Monday, March 31, 2008

Aristotle Lives in Singapore (and Co-Teaches Logic, Ethics, and Love in Translation)

Aristotle lives in Singapore today. However, the Greek scientist must share his teaching post in his new multilingual and multicultural Athens with three other "great thinkers," all barbarians if all men:
  • an enlightened North Indian prince;
  • a Chinese sage;
  • and a Jewish rabbi.
Aristotle does get to take the most credit for having "shaped not only the Grecian civilization but also that of the entire Western hemisphere" and "for his logic and his idea of the importance of virtue (staying on the balance, without going into extremes)." And yet he has to play second fiddle to the Chinaman, whose "profound influence on Chinese, Korean, and Japanese even greater than Aristotle’s prodigious influence on the West." Furthermore, Aristotle can no longer exclusively teach only Greek boys even if the others are making a bigger difference on the girls. The Sino-sage teaches "to venerate ancestry and to honor ones parents," a lesson not lost on "the foster mother of [the] daughter [of a professor and his wife]." And the North Indian prince shares his light in a "taxi driven by a female driver," and he later wakes up a "little Asian girl who was slumped all through the mass" for the rabbi-turned-Christian-baby born of a virgin. Indeed, Aristotle finds himself teaching all of us to "revisit, renew and relearn our ABCs" in English primarily, and to be, like him, like these other men, "fully human in a world that has gone into extremes."

Nonetheless, we note a subtle sexist extreme while reading of the plural contemporary influences on us (as noted by Dr. Emiliano T. Hudtohan in the Manila Times of March 25 and April 1, 2008).

We note that our multicultural, multiracial, multilingual, multispiritual influences who make us fully human only represent, rather extremely, half of the human race: the male half.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Translation: for the profoundest of freedoms

Ever since Michel Foucault wrote Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison [Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison], his thoughtful readers, I think, have been on guard. In the work, he shines the light not on dungeons of the dark ages but on the penitentiaries of the Enlightenment and of modernism. Modern prisons use light—the lights are always on for the guards in the guardtowers. And this keeps the imprisoned imprisoned. Let’s be very very clear, however, that although Foucault distanced himself from structuralism, he did not want to be known as a postmodernist. And, a self-described “Nietzschean,” Foucault claimed: “I don't write for an audience; I write for users, not readers.”

That little biography is just to say this: Foucault disliked light, not because it enlightened, but precisely because it did and therefore, he thought, it imprisoned. So, I think, we all should be as suspicious that Foucault did not go far enough. Light is not useful to any user, or to any guard in a tower for that matter, unless it shines within.

As Richard Rhodes and I have talked in blogs and emails, there’s something that needs to come to light. I have asserted or at least inferred that he does not take into account the personal in language and its translation. At least, that’s how he’s heard it. Which says volumes. In fact, I did snipe back in my comment that replied to his initial comment in my last blog. He didn’t say it there, but actually our agreement is most profoundly shared in the personal.

So let me define what I mean by personal. And along the way, let me define what I mean by define. And by ambiguity, parable, postmodernism, literature, linguistics, translation, feminism, and rhetoric, and all the other terms we bandy about.

And let me turn to a brilliant English phrase that Elizabeth Cady Stanton endorsed and repeated, one that Thomas Jefferson probably penned. It’s this:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

There’s incredible humility here. Implicit in the statement is dependency on the Other, in “we,” which is not just “I.” And there are other pluralities: “these” “truths.” The verb “hold” is what lovers do and what a mother does—how much more personal an action is there? But “self” gets at autonomy, and “evidence” at light. So whatever is “self-evident” here gets birthed from persons together who find a personal stake in not just “The Truth” as Aristotle might want to understand it but also in varieties of difference. The arbitrator and the agency are of, by, and for persons.

And yet, I think, we all should be as suspicious that Cady Stanton and Jefferson did not go far enough. Truths are not useful to any of us holders of truths unless they shine them within.

Are we talking about politics? Postmodern philosophy? Literature? Linguistics?

Yes. Nature does not determine our categories however it might, at first glance, constrain them. When we are insiders of a language, or native speakers, then there are differences in the nature that we hold to be within the same category. Perhaps even the category of “self-evident” truths. When we are outsiders, or non-native speakers, the differences in nature are more visible to us because we have not yet learned, or even care to learn, how to hold them as the same.

“Whenever two or three are gathered together…,” then there is the possibility of different variants or “allo”s being held together as an emic unit. There is psychological reality on the inside; there is belief. This is Pike talk. It’s why the light of logic and math and formalism and even pure generative semantics is not enough. It cannot just be shined in the prison yard.

Everyone of you reading this understands that there is insider language in this post. Either you’re familiar with the categories of unity-of-differences I am holding with a few certain readers, or you are not familiar with them. Whether you’ve patiently read this far also says something about you. Why should you care? That’s what I mean by personal.

So let me move from Pike to Charlotte Hogg and Nancy Mairs and Jacqueline Jones Royster and Cheryl Glenn. From tagmemic linguistics to feminist rhetorics. The careful precise delineation of difference, whether of Nathan’s and Jesus’s parables or of varieties of ambiguities is important only insofar as there’s some insider stake in these categories. For a religious lay person or scholar or for a linguist, perhaps, the distinctions may be huge. And the religious and the linguistic types might seem more interested in translation. The literature types might seem interested in other things. African American scholars seem interested in their thing. Feminist scholars seem interested in their own concerns. Whose got the light to shine down on the others?

If I take Jesus’s parable of the woman finding the Greek silver coin by turning on the light and sweeping the house as allegory, then the literary qualities might distinguish the parable from Nathan’s. The light of literature is not enough. It cannot just be shined in the prison yard. But if we take the woman as being God, or at least as saying something about God to us, then our body feels as much as David’s and Bathesheba’s and Uriah’s did. There is talk in various directions, and light inside, and change.

The important question for me, and important for translation too I think, is whether we can talk to one another. Which means there's deep listening to the other person. Jacqueline Jones Royster has much to say about talking with the other, and about being talked about (in her “When the First Voice You Hear is Not Your Own”). The key to learning another’s language (and, yes, to Using the Others’ languages Mr. Foucault) is the acknowledgment of the subjective. It’s starting with our bodies, our selves. It’s letting light shine within, and not insisting always and only on my categories or even my group’s categories. What Rich is saying to me and me to him is not just the fun “smite” that wins us a Lingy (although there may be some of that as seen by Lingamish). Our corrective talk is most effective when either one of us shines it within. There is hope for the profoundest of freedoms. To me, Rich has genuine care, and not just for the clearest of categories and ideas in language.

Friday, March 28, 2008

How to Avoid Ambiguity, Find Meaning in Life, and Love Your Enemies as Yourself (instead of Killing or Prosecuting them)

Their History

Kenneth Starr’s prosecution failed against Bill Clinton. The investigator hadn’t taken into account ambiguity. A few choice words -- like “I did not have ‘sex’ with that woman” and “private lives” and “that depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” – worked better in the legal hearings than any double-entendre has ever worked for married men who have conveniently used them on women to whom they are not especially committed. So Rush Limbaugh could call the President “Slick Willy.” And John Piper could call out the Scriptures on Limbaugh for that (although few men, much less that particular man of the law named Starr or that particular man of the cloth named Piper, will take the radio man named Limbaugh to task for naming feminists “femi-nazis” as if the singular coined word might disambiguate the meaning of “feminist” and of “Nazi”).

Aristotle avoided ambiguity, and taught his students to do the same. His resulting science of Aristotelianism worked to pigeon-hole everything, and by it he found that nature put some subjects down below others and gave to him, the cold objective logical observer, the high position right at the top with no ambiguity at all. Of course, Aristotle’s own teacher Plato had taught men to be ware of the poets and the sophists, the ones using what Plato coined as “rhetoric.” Slick ambiguous stuff. So: “Avoid Ambiguities!

