July, 2009 Archive

Midsummer Merriment

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Three weeks ago I decided we need to have a party.  Summer’s half over and aside from family, there’s been no contact with people I love to be around. Always some new brushfire or obligation, and nobody invites me, and how can one celebrate in times like these when Claire lost her job and the wolf ‘s at Joe and Amy’s door and mother-in-law Ruth keeps heading downhill, but oh so slowly, and the news is of crises compounded and solutions refused.

Well my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain

I just don’t see why I should even care
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Time out of Mind, Bob Dylan

But the tomatoes fatten and turn red, and the green beans feed us every night, and we’re between illnesses, and four grandsons grow and laugh.

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Both of our birthdays fall in July, Jan’s on a Saturday far enough away.  We wont announce it but perhaps on the day itself.  I send an invitation to 30 people

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and fifteen say yes.

In the meantime, while Jan’s second cousin Ivy visits for a few days, Ruth is sent by ambulance to the hospital to get treatment for a bladder infection—perhaps misdiagnosed—and then returned to Garden Creek Assisted Living. In Switzerland, the eighty five year old healthy conductor of the London Philharmonic has just taken a potion to join his wife dying of cancer on the next stage of the journey, surrounded by family members saddened but content.  The British authorities are considering prosecution. The reported scene reminds me of Socrates saying goodbye to his friends and drinking the potion of hemlock. Ivy’s 28 and she’s worked for awhile with the frail elderly.  We agree with what the conductor has done. She’s from enlightened Oregon, where two doctors have to make a determination that death by illness is imminent and inevitable in order to allow any such choice.  Might ending it before such a time, even when in good health, but at a predetermined age, say 85, be an even better idea?

As party time approaches it looks as if the tomatoes and beans will provide food for everyone.

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Three days before, Ruth is again ambulanced to the hospital because of blood in the stool.  It’s determined she has bleeding ulcers probably caused by the Celebrex she takes to reduce the excruciating pain in her knees—unsuccessfully. The night before, Jan is  told Ruth will be released from the hospital on the day of the party and cant return to Garden Creek but will have to go to Cabrillo Nursing Home, the last stop for my father and mother and Jan’s aunt.

Early in the morning, we go to the farmers market for fruits and vegetables and Jan marinates the chicken and Greek Salad.  In response to her straightforward request for help, Claire invites us for brunch at her new home and agrees to help her move Ruth to the nursing home. After the brunch of buns and blackberries picked in the trailer park, mother and daughter go to the hospital, and I stay home with the baby cleaning house and preparing the rest of the food.

Tom, my ex-student and then ex-office mate at Cal Poly, shows up early with a friend and a friend of the friend to sit in the backyard and drink beer.  He’d said he couldn’t come because of a prior obligation to attend a baptism in L.A., but the baptism was canceled because the grandfather of the child was hospitalized with a stroke. This is a fine portent.  Our party will go forward despite all.  Tom and the boys go to work moving furniture, buying more beer and helping with the barbeque.  When the rest of the guests start arriving on schedule—including our eighty-something neighbor from across the street making it up the steps with her walker assisted by her sixty-something son recently out of rehab—the merriment ignites, and with the taste of the barbequing summer harvest it flourishes.

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As we cook and drink together, Tom, whose memory is total and ineradicable, reminisces about a party here with my father, whom he knew quite well.

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Suddenly I flash on some of the only lines I’ve ever memorized—spoken by the Old Shepherd in The Winters Tale, that Tom had taken parts in and helped me stage in the Old Mission downtown in 1992:

You have undone a man of fourscore three,
That thought to fill his grave in quiet, yea,
To die upon the bed my father died,
To lie close by his honest bones

The older I get, I tell him, the more those lines come to mind as I look at the photo of Henry on my wall.  Though his death in 1995 keeps receding into the past, as every year passes I feel closer to where he is now.

The celebration climaxes with the late arrival of Claire and her seven-year-old,

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just in time for the surprise announcement of Jan’s 64th birthday with the Beatles song on the stereo.

When i get older losing my hair,
Many years from now.
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine.
If i’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When i’m sixty-four.

