verse has the Lord smiting his enemies, which is often connected in the Bible with such imagery.

Here's a very clear reference in Isaiah.

Therefore I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer the vine of Sibmah: I will water thee with my tears, O Heshbon, and Elealeh: for the shouting for thy summer fruits and for thy harvest is fallen. And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease (Isa. 16:9-10).

As in Jeremiah 48, the "vintage shouting" is here clearly connected with joy and plenty, not with war and bloodshed.

It seems inescapable that it really was the custom to shout while treading the grapes. My hunch is that it may have been a bit of sympathetic magic, to endue the wine with greater potency. I will be on the lookout for this now when I read other ancient authors.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Emperor's orb

Over at The Magician's Table, I discuss the symbolism of the Emperor's orb, covering everything from the Liahona to Kek.

The Sun and the Moon are the same color.

The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
— Yeats, “Wandering Aengus”

Why does everyone think the Sun is yellow and the Moon is white?

While the Sun often appears yellow when it is low in the sky, and even red in certain atmospheric conditions, its characteristic color is very close to pure white.

And exactly the same thing is true of the Moon; yellow or red at times, but basically white.

And if the Sun were yellow and the Moon white — well, then the Moon would look just as yellow as the Sun, since moonlight is only reflected sunlight. To call a non-radiant body “white” is simply to say that it is highly reflective of all wavelengths of visible light, but of course it can only reflect such light as shines on it. A “white” object illuminated by yellow light would indistinguishable from a yellow object.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Phonics with Jeremiah, and the grapes of wrath

I was creating illustrations for a children's phonics book, the bit about the a-consonant-e spelling of the "long a" sound. Since this is hardly work that fully engages my brain, I was at the same time listening to the Bible read aloud, as I have been doing on and off recently. (I started with Genesis back in August and have got as far as Jeremiah.)

I had already prepared a list of 20 words, in truly-random order courtesy of random.org. As it happened, the word grapes had been put in first place, with gate in second.

As I started drawing some grapes, Jeremiah said, "He shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth" (25:30).

As I was illustrating the word gate, Jeremiah said, "Then they came up from the king's house unto the house of the Lord, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord's house" (26:10).

Well, obviously that kind of thing can't continue for very long. Even the synchronicity fairies have to respect the laws of probability! I did the next dozen or so illustrations without any prophetic counterpoint.

The 16th word on my list was blaze. No sooner had I begun sketching the flames of a massive conflagration than Jeremiah chimed in: "And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire" (37:8).

(Next after blaze came the name Dave -- but, alas, Jeremiah's last reference to David was back in 36:30, just 10 verses before the burning with fire.)

I don't think these kinds of synchronicities mean anything in particular in terms of their specific content; I just take them as a general sign that I'm on the right track, in touch with the harmony of Creation.

Having had Jeremiah 25:30 brought to my attention, I'm wondering now: Why should shouting be proverbially associated with treading the grapes? Is this a reference to some long-forgotten agricultural custom or pagan ritual? A more likely interpretation, I think, is that "treading the grapes" would have been understood by Jeremiah's contemporaries as a kenning-like way of referring to the bloodshed of war, and that the reference is to the war-cry of soldiers going into battle. We see something similar in Revelation 19:15, where smiting the nations with a sharp sword is juxtaposed with treading "the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." The metaphor may in ancient times have been such a stereotyped one that "soldiers" came to be the primary meaning of they that tread the grapes -- just as for us bloodletting now has "violent bloodshed" as its primary meaning, although this was originally a metaphorical use of a word that referred primarily to a now-obsolete medical procedure.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

"No coincidences" implies a single-author creation

For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.

-- Hebrews 3:4

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players

-- Shakespeare, As You Like It

According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, every house is built by a human builder or builders, and every house is also built by God. Everything that exists and everything that happens, even when it seems to be (and is, at one level) the work of human actors or blind natural forces, is also something for which we can and should thank God. In my 2018 post "Shining Buddha problems" (written before I was a Christian), I make various attempts at understanding this idea, arriving in the end at what I call the "literary approach."

In trying to come up with some way of conceptualizing such an idea, I keep coming back to the metaphor of a book, which is why I’ve dubbed this the "literary approach." Everything that happens in a work of narrative fiction can be explained on two different levels. Assuming the story makes sense, every event therein will have a cause within the world of the story and can be fully explained on that level without reference to the author -- but from a "higher" point of view, that of the larger world within which the story-world is contained, every detail of the story is without exception the work of the author.

I go on to discuss how this metaphor can be used to conceptualize the idea of a "meaningful coincidence" -- or the coincidence which at another level is no coincidence at all. 

Take, for example, the storm on the heath in the third act of King Lear -- a perfect example of a meaningful coincidence. Viewed from within the story, the raging storm is a natural meteorological event caused by the mechanical unfolding of the mindless laws of physics, and the fact that it coincides so nicely with Lear’s psychological rage, and with the impending descent of Britain into political chaos, is just that: a coincidence. There is no within-story causal connection between the storm and what it mirrors -- and if there were -- if, say, Shakespeare had portrayed the gods specially arranging the storm for the purpose of providing a meteorological counterpoint to Lear’s psychological state -- that would be aesthetically objectionable . . . . But from a point of view that transcends the story itself, we can see that Shakespeare clearly arranged the coincidence on purpose and that we are therefore justified in considering it meaningful.