What Aristotle forgot to tell the boys in the Academy was this:
• “How to avoid ambiguity.”
• Learning really depends on some ambiguity. (Kenneth Pike and his friends would come along and call “rhetoric” for learning two different things: “discovery and change.”)
• Absolute avoidance of ambiguity means that you have to kill off all your enemies. (Alexander the Great, Aristotle’s student, tried that; and unfortunately for the Hellene empire some Roman leaders had learned Greek from their mothers and followed Aristotle’s lessons on global conquest and world domination.)

Nathan’s rhetoric succeeded with King David. The prophet used ambiguity. A choice story about the gross domination and abuse of a little lamb and the one who loved it worked better than any congressional hearing. So David ben Jesse heard the story which also, ambiguously, meant discovering meaning for his own life as well and meant changing the enemy in himself by making amends to all of those who he’d violated and by singing a new heart-wrenching song of recovery of joy and spirit (heavy on Steps 1, 2, and 3 of the 12 Steps of AA). And Suzanne McCarthy would write a series of posts on this Psalm of the Scriptures by which some of us began to find life meanings for ourselves, learning by ambiguous spiritual-life and love-of-enemy meanings. There are a few Hebrew or Greek or Latin words in Psalm 50 or 51 too; so as much as Aristotle would push for untranslated unambiguous Greek mainly for men only, we’ll look forward to English as well.

Our Time

As a further exercise in avoiding some ambiguity, in finding more meaning in life, and in learning to love, let’s do one more thing. Let’s listen to another choice story by a later son of David. Then you tell me if this is not, even ambiguously, a good feminist thing.

To listen, let’s just briefly reconsider Aristotle and ambiguity. And light. This is important.

Just as Aristotle taught his students to avoid ambiguity, he also told them to avoid choice stories. And he rather unambiguously pigeon-holed what he meant by choice stories: the ones Aesop told and the ones black story teller from Libya told. Why? Aristotle was smart, and smart enough to know that his logic and his observations of nature didn’t require him to get down from his high horse in the ivory tower of the academy. Choice stories that black people tell might be slick and might, therefore, compromise Aristotelian science and its power. So now we look at what Aristotle’s science observed about light: for Aristotle, light absolutely and unambiguously produced the color spectrum; and the addition of two distinct colors of light, namely original yellow light plus original blue light, will total a third, namely original green light. Absolutely logical, absolutely natural, absolutely unambiguous. Few scientists through the centuries following Aristotle have disagreed with him on light. But then comes Albert Einstein, who doesn’t completely disagree, but says “Hey, wait a minute. Let’s contemplate light more.” And Einstein says that light can be contemplated, ambiguously, as particle and/or as wave and/or as field (i.e., in relation to space and time). Then Kenneth Pike comes back into the room with us and says “Won’t you see how even Albert is above Aristotle’s logic here? And remember all those black people whose languages don’t even have or need many numbers at all? Person is above logic; person is above Aristotle’s abstract mathematical additions too. My monolingual demonstrations demonstrate that all the time.” Then Alan Lightman barges in saying “We scientists use Aristotle’s logic; we’re people too. We artists are more interested in choice stories. Yes, I’m an ambiguous person who writes like a scientist and who also writes like an artist. I wrote about that in my essay ‘The Physicist as Novelist’ which is the anchor leg essay in my book The Future of Spacetime in which I include an essay from my famous buddy Stephen William Hawking.” Then C. S. Lewis shouts out: “I was once an Aristotelian until God made me read Samuel Alexander’s Space, Time and Diety. Did you know Aristotle and Albert are just contemplating light even though the latter, yes ‘personally’ just like Ken and Alan too, contemplates light ambiguously? So we can contemplate light, and logic and math help some but these don’t always make us avoid ambiguity. But did you all know we can enjoy light too?

This is where Rabbi Joshua ben David (aka Jesus ben Joseph) steps in and tells a choice story in response to some men who are trying to avoid ambiguity, although they are both men of the cloth and are also morality lawyers. The choice story this time is about a woman contemplating numbers and enjoying light and finding meaning and sharing it with her friends.

And, ambiguously, it’s also a story about you, and about me, (if we have ears to hear). Enjoying requires such careful listening for our exercise in avoiding ambiguity. (The contemplators among us will surmise something technical, like, “Light is a metaphor” or something academic, like, “light is a heuristic—see the Greek scientific root--εὕρῃ καὶ εὑροῦσα?”) Once we’ve learned to love our enemies; once we’ve found the security that enables us to love ourselves; once we’ve begun to learn to love our neighbor like that; once we men have learned not to hoodwink women who are not our wives; once we women have learned that Aristotle’s nature isn’t how it is from the beginning; then we’ll know, much more safely, how to avoid ambiguity. Luke welcomes the Reb’s Aramaic into his own Greek (see his chapter 15, verses 8,9,10); and so I’ve welcomed Dr. Luke’s Greek into my own English. You’ll have to welcome the story for yourself. Listen; change your thinking:

ἢ τίς γυνὴ δραχμὰς ἔχουσα δέκα
ἐὰν ἀπολέσῃ δραχμὴν μίαν
οὐχὶ ἅπτει λύχνον
καὶ σαροῖ τὴν οἰκίαν
καὶ ζητεῖ ἐπιμελῶς ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ
καὶ εὑροῦσα
συγκαλεῖ τὰς φίλας καὶ γείτονας λέγουσα
συγχάρητέ μοι
ὅτι εὗρον τὴν δραχμὴν ἣν ἀπώλεσα


λέγω ὑμῖν

γίνεται χαρὰ
ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ
ἐπὶ ἑνὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ

Or there’s this woman with Greek silver coins, ten of them.
Should she lose a coin, even one of them; then what?
Won’t she enjoy turning on the lights then?
And will she even mind sweeping the house then?
And is it any burden at all for her to have to search until she finds it?
And then she, finding it,
calls together the neighbors and friends saying
party together with me
because I found the coin I lost.

That’s just like this ambiguity,”
is my statement to each one of you:

There’s birthed a party
right in front of the angels making God’s announcements
Whenever any single one who’s broken the moral law
begins changing his or her thinking.