You’ll be older too,
And it you say the word,
I could stay with you.
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride,
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,

When i’m sixty-four.
Every summer we can rent a cottage,
In the isle of wight, if it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera chuck & dave
Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When i’m sixty-four.

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more pics

Morning Glory Trail Bikeride

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

To celebrate finishing the Bible as Literature article and get a workout, I decided to go on a bikeride. Checked the web for places I hadn’t been and came up with “Morning Glory,” a descent from the top of Cuesta Ridge that sounded appealing.  Jan agreed to drive me to the top of Cuesta Pass and I convinced her to take me and the bike up TV Tower Road until she refused to go further through the ruts and bumps.

It was pretty hot outside the car at 10:15 in the morning, though nothing like the 110 degree temps they were having in North County.  With plenty of water and slavered-on sunscreen I started up the road feeling a rare sense of “No Hurry.”

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Once out of the oak forest and into the chapparal, the road stays close to the top of the steep ridge, revealing new prospects at every turn.

First was back down to the freeway going up Cuesta Grade.

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clickpic for larger size (more…)

The Bible as Literature

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Dear Prof. Marx,

As the arts and humanities section editor for the Encyclopedia for Sciences and Religions, I am writing to inquire if you would agree to contribute an article of 4000-5000 words on the subject of “The Bible as Literature” for this particular reference work. The volume will be published in 2011.

As a leading international publisher, Springer is known not only for its comprehensive reference works, but for the global scope of the knowledge and expertise these works contain.

Your name was selected for this project because of your visibility and reputation in your particular field, and I genuinely hope will you say yes.  In the meantime, I thank you so much for taking the time to look over the particulars of this groundbreaking and highly significant project.
__________________________

1. Describe this discipline/subdiscipline and some of its most recent developments.

“The Bible as Literature” denotes an academic subject taught in high schools, colleges and universities and the academic specialty of a worldwide network of scholars. As a Library of Congress subject category in World Cat it elicits entries for 1252 books. In recent years, practitioners have preferred the term, “Literary Study of the Bible,” which produces listings as the subject of 653 books. There is no professional organization or journal specifically devoted to the topic.
The Bible as Literature/Literary Study of the Bible is a subdiscipline of both Biblical Studies and Literary Criticism.  Its activity is “exegesis,” that is, commentary on and interpretation of the Bible.

The word “Bible” has several meanings. It refers to a collection of separate books and to that collection defined as a single book. The Jewish Bible consists only of the Hebrew Scriptures or Tanakh. The Christian Bible includes the books of the New Testament plus the Hebrew Scriptures, which it refers to as the Old Testament. The Catholic Bible contains, in addition, the Apocrypha, a set of books not included in the Protestant Bible

Literature is defined as “…artistic writings worthy of being remembered. …that are characterized by beauty of expression and form and by universality of intellectual and emotional appeal.”  Literary Study is defined as “the humanistic study of literature.”  “The purpose of a literary inquiry is a better understanding of the text—its construction, its forms of expression, its meaning and significance, and/or its relation to non-textual elements or to other texts.”  Although the text that Literary Study examines is usually concrete and specific, no understanding it produces is exhaustive or conclusive.

The Bible as Literature /Literary Study of the Bible is governed by a set of hermeneutic methods—i.e. certain principles of commentary and interpretation. It takes a secular approach, treating biblical texts as works produced by human beings within human history rather than a theological approach, which treats them as Holy Scripture, Divine Revelation or The Word of God.  It applies techniques of literary criticism to the Bible in the same ways they have been applied to other literary works since the time of Aristotle. These include:

•    analysis of plot and structure,
•    discussion of character, including the characters of narrator and author
•    exploration of theme
•    consideration of historical and geographic setting
•    delineation of linguistic and stylistic devices, including figures of speech and verse and prose conventions
•    categorization of genres
•    correlation of intertextual references to other works

Some readers within faith communities that adhere to a theological approach to biblical interpretation regard the The Literary Study of the Bible as subversive; others see it as complementary. (more…)

Right there!

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

And as an arrow that upon the mark
Strikes ere the bowstring quiet hath become,
So did we speed into the second realm.

My Lady there so joyful I beheld,
As into the brightness of that heaven she entered,
More luminous thereat the planet grew

Dante, Paradiso Canto 5