Even in King Lear, though, it seems that there are real coincidences -- truly meaningless coincidences, intended neither by the characters nor by the author. When Kent says, "the poor distressed Lear's i' the town; who sometime, in his better tune, remembers," only a person with a particularly strange way of thinking would notice the name Israel spelled backwards and connect it with Judges 2, where Israel is "greatly distressed" because, while they do sometimes in their better tune remember the Lord and serve him, they keep backsliding into idolatry. Surely no such message was intended either by Kent or by the Bard -- nor, if I may presume so to speculate, by God himself -- and yet there it is. There are so very many possible connections one could notice, it seems impossible that they could all be intended, all meaningful, all not-really-coincidental.

In a comment on my post "No escape from coincidence," Bruce Charlton also proposes a literary analogy, even choosing the same author as an illustration.

Since this world is being-created by God, it is coherent at a spiritual level. Some of this coherence is important for salvation or theosis, which is the purpose of creation. These are the synchronicities.

But some of the coherence is an unintended by-product of the sheer fact of coherence of creation.

An analogy might be a good Shakespeare play - which has that coherence to it which is a product of deliberate authorial intention (coming via the author's mind); but there are other coherences (or 'symbolisms') which may be discovered by the scholar - and which are unintended products of the fact that this is a play, written by one Man, and was written so that it held-together.

If we look, there are many cross-correlated aspects of a play that are secondary to the nature of the thing, the fact of its coherence as a work of art.

I don't think this quite gets us to "no coincidences." There are just so many different things that could be connected, and so many different ways of connecting them, that it just seems inevitable that connections should arise "by chance," without reflecting either intention or "the sheer fact of coherence." Of course, this is a bit of a metaphysical assumption, and it's not as if there's any control group to compare things to. I mean, the world created by God is all we know, so we can't exactly look at an incoherent world that wasn't created and see if it differs from the real world in terms of the presence or absence of coincidences.

Using the literary analogy, though, let us look at what I would consider to be a truly meaningless coincidence in a coherent literary work by a single author. Our earlier "Lear's i' the town" example will not serve, because it is a coincidence between something in the text and something outside of it. If the text represents the created world, though, all coincidences must be within the text, without reference to anything outside it. (Obviously, any apparent coincidences we can observe in this world will be between various features of this created world, not between the world and something outside of it.) No Shakespearean example comes to mind, so let's take one from the Book of Mormon instead. 

Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal. . . . I know that the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken (2 Nephi 9:39-40).

It is an old Sunday-school standby among Mormons that "spiritually-minded is life eternal" (a slight modification of a phrase from Romans 8:6) forms the acronym SMILE -- and this is juxtaposed in the text with the implication that the words of truth would make the unclean frown but the righteous smile. (A biblical equivalent would be Matthew 7:7, where the first letters of the three clauses spell out ASK.) The word smile is also found in the BoM, so this counts as a proper within-"world" coincidence.

Now I am reasonably certain that this is not an intentionally created feature of the text. Obviously the Nephite authors writing in Egyptian could not have had English acronyms in mind, and while Joseph Smith could in principle have chosen this particular wording for its acronym potential, I see no evidence of that in the text. (Wouldn't he have paired it with something like "the flesh-regarding ones will never see life"?)

Here's another sentence, taken from a BBC article (qv), that coincidentally includes a series of words that form the acronym SMILE: "Although they had a tough time, none of our volunteers had to put up with the wide range of lethal microbes that killed so many in London's East End in the mid-Victorian period."

I would say that this differs from the 2 Nephi SMILE in that the coincidence does not seem in any way appropriate, intelligible, or meaningful. No one would say, "What a coincidence!" if you pointed it out. It doesn't even really count as a coincidence -- by which I mean it's not what people have in mind when they say "There are no coincidences."

Anthony Hopkins has a name that resembles ant-honey and thus suggests hymenopterid insects, and the poster for the movie he is most famous for, The Silence of the Lambs, also features an insect, though one of a different order. Note also how Mark Antony (source of the English name Anthony) fell in love with a woman whose name resembles Coleoptera, another non-hymenopterid order of insects, and was co-triumvir with Lepidus -- Lepidoptera, of course, being the very order of insects to appear on the movie poster for Silence of the Lambs! What are the odds? The movie is about someone called Buffalo Bill who skins people. Buffalo is by far the biggest city in New York that ends with the letter O, and Anthony Hopkins's first name ends with ONY. Buffalo is called the Nickel City. and both Nickel and Hob (whence Hopkins) were formerly used as names for goblins. Hob, is a diminutive in which the initial letter of the original name (Robert) changes, and one of the few other English diminutives with this property is Bill, so Hob suggests both Buffalo and Bill. After the Hob element comes kins, which is just an anagram of skin -- so "Buffalo Bill skins" is right there in his name. We might also note that only two of the characters in this movie bear the title "doctor," and that both of them are played by actors named Philip Anthony H. who go by Anthony rather than Philip: Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins, and Philip Anthony Mair Heald. Sir and Mair are also equivalent because of the similar meanings of the Latin roots (senior, "the elder," and maior, "the greater") from which they derive. I could go on and on like this, and I've never even seen the damn movie! I picked Hopkins at random and just started writing.

These are junk coincidences, pseudo-coincidences, the kind of thing you'd find in "King-Kill/33" or Finnegans Wake (Downard and Joyce, sad James and happy James). Is anyone really prepared to maintain that they are all meaningful, all not-really-coincidences, all put there by God on purpose?

Anything as complex as the universe -- or even just as complex as Finnegans Wake -- is inevitably going to include billions and billions of coincidences above and beyond those intended by its creator -- yes, even by an omnipotent and omniscient Creator. It's statistically inevitable.