Monday, March 24, 2008

feminist Bible translation: not "anything goes" but a lot more personal

Suzanne McCarthy has announced a series of posts on the translation of a Hebrew Psalm. She’s looking at a variety of issues, some of which I’ve found include the question of ambiguity. Ambiguity is something modernists and masculinists tend not to favor in language, especially when it comes to Bible translation. But, in this post, I am going to make a big deal out of ambiguity for better (Bible) translation. For a feminist translation, ambiguity is huge. Ambiguity actually and ironically helps the best translators disambiguate to make meanings clear, to make the text more “wholly” and personally meaningful. And, below, I want to explain that and then illustrate it with a feminist translation of a Greek language passage my pastor had us read for the Easter Sunday sermon. It’s just a snippet of a narrative: Luke 24:8-12.
Let’s make six things clear initially. First, McCarthy is not necessarily making the arguments I am. In fact, she states very cogently in a comment on her first post in her series that she “cannot perceive what relevance gender might have to this post”; I’d raised the issue that a particular Hebrew word is ambiguous in multiple ways, even with respect to grammatical gender. (In an update here, I note that McCarthy suggests ambiguity needs to be "resolved" in or by translation, especially of the Christian scriptures.)
Second, I’m not trying to invent ambiguity where it does not exist, but I will agree with Richard Rhodes that I find much more ambiguity in language than he feels is necessary or is necessarily there. Ambiguity, I must say, has its limits; even though we users of language enjoy what Nelson Goodman calls “radical relativism,” there are what Nelson Goodman says are “rigid restraints”
Third, then, the radical relativism of language, including ambiguity, is related to several things Kenneth L. Pike observes about language. [Pike’s a teacher of mine who’s profoundly influenced my thinking about these things. Pike is as much interested in the nature of language as he is how we human beings look at—i.e., theorize—and talk about—i.e., know—language. The first SIL staff member and Wycliffe Bible Translator to earn a Ph.D., Pike began with some very radical ideas; his acclaimed dissertation “A Reconstruction of Phonetic Theory,” completed in 1942, foreshadowed postmodern methods as it emphasized the need for reworking rigid, traditional and modern ways of viewing language. With one of his favorite books—Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of Human Behavior—Pike commenced emphasizing “a wholistic view.” In a later introductory book—the book Linguistic Concepts, which he had some of us his students read for a seminar on this “wholistic view” —Pike starts with the following one-sentence paragraph: “In this volume person (and relation between persons) is given theoretical priority above formalism, above pure mathematics, above idealized abstractions” (page xi).] Language, Pike says, is N-Dimensional with respect (a) to hierarchy of features; (b) to salient context and unity of features; and (c) to “fusion, merging, gradients, change, growth, education, and indeterminancies” (xi). Persons may and do determine whether to view language as (a) field, (b) particle, or (c) wave. Persons are above logic. One person can learn another person’s language, not in spite of ambiguity and not just by formal logic, but because of such ambiguity and because we all are above such logic. Persons make language ambiguous, and radically so.
Fourth, I think confusing (1) ambiguity with (2) postmodernism or with (3) feminism or with (4) gender difference is not helpful. Aristotle can be of help to us here; for he does not want confusion of categories (and absolutely, in language, he does not want ambiguity; and he does name ambiguity as a category of language to avoid). And yet, I can’t agree more with Cheryl Glenn who puzzles over the male-only histories of western rhetoric; Glenn, who reads the masculinist and modernist accounts of rhetoric’s history says that, helpfully, “[p]ostmodernism influences our resistant readings of the paternal narrative, particularly since it demands our awareness of situatedness, our angle (in my case [i.e., in Glenn’s case], reading as a feminist, as a woman)” (page 5 of Rhetoric Retold). Glenn, “as a feminist, as a woman,” and as a postmodernist, employs “three methodologies” which she calls “three angles”: “historiography (which informs the entire enterprise of feminist remappings); feminism (which specifically works to situate female rhetorical figures); and gender studies (which refigure gender as a category for historiographical analysis)” (page 4). Here we begin to see some methodology overlap. We might call it methodological ambiguity. For Glenn, ambiguity, postmodernism, feminism, and gender studies all “do” different things; and nonetheless they still all do similar sorts of things. For me, Glenn and Pike do similar things, even though Pike resists some rather non-Pikean forms of “postmodernism” and even though he never called himself a “feminist.” For that matter, Glenn and Carolyn Custis James do similar things. The former situates the predominately male history of classical rhetoric from the perspective of women; the latter rewrites the predominately male history in the Bible from the perspective of women. Nonetheless, Custis James is not an academician using postmodernism, feminism, or gender studies per se. What is common for Pike, Glenn, and Custis James is this: language is ambiguous because of persons. Feminism as methodology set is also ambiguous because it speaks to feminism also as the aim or goal to be achieved by the method. Hence, Glenn can situate herself postmodernly “as a feminist, as a woman”; likewise, I can situate myself personally “as a feminist, as a man.” McCarthy, Pike, and Custis James might rather situate themselves as linguists and Christians and historians (who may or may not admit to doing the kinds of things I want to follow Glenn in doing, as a feminist). The personal, and the ambiguities created by persons, allow us to tease out and to embrace the differences as long as, feministically, our epistemology works out the self evident truths that all men and women are created equal. (Aristotle insists on formal logic that would dictate to us no ambiguity; his end is to confirm by objective observation what is nature—including the nature of males over females and of logic over subjective rhetoric and of an original Greek text over any translation into a barbarian mother tongue.)
Fifth, when I call what I’m doing “feminist translating,” I am emphasizing as much the methodologies as I am what the methodologies produce. I am not, for example, wanting to go “Beyond the Personal,” not wanting to go beyond the methods of feminisms, which is what Joy S. Ritchie and Gesa E. Kirsch want to do when one of their students turns to Christianity and when they conclude, therefore, that her move is now necessarily opposed to feminism, which their ultimate goal (but no longer their method) in “Theorizing a Politics of Location in Composition Research.” In addition, I am not wanting to use a methodology that is not also part and parcel of the aim of the method. This, for instance, is what Ann Nyland is wanting to do by using ambiguity in language combined with the applied “Relevance Theory” of Bible translator Ernst-August Gutt for her goal: a Study New Testament for Lesbians, Gays, Bi, and Transgender. Nyland may rightly challenge whether the “word arsenokoites in 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10” in English should be “homosexual”; nonetheless, she turns to Gutt and even to E. D. Hirsch for methodology to say that “[t]he reader’s context determines how a certain passage will be understood.” What Gutt does (and Hirsch and Nyland with him) is to resort to a reader’s-context method of masculinist logic. Such logic (i.e., “this context but NOT that one”) may find ambiguity determined. Such logic is not—and I will emphasize this emphatically here—such logic is not a methodology that is lesbian, gay, bi, or transgender. (Generally, the Nyland translation gets favorable reviews by bloggers at BBB; it seems “accurate” in the places spot checked.) Nyland uses Gutt’s “relevance theory” for her method (to achieve her lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender translation) which is a method that is not Pike’s tagmemics nor is any of Glenn’s three angles either. Feminist translating uses both a personal methodology and also (by those angles) works the personal aim of valuing females as equally as males are valued; a feminist translation valorizes the personal connections that a person using language makes, regardless of and with regard to gender especially.
Sixth, when I call what I’m doing “feminist translating,” I am calling attention to what male-dominant logic in translation neglects methodologically and teleologically.
In Luke 24:8-12, there is attention given to women that does come across in the history. But in the Greek language that Luke uses there is more ambiguity than traditional English translators attend to because they tend to use masculinist logic. Masculinist logic wants to abstract the meaning to the text; masculinist logic wants to pretend objectivity (i.e., to say there’s no theological agenda even if there’s an attempt to say the a priori commitment to “plenary inspiration” theory of Christian scriptures is not a theological agenda); masculinist logic wants to be over subjective person; and masculinist logic wants to eliminate ambiguity when it drives some inclusive goal, such as Nyland’s NT fo LGBTs. As a consequence, traditional English translations can ignore the importance of women and their rhetoric. Sometimes, this is an unwitting consequence. Most Bible translators will very explicitly and publicly express their commitment to the value of women. And Bible translations born out of masculinist logic do not hide the fact that Luke gives historical attention to women.
So what difference does a feminist translation make? Well, let’s look. First we’ll look at the King James Version; the Revised Standard Version; and the Nyland. Then we’ll check the texts of Luke. Finally we’ll examine feminist translating. (My formatting of the texts is for purposes of comparisons and contrasts).
And they remembered his words,
And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

And their words seemed to them as idle tales,
and they believed them not.
Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre;
and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves,
and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.


And they remembered his words,
and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.
Now it was Mary Mag'dalene and Jo-an'na and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles;

but these words seemed to them an idle tale,
and they did not believe them.

