'Khul' is the Hebrew word for dance, spin, or whirl. Interestingly, the word is also used to describe the anguish of childbirth, labor, and birthpangs. 'Khul' is the act of bringing life to the world. It's skin filled with the redness of life and the motion and romance of time.
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Posted by Toby at 8:22 PM
Woe D'haus & Tea
A friend lent me the 'Weekend Wodehouse' with instructions not to return it until I was a fan. This order I received upon my not so enthusiastic tale of Wodehouse Woe. The book sat, I say calmly and patiently on the far corner of my shelf. I took notice of it about every third week for at least the first six months and then the irregularity increased to about the length of the professional basketball season, which I am told is nearly as long as an elephant's gestation period. By which is meant, I forgot the book existed. Long story even longer, I found the book a few weeks ago. I read several stories, read the introduction by Hilaire Belloc, and I think I'm at the beginning of meaningful relationship. I'll go so far as to say I laughed several times and even tried to read a story to my wife. I must say it's not that I don't want to like him. I liken him to tea. I think tea is a great idea: herbal, hot or cold, cheap, healthy, traditional, stylish, and English... what more might a fellow want in a non-alcoholic drink? The first sip is good, the second ok, and by the third I'm wondering why I didn't order coffee. I've gone so far as to buy my very own Right Ho, Jeeves. I suppose that counts for something, but let's just say I haven't given the book back to my friend yet.
Posted by Toby at 5:13 PM
Sunday, September 28, 2003
We live on the mountains
The peaks bear our weight
Driven to these hideaways
We’re surrounded by the slapping ranks.
Buried in thick armor
We walk across their backs
Like elephants we tip-toe—hillside to hillside—
in search of weaknesses or cracks.
By the moon we spy a harness
From the cliffs, we taunt the foe
I’ll throw a rock; you throw another
By morning light we’ll ride you fearless.
And when the waters full recede
And tides retreat their gains
We’ll walk the valleys proudly
We’ll laugh whenever it rains.
Posted by Toby at 7:27 PM
Saturday, September 27, 2003
Virgil and the Male
I've been meaning to get a few thoughts down that I had last year. I've finally found a free moment and I thought I'd give it a shot.
I haven't read much scholarly work on Virgil or The Aeneid, so it's quite possible that I'm just rehashing the usual or that I’m completely out to lunch. That said, it struck me last spring when I was teaching through the story that one of the central themes is that of masculinity. At least one of the questions that he is attempting to tackle is 'What does it mean to be a man?'
My thesis is that for Virgil, and perhaps most Romans, the answer was that a man was one who found his identity -as a man- alongside other men, particularly the warlike. Aeneas loses his wife to the flames of Troy, but he finds strength in the wisdom and direction of his father. It is only when his father dies, that he becomes distracted by the wiles of Dido. And this is just as much a commentary on what is feminine. Throughout the story, the goddess Juno is the one harassing Aeneas and bringing trouble and hardship to him. She is the ultimate personification of 'furor', full of irrational and emotionally driven angst. She struggles against Fate, which by this time, seems even more powerful than the king of the gods himself. Consequently, Aeneas must learn 'pietas', that is, true piety which is submission to the impersonal and distant decrees of Fate. Zeus is the god who has the most weight to throw around, but he seems to be in submission to Fate himself. Thus with the matter of Dido, Aeneas is not only ridding himself of 'furor' and submitting to Fate, but he is ridding himself of the feminine and thus becoming more of a man (and godlike). It is only as Aeneas leaves Dido and finds guidance from his Father (in a vision) that he is able to pursue the course set out by Fate. The only other prominent woman in the story is Camilla, the Amazon warrior girl. She is praised and honored, though not surprisingly, because she is a warrior. She fights like a man and dies like one too.
