Thursday, October 31, 2013

A thousand farewells

I am now reading Nahlah Ayed's A Thousand Farewells. It's more than just no-nonsense coverage of a difficult part of the world as this review notes. It is intensely personal. The autobiographical component is gripping and is an essential part of her coverage. It is curious that I began reading it in Winnipeg, the place where she grew up - apart from 7 years in a refugee camp in Jordan from age 6 to 13, an experience her parents thought essential - and though painful, it has produced a reporter who has integrity and can understand the need for escape from the primal bonds of millennia of interlocking rules.  These are bonds that should be destroyed. (Compare Psalm 2.)

More complete review here

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

MacLennan - The Two Solitudes

Hugh MacLennan portrays character as well as anyone I have read. Such writing gives one hope for language - indeed for the world. Towards the end of The Two Solitudes, his old seafarer, Yardley, ponders on why it is that 'they know not what they do',
Jesus must have considered that message mighty important or he wouldn't have saved it to the end. It was funny he'd never thought of that before. ... he had always supposed that if people had been intended to know what they were doing, they would have been created with the faculties to make the knowledge possible. 
 

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Borg has spoken

This is a nice summary of alternative views of atonement. I think it has traction.

Psalm 119 again

Selected recurring words - Psalm 119 words recurring between 11 and 20 times
Word 12345VsRoot
דרך the way
1דרך
בדרכיו in his ways
3דרך
דרכי my ways
5דרך
בלמדי when I learn
7למד
למדני teach me
12למד
בדרך by the way of
14דרך
עבדך your servant
17עבד
אחיה I will live
17חיה
עבדך your servant
23עבד
חיני give me life
25חיה
דרכי my ways
26דרך
למדני teach me
26למד
דרך direct in the way of
27דרך
דרך way
29דרך
דרך a way of
30דרך
דרך directed by
32דרך
דרך the way of
33דרך
הדריכני have me go
35דרך
בדרכך in your way
37דרך
חיני give me life
37חיה
לעבדך to your servant
38עבד
חיני give me life
40חיה
אהבתי I have loved
47אהב
אהבתי I have loved
48אהב
לעבדך to your servant
49עבד
חיתני gives me life
50חיה
דרכי my ways
59דרך
למדני you will teach me
64למד
עבדך your servant
65עבד
למדני teach me
66למד
למדני teach me
68למד
אלמד I will learn
71למד
ואלמדה and I will teach
73למד
לעבדך to your servant
76עבד
ואחיה and I will live
77חיה
עבדך your servant
84עבד
חיני give me life
88חיה
עבדיך your servants
91עבד
חייתני you have made me live
93חיה
אהבתי I love
97אהב
מלמדי my teachers
99למד
חיני give me life
107חיה
למדני teach me
108למד
אהבתי I have loved
113אהב
ואחיה so I will live
116חיה
אהבתי I have loved
119אהב
עבדך your servant
122עבד
עבדך your servant
124עבד
למדני teach me
124למד
עבדך your servant
125עבד
אהבתי I have loved
127אהב
לאהבי to those who love
132אהב
בעבדך on your servant
135עבד
ולמדני and teach me
135למד
ועבדך and your servant
140עבד
אהבה loves it
140אהב
ואחיה and I will live
144חיה
חיני give me life
149חיה
חיני give me life
154חיה
חיני give me life
156חיה
אהבתי I love
159אהב
חיני give me life
159חיה
אהבתי I love
163אהב
לאהבי to those who love
165אהב
ואהבם and I love them
167אהב
דרכי my ways
168דרך
תלמדני you have taught me
171למד
תחי to live let
175חיה
עבדך your servant
176עבד
Time it was for me to reread Psalm 119. I recall thinking when I was young that this Psalm is long and boring. If we fail to see the game it will be boring. But it is adoration and even that might be sufficient without the game. And it is also game - a 22 x 8 alphabetic acrostic. It reads well. As I read I was somewhat unaware of each of the major recurring words - the eight synonyms in this adoration of the Torah of HaShem:

Psalm 119 - the eight synonyms
  1. instruction תורה
  2. testimony עדה
  3. command צוה
  4. precept פקד
  5. statute חק
  6. judgment שׁפט
  7. word דבר
  8. promise אמר
All these have appeared by verse 11 and they continue with regular density till verse 176.

There are also words that recur for the first time in the Psalter in this psalm from take note נבט in the first 3 parts to oppress עשׁק in parts 16 and 17, but this time as I read through I thought I noted another pattern.