Then they remembered what he’d said.
They returned from the tomb and reported all this to the Eleven and to all the others.
And it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and their companions who told this to the apostles,

but they didn’t believe them,
because they thought their words were a lot of nonsense.
However, Peter got up and ran to the tomb.
He bent over to peep in and saw the strips of linen lying by themselves,
and he went off wondering what on earth had happened.
καὶ ἐμνήσθησαν τῶν ῥημάτων αὐτοῦ
καὶ ὑποστρέψασαι ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου ἀπήγγειλαν ταῦτα πάντα τοῖς ἕνδεκα καὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς λοιποῖς
(ἦσαν δὲ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ Μαρία καὶ Ἰωάννα καὶ Μαρία ἡ Ἰακώβου καὶ αἱ λοιπαὶ σὺν αὐταῖς ἔλεγον πρὸς τοὺς ἀποστόλους ταῦτα)
καὶ ἐφάνησαν ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ λῆρος τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα
καὶ ἠπίστουν αὐταῖς
(ὁ δὲ Πέτρος ἀναστὰς ἔδραμεν ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον
καὶ παρακύψας βλέπει τὰ ὀθόνια μόνα
καὶ ἀπῆλθεν πρὸς ἑαυτὸν θαυμάζων τὸ γεγονός)
Feminist Translating
The women remembered the sayings he’d spoken.
They returned from the memorial grave announcing every bit of this to the eleven men and to the other men.
(There were Miyam from Magdala and Johanna and Jacob’s Miryam and the other women with them, stating this to the men he’d sent out.)
They appeared in front of the men as if this were a bunch of silly sayings.
The men disbelieved the women.
(There was “Rock” standing up; he ran to the memorial grave;
bending over, he looked at the linen cloth only;
he left, amazed at what was birthed.)
As mentioned, the blip of history that Luke provides here does not obscure women (in his Greek or in any translation above). Women are the first on the scene at Jesus’s tomb; they’re the first to remember what he said (because they listen to the angels jogging their memories); the women are the first believers; the first apostles (i.e., the male apostles’ apostles); and the first disciples to follow Jesus’s kinds of rhetorics (i.e., parable that requires personal reflection; hyperbole that appears silly; and miracle that can make radical changes for and in a body). We might say Jesus’s rhetorics are feminisms. Luke and the translations are not masculinist with respect to these facts of history.
What Luke and the feminist translation do show (in contrast to KJV, RSV, and Nyland) are the following. The Greek gendered pronouns and verbs and played-on phrases (i.e., τοῖς λοιποῖς vs. αἱ λοιπαὶ) highlight whether the referents in English are females or males. There’s a bit of play also in the first action of the women (i.e., ἐμνήσθησαν or remembering) and the place they turn from (i.e. μνημείος or tomb for memorial). The main lines of action and the parenthetical comments are marked (i.e., in Greek by καὶ plus aorist verb for mainline action, by δὲ plus proper noun subject for parethetical comment; in English by “The [wo]men” or “They” for mainline action, and by the parentheses plus the existential there for parenthetical comment). What’s more, the initial main line for both resulting paragraphs is punctuated by a repeated clause object (i.e., τῶν ῥημάτων and τὰ ῥήματα); but even the repeated ταῦτα (i.e. “this”) following τὰ ῥήματα does not make clear whether the men think they are λῆρος because women are presenting them or because they were that way when Jesus first said them—there’s vagueness (not helpful ambiguity) in this bit of language. In addition, since the Greek proper names are common Hebrew names or peculiar Aramaic nicknames, the English tries to signal these personal connections (both to the people in Luke’s history here and to his later readers) with common Old Testament counterparts (in translation) or with scare quotes. (In showing the Hebrew senses of proper nouns, I’m following Willis Barnstone). Joshua (aka Jesus) had sent the men out to announce his kingdom, but they are hiding away when the women are sent to them; hence, “sent out” seems more personal and more to the point than a non-translation transliteration “apostle”. Finally, the final word here has a generative meaning in Greek that means something to those of us who are parents, or who have parents, especially mothers; hence, in English it’s “what was birthed”.

(Oh, one more little thing that Luke plays with, from verse 7 just before the lines noted above: He has angels reminding the women of the sayings of Joshua--i.e., Jesus--and ends with the one in which Joshua says this
τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὅτι δεῖ παραδοθῆναι εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ σταυρωθῆναι καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἀναστῆναι
Of course, that last word is the one Luke picks up when he describes what “Rock”--i.e., Peter--does when he hears the women repeating the sayings of Joshua. “Rock,” like Joshua from the dead, stands up. That Joshua and the women can have such an effect is no small thing. Matthew hints at this power, and so does the feminist translation.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What She Said

According to all four Gospels, women were the first witnesses of the resurrection, a fact that no conspirator in the first century would have invented. Jewish courts did not even accept the testimony of female witnesses [much less Roman courts]. A deliberate cover-up would have put Peter or John or, better yet, Nicodemus in the spotlight, not built its case around reports from women. Since the Gospels were written several decades after the events, the authors had plenty of time to straighten out such an anomaly—unless, of course, they were not concocting a legend but recording the plain facts.

A conspiracy also would have tidied up the first witnesses stories. Were there two white clad figures or just one? Why did Mary Magdalene mistake Jesus for a gardener? Was she alone or with Salome and another Mary? Accounts of the discovery of the empty tomb sound breathless and fragmentary. The women were "afraid yet filled with joy," says Matthew; "trembling and bewildered," says Mark.
--Philip Yancey

μετὰ φόβου καὶ χαρᾶς μεγάλης

τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις

Saturday, March 22, 2008


וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת־יֹום הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתֹו כִּי בֹו שָׁבַת מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתֹּו אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים לַעֲשֹׂות׃ ף

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

--Elie Wiesel

Yes, September 11 troubles me. But there are other troubling days on the calendar — not just the ones that make the evening news, but also the ones that end up in my journal. Thumbing through the pages of my private reflections, I come across entries written in the middle of sleepless nights, when anxiety took over and robbed me of rest. When my personal world is falling apart and something or someone precious is at stake, it is frightening when God doesn’t show up to hold things together, especially when I’m begging him to come. No voice calls out from heaven to calm the troubled waters. There’s no miraculous healing or change of heart. No unseen army of angels shields me from disaster. Instead of getting better, things are only getting worse. My mother used to tell me, “Things always look worse at night.” For the most part, I believe her. But some of the troubles that keep me from sleeping look just as bad in the morning.

--Carolyn Custis James

I cannot be any more specific about the methodology of love than to quote these words of an old priest who spent many years in battle: “There are dozens of ways to deal with evil and several ways to conquer it. All of them are facets of the truth that the only ultimate way to conquer evil is to let it be smothered within a willing, living human being. When it is absorbed there like blood in a sponge or a spear in one’s heart, it loses its power and goes no further.”

The healing of evil—scientifically or otherwise—can be accomplished only by the love of individuals. A willing sacrifice is required….I do not know how this occurs. But I know that it does…Whenever this happens there is a slight shift in the balance of power in the world.

--M. Scott Peck

God’s unilateral disarmament.

--Dorothee Sölle

δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ' ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ἀπ' ἐμοῦ ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν


זָכֹור אֶת־יֹום הַשַּׁבָּת לְקַדְּשֹׁו׃

Friday, March 21, 2008

Aristotle’s Rhetoric Was Written By A Jewish Woman

He went to his student Alexander (who was already Great), who went to King Ptolemy II, who sent to Jerusalem. (Call it the Macedonian Connection). The King commissions a group of 72 Jewish men to translate all their Hebrew writings into Greek so Aristotle could read them.

(An unnamed bilingual, biliterate wife of one of the men has read the following in תּוֹרָה

וַיִּנָּחֶם יְהוָה כִּי־עָשָׂה אֶת־הָאָדָם בָּאָרֶץ


וַיִּתְעַצֵּב אֶל־לִבֹּו׃

which starts her making up for the fact that no men--Jew nor Greek--has written anything to account for the power of personal speech. So she writes in Hebrew first and then in Hellene, which comes out something like this:

νυ̂ν μὲν οὐ̂ν οἱ τὰς τέχνας τω̂ν λόγων συντιθέντες οὐδὲν ὡς εἰπει̂ν πεπορίκασιν αὐτη̂ς μόριον ̔αἱ γὰρ πίστεις ἔντεχνόν εἰσι μόνον, τὰ δ' ἄλλα προσθη̂καἰ, οἱ δὲ περὶ μὲν ἐνθυμημάτων οὐδὲν λέγουσιν, ὅπερ ἐστὶ σω̂μα τη̂ς πίστεως , περὶ δὲ τω̂ν ἔξω του̂ πράγματος τὰ πλει̂στα πραγματεύονται).
see verse 3.