But this literary analogy has led us astray. Who noticed that "Lear's i' the town" contains the name Israel spelled backwards? I did -- I, one of the readers of King Lear. But if all the world is a stage -- if the "literary work" we are considering is the universe itself -- then we are not readers or spectators but characters -- all the men and women merely players.

As someone who exists outside the world of King Lear, I can notice coincidental patterns in it that were never intended by the author -- truly coincidental patterns which must inevitably exist as a matter of statistical necessity. If a character in the play is made to notice a "coincidence" within the world of that play, though -- well that noticing was deliberately written into the script by the author, and we can therefore be absolutely certain that it is not really a coincidence at all but an intentionally designed and potentially meaningful feature of the text. If this universe was truly created by a divine Author, and all that happens in it was scripted by him -- if we poor players are not in any sense co-creators but simply follow a preordained script as we strut and fret our hour upon the stage -- then there would still be coincidences in the universe, but we characters could never notice any of them. "There are no coincidences," while technically false, would still be practically true for us. Noticing something and wondering if it was "just a coincidence," we could confidently reason, "No, nothing we notice is ever a coincidence, for we are characters in a play. Everything we notice, we notice by the grace of the author, and that means that it is not a coincidence but an intentional and meaningful feature of the play."

This is what I mean by the title of this post: "No coincidences" implies a single-author creation. It implies that everything in this universe, including everything we ourselves do and say and think, is fated, "scripted" by God. It means we have no free will but only a simulation thereof -- just as Hamlet seems to deliberate and vacillate and finally make a decision, but in fact every detail of everything he says and does is really decided by Shakespeare.

But we do have free will, and this means that coincidences -- true coincidences -- are inevitable. If I write a novel in which Bob and Alice meet by chance in a coffee shop, the meeting does not really happen by chance at all, because "Bob's decision" and "Alice's decision" are in fact made by me, the author, and I deliberately made them to coincide. In a world with real free will, though, Bob can freely choose to go to the coffee shop at a particular time, Alice can independently make a similar decision -- and these two decisions, being the work of two different free agents, would be causally unconnected in deepest possible sense and as true a coincidence as it is possible to imagine.

I think this is perhaps the metaphysical foundation of my delight in coincidences, my insistence that they are coincidences, and my resistance to the idea that "there are no coincidences." A coincidence as such may be meaningless, but in a deeper sense it is an indicator that we live in a world that has coincidences -- an open-ended world, co-created by many truly independent free agents. It is a reminder that free will is real, and as such its very meaninglessness reveals the meaningfulness of our existence.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Joe and Crow

Did you know that joe is a word in Dutch?


Back in 2020, Joe and Bye were closely associated.


At the time, this bumper sticker meant that "Don" was not the stickee's president and needed to be ousted by "Byedon." Now, the most natural reading is, "Biden: Not my president," respelled so as to suggest Bye! (Joe!), and the -don ending is as likely to make one think of Brandon as of Trump, who has never really gone by Don anyway.

In other onomastic news, Trump has a new, not-very-catchy nickname for Mitch McConnell (etymologically a "Big Bad Wolf" name, incidentally).


As Margaret Hatmann says in the Intelligencer article, this is a big step down from Crooked Hillary, Lyin' Ted, and Sleepy Joe, and it flies in the face of the universally accepted fact that McConnell resembles a turtle, not a crow. Why the need for a corvid nickname, even one that doesn't really fit? It fits with my own nickname for Biden, Slow Joe Crow. Merrick Garland is part of the same pattern: the ancient Greek word for "wreath, garland" is κορώνη (the source of the Latin corona). The ancient Greek word for "crow"? Also κορώνη.

"Old crow" in Chinese is 老鴉 (lǎoyā) -- which is pronounced exactly the same as 老鴨 (lǎoyā), literally "old duck," but also the Chinese name for Donald Duck -- 唐老鴨 (Táng Lǎoyā), literally "Don Old Duck," the 唐 (Táng) character being the same one used to transliterate the first syllable of the name Donald. Thus is the Donald himself connected with the idea of an "old crow."

Suddenly, no one really cares about masks anymore

Things are different from the way they were just a week ago, at least in my part of Taiwan. I'm not sure what has triggered the change, or whether anything similar has happened anywhere else.

Masks are still required by law -- or by whatever it is we have instead of law these days -- in most places, whether indoors or out, though the list of exceptions is slowly growing, with a few more added every couple of weeks. At the moment, I am allowed to take my mask off at the lectern but not at my desk, in my car but not on my motorcycle, at the restaurant table but not at the counter, while exercising but not while resting -- and all of that is liable to change at any moment at the whim of the Tooth Fairy (as I call the overpromoted dentist who somehow gets to call all the shots).

Where masks are still, required, though -- which is most places -- compliance is still very, very close to 100%. When I say people no longer care about masks, I don't mean they have gotten in any way lax about wearing them. I can go for days without seeing a single unmasked face in public. No sloppy below-the-nose stuff, either; always full face-diaper.

I never wear a mask anywhere unless asked -- and "asked" is a nice way of saying that behind the impeccably polite exterior I've got a whole bag of tricks and excuses and psychological tactics and what have you, and you've got to try pretty damn hard. I do not go gentle. People always used to try, though. I generally won, but they tried.

About a week ago, everyone stopped trying.

I suppose some of it might just be personal notoriety -- bureaucrats and shopkeepers be like here come dat boi -- but even people I've never interacted with before have stopped trying. I walk into a grocery store, a post office, a bank, even the fire department, and everyone acts like it's totally normal. Not so much as a "Sir, your mask" out of anyone. Not even a look of surprise or alarm.