The pattern appears in selected words used between 11 and 20 times in this long poem. I have excluded heart and righteousness in this list. The remaining 5 words are in the table - do they reveal some organization in the mind of the poet? I note first that way recurs heavily at the beginning, in the first 40 verses.  The plea for life begins in verse 17 in Parts 3, 4, and 5 (twice). Parts 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, and 19 have it once each. Then there is an increase in usage in part 20 (three times) with a final mention in part 22. Learning / teaching is the third word and the last of these five words is love. One could imagine then that the poem, more than adoration, is also a plea for learning for the servant, that the servant might live and love.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Victoria to Winnipeg in the late fall

Roger's pass
Madness to drive - but I got here in three days with a stop at Sorrento where I left two copies of my book in the hopes that a course or two in the interior might be the result. Then to Calgary for a visit with my brother and his wife. Then in one fell swoop to Winnipeg, 12 hours driving, 15 hours elapsed. Altogether just under 2500 km.

Saskatchewan migration 
The country is beautiful. You see the images of the mountains at Roger's pass and on the prairies, the lake full of migratory birds. These places deserve more time. So many more images I could have taken like mount Baker in full sun after the fog and very slow traffic in the Fraser valley, and two days later, the browns and blue of the prairie with the 360 degree bowl of the sky overhead.

I drove from dark to dark, from sunrise to sunset, through the foggy mornings and the hazy dusk.
Ferry fog at Schwartz Bay
Those are the times where it is hardest for old eyes to see. I got comically lost in Calgary both in the evening at rush hour and in the morning. Usually it was because of construction.  I gradually learned to use the mapping software and the hands free instructions from the Blackberry Z10 but it is a learning process and I had no idea how much battery it would take when I was also listening to psalms read in Hebrew, a recording of the St John Passion and lectures from John Searle on speech acts - and all these in random order. (Random order is necessary for Searle - more challenging. He is alternatively boring and hilarious.)

Grandmother Diana with Oliver
And all this driving - for what - to prove we could get here in two days with two drivers when the weather is OK. Here is where the grandchild is - such a babe - so many moving parts - the little hands and miniature knuckles, the skin that is just a little to big for him, the eyes wide open, or shut in sleep, or opening and closing as if to make up his mind, the feet that move almost too flexibly, the strength of limb, the hand almost grasping, the fists closed, the palm open, the five-furrowed brow and delicate hair, the eyes of indeterminate colour - but which will be brown.

Two copies of my book have been delivered here too to local congregations. There are many churches, but not full or even open during the week. Much to ponder in this time when I am not writing - but there is so much that could be writ... Perhaps we will do a study here too in the spring...

Saturday next, all things being OK with new mother and child, we will drive back to Victoria for Dixit Dominus and a course on the psalms beginning November 12. There's plenty about children in the psalms - but here's a couple of verses that occur to me...

... he himself knows our fashioning (Ps 103)
your eyes saw my embryo and in your book all of them were written
days were fashioned and its one was in them (Ps 139)

so it is now for Oliver Michael Robert MacDonald, aged a fortnight. Simon, Dad, and Jennifer, Mum, are doing well - and are well supported by all the medical and employment systems we have in Canada. Bravo for the whole team from Doctor to the team of the Winnipeg Symphony, not to mention visiting retired ballet dancers.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Contrasting works

I read my Psalter. The first Hallelujah in Psalm 104 fills my cup. I read my spam folder and I realize just how much other junk there is reflecting a desire for deception and self-interest. Maybe the spammers are empty.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The place of Psalm 92 in the sequential story of the Psalter

What do people really need? What do we need to know? This light of mine, this diurnal firefly that is awake by day and fitful by night, running the gamut of self-doubt, isolation, company, family, illness, fear, fullness and joy – what is its true need? I wrote it once: to be held and known. Yes but held in what and by what or in whom and by whom? If we attach ourselves to the wrong arms, what is our end?

The Psalms like the New Testament have a strong emphasis on happiness and blessing. The self-denial called for is much less onerous than imagined.

Look at the happiness. Look at the examples. Look at the history – formed and told for our benefit. Look at the poems and the elect poet: elect – chosen – beloved – canonical.

Begin with Psalm 92 – For you have made me glad יהוה in your work (92:5). Now look at the eightfold ring structure with Psalm 91. What! How could two psalms be related in such a way – must be an accident.