Aristotle takes the credit because later on he makes a bunch of revisions (and besides he didn't know how to pronounce the woman's name).

Now, if you have trouble believing that in your body, in your inner passion, then start with this first:

Shakespeare's Plays Were Written By A Jewish Woman

Here's eight kinds of proof Amelia Bassano was the real Bard.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lucy, you've got some 'splainin' to do!

This week, one of you kindly emailed me to explain a little better what I’m doing in my dissertation. This week, there are other good reasons to clarify feminism, rhetoric, and translation as I work with a text of Aristotle. So this is not going to be my 30-second cocktail party answer to “So, what’s your paper about?” I’ll just invite you to sit more comfortably now if you really want to know.

In the past few days, there have been some very unclear statements, weird and assuming statements, about feminism, about rhetoric, about translation. It’s as strange as those new DVDs of “I Love Lucy,” which have been dubbed over with Spanish, while Ricky says “splainin” and Lucy speaks even stranger bad Spanish in the episode “The Ricardos Visit Cuba.” It’s as unfortunate as Jay Heinrich’s 2007 pop rhetoric Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson can Teach us about the Art of Persuasion, in which only 2 of the 25 chapters are written around women, and those particular 2 women are “Orphan Annie” and your “mother-in-law.” Weird assumptions on feminism, rhetoric, and translation.

Allow me to rehash those assumptions in light of current events: the U.S. presidential candidate news. Then I’ll get to my project.

Weird "Feminism" This Week:

Third-wave feminist Karen Agness writes “Gloria, Geraldine and NOW Do Not Speak for Me.” In this article, Agness is saying that she must speak for herself and that others do not, namely second-wave feminists Ms. Steinem, former VP candidate Ferraro, and the National Organization of Women. The weird thing about their feminism, for Agness, is that it has two characteristic weaknesses: victim mentality” and “nasty rhetoric.” And Hillary Clinton should not be like these feminists: To be truly equal, female candidates must accept criticism and defend their policies [without nasty rhetoric], just like the men and not [with victim mentality] cry foul and bias anytime they are criticized.” This, of course, reveals a weird assumption about rhetoric, perhaps: that rhetoric is characteristically “nasty.”

Weird "Rhetoric" This Week:

David Hoff (with an MA in Professional Writing and some experience as a Teaching Assistant for a Literary Studies course) writes on “Obama's ‘Yes, I Did’ Speech.” In this essay, Hoff does “a little rhetorical analysis” which deserves its own analysis. Rhetoric, assumes Hoff, includes a message that is “carefully crafted” as a “literal message” that’s a “reflecting (and refracting)” of a figurative message “fashioned” so that it “merges” some “many stories” that are “embedded” one within another. Such is “what copywriters in advertising call a ‘Dog Whistle’ message: terms that appear ordinary may be packed with significance for a certain intended audience with the ears to hear the Word (like an ultra- or sub-sonic frequency).” So Hoff gives us his “explicit translation by playing the [rhetorical message] backward.” Translation,” then, is characteristically a decoding of “nasty rhetoric.” Weird.

Weird "Translation" This Week:

Andrew Ferguson a senior editor of a conservative American op-ed magazine writes on “The Wit and Wisdom of Barack Obama.” In this piece, Ferguson says of the candidate, “Rhetorically, he is a master of le baloney,” the translation of which the writer helps us decode. Ferguson turns to “a French journalist…consulted” to help bloggers translate Senator Obama’s statement “We are the ones we've been waiting for”; then Ferguson begins to conclude, to decode the ostensibly nasty rhetoric of Obama as the American journalist quotes the Frenchman: He ruled summarily that, translated into French, ‘the Barack Obama sentence [le sentence de la Barack Obama] sounds weird to me’.” The assumption is that to decode what’s lost in translation, finding the original source text solves everything. So Ferguson finds the original text for us, in order to decode it as Obama's and his supporters' nasty rhetoric: The origins of the phrase aren't nearly so glamorous or exotic.” No; Obama's phrase originates from “the left-wing-radical-feminist-lesbian novelist Alice Walker [who] published a book of essays and called it We are the Ones We've Been Waiting For” and before that “from a poem published in 1980 by the left-wing-radical-feminist-bisexual poet June Jordan.” So there we have it. Nasty rhetoric in translation as decoded from the original by an editor of a conservative magazine: When Obama's supporters say ‘We are the ones we've been waiting for,’ what they mean is that in the long roll call of history, from Aristotle and Heraclitus down through Augustine and Maimonides and Immanuel Kant and the fellows who wrote the Federalist Papers, we're number one! We're the smartest yet! Everybody--Mom, Dad, Gramps and Grandma, Great Grandpa and Great Grandma, maybe even the Tribal Elders--they've all been waiting for people as clued-in as us! Did you catch Aristotle at the top of that orginary roll call? I did too. Don’t we need to say Weird all over again?

My Dissertation:

My assumption is that all men and women are created equal. First-wave feminists, rhetors, and translators such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Isabella Sojourner Truth, and Julia Evelina Smith Parker believed that too. Creation, as I understand it, is a kind of egalitarian humble speech act, a translation so that we can become and so that we can get where we are, who we’ve come from, and where we’re going.

So we don’t start with Aristotle, as the creator. He believed that females are naturally inferior to males; that rhetoric is inherently inferior to logic; and μὲν οὐ̂ν that a non-Greek translation is inferior to an original Greek text.

And yet many of us men and women realize how we must struggle with Aristotle as profoundly and unavoidably influential. Given Aristotle’s fundamental “ancient sexism,” some have, on the one hand, “found much to disparage and little to salvage in his philosophy”; others, on the other hand, “enter into new, creative, and subtle dimensions of inquiry about Aristotle…look[ing] more deeply into his influence and question[ing] the possibility of escape from it.” Among the others in this latter group are those who have written Feminist Interpretations of Aristotle. (And the quotations in this paragraph are from that book.) The presence of these women writing is fundamentally important because “[t]hough women are omitted from the canons of philosophy [by the likes of men such as Aristotle], these [male-only authored] texts inscribe the nature of woman.” Do we see irony? A woman created equal to man but silenced by a man can speak for herself about the silence.

But when Feminist Interpretations of Aristotle comes to rhetoric, the book stops short. It stops short not because there’s nothing for a woman to say about Aristotle’s rhetoric, but for another reason. The woman writing about rhetoric acts like Aristotle before we can take up the question of translation. Of the twelve writers, the only one who takes up the question of Aristotle’s rhetoric is the only one who is a rhetorician. She takes a different turn from all the previous writers. And she literally gets the last word in the book. She says: We do not need to justify feminist rhetoric by adumbrating its extremely tenuous lines of filiation with Aristotle. Feminist rhetoric can stand on its own as a legitimate project without authoritative male antecedents and to do so must bring into the light histories of the pedagogical traditions rather than leaving pedagogy obscured in the shadows of Aristotle’s Rhetorica.” In a footnote, she adds as tersely: I think that feminist approaches have little to contribute to our understanding of Aristotle’s Rhetorica and that Aristotle’s Rhetorica has little to contribute to feminist rhetoric.”

Now our problem with such a weird feminism, such a weird rhetoric, such a weird translation, is that it silences when it should listen and should allow the other to speak and should even invite the other to speak. A “feminist” and “rhetorician” who would “translate Rhetorica by Aristotle as something that might as well stay in his ancient Greek hands. Now that’s nasty backwards baloney.

My other assumptions are these. Feminists, like the one mentioned above, sometimes do not get past Aristotle’s behavior. That is, they are as snobby as he is sexist; they use his logic for their rhetoric; and they see as little value in his Greek texts as he sees in their womanly barbarian language. Likewise, hacks doing rhetorical analyses of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Jeremiah Wright or John McCain or Martin Luther King Jr. or Jesus or Sojourner Truth often resort to Aristotle’s philosophy, to cold objectivism, which puts them high above. Similarly, some translators (even well meaning translators of the Bible) would silence women, will use Aristotelian logic, and do get so worked up about the “original” “source” text that they forget that it’s much a translation in the first place and that “person is above logic” (as one famous Bible translator puts it).