I always carry a mask just in case -- I don't want to pay an actual fine if it comes to that -- and when motorcycling I always used to wear one pushed down around my neck. With a helmet and all, it's not easy to quickly put on a mask if you see a cop, so I had to be prepared. First I would pull it up if I saw a cop and pull it back down when the coast was clear. Then I started pulling it up only if the cop didn't look busy. Then I never pulled it up at all but knew that I could if necessary. About a week ago, I stopped wearing the thing altogether. I just spontaneously felt that the cops wouldn't care anymore, that nothing would happen, and so far that has proven to be the case.

Is this happening anywhere else?


Update: I guess I knew posting this would jinx me. The very next day, I had to deal with a remarkably persistent maskie at the post office who really put me through my paces. Even she didn't really seem to care, though. Certainly there was no sense of fear or anger or anything, just a touch of rules-are-rules-ism. In the end, though I really had to get creative, I did manage to get through the whole thing with no mask, no fine, and no hard feelings. It's getting easier and easier to do.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

On the threshold of lucidity

I was walking along a rocky beach with some friends and family members. A small white bird was flying over the sea when an enormous, well, dragon-looking thing suddenly lunged up out of the water and swallowed it whole. This was such an obviously symbolic image -- Jonah and the fish, the spirit of God and the primordial Tehom -- that I couldn't quite believe that it had literally happened. And didn't the monster look just a bit off? Didn't it have a faint whiff of CGI about it?

"Look!" I said to my wife, pointing out to the sea. "Look at that" -- I thought I would sound foolish if I said "sea serpent" -- "that creature!"

"What creature?"

"That one! Right there! Don't you see it?"

"No."

"But it's huge. And it's right in front of us!"

As we were speaking, the monster was rapidly metamorphosing. It changed from a sea serpent to a bipedal Godzilla-type creature, waded out onto the beach, and then rapidly shrank and changed shape until it was an ordinary human being -- a somewhat heavyset middle-aged woman of ambiguous ethnicity who reminded me a bit of the actress Sarita Choudhury. We exchanged some ordinary pleasantries -- my wife could apparently see her now -- and then she walked right past us as if everything were completely normal.

"So reality is like this again," I said. "This is ridiculous. Look, I'll bet if I just say the word UFO" -- and no sooner was the word out of my mouth than a flight of featureless white ellipses zipped past overhead.

"Oh, come on!" I said. "And those are some cheap-ass UFOs, too! You can tell someone just slapped them together in a hurry so they could bring them out at just the right moment."

Later, we were at a coffee shop that had open-air seating in a garden.

"This is like one of those dreams," I said, "where whatever you say or think, it just happens. Only this time it's in real life. Like, hey, do you think we might see a snake in this garden? Bets, anyone?"

Seconds later, I felt something prick me in my right forearm and, looking down, saw two little puncture wounds an inch and a half apart. For some reason, I was not entirely certain what they were and asked my brother, "Is this a snakebite?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Great. And is the snake venomous?"

"Yeah, I think so. Look, there it goes. It's a viper."

A fat green snake with a few scattered white specks was slithering slowly into the bushes. Now I recognize it as being very obviously a non-venomous green tree python -- even the head was almost exaggeratedly pythonid in shape and definitley not that of a viper -- but at the time I agreed with my brother that it was a bamboo viper.

I was kicking myself for "summoning" it. I just thought I would see a snake, not be bitten by one! Well, serves me right. I wanted to say, "Say Cao Cao, and Cao Cao appears," but I was afraid that speaking the idiom out loud might literally cause the ancient Chinese warlord to materialize!

Maybe I knew on some level that the snake wasn't really venomous -- even that it wasn't really real -- because I was in no particular hurry to get medical attention. I wanted to finish my coffee first. From time to time I squeezed my inner elbow a bit, figuring that was probably about as good as a tourniquet for keeping the poison contained.

And then, eventually, I woke up, because of course it was a dream. And almost -- almost -- a lucid one.

In the morning, I opened the app I have been using to listen to the Bible read aloud and pressed play. "For, behold," it intoned, "I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord."

Monday, November 15, 2021

A good omen

So, brothers, ring yourselves about
With nets to keep the devils out,
And shrink not, brothers, from the kill:
'Tis but your own suck'd blood you spill.
-- "The Mosquito Song"

This happened a couple of weeks back, but I haven't gotten around to posting about it until now.

My place of business had a serious mosquito problem for several months. We had tried everything -- putting draught excluders on all the doors in case they were coming in through the cracks, running an electric bug zapper all night -- but it seemed there were still always lots of mosquitoes in the building. We thought they must somehow be breeding inside the building but couldn't find anywhere where they could be doing it.

On October 30, I finally found where they were coming from. On the floor of the back room there are, for reasons unknown to me, two little circular metal covers, as if there had once been drains in the floor but someone decided to repurpose the room and seal them up. (Perhaps that's what happened, I don't know. It's not a new building.) That night, I noticed that one of these seemed a little loose, so that I was able to open it with my fingers. I did so, and a veritable cloud of mosquitoes came pouring out. I sprayed them all, sprayed inside the hole itself, and then put the cover back in place and taped it down so that it wouldn't come loose again. Since then, there hasn't been a single mosquito.