Psalm 92 is headed as a song to the day of the Sabbath. This is a unique inscription. We know about the 7th day. But did we imagine that it would be celebrated by the lone song in Book 4 of the Psalter? The curators of this gallery of 150 poems annotated the 17 psalms in Book 4 more sparsely than those of other Books. Two of them are prayers (90 and 102); four of them, 92, 98, 100, and 101 are also labelled psalms. The other 11 are without such a designation. Psalms 101 and 103 are of David, and Psalm 90 of Moses. The other 14 are without such an inscription.
Word and gloss * first usage
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
1
2
Vs
Stem
עליון the Most High
91:1
עליון
בו in him
1
91:2
בו
לא not
2
91:5
לא
לילה by night
91:5
לילה
יומם by day
91:5
יום
לא no
91:7
לא
בעיניך with your eyes
3
91:8
עין
תביט you will take note
4
91:8
נבט
רשׁעים the wicked
91:8
רשׁע
אתה you
5
91:9
אתה
עליון the Most High
91:9
עליון
לא not
91:10
לא
לא not
91:10
לא
בכל in all
6
91:11
כל
ידע he has known
7
91:14
ידע
שׁמי my name
8
91:14
שׁם
ימים days
91:16
יום
ליום to the day of
92:1
יום
לשׁמך to your name
8
92:2
שׁם
עליון O Most High
92:2
עליון
בלילות in the nights
92:3
לילה
לא not
92:7
לא
ידע does know
7
92:7
ידע
לא not
92:7
לא
רשׁעים the wicked
92:8
רשׁע
כל all
6
92:8
כל
ואתה but you
5
92:9
אתה
כל all
92:10
כל
ותבט and has taken note
4
92:12
נבט
עיני my eye
3
92:12
עין
ולא and no
2
92:16
לא
בו in him
1
92:16
בו
Selected words occurring in each of Psalms 91,92
You can see the ring structure in the table and guess for yourself if it is an accident. Considering that the focus of this ring is name, we might ask: what designations for God are in these two psalms? The first three repeated words in the two psalms taken together are the designations for God: Elyon, the Most High, יהוה, the Name, and Elohim, God. They are carefully placed. Elyon occurs 23 times in the Psalms – so not rarely. It occurs three times in Psalm 78 and twice in Psalm 91, and then once in several psalms. Elyon and יהוה frame Psalm 91. יהוה and God frame the two poems together. Psalms 90, 91 share 19 roots and 24% of their words. Psalms 90 and 92 share 27 roots and 39% of their words. The three psalms taken together share 9 roots accounting for 16% of their words. That’s quite a large proportion for three consecutive psalms. The new frames (repeated words) in Psalm 92 are flourish and luxuriant. This is curious considering we have just read two books filled with lamentation. Psalm 92 is also an announcement (verses 3 and 16). Is this a deliberate announcement in the face of the discouragement of the failure of the monarchy (Psalm 89), the prayer of Moses (90) and the comfort of the response to that prayer (91)?

Word and gloss
1
2
3
Vs
Stem
עליון the Most High
91:1
עליון
ליהוה to יהוה
91:2
יהוה
אלהי my God
91:2
אלוה
יהוה יהוה
91:9
יהוה
עליון the Most High
91:9
עליון
ליהוה to יהוה
92:2
יהוה
עליון O Most High
92:2
עליון
יהוה יהוה
92:5
יהוה
יהוה יהוה
92:6
יהוה
יהוה יהוה
92:9
יהוה
יהוה יהוה
92:10
יהוה
יהוה יהוה
92:14
יהוה
אלהינו our God
92:14
אלוה
יהוה יהוה
92:16
יהוה
Designations for God in Psalms 91, 92
Those transplanted in the house of יהוה in the courts of our God will flourish. Who are the transplants? The same word is used in Psalm 1:3. What if the transplants are those transplanted from the character and domain of ‘the wicked’ to the character and domain of ‘the merciful’? Psalm 89 is corporate. Psalm 90 is first person plural prayer. Psalm 91 is a singular first person answer (verse 2), a promise to a singular you (3 to 13), and a third voice speaking in the third person confirming the promises. I suggest this is the voice of the Most High. Psalm 92 then closes this opened bracket, addressing the Most High directly by the individual in celebration of the Sabbath, when God rested from all the work of creation and redemption. Psalm 92 looks ahead also. With Psalm 94 via brutes and dullards enclosing the act of the king in redeeming the people symbolized by Psalm 93.

I continue to read my Psalter - seeing more and more in it. Any reasonably translated Psalter will do. Every day there is something new for me - and I have been immersed in it for 7 years now. Read the psalms daily - it is good as this psalm claims. Good it is to give thanks to יהוה and to sing a psalm to your name O Most High.

My course in Victoria is now announced. It begins November 14, at 7:30 pm in the Church of St Barnabas, Belmont and Begbie street, Victoria, BC and I hope to be there with any of you who can make it. I am supposed to return from Winnipeg the week before to sing the Handel Dixit Dominus with the Victoria Baroque Ensemble.