However, here’s what Aristotle could not get around. Aristotle the misogynist man could not get past the women created equal to him. Whether he likes it or not, he learns from his mother, his aunt, his wives, and his daughter, and from the women who’ve impacted his teacher Plato (Aspasia, Diotima, and Sappho, to name a few). Aristotle the logician could not get around rhetoric, which he acknowledges that women and non-Greek barbarians also use often better than men (and not in nasty ways). Aristotle the writer of Greek language could not do without translation as a generative process that doesn’t just decode his original Greek. Aristotle was not the original man or woman either. Hence, much overlaps in these three: 1) in feminism (assuming men and women are created equal); 2) in rhetoric (assuming that the logic which leads to sexism is not enough) and 3) in translation (assuming an ostensibly original text really depends on a respeaking in an other’s mother tongue).

What would it mean if Aristotle had to hear a barbarian woman reading his Rhetorica in her language, and if she knew his equally to hers? This is not like either Lucy or Ricky speaking English or Spanish badly once in the “original” language now more “lost” in the “target” language on a CD with voiceover dubbing; rather it’s more like a group of bilingual friends viewing the show together and laughing aloud as they talk about it—if you have to, you can videotape their party and put that on youtube. But no one is going to mistake English for Spanish or Aristotle for feminism. Rhetorical translation that’s feminist is like what Lydia H. Liu says translation really is: not a target text and a source text with the latter less equal to the former; but an older guest welcomed in by a younger host, where politeness and humility and good ambiguity are all the rage. Rhetorical translation that’s feminist is like what Kenneth L. Pike presumed it is in language learning; one of his teachers wanted the ideal of one meaning per word, and young Pike asked how then they could learn the other person’s language. And, so, our goal and method is more equal understanding.

(PS: Speaking of more equal understanding. Yes, my university’s divinity school has moved the event honoring a certain in-the-news personality off campus. What a weird mix of feminism, rhetoric, and translation this week! Next week I hope you won’t have to come back here, and I’ll be busy with the project again. Thanks again for stopping by.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

the feminist label, by Belacqua Jones ghostwritten by Case Wagenvoord to George W. Bush

from "Labels that Safeguard America":

So the oligarchy has rolled out the two labels that stand the best chance of neutralizing them both: race (with its implication of black militancy) and gender (with its implication of bra-burning feminists). These labels are precious jewels guaranteed to divert America’s attention from a crumbling economy, the upward flow of capital and foreign enterprises that are trashing America both at home and overseas.

The most powerful labels are those grounded in illusion. The use of “race” overlooks the fact that race is a false category that has no basis in reality. To imply great differences between individuals on the basis of insignificant morphological differences is pure fantasy, which is why it works so well.

The misuse of feminism is grounded in the belief that feminism refers to gender, i.e., all feminists are females. The assumption is flawed. Unless someone can prove that Margaret Thatcher was a leading feminist, the relation between feminism and females remains a fiction.

Feminism is the belief in the emancipation of all subgroups denied their full humanity by a dominant, white male elite. Any woman who emulates the values of this elite is not a feminist.

A true feminist candidate would step up to the podium and declare, “The reason missiles appeal to males is that they are so phallic. This is why men willingly throw billions of dollars at their creation and upkeep. The sight of a massive hard on pointing towards the heavens sends waves of pleasure coursing through their bodies. Tragically, the money they spend on their toys is inexcusable in a country where twenty-five percent of rural children live in poverty and 3.1millions households suffer from hunger. Sorry men, but when I take office the Pentagon goes to the end of the line when the money is handed out. They get whatever is left over once hunger and poverty are eliminated, and our infrastructure has been repaired.”

Where the male elite exploits and conquers, the feminist nurtures and comforts; where the male elite destroys, the feminist builds; where the male elite seeks peace through power and intimidation, the feminist seeks peace through dialog. The woman who advocates power and destruction is not a feminist. This is what makes the label so effective against HillBill.

Rest assured that there will never be a feminist president as long as the white, male oligarchy frames the issues. Nor will America ever see a black president as long as there is a race card to be played.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

who kissed you goodbye?

When I say “kiss” what do you think of? Who?

A kiss. Your memory may get ignited by that smell you smell now, or the song that’s playing on the radio, or a name you hear. Maybe it’s your dog licking you. Or a movie. Or a novel. Likely it’s not El beso de la mujer araña for most of you. For even fewer of you, it’s the experience of nose-rubbed kisses of which I received many as a little boy through adolescence growing up in Viet Nam, where my nanny and her friends in the open air market would show me affection by smelling close my white face as they questioned my mother’s race and always wondered, that last decade of a war, who their friends were among the warriors. If you got that then you understand my involuntary laughter at hearing Cái hôn của giám ngục for the translated title of the twentieth chapter of J. K. Rowling’s third Harry Potter book. For a good friend of mine, there’s pain this weekend as her husband’s been caught kissing other women again. Infidelty. Many of you will associate a kiss with betrayal. Some of you will recall the story of Aristotle (in Secretum Seretorum) saving Alexander the Great from the treasonous snake-poison lips of a princess from India, the trickstress to whom the elder Greek sent a man on death row in order to kiss her first and to die in the younger Greek man’s place, in his own bed. More of history (and less of fable) is the kiss of betrayal in Gethemene before “good Friday” was good. Kisses have lots of meanings. But then kisses have limits too. Usually they mean you’re not alone, for better or for worse. Even if it’s the mantra Keep it Simple Stupid or the madness Gene Simmons created by painting his face and screaming with his pals on a stage for a buck or a favorite Lingamish blogger thing or something holy or another thing harassing or some unnamed woman once upon a time (a prostitute we’re guessing) making Jesus wet in public. Even if, even if. Still the wonder of the kiss is its uncertainty in some certainty that we’re not alone. Sometimes a bittersweetness or a sweet bitterness, says Sappho and Anne Carson.

Aristotle knew that. In his Topics, he warned of the ambiguity of φιλει̂ν: it is loving; or is it kissing? Now just to be clear, when Aristotle is writing here, he hasn’t yet formalized his formula for syllogisms. And yet, already, he doesn’t like vagueness. He is a control freak. When he uses the word, later, in his Rhetoric, he’s talking about loving friends and hating enemies (but also about avoiding ambiguities); so he gives us no uncertain kiss. When doing his first biology, as some of his early and first work, he’s counting the number of teeth in human females saying they are less than and, by his figuring, lesser than males. He wants to pigeon-hole things. So when writing about pigeons, in his History of Animals, he insists that that one species of birds in particular is singularly unique. Listen:

A singular phenomenon is observed in pigeons with regard to pairing: that is, they kiss one another just when the male is on the point of mounting the female, and without this preliminary the male would decline to perform his function. With the older males the preliminary kiss is only given to begin with, and subsequently he mounts without previously kissing; with younger males the preliminary is never omitted. Another singularity in these birds is that the hens tread one another when a cock is not forthcoming, after kissing one another just as takes place in the normal pairing. Though they do not impregnate one another they lay more eggs under these than under ordinary circumstances; no chicks, however, result therefrom, but all such eggs are wind-eggs.

Now, right away we hear the protests. Protests from the Aristotelian linguists, protests from the controlling sexists, protests from the objective logicians. The linguists say pigeons don’t “kiss” in English and in Greek they aren’t φιλει̂ν. The sexists say this nature of difference, of males over females, is not limited to pigeons. The logicians mutter something emphatic about the inability of postmodernists (who used to be “sophists”) to operate either without a minor premise, such as “male pigeons exhibit predictable mating behaviors.”