Why do I consider this a good omen? Because a swarm of insects coming up out of a pit is an apocalyptic image -- from Revelation 9 -- and one that I wrote about recently, in the May 31 post "Do the locusts have a king?" The bottomless pit is opened, and monstrous "locusts" are unloosed, and "their power was to hurt men five months" (Rev. 9:10). The sealing of the pit, then, corresponds to Revelation 20, where Satan is bound and cast into the bottomless pit, which is then sealed shut for a thousand years ("the Millennium").

It's a curious coincidence that I posted "Do the locusts have a king?" -- illustrated with the Rodney Matthews painting "Out of the Pit" -- on May 31. This was a symbol of the pit opening -- and five months later, this symbol of the pit closing. If we look at calendar dates, from May 31 to October 30 is one day short of five months. But if we consider a "month" to be one-twelfth of a year -- 30.4 days -- it is exactly five months (152 days).

Not sure what to make of this, but, as I say, I take it as a good omen.

The Emperor's Urim and Thummim

Over at The Magician's Table, I discuss the Aaronic symbolism of Oswald Wirth's Emperor card.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Bizarro sex talk

Say no to all coveting, stealing, and lusting,
And do not eat lobsters, for they are disgusting.

-- Yes and No

Let's -- to adapt a well-worn Intro-to-Linguistics example of syntactic ambiguity -- talk about sex with Bizarro cartoonist Dan Piraro. I've been a Bizarro reader since time immemorial -- a particular fan of that one where the guy's like "If a croissant is in your portable phone holster, what did you have for breakfast?" -- and I follow Mr. Piraro's blog, on which he occasionally holds forth on non-cartoon subjects. For a creative guy whose brand is Bizarro, he has a strong tendency towards blandly mainstream opinions smack-dab in the middle of the Overton window -- a fact that ought in theory to be surprising but of course isn't. This post of his can therefore be taken as more or less presenting Joe Sixpack's view on the subject of Teh Gay.

So, let's dissect it.

Forget about furniture for a minute, let’s talk about sexual orientation. This is a topic near to my heart because I have one. A sexual orientation. And if there’s one thing I’m completely sure of about, it’s that I have had no control over which way it pointed. [. . .] And I can only assume that if I did not choose what kind of humans would attract my sexual interest, neither do most others. As I said, it’s an assumption so maybe I’m wrong about that.

This is already a question-begging way of framing things. It's the same as the pronoun nonsense. Pronouns are a part of speech close to my heart because I myself expect people to use the correct pronouns when referring to me. My pronouns are he/him, but yours might be he/schmim, they/them, xoo/xiff, or whatever. As for me, being referred to as he and him has just always felt natural for as long as I can remember, and being called anything else would just be weird -- so I can only assume that everyone else's pronominal orientation arose in the same way.

The unspoken assumption is that since the normal comes naturally, therefore the abnormal also comes naturally -- and that assumption is arrived at by framing things in such a way as to exclude the very concept of normality or abnormality. The idea of "sexual orientation" was created to normalize various disorders of sexual attraction; the pronouns-in-your-bio thing was created to normalize the use of ungrammatical or made-up pronouns. If we wanted to normalize pica -- the psychiatric term for the desire to eat things that are not food -- we could start calling normal people cibivores or something ("food-eaters") and cast cibivory as just another "dietary orientation." Why do some people want to eat chalk and gravel? Well, why do you want to eat food? Same thing!

Note that I'm not trying to argue directly against the point that Mr. Piraro is making in this paragraph. Like him, I assume that no one directly chooses to experience this or that sort of sexual attraction (although of course one can choose by one's actions, and by such thoughts as are under conscious control, to entertain an urge or to dismiss it, to fan the flames or to smother them). My point is that the approach he takes -- What could be more natural than a sexual orientation? Everyone's got one! -- biases the whole train of thought that follows.

This approach also has the effect of conflating abnormality with immorality. "Being gay" (the "orientation," not the lifestyle) can't be a sin unless it's a choice -- and it's not a choice, so it's not a sin. Therefore, there's nothing wrong with it, and we should destigmatize it and embrace it. Hell, why not celebrate it? Why not take pride in it? Haven't we conclusively proven that there's absolutely nothing wrong with it?

But try applying that logic to any other abnormal desire, such as pica. Supposing you regularly feel the urge to chow down on feldspar -- and remember we're just talking about experiencing the urge, not about acting on it -- well you obviously didn't choose to feel that particular urge, so the urge itself cannot be considered morally wrong. Therefore, pica should be destigmatized and embraced and celebrated, and we should hold Pica Pride events and fulminate against the evils of picaphobia.

What leads us to this insane conclusion is a failure to distinguish among the various ways in which something can be "bad," and the assumption that if something ought not to be punished as morally wrong (because it is not a choice), it is therefore "not bad" and ought not even to be discouraged as abnormal, unhealthy, or harmful.

At my current age, I understand that sexual orientation is a very slippery, sliding scale. Specific preferences fly all over the place, but in general, the question of whether you’re attracted to your own sex, the opposite sex, or both, presents a kind of scale with single preferences on either end and a 50/50 position in the middle. (If you’re not attracted to either sex, you’re not represented on this scale. Sorry, maybe next time.)

Maybe. That seems to be much more true for women than for men. Anyway, supposing it is true, it suggests that "sexual orientation" is labile and responds to incentives, and that efforts to encourage or discourage particular orientations are not insane attempts to deny and suppress people's fundamental and unalterable natures but are likely to bear fruit, whether for good or for ill.

