DAY 61: Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?

September 26th, 2013 § 0 comments

Having started branching out in exotic languages, I thought I’d try Aramaic, allegedly spoken by Our Lord and most Palestinians around that time and accordingly used in Mel Gibson’s bloodstained biopic The Passion of the Christ. (As usual, if you start researching, you find that the subjects of what Jesus said on the cross, what ‘sabachthani’ means, whether it’s Hebrew or Aramaic, and why Matthew and Mark record it differently are good for 1000 words of any blogging theologian’s text.) It – Aramaic, if you’re still with me – is still the language used in the formerly picturesque Syrian village of Maaloulamaaloula

where, after a good deal of fighting between Assad troops and ‘the jihadist al-Nusra front’, many of the surviving inhabitants have felt God-forsaken and left.

It was a treat (for us intellectuals) to watch Rouhani’s speech at the UN, a clear contrast to the more folksy approach of his predecessor. Constantly wiping his forehead (don’t they have air conditioning at the GA?), the Iranian President pointed out that ‘the age of zero-sum games is over’, made a veiled reference to Derrida (‘We should rise above mere tolerance and dare to work together’), and cited the renowned Iranian poet Ferdowsi: ‘Bring the spring, you must/ Banish the winter, you will’.

Predictably, the Western media have been picking on some of Rouhani’s most intelligent statements – e.g. ’Terrorism is a violent scourge and knows no country or national borders. But, the violence and extreme actions such as the use of drones against innocent people in the name of combating terrorism should also be condemned.’ – and claimed that they are inserted simply to pacify the Supreme Leader and the Republican Guards. Such commentators don’t understand how much of that speech would raise a cheer, not merely among the Republican Guards, but in most places outside the U.S. orbit from Argentina to Zimbabwe; and that is in itself depressing. Added to Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s  attack on U. S. spying, it promises to be an entertaining session of the General Assembly. I’m sorry I accepted a conflicting invitation to a conference on illegible fingerprints and identity theft, although there’s a lot to be said on the subject, particularly if you pad out your references with Foucault and Agamben.



Talking of which, did you attend the iconic ‘Schizo-Culture’ conference organized by SemioTexte in 1975? Can you remember it, if you did? Collate (if your brain is still in one piece) your recollections of Burroughs, Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault et al (not necessarily in that order) and send them off for inclusion in a memorial volume. (Whoops, I think I’ve missed the deadline, but you might catch the second edition.)

Here is the last poem of the famous Ghanaian Kofi Awoonor, who was killed at the Westgate shopping mall on September 21st:



Kofi Awoonor



Sometimes, we read the

lines in the green leaf

run our fingers over the

smooth of the precious wood

from our ancient trees;


Sometimes, even the sunset

puzzles, as we look

for the lines that propel the clouds,

the colour scheme

with the multiple designs

that the first artist put together


There is dancing in the streets again

the laughter of children rings

through the house

On the seaside, the ruins recent

from the latest storms

remind of ancestral wealth

pillaged purloined pawned

by an unthinking grandfather

who lived the life of a lord

and drove coming generations to

despair and ruin




But who says our time is up

that the box maker and the digger

are in conference

or that the preachers have aired their robes

and the choir and the drummers

are in rehearsal?


No; where the worm eats

a grain grows.

the consultant deities

have measured the time

with long winded

arguments of eternity


And death, when he comes

to the door with his own

inimitable calling card

shall find a homestead

resurrected with laughter and dance

and the festival of the meat

of the young lamb and the red porridge

of the new corn




We are the celebrants

whose fields were

overrun by rogues

and other bad men who

interrupted our dance

with obscene songs and bad gestures


Someone said an ailing fish

swam up our lagoon

seeking a place to lay its load

in consonance with the Original Plan


Master, if you can be the oarsman

for our boat

please do it, do it.

I asked you before

once upon a shore

at home, where the

seafront has narrowed

to the brief space of childhood


We welcome the travelers

come home on the new boat

fresh from the upright tree


What could be more appropriate? This post is – inevitably – becoming a bit elegiac; to continue the mood but lighten up a bit, here’s Charles Mingus’ Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.



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