Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Today is international translation day - words matter!

Thanks to Jane Stranz for letting us know; read more at Today is international translation day - words matter!

and, before you go, here are a couple of my favorite "daily" "bread" translations:

"Keep giving us tomorrow's bread today and do so on a daily basis"
--Gospel of Matthew (from the Lord's Prayer), trans. by Ann Nyland

"The Kingdom of the Father is like a woman. She took a little yeast. She buried it in dough. She made the dough into large bread loaves. Whoever has ears should listen!"
--Gospel of Thomas 96, trans. by April DeConick

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Blues or ראש השנה

Is this the New Year or just another night
Is this a new fear or just another fright?

Is this a new tear or just another desperation?

Is this the finger or just another fist?
Is this the kingdom or just a hit n' miss?
A misdirection, most of all this desperation

Is this what they call freedom?
Is this what you call pain?
Is this what they call discontented fame?

It'll be a day like this one
When the world caves in
When the world caves in
When the world caves in

I'm singing this one like a broken piece of glass
From broken arms an' broken noses in the back
Is this the New Year or just another desperation?

You're pushing till you're shoving
You bend until you break
Till you stand on the broken fields where our fathers lay

It'll be a day like this one
When the world caves in
When the world caves in
When the world caves in
When the world caves in
When the world caves in
When the world caves in

There's nothing here worth saving,
Is no one here at all?
Is there any net left that could break our fall?

It'll be a day like this one
When the sky falls down and the hungry and poor and deserted are found
Are you discontented? Have you been pushing hard?
Have you been through and down this broken house of cards?

It'll be a day like this one
When the world caves in
When the world caves in
When the world caves in

Is there nothing left now?
Nothing left to sing
Are there any left who haven't kissed the enemy?
Is this the New Year or just another desperation?

Just as I could find you, do the wicked never lose?
Is there any honest song to sing besides these blues?

And nothing is okay
Till the world caves in
Till the world caves in
Till the world caves in
Till the world caves in
Till the world caves in
Until the world caves in
Until the world caves in
Until the world caves in
Until the world caves in
Until the world caves in
Until the world caves in

UPDATE: Yesterday, with this post, I was trying something that Deborah Siegel succeeds at today. Today, at Girl with Pen, she posts "to share this eerie yet haunting song by Leonard Cohen....Terrifying." She makes this point: "Yet what I like about these holidays is that they are pretty much full of hope. The liturgy tends to emphasize human responsibility and the possibility for change."

mother of Matthew

So how do you read Matthew's gospel, if you're a woman? How, if you respect your mother?

Can we enumerate some of the problems, especially with the "Lord's Prayer"? Did you see Bob MacDonald's wonderful mention of maridly in a comment on an earlier post here? What translational problem is Bob getting at? What can it mean?

But what are other translational issues, if you're a woman? What, if you respect your mother?

Who is πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς? Who is our father, that one in the skies? Who's Matthew's father, and why don't any of the gospels say for sure that it's Alphaeus? Who is the father of this Joshua (aka Jesus, who is the "Lord" saying this prayer that Matthew translates)? Why does Matthew begin his gospel of Jesus listing men (i.e., fathers), when the ultimate father (i.e., Joseph) is not the father at all? And how come Matthew makes David "king" in that list of men? How is the prayer requesting a "father" to ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία, to "bring the kingdom?" Why does Matthew mention the father of the king Herod, and why does he have John the Baptist questioning his Jewish brothers about whether Abraham is their father? And why Greek, if Matthew doesn't know Aristotle or Homer and their fathers? And how different from his own mother tongue, and Jesus's mother tongue, if the latter is punning "the words 'father' (אבא, abba), 'Abraham' (אברהם, abraham) and the verb 'to do' (עבד, `abad)"?

But why these other translational issues, if you're a woman? Why, if you respect your mother?

Where is Matthew's mother tongue? Where is she, Matthew's mother? Is she Alphaeus's woman, the woman (i.e., the "wife") of father Clopas? Why is she not named, this other Mary, another Miriam?

How come Mary the mother of Jesus, Miriam the mother of Joshua, is not in the list of named men at the beginning of Matthew's gospel? Why do English translators mention "father" overtly if Matthew does not translate his mother tongue אבא (abba), πάτερ here in this list? Why does Matthew name women in this list of men as the ones ἐκ τῆς "out of whom the" males come? Why the father-seducing Tamar, whose namesake later was the victim of rape by her father's son, whose brother murdered him and then fathered his own daughter of the same name? Why the foreign whore Rahab? Why the foreign woman Ruth? Why the unnamed woman of the man named Uriah, whom the king father stole from and murdered dead?

Where is Joshua's (i.e., Jesus's) mother tongue? Doesn't it slip out and into Matthew's Greek translation? Doesn't it speak out "eli eli lama sabachthani" when he cries out on the cross, within earshot of his mother, Miriam? Why is she present there at the end, but not the father, not the one in the list at the beginning, and not the father at the beginning of the prayer, why, and why not, and where?

So how do you read Matthew's gospel, if you're a woman or a man? How can you translate across cultures and languages and millennia as if you are equal to all your very own answers about respecting mothers, your very own mother? How is she so unimportant, so silent and so silenced, so unequal?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Translating Greek Poetry in Translation

UPDATE: Wayne, whose post I link to immediately below, has been gracious. Clearly, there, he is calling for "the exercise of trying to put the Lord's Prayer into contemporary English" and yet I have brought up a number of tangential issues, including "questions of translation audience." Some of you replied. And now we're trying to keep Wayne's conversation there on track. Please feel free, if you want to have other conversation, to do so here.

And, as always, I'd appreciate any evaluation and criticism of what I've said at this blog. Below, I attempt translation.