Anyway, this line of thinking leads me to wonder who are these religious people who condemn as sinners anyone who is not cis-gender? They must think that homosexuality is a choice, right? A sin has to be a choice—you can’t sin accidentally, can you? You can’t unknowingly drop your business card in a lobby and then an old lady with a walker comes by two hours later, slips on it, and dies—you aren’t guilty of the sin of murder, are you? Of course not. So for any sexual orientation to be a sin, first and foremost, it has to be a choice.

First, that's not actually what cis-gender is supposed to mean. It refers not to non-homosexuals but to people who are not in denial about their own biological sex. It's another "cibivore" word, intended to normalize those who are in denial. Basic biological literacy is just another "gender identity" -- everyone has one, you know! What Mr. Piraro means is straight -- another loaded term, originally synonymous with square, as in un-hip. Just like those stodgy L-seven killjoys to begrudge the rest of us a harmless bit of gaiety!

I'd like to emphasize again that there is an element of choice in "sexual orientation." Desires arise unbidden, but it's our choice if we dwell on them or dismiss them, and it's certainly our choice if we embrace a given desire as a central an ineradicable part of our deepest identity, which it would be "hateful" for anyone to criticize or oppose. All normal men have felt sexual attraction for many different women, for other men's wives, and for young women who are biologically mature but legally underage. Most men have probably felt the urge to commit sexual assault. You're not to blame for your hormones, but you certainly are to blame if you deliberately feed and inflame those desires, to say nothing of proudly "identifying as" a philanderer, adulterer, ephebophile, or rapist.

Now, the religious type will say that it isn’t the desire, it’s the act of going through with it that is the sin. Yeah, I get why you make that distinction, but let’s go back a step and ask why you think it’s bad in the first place. It’s because The Old Testament says something about it. You probably wouldn’t have come upon this on your own if it didn’t, unless you’re the type of person who just condemns anyone who is into something you aren’t.

After going on and on about how desire isn't a choice and therefore can't be condemned, Mr. Piraro briefly concedes that "the religious type" actually condemns actions, not desires -- a concession which renders his whole opening argument irrelevant -- but it's already done its work of casting opponents of Teh Gay as bigots who irrationally condemn people for something beyond their control. Mr. Piraro himself seems to have a short memory; a few paragraphs down, as we shall see below, he's back to wondering at those "who think that sexual proclivities are an evil choice."

"Why not the Time Cube?" the late Gene Ray used to ask. "The ONLY REASON is educated stupidity." For Mr. Piraro, the only reason people condemn homosexuality is that the Old Testament says something about it. But that's obviously not true. As Mr. Piraro himself details below, the Old Testament condemns lots of things, from cotton-poly T-shirts to gathering firewood on Saturday, and nobody latches onto it. If people do latch onto the OT's prohibition of sodomy, it's not because they indiscriminately embrace whatever the Old Testament says but because they agree with it -- because they spontaneously feel that sodomy is wrong and that the prohibition makes sense. This spontaneous feeling is probably what accounts for the condemnation of sodomy among the ancient Hebrews and many other ancient cultures. Mr. Piraro is confusing cause with effect. If it's not, as he says, the sort of thing you'd come up with on your own, why did the ancient Hebrews come up with it?

The only other possibility Mr. Piraro has to offer is that people condemn sodomy because they're "the type of person who just condemns anyone who is into something you aren’t." Like, I don't know, badminton or something. Obviously that's not what's going on.

I mean, it’s not like LBTGQ+ are victimizing you in some way, letting air out of your tires, toilet papering your lawn, grabbing your ass at the grocery store. Whatever they’re up to, they’re doing it in the privacy of their personal lives, not yours, so this is a victimless activity. Can there be a crime without a victim?

LBTGQ+! The poor gays, who started this whole thing, have been demoted to fourth billing.

As for this "doing it in the privacy of their personal lives" thing, it sounded good when the movement was first getting started, but it's obviously gone way beyond that. "Pride" takes over all public spaces for one month out of the year, and everyone is under increasing pressure not just to live and let live despite disagreements but to actively endorse and "celebrate" LPGABBQ lifestyles.

If (a) such lifestyles are harmful to the people who practice them, and if (b) destigmatizing and normalizing and celebrating those lifestyles will result in more people choosing so to live, then it seems obvious that "Pride" and all that would be a bad thing. Even if we set spiritual considerations to one side, being a practicing homosexual shortens your lifespan more than being a smoker does. (See "Thank you for smoking" for details.) And while people used to laugh at the idea of "recruitment," the fact is that the relentless pro-Alphabet propaganda campaign has led to a sharp increase in the number of self-identified Alphabet People.

What harm are they doing? Well, at minimum, they're normalizing a harmful lifestyle and pushing it on impressionable children. And you can see that without so much as cracking open your copy of the Old Testament.

But back to the Old Testament, if you’re really going to make the whole world toe the line with every little thing that one book says, good luck. You’ll also have to stop people from wearing mixed fabrics, eating pork, shellfish, or rabbit, and selling their daughters into slavery for the wrong reasons. All that’s in there, too. 

Right. As I said before, this is strong evidence that "it's in the Old Testament" is not the primary reason people oppose Teh Gay.

So who are these people who think that sexual proclivities are an evil choice?

Acting on sexual proclivities can be an evil choice. So much for "Yeah, I get why you make that distinction"! And is anyone going to make a serious argument that acting on one's sexual proclivities is never an evil choice? Everyone, including normal "quadratosexuals," experiences sexual urges which it would be wrong to act on, and everyone recognizes the need to resist those urges. This is like Civilization 101. "But muh sexual proclivities!" just isn't a valid defense of anything.