>Hence, if we’re Aristotelian linguists, we must pigeon hole the Greek word. Maybe we should turn it into something technical like phileo, and show how it’s uniquely different from eros and agape and storge. How it’s different among friends, among faithful spouses, among enemies. And publish something on that. Okay, a blog will do. And, if we have to allow for variations, then we’ll call them allos. And resort to text and to context. Do word counts too. Note the weird other extreme of Eugene Peterson’s Greek (by which, one tells us, he tells of using English emotion to empty the coffee cups of his congregation in his home to fill up his own). Otherwise, we’ll have to get into debates with “the hoi polloi” over literary translation as we try explain both how much we like Anne Carson but also how problematic it is, nonetheless, that she’s chosen to translate the word one way as Euripides uses it and another as Sappho [in her less preserved framents] does. Just like this (the male, Euripedes, first):

My tears as bridal bath.
Your father’s father welcomes Hades to the wedding feast -
Dread father of the bride!

O little ones, which of you should I take to my heart first,
Which last, or kiss, or hold?
How I wish like a bee I could gather you -
All my heartbreak for you in one teardrop.

. . .
all night long
might sing of the love between you and the bride
with violets in her lap

>Hence, if were controlling sexists, we must pigeon hole our natures, our orderly sexes. Recognize the necessity of the rank of the behavior of males (and then females), the difficulties of kissing without mounting or mounting without kissing or of females without males (whether in the oval office or in room 871 or in a marriage now strained). We must have order, and in marriage suborder. It’s what the Koran says, and the Bible (especially if we’ll ignore what William J. Webb says about how the Judeo Christian God changes things for the better over time for all of us in Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. If only he were a feminist, He’d be so much easier to ignore because the f-word, you know, is so charged. No, our “Fathers,” the priests, is not the F-word we’re talking about, for Father won’t allow priestesses because they’re only to be bloody once a moon and not bloody on demand, and given the perpetual infidelities, what a demand for blood. oh my! We all know, therefore, that priests must be males only. That little girls around the altar are for other things, cultural taboo studies and propositions and proclamations and such, because demons don’t possess Americans or anyone in a Greek Orthodox church today.)

>Hence, if we’re objective logicians, we must pigeon hole our logic,. Even if we decide to be a “rhetorician,” we’ll demand that the “enthymeme” be a subset of the “syllogism.” Now we can control religion, academics, the internet, and pigeons. Even if we decide to be a “feminist,” we’ll demand control over “feminist credentials” too by going “beyond the personal” and excluding Christians, especially the ones with Fathers and the ones who are men whose names might also have been Angela Shelton had they not been so shunned by intergenerational Elizabeth Cady Stanton wannabes saying with silence “he cannot speak for her.” (But our sympathies to all when an “equal rights” Father Gander Doug W. Larche can’t see that the antidote to phallologocentricism isn’t his vaginologocentrism and that his “Margie Wargie, peaches and cream / Hugged the boys and made them dream / When the girls came out that day / She asked them all to stay and play” is no cure for “Georgie Porgie, puddin’ and pie / Kissed the girls and made them cry” because it’s all about controlling logically every which way. Even if we decide to be a “translator,” we can forget the body, Hélène; for it doesn’t take a hen or a cow to use abstract bully rooster logic, as Aristotle puts it in his History of Animals, “when a cock is not forthcoming.”

Now believe it, or not, this post is really about something positive. I’ve got to stop blogging for a bit, to get on with this dissertation. You know where you are, and who, and what this all must and can mean to you immediately. And I just wanted to say to you all goodbye for a while. To translate something for you with feminism and rhetoric, with some humble love and / or a kiss.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Aristotle Needs a Uterus

Husbands think we should know where everything is: like the uterus is a tracking device.

Men can read maps better than women. Because only the male mind could conceive of one inch equaling a hundred miles.

--Roseanne Barr

Roseanne, the tv character on Roseanne’s sitcom, was just kidding. Aristotle wasn’t.

Aristotle mapped out knowledge in a serious way. He’d study a subject, decide objectively what it is or what it then can not be, and place it on the map where nature coldly needs it to be. This way, he conceived of barbarians (as non-Greeks) one inch below Greeks, of slaves (as non-free) two inches below freemen, of unschooled people as three inches below the boys in his school, and of all females (non-males) as six inches below all males.

To get away with this, Aristotle also conceived of the uterus (which he called, in Greek, hysteria) as utterly irrational (or, in translation, “hysterically hysterical”). The uterus is naturally at least two feet below the head, and the head in males supplies the sperm through the spinal column to the testicles, where it must wait, which is why the naked gymnasium is so useful for the boys and men learning to fight civilly and to map naturally in school. It’s also why, he says with objectivity, men go bald but women don’t: too much brain and stuff in it.

So Aristotle, with the help of his teacher Plato, conceives of “speakerism” as several inches below naked-male map-mapping knowledge, which they call logic or dia-logic (remember how the sperm must flow “through”). Sophists (or hysteric wise guys like Isocrates and Gorgias) and poets (hysteric fiction writers like Homer and Heraclitus) are these low speakerists. The womanly speakeristic men, although they would speak Greek, would write it and would translate it too.

The result of speakerism (or what some translate as “speakerism”? You get Obamabastic results. Tyrants like Xerxes trick weak ill-logical hysterical men into surrendering their Greek cities. Hitlers and Musolinis and Hirohitos twist nature around and make barbarians believe that men who are Aryans and Italians (once again) and Nippons stand a few inches higher than Hellenes. Ashley Youmans become Ashley Alexandra Duprés or Kristens who is quite becoming naturally to men, including state governors who make their public and their wives and their children believe.

Speakerism is unfaithful to (dia)logic as sophists and poets and barbarian tyrants and women are to men.

But not so fast. Aristotle himself has a uterus; or at least he acts with hysteria.

Look at Aristotle’s own womanly rhetoric (his own speakerism) as he translates it into his Rhetoric. The opening line is a typical Aristotelian definition for his typical hierarchical knowledge map, or so it seems! Look again:

ἡ ῥητορική ἐστιν ἀντίστροφος τῃ̂ διαλεκτικη

Speakerism is a turn taking different from the “–ism” of talked-through definition.

When Aristotle writes “ἡ ῥητορική ἐστιν” (or “Speakerism is. . .”), he may really intend to define his term. But in fact he does not. Scholars debate what “ἀντίστροφος” is, and whether τῃ̂ διαλεκτικη really is “dialectic,” as if there’s any singularity at all in the use of these terms. But Sara J. Newman shows us that all of Aristotle’s “definitions” of “rhetoric” in the Rhetoric are not really logical definitions at all; they’re metaphors as don’t fit in dictionaries. The sentence just doesn’t fit on the male map. Okay, this is starting to get a little technical, but here’s your big question:

Why doesn’t Aristotle define his central terms when he writes about rhetoric (or speakerism)?

Notice how he continues by saying all people use speakerism just as much as they use logic. Now male translators through the centuries have wanted to map “all people” as “all men.” But that’s another story of men using Aristotelian dictionary knowledge mapping.

Aristotle quickly moves to something else. He complains: “In all the writings on the ‘art and science’ of communication—no one has mapped out even one thing about inner passion, which is like a logical syllogism in dialogic. And inner passion, you know, is the very body of beliefs.”

Here’s the trouble for men translating Aristotle in the past: Aristotle gets hysterical here. He forgets to define his central terms. So men mapping using Aristotle’s cartographical method have to turn them into English words like “enthymeme” and “pisteis.” And they define them. But they have to argue about the definitions because Aristotle forgot to make a dictionary and didn’t know how to edit the barbarian wikipedia.

But all women and men know that “inner passion” and “belief” are key. Which is why men around Aristotle hadn’t yet written about them, which led to his complain about them, and to his writing of the Rhetoric. My point? Aristotle had beliefs, had inner passion, and used speakerism as much as any hysterical woman with a uterus does.

