23 April 2001 is christianity divisive?
Viaduct seat. Warm air, or at least not cold any more, cumulus clouds moving slowly from the North West, everything is opening, many buds have become leaves, green begins to overtake brown, people walk slowly, in t-shirts, without coats, I feel too warm in my sweater and scarf ... everything is still (or at least the air is) ...these words, like the clothing of trees and people, are responding quickly to this transition from spring to summer, but my spirit lags behind, I'm still feeling fatigued and threatened by cold, I'm still seeking to keep my (perhaps) bronchial chest warm, but it is warm - the air that I'm breathing is warmer than it was yesterday, and perhaps fresher.
A man looks suspiciously at me writing here by the side of the path as he strides slowly by with a woman to whom he is talking as he walks. How is it that men look at men as potential enemies, or rivals? I wish they didn't. Yet often, if I say hello to what I took to be an unfriendly-looking man, he smiles or speaks back as if glad to be spoken to, or recognised not as a man but as a person. (I don't believe that in our inner thoughts and feelings we are male or female. Just human.)
In my pocket is George Kane's brief biography of Geoffrey Chaucer which I was reading on the train. What I read was of the diversity and apparent realism of the Canterbury pilgrims, their diverse tempers and moralities, often negative, which, Kane explains, is modelled in a tradition now called 'estates satires' in which moral types were told of and held up as models of good or bad living, or morality. So perhaps it is something of this, my pre-suppositions or inferences from the faces and gestures and clothes of the people I see, that is turning them into (fictional) stereotypes that do not correspond with how they feel. Yes indeed, very likely.
So what does this point to?
I hear a bird singing high above and another, more chirpy, to my left, as I pause to answer that question ... and I wonder if it is not better to listen to the birds than to be concerned with morality. The birds I guess are cruel, until they make nests and hatch out fledglings ... and even then they are likely to chase their young from their nests, most aggressively, when grown.
But for humans there is, as John Milton says, and as so many have said, a moral difference - which he ascribed to the presence of God, or takes as evidence for the existence of one (and one only).
Yesterday, as I read Northrop Frye's most informative essay* on Paradise Lost, I came across his perception of (John Milton's) twelve stages** of Jesus' challenging of the unity of God and everything and his achievement, via various epiphanies and such, of the splitting of evil from good - which sequence I was sad to see comprised an awful 'birth of dualism'. Oh dear.
*Northrop Frye, 'The story of all things' in The return of Eden: five essays on Milton's epics, University of Toronto Press, Toronto 1965, pages 3 to 31. (also in Paradise Lost: John Milton, edited by Scott Elledge, W W Norton & Company, New York, London 1993, pages 509-526.)
**I paraphrase and abbreviate Northrop Frye's twelve stages (which he maps onto the numerals of a clock) as follows:
time zero: the presence of God as a unity (of good and evil?)
one o'clock: God generates his Son out of himself and commands the angels (of which Satan was originally one) to worship him.
two o'clock: Christ in his anger tramples on the rebel angels (led by Satan) who leave heaven.
three o'clock: the natural order is created (as in the Book of Genesis)
four o'clock: the human order is created (in the form of Adam and Eve)
five o'clock: Satan generates sin and death out of himself (a parody of God creating Christ).
six o'clock: the fall of the human order (in the temptation of Adam and Eve by the serpent to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil).
seven o'clock: the fall of the natural order and the triumph of sin and death.
eight o'clock: the natural order is re-established after the flood.
nine o'clock: the human order is re-established by the giving of the law (the ten commandments and such)
ten o'clock: Christ triumphs over death and hell by becoming incarnate (assuming human flesh) and the word becomes gospel.
eleven o'clock: the apocalypse or last judgement in which heaven and hell are finally separated.
twelve o'clock: a return to the presence of God but now he lays aside his sceptre to 'become all', as was prophesied.
(But that is a simplification of what Northrop Frye wrote.)
My respect for Jesus, still remaining from my Christian upbringing, begins to vanish. I wrote a marginal note***, next to Frye's list of twelve stages of division, and when I return I get back I'll look at it again. The strength of feeling with which I wrote it could be a source of something constructive - of my next move - which could be to write something like an opposing vision to Paradise Lost, a refutation of original sin and all such, and a changed notion of 'nature' (which word, I noted yesterday, John Milton (in his 'Christian Doctrine') points out did not signify a thing but a process of becoming - a natality (or a nativity?)).
***the marginal note was as follows:
'The undoing of all I love and trust and the doing or establishing of all I hate and distrust (the story of the disintegration of life and the birth of dualism?) ... sadly, this portrays Jesus as the divider'
...but, as I digitise this now, I prefer to think that it is priests and other specialists, and their laws and books, not the historical Jesus, that is the source of division?
While I was writing that a young man in the black hat and hairstyle and costume of the Hasidic religion walked by with a 'beautiful' young woman with black hair who was also in black clothes. She was speaking to him, and turning to look at him as she talked, with the appearance of love and of respect. Yet to my prejudiced* eye he is not an ordinary man whom one could love but a caricature, a conventional figure (a subject of 'estates satire', what ever that is exactly?)...
*would I say the same of someone in the costume or uniform of a Christian church, or dressed as a policeman, or a soldier, or in academic dress? Perhaps yes!
(to be continued)
This note was handwritten, on paper, in 30 minutes, and it took me 55 minutes to type or to digitise it. So my writing speed, inclusive of digitising, is 686 divided by 85 = 8.1 words per minute. With the hand held computer I write digitised text directly at 5 to 6 words per minute.
Both kinds of writing require further time to edit carefully and to annotate - say another half hour or more - so the net difference may be even less.
But the slow writing initially, with a handheld computer (inscribing stylised letter forms) may lead to my writing much less, and of a different quality, perhaps better?
But certainly I felt after handwriting this that with the handheld I could not have captured all the little events and thoughts happening as I wrote, in 'real time'... this is life as it is - not clear cut, but full of ifs and buts and complications. This is not a theory.