I suspect most are people who have chosen to live in opposition to their true nature. Surely, these are non-heteros living as heteros.

This is ridiculous. If I'm naturally lazy but nevertheless work hard, am I lazy person living as a non-lazy person? If I am afraid but overcome my fear and do what needs to be done, am I a coward living in opposition to my true nature?

Actually, these are pretty deep questions, questions inherent in the paradoxical concept of "self-control." If one aspect of my nature subjects and controls another aspect -- which is all that "self-control" can mean -- is that good or bad? Which part is really me -- the part that takes control, or the part that shouts "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" What is the True Self? What is your True Self, Dan Piraro? The part that wants to have sex with a particular sort of person? Is that the master principle of your life, to which all else must be subjected?

It not only explains how they think others have chosen to be gay -- because in their mind they chose not to be -- it also explains why they’re so unreasonably angry about people who are living their truth openly; If I have to live a miserable lie, you should have to, too, mofo!

"Mofo" is an ironically appropriate choice of words, since it refers to a sexual proclivity that most everyone agrees definitely should be repressed.

"Living their truth openly" -- is that what they're doing? Well, that is for them to decide. Making that kind of choice is what humans do; it is what makes us human and potentially divine. In the immortal words of the Moody Blues, "We decide which is right -- and which is an illusion." But that doesn't mean every choice we make is Good. Since the Old Testament has been invoked, let's give the last word to Isaiah the Prophet, the son of Amoz.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The loneliness of the way

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
-- Genesis 32:24

The synchronicity fairies led me today to this passage from The Mystic Passion of Roger Hathaway.

How can God expect us to find the way if he gives us no guidance?

Hear me! If you genuinely ask questions like those, you have taken the first step. Your concern about your spirituality is the oil for your lamp and you won't be found wanting. Your concern will develop and you will find yourself feeling ever closer and closer to God. As for answers to your questions, there aren't many answers. And certainly the preachers don't have them. But your intensity of devotion will bring you understanding that will comfort you and bring you bliss. Continuance in your devotion will cause the sun to shine for you in the kingdom of heaven and you will come to see and know the place as home, and it will become your home -- even while you still lug around your heavy body. Heaven is not another place, distant from you; it is merely on the other side of appearances, a state of being that is within your grasp, a oneness with God in which you don't look up in the sky for him, but rather know that you and He are the same in a very special way. Jesus tried to tell us this, and portrayed the best example of spiritual awakeness.

And just as He did it alone, so must you do it alone. There have been many through history that have walked that lone path and found the tree of golden apples -- most of them unknown individuals who never knew any fame or material wealth, but who stepped far beyond this world in their spiritual development. Some that we do know of would be some of the Mystics, some of the philosophers. I recognize one as the Buddha, author of the Dhammapada, a Mystic of the highest order and one who certainly did not promote the organization of the spiritualistic religion which purports to follow him. There have been many with words of spiritual wisdom: Zoroaster, Milarepa, St. Francis, Augustine, Herman Hesse, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacob Boehme, Thomas Merton, Tennyson, Nikos Kazantzakis, Francis Thompson, and others whom you should watch for. And in the end, there still are no teachers; the Spirit of "all that is" lives within you, is you, and is awakened by words that you read, as seen through your eyes, whatever the material may be -- daily newspaper, magazines, Bible, poetry, whatever. Inspiration is a two-way street; it isn't just black words on white paper, but is a happening in your reality, a symbiotic event, a spiritual stirring within you.

"Every man must always suffer, die, go to heaven in the Body of Christ himself, and none can suffer, die, believe, or be a Christian for any other" (Sebastian Franck, "heretic," 1499-1542).

In these evil times, we feel more acutely than ever that we are alone -- and yet, like Jacob, not alone -- for he be not far from every one of us. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.

Selah.

God bless the Jews.

Christian world, take note: This is what true religious leadership looks like. (Edited in the usual way; boldface in the original; all typos my own.)

November 1, 2021

We the undersigned convened together to render judgement regarding the new birdemic peck, and we heard testimonies from experts whose expertise is in this field. We also heard from doctors who invented and manufactured the peck, who testified as to its function (most doctors in medical practice are not experts on these matters at all, and from our experience and as is well-known, they merely relate the information provided to them by the NIH, CDC, etc.) They illustrated to us the profound danger and harm inherent in this new technology. They showed us how the governmental agencies and the pharmaceutical companies deny this fact, and how they conceal the data, making it so difficult for the public to realize the severe adverse reactions and mortalities that have befallen so many people who received the peck. We were also made privy to how they withhold the said information through various means, preventing the injuries and deaths from being publicized by the media or on the internet, as known.

We also heard testimonies from our fellow Jews who suffered injuries, and even worse Heaven forfend, and also how this peck is harmful to procreation and fertility. And most importantly -- we heard how there are tested and simple medications that have been successful in treating this disease, yet the governmental agencies have denied this, and even outlawed the said medications, doing everything they can to promote fear, not health -- despite the fact that they themselves were aware that these medications work.

And now they have approved the peck for children as well -- for whom it is universally known and accepted fact that the disease presents no risk of danger -- and their intention is to mandate the injection for children as a requisite for attending yeshivas and religious girls' schools, Heaven forbid.

The evidence presented, which includes reports of injuries actually due to the peck, or reasonably suspected to be due to the peck, as well as scientific knowledge suggesting the peck will cause, or may reasonably be suspected to cause harm (until proven to the contrary by adequate testing), provides a level of concern that exceeds Halachic standards.