My point being that the pattern of masculinity in the Aeneid is almost the mirror opposite of the pattern given in Scripture. Aeneas leaves the woman that thinks she is his wife and cleaves to his father. It is in this cleaving that he is able to embrace his calling as a warrior and eventual founder of a great city. As a husband he thwarts the fates and is idle and unproductive. True manhood, true masculinity, it would seem, is cleaving to men and finding strength through submission to Fate and swinging a sword. But the Creation pattern paints the picture differently. Men are not good alone, rather they find their fullness in leaving father and mother and cleaving to their wife. This is not to say that some have not been called to celibacy, but the normal pattern is that of a man with his bride. This is true masculinity. Not only is the Aeneid a slap in the face of the high calling given to women, it (again, not surprisingly) falls short of the glory of the gospel. The Son left his Father, and though he has returned, has not returned empty handed, having squandered time and energy for nothing. We have no need to build a funeral pyre, scream curses at our savior, and commit suicide. He has married us and is bringing us into fellowship with His Father. And it is through us that He is building his eternal city.
Finally, it is not surprising that Virgil would have expressed this pattern elsewhere. In his eighth Eclogue, Virgil records two shepherds lamenting the loss of their lovers. The first sings of how the woman he loved left him and will probably never return. The song ends in despair, as he contemplates suicide. The proverbs of Virgil would say that the way of any woman is death. The following song, is said by Virgil to be a reply. At any rate, the second fellow sings of his lover who has “changed his mind”, but this shepherd’s reaction is not despair but rather that of a magic spell and prayers to the gods. Through the course of this short ballad we learn that the lover who has gone is male, and he, whether in response to the charms or not, returns to his lover at the end of the song. It’s quite possible that I’m wrong about my interpretation of this eclogue, maybe there’s a better way to read it. But it does not seem out of place for a Roman to be insinuating the “glory” of male lovers, nor does it seem unfitting for Virgil. The logic of the Aeneid seems to demand homosexuality as true masculinity. The shepherd, like Aeneas, submits to the gods and finds love and manhood in other men.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
I just started reading the 'Venerable Bede' again. Bede was an amazing man who proves the modern academic notions of the "Dark Ages" completely wrong. Bede lived toward the end of the seventh century and the beginning of the eighth. He was fluent in Latin and wrote with an elegance worth studying. Further, he knew Greek and Hebrew, wrote commentaries on many books of the Bible, and wrote a history of the English people. Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of Bede as an historian is his insight into the centrality of worship to history. The history is often referred to as an 'Ecclesiastical History', and this is because moderns think he goes a little overboard in his concern for the Church. Although a history that followed political, social, or economic concerns with the same diligence would be considered brilliant by the same. Bede saw the world a little better than we do. He saw the world and its story from the Cross at the center.
Monday, September 22, 2003
Friday, September 19, 2003
Among other oddities, and there are a few, we study Hebrew at Atlas. Why Hebrew? I tell some people that since we're a boys school, it is important to have the guys making gutteral noises. But honestly the answer is quite simple. We study Hebrew because more than half of our Scriptures were written in that language. A large portion of the Scriptures that we consider inspired are written in Hebrew. If we are to know the God that we serve, it is imperative that we have some working knowledge of the language. It is astounding that for all the fuss and flummoxing we hear regarding Christian education how little of the Bible actually gets studied. Christian worldview is the 'ace' that somehow trumps any need to actually know the Bible. We sprinkle the Word of God into education like a little salt on our meals. And even when there are actual classes that study the Bible, it's offered as a meager meal with hardly any content. Usually the importance of the class is summed up in its status as a 'required elective'. With the amount of time most schools have with students each day for 12 or 13 years, why do we know so little about the Word that is supposed to be our life? Students should not be allowed to graduate until they know all 150 Psalms and have a helpful familiarity with every book of the Bible, Hebrew, Greek, and be able to trace Biblical themes through the Scriptures. Hopefully one day the phrase Christian Education will not mean 'Bible verses sprinkled on top'. Hopefully one day, the Bible will be the backbone of our curriculum, with the study of its languages assumed by all.
Posted by Toby at 4:14 PM