DAY 35

March 29th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

As the cold snap continues to bite, my fortunate friends in conflict resolution and malaria cure are heading off for Easter breaks in cushy hotels in the DRC, Mali and South Waziristan. Stuck in London, I dream ofmetro

Paris (Metro Stalingrad)

First in a crowded list of festivals seems to be Passover; and here are some thoughts from Rabbi Margaret Holub (Jewish Voice for Peace):

‘I just got back from South Africa, where I was interviewing Dutch Reformed Church leaders about apartheid. In those conversations, I heard a lot of recitations of Afrikaner history, about fleeing the oppressive British, fighting the local African tribes in the interior until the rivers ran red with blood, settling the land, “miraculously” gaining control of the government (in 1948!) and immediately setting about establishing separate bantustans where those natives could rule themselves by being removed from their homes and neighborhoods, not being allowed to vote and being repressed by massive state brutality.

My take-home: how you tell your people’s story depends on how you understand your people’s place in the world. If you think that you are unique and that only your fate matters, then you can justify doing terrible things to another people. If on the other hand you see your own tribe as one player in a world craving peace and wholeness for every person, then you will move quite differently in our hurting world.

Alaska fod Alaska TS 038.jpgWith Passover coming in a few days, I look forward to eating and drinking with my friends and family and telling the story of our liberation from oppression. And at the same time I know we will be confronting the ways in which today we play the role of the Pharaoh in the ancient story, cruelly oppressing another people. An important part of my freedom as a Jew is the freedom to bring new questions to the old story. One small example: this year I wonder what we could learn from the ten plagues about Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and about imposing deprivation on others for the sake of liberation?

Like all of you, I could be active in any number of groups seeking justice for the people of Palestine. But I have chosen to put my energy into JVP because it is a Jewish voice for peace, and that means a lot to me. Not everyone in JVP is religious, as I am. Not everyone in JVP is even Jewish. But we share a commitment to giving voice to a Judaism which moves the world — and us — towards justice. I look at JVP as the Passover table where I can be proudly and joyfully Jewish and at the very same time — in fact, out of that same wellspring — question everything, especially a view of history which says that only Jewish life and Jewish fate matter. I am grateful to every one of you for setting that table and joining me there.’

My latest worry: the problem of identity. (What problem?)

wherewhoWhere do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?

As we know, (Watson, Crick etc etc), you ‘are’ a sequence of DNA base pairs, I believe about 3×109 of them, which is a lot of pairs. But even that isn’t enough to define your ‘identity’ if you’re an identical twin since the both of you share the whole sequence, which is annoying for the forensic people. (Your fingerprints will be different, though, because of events to do with the ‘amniotic sac’ during weeks 6-13 of pregnancy And they say there’s no God? Who worked out that trick?) So what is your identity, and how do you steal it? In the US, it seems that you start with the Social Security number, a whole lot shorter than the DNA. Don’t forget to wear gloves.

1986_what_is_identity_theftWe in the UK were going to get identity cards, but never got round to it – which (for the really ancient) recalls Nigel Dennis’s 1955 novel Cards of Identity. (We did have them in the forties.) The main premise – even way back then – being that anyone’s identity can be manipulated, as the ‘Identity Club’ proceeded to transform the townspeople into their servants for the duration of their meeting. Recent online evaluations of the book range from ‘scathing satire’ to ‘stopped reading out of sheer boredom’; and while I remember enjoying it as a teenager, that’s hardly a certain basis for a recommendation.

To go back to DNA and twins, I suppose that clones – whatever they are – share the same DNA, which naturally brings us back to Jesus and Mary. Given the virgin birth, how come they didn’t share exactly the same chromosomes, up to and including gender? Is it possible that the Church has been misleading us on Jesus’ gender all along – it seems the kind of thing they would do, and in keeping with their patriarchal structure. Alternatively, maybe the angel’s quip to Mary: ‘with God nothing shall be impossible’ (Luke 1.37) suggests some tricksy implantation of a Y-chromosome in Jesus’ genetic material, which would give him the chance of a bar mitzvah, as well as being called ‘Lord’, ‘Master’ and such impressive names.

On the subject of identity, I can’t resist quoting an online review of Eileen Cadman’s Reflections of a VampireEileen died ten days ago, having just completed the book, apparently ‘about the ways in which our sense of who we are, our ability to be a coherent person, is bound up with our bodies, is embodied…basically a Lacanian horror story, a vampire tale about the mirror phase, about the lack that we try to transcend through an image of wholeness and physical integrity.’ It sounds more of a romp on the identity terrain than Nigel Dennis. Incredibly, it hadn’t ever occurred to me even while watching Twilight, that the problem that vampires have with mirrors leads inevitably to the absence of a stable ego (no mirror-phase). As I’m told, ‘the child notices his movements in the mirror, and in so doing, realizes that he is seeing a reflection of himself. As a result, he forms his first impressions of himself, both in terms of his appearance and his physical mastery over the world around him.’  But hey, Drac! Even if you can’t see that reflection, drinking teenage virgins’ blood is no way to get an ego of your own; it just leads to dependency. See if twenty years’ analysis won’t do more for your image.

On, or around, this theme, see Gry Faurholt’s useful little text ‘Self as Other: the Doppelganger’ (not strictly on vampires, but still…). I was discussing the theme with a friend at the black pudding counter at Waitrose, when a Kleinian lady in the queue chipped in to point out that besides their other problems, vampires seem to have a weak death drive, living for thousands of years at least. Is this connected? There’s clearly more research to do on this subject – could one get funding from some Anglo-Rumanian foundation?

Poetry: by an amazing coincidence it’s the pseudo-400th (previous draft had 300 – still in the last century?) anniversary of John Donne’s Good Friday ride to Wales. So here’s what he thought…

GOOD-FRIDAY, 1613, RIDING WESTWARD.
by John Donne
LET man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th’ intelligence that moves, devotion is ;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey ;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ;
What a death were it then to see God die ?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul’s, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg’d and torn ?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God’s partner here, and furnish’d thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom’d us ?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They’re present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them ; and Thou look’st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang’st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity ;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.

As for a song – the obvious one seems to be ‘Were you There’; and while there would be a sort of correctness in going for Paul Robeson, the Man in Black seems to have done a mean version too.

 

DAY 34 Forty-two

March 24th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Which, as you will remember, was the answer to life, the universe, and everything. I haven’t answered those questions – they can wait – but I do think I understand what happened in 2008.

BertheMorisot-On-the-Grass-1874Painting by Berthe Morisot, irrelevant to the present discussion

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DAY 33 (an earlier error had it as 32, sorry folks)

March 20th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

How wise were our founding fathers when, in 1701 (so I’m told) they passed the Act of Settlement, which forever debars anyone holding allegiance to the Bishop of Rome from becoming King or Queen of England or anywhere similar! As I write, » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 32: Don’t Cry!

March 18th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

What a gift for the blogistas (who normally have so little to write about) is the arrival of a new Pope, one of the few solid events in popular culture. And an Argentine, even better. a nation traditionally linked with tangos, torture, Evita, the hand of God on the football field and the Malvinas islands (known to Brits as the Falklands). » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 31

March 11th, 2013 § 4 comments § permalink

In memory of Hugo Chavez

web-chavez-rex-1

For his support of the Palestinian cause, for the Bolivar youth orchestra, for the social healthcare,… Let’s hope that what Chavez set in place doesn’t get swiftly wiped out in a US inspired coup. » Read the rest of this entry «