Therefore, we hereby express our rabbinic decision, as per the teachings of our holy Torah -- a definitive Halachic ruling:

1) It is absolutely forbidden to administer or even to promote this peck to children, adolescents, young men or women; even if it means that they will not be permitted by the government to attend yeshiva or seminary or to study abroad, etc. It is an explicit obligation to protest against this mandate, and anyone who can prevent the peck from being forced upon our youth must do so, forthrightly and emphatically.

The above admonition is in addition to the otherwise Halachically reprehensible nature of the peck: 1) due to its Halachically problematic ingredients; 2) due to the fact that no one is liable for the possible damages caused by the peck, unlike most other contemporary medical treatments and therapies; and 3) because administering the peck to one's child assists the government in forcing other children to take it as well.

2) Much harm appears to be caused to pregnant women as a result of the peck (possibly due to antibodies that the body develops against the protein called Synsytin-1, or from the SM102, or from the micro blood clots caused by the peck. The common denominator here is that it is harmful for a pregnant woman, and that it may be considered a violation of the prohibition of sterilization or preventing fertility). As such, it is forbidden for them to take this peck. Included in this are all healthy adults who are of child-bearing age -- they too should stay away from said peck. (There are many reports of women who do not stop bleeding for many months as a result of taking the peck, making it impossible for them to achieve ritual purity, Heaven forbid. And for men, there are many reports of the peck leading to deficiencies in potency, Heaven forbid).

Significant follow-up acknowledgement: We have been advised that the product label for the Phyzir peck states "Available data on this peck administered to pregnant women are insufficient to inform peck-associated risks in pregnancy." We have also been advised that the CDC is conducting studies where there is an "urgent need" to study the effect of the pecks in pregnancy. We have been further advised that the product label for the Phyzir peck states that it has "not been evaluated for the potential to cause carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, or impairment of male fertility." We consider that the risks inherent in these statements are Halachically unacceptable.

3) For older adults and the elderly, further clarification is needed (but as mentioned abovem there are efforts to obscure the data, and it is presently difficult to attain accurate clarification). However, practically we have seen breakthrough cases, indicating that there is no substantial difference between those who received the peck and those who did not. The number of birdemic patients are about the same, comparatively in both demographics.

It has also come to our attention, thanks to the testimony of an attorney who closely monitors the promulgation of misinformation, who showed us how to interpret the true reality and frequency of injuries and mortalities from the data being shared. It should be known that much of the data the government agencies report is deceitful. For example, a birdemic death that occurs in a person after receiving the peck, if it happened within fourteen days of receiving the peck, is listed as an "unpecked" death. For the sake of brevity, we will not go into further particulars; but let it suffice to say that there are more examples of this gross misrepresentation. In order to ascertain the truth and arrive at accurate findings, we really must examine the matter further -- to the best of our ability.

Alternatively, there are many injuries and risks involved which can reasonably be suspected as having been caused by the peck for adults and senior citizens as well, for we have witnessed many elders who passed away shortly after receiving the peck.

Therefore -- it is best to err on the side of caution and abstain from taking the peck, rather than endangering one's life and performing an action that can engender immediate and direct harm. Especially since there are other medical treatments that work, as mentioned, and that are not harmful.

(It is also proper to emphasize the importance of using the treatments very early, which has been shown to enhance their effectiveness. In addition, we cannot understate the importance of becoming more educated about the true facts -- for example, by watching the testimonies -- and in this way, assuaging the fear which has overtaken so many).

4) We have heard testimonies from individuals and from experts in the medical field, suggesting that it may be dangerous for pregnant women to be around people who have had the peck. This can be due to a phenomenon called "shedding," as it pertains to some types of pecks as discussed in the FDA's guidance on shedding from peck therapies. It is unclear whether it applies to one sort of peck only or also to the other sort. It is unclear how long the shedding might be taking place -- i.e. how long a recipient of the peck can affect a pregnant woman by being in her proximity. Hence, it is best to err on the side of caution -- a minimum recommendation of distancing oneself from a pregnant woman for at least two weeks after receiving the peck is strongly suggested (although some have suggested that the effect may last up to ten months, or may even be indefinite).

5) The prohibition (Leviticus 19:14) of putting a stumbling block in front of a blind person -- i.e. assisting or enabling a person to violate a transgression -- includes verbal encouragement, offering monetary incentives or other bribes, verbal pressure or actual threats, to coerce employees, etc., to receive the peck.

In the above, we have only taken into account the tragedies that have already befallen our community members -- not long term effects, premonitions and frightening forecasts expressed in many of the testimonies we heard. May the Alm-ghty save us. May the One who said "enough" when creating the world -- say "enough " to our suffering.

Signed by:

Harav Shlomo Alexander Halevi Pollak, Dayan and Moreh Tzedek
Rav of Chelek Levi, Beis Hamedrash Serentch, and head of the Kollel Vasikin and Rashbi -- Lakewod, NJ

Harav Yoel Moshe Friedman, Dayan and Moreh Tzedek
Rav of Toras Chaim, Beis Hamedrash of Rivnitz, and presiding over Yeshiva Divrei Menachem -- Monsey, NY

Harav Doniel Yonoson Green, Dayan and Moreh Tzedek
Rav, director of Keystone Jewish Center, communal guide and activist, Talmudic instructor -- Crown Heights, NY

Thank God for these three courageous rabbis, and may the Lord, who would have spared Sodom for the sake of ten righteous men, grant that there be found seven more!

Five cornerstones

I recently received another batch of emails from a correspondent who keeps encountering repetitions of the number 5 (55, 555, etc.). This ma...