Roseanne may joke about how different low class men are from their wives. Aristotle may write seriously about how high class Greeks types (all male in these superior ranks of course) are naturally different from females of all kinds. But our bodies (our penises and our uteruses) need not be blamed for our differences. My wife just this morning tells me how she hates frauds. I think she means many politicians, preachers, priestesses, prostitutes, princes and princesses. She also warns me, again, against my own tendencies to be controversial, to be arrogant, to cut others down with the knife of my critical thinking. So we need—men and women—all our intuition and all our intellect humbly together. We should watch for others pulling the wool over our naïve eyes, but we should also love.

When Motherpie asks me in a single paragraph (in comments in the last post), with her kind caring interest, if I believe the rumors and what Mary, Camille Anna Paglia, and Karen Armstrong have written, my answer is simply not a simple yes or no. She asks good questions, and so do they. You see what she’s doing? There’s nothing for Aristotle to be hysterically afraid of. Can’t I respond, with belief and with conviction and with logic, that I love Armstrong’s distinctions between “mythos” and “logos” but think she’s off her rocker with Robert Funk about their “Jesus” seminar? My inner passion, my tracking device and my map making keep me moving happily down the road.

We don’t need pure Aristotelian logic made somehow more pure without his womanly hysteria. Listen to my blogger friend Peter Kirk (in wonderful comment to another this week) to see how profound what we really need can be:

Are you suggesting [Peter asks himself straightforwardly or us rhetorically and rather parabolically] that God is analogous to an unfaithful spouse? Yes [is his answer and ours], if there are new data about how God deals with me, I take that into account and adjust my understanding of him accordingly. But no data can convince me that he does not exist. As for whether he loves me, I admit to sometimes struggling with certainty on this point, but I do know that his love is far deeper than I can ever understand, and therefore that no observation I can make, even one which might seem to show that he doesn't love me, can in fact demonstrate that.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Jesus was not a Christian

And he’s much more radically feminist than most Christians today. That includes Christians who are evangelical, Apostolic, Bible believing, and church going.

What marked beliefs and behaviors he has. There’s this care for human bodies, for looking on the inside, for interpreting the traditional Bible subjectively, for letting others translate all the important stuff.

His body is worn down and hungry one day as they have to travel through the dangerous land of bastards. He sends his apprentices off to find some fast food, and this woman shows up. To this very day, we still don’t know her name. But he’s a Jew and a Rabbi, which means he’s a man. Shouldn’t be talking to a woman, especially not alone, especially not a half breed woman, which means she’s a non-Jewess, who confesses she’s slept around a good bit and is in a relationship now with some guy she’s not married to. Since he’s approached her, the Rabbi I mean, she talks with him about trying to meet one of his physical needs (“thirst”), and he tells her she’s got it all backwards. When she believes him, she goes running off to the village to tell the mongrels in the town that this guy knows all about her (which means he knows something about them too). She’s good at piquing the men’s interest, and this time is no exception. This is all long before anyone had printed up one of those evangelical tracts or had published a gospel of John or had made a Jesus film. So she, being the very first evangelical, has to make up everything, which was fine with him in the first place. They all head back out to the suburbs to meet this guy and invite him home. Now, it’s a big “no no” for a Rabbi to cut through Samaria let alone to have dinner with any of the goyim-ish, with male gentiles let alone with women of any kind. But the apprentices’ kosher food doesn’t quite fill him up. So they just keep breaking rules, nervously at first. What starts happening is everybody starts changing. They all loosen up a good bit. The theological debates about who gets to worship God on the mountain fall flat. Accents mix. Life gets happy, and much more interesting for both the men and the women.

He’s ragged out again. Falls asleep in boats during the worst storms, and such. Tries to get alone with God every once and a while. People flock around him. He feels sorry for them, gut wrenching emotion. So he has his apprentices give them food, which he changes nature to do. Still, there are people pressing in. No surprise a Roman guy in uniform gets to him; the guy officially insists that they speak Latin (but he’s whispering something in Hebrew Aramaic on the side). Anyway, children and women get in to him too. There is this old women who can’t hide her bleeding. She wants to touch his body but settles on a little feel of the hem by his dusty feet. A big “no no,” touching a Rabbi I mean. So he calls her on it. Then he just melts, giving her the cure that no male gynecologist can. There’s also this Greek woman whose daughter has frequented one of those temples where the men get the little girls high on deities; now she can’t shake the habit, and the thing keeps giving her the shakes; so the desperate mother yells at him for help. Now here’s a public dilemma for a Rabbi. So he mutters something about the House of Israel and the mom tells him she’s just a hungry bitch of a dog. That does it. Just when we think he’s going to have her escorted off the premises, he makes a different kind of example of her. “Listen up everybody. If you’re a church goer especially. Now this is the kind of involuntary belief that will get you what you want from me.” So she gets what she wants. The little girl goes on to live a happier life as a woman. They all loosen up again. And the theological debates about who gets to worship God on the mountain fall flat. Languages mix. His apprentices think to themselves, “if we’re ever going to get published, looks like we’ll need to polish up on the Greek.” Life gets happy, and much more interesting for both the men and the women.

(Oh, when I first posted I meant to say this: There’s no debate over the death penalty, whether by stones or by sticks made into a cross. So some of the other Rabbis bring him a woman caught having an affair. They know the rules: she dies. He ignores the fact that it takes two to tango--that is, that adultery also requires an adulterer (the man) and that a trial also needs at least a couple of witnesses. He just bends his body over, sticks his finger in the dirt, writes something that they can read. To this day, we don't know what it was but the last time a hand wrote something mysterious on a wall the outcome wasn’t pleasant. It also required interpretation, and subjective interpretation at that. Anyway, they all end up fleeing the scene. Which means he’s more or less alone, again, with a loose woman. The Rabbi asks her where the prosecuting attorneys are? She doesn't know. The verdict? “Acquitted by the most Supreme Court of all. Now stay out of trouble.” Since nobody feels like debating anything anymore, because everybody is so glad they’re free and that they’ve got their own lives back, they all go home to party.)

He’s agreed to have a kosher lunch over at another Rabbi’s house. He’s hungry so why not? Everyone’s still following him, watching him. Then a woman comes and starts making a scene. They all suspect who she is because her silhouette’s recognizable in the shadows. And her perfume is pretty distinctive too. She pours some on his body and gets everything all wet with her undignified tears. She’s touching him. Throwing her hair on him, kissing him. Fine, it’s only his feet, but still. What’s interesting is what he does. Nothing. But what he says is this: “Reverend Pal, you should have done this for me when I came in. I’m your guest after all. Think of your floors and your maid if nothing else, man. I know real love and care when I see it. Back at you, Lady.” Now, I’m afraid to say, this whole episode ramps up the theological debates about who gets to worship God on the mountain. The talk goes into High Hebrew. His apprentices are really nervous now. And people are whispering things about a death wish. But the woman doesn’t forget any of it.

He’s dying now. Women are there watching the awful scene. The Greeks would call such baring of body “gymnastics” of the torturous kind, but the Roman men have things under control. It’s a multilingual, multicultural example. Too many lines crossed. And he’s still talking to women from up there, making sure his mother’s going to be okay, and his friends who’ve returned to the scene after hiding. Those women follow, taking their perfume and such. Crying still. A few days later, they see him first alive. Since it’s women who are there, he sends them off to get the men, off hiding again. They’re his first Apostles, the women I mean. The men will claim that title later, after theological debates rise again over who gets to worship God on the mountain. The men hope that will shut the women up, at least in church. They write a few things like that in Greek, remembering Eve first but forgetting Adam. They dust off the scrolls of Aristotle and find a nice way to know everything, including separate but unequal roles for men and women in nature from the Beginning. They have a hard time remembering the Rabbi’s care for human bodies, for looking on the inside, for interpreting the traditional Bible subjectively, for letting others translate all the important stuff. Miracles? Hyperbole? Too unorthodox. Too rhetorical. Too feminist. Too unfaithful to and deviant from the original text. So nobody needs to tell parables anymore.