Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wednesday Thoughts

We had more snow in the Garden State last night—4 more inches to be exact. As I was shoveling my driveway and cleaning off my car at 5:50 this morning, I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that 4-6 inches of snow brought London to its knees last week. One of my London friends told me that the city of London does indeed have such facilities as rock salt/sand that can be used in such cases. They choose not to use it for some reason. I wondered what this reason was as I pulled out of my driveway at 6:30, unhindered by the white stuff. I could see a foot or more of snow in an urban area that isn’t well equipped for snow creating havoc. But 4 inches? No wonder Europe is viewing it as an “embarrassment” this week.

The highways were clear and dry this morning, and I was stunned at how gorgeous Route 287 looked. Driving north, the sun was rising, and the sky was that pink/purple/orange color. The temperature was cold, about 17 degrees Farenheit (about -9 Celsius), so the snow still decorated the trees a silvery white. The sun is out fully now, and the snow is melting off the trees, so it can no longer be seen. Seeing it is one of the advantages of driving to work at an ungodly hour of the morning.

At work, I’ve been ordering books, something I don’t get to do all that often, due to my digital project commitments. A recent title from Harvard University Press caught my eye—it’s called “Burning to Read: English fundamentalism and its Reformation opponents”. I’m looking forward to reading this one. The book discusses the dissemination of the Bible in the vulgate via the printing press. While this has always been hailed as a great democratization, a tool for the ignorant masses at the mercy of a sometimes corrupt priesthood, it also represents the birth of fundamentalism. This is not difficult to see—fundamentalist thinking comes from the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, which is a literal reading of the Bible. Uneducated folk who are not schooled in recognizing literary devices such as metaphor and allegory, and unaware of the historical context of the texts, would certainly read the Bible and take it at face value. What interests me about this book is the notion that there was opposition to this type of Biblical inerrancy at the time of the Reformation by other Protestants. I’ll write about it once I’ve had a chance to read it.

It was either Lao-Tzu or one of his contemporaries who suggested that the “masses” should not be allowed to read law or sacred documents for this very reason. I’m not sure how I feel about this assertion, as I tend to believe in the freedom of human beings to expose themselves to whatever writings they wish to discover. But it is hard to evade the point that the misreading of certain texts can be harmful. Think of a conversation entered in medias res, when one of the participants is saying something bizarre or questionable. It would probably make sense in the full context of the conversation, but is nonsensical outside of it. A better example is the reading of abnormal psychology texts or the DSM outside of the context of psychological or psychiatric expertise. Poor Sylvia Plath reading through Freud’s “Abnormal Psychology” convinced that all of it applied to her when she was a teenager. Anyone would do that, if they were anxious enough. So, almost anyone reading the “word of God” without proper context is going to be caught in the same conundrum. The interest in the “soul” (psyche) and its state relative to the greater reality, whatever you call that, is what drives us to explore both religion and psychology.

On a less heavy topic, it appears that things will start to warm up here after tomorrow. Given that late Autumn last year felt more like Winter, I think we're owed a late Winter that feels like Spring...

1 comment:

Lilla said...

Great post. I did a quick search on the book you mentioned, and found some info on William Tyndale, who was the first to translate the scriptures from Hebrew to English. Very interesting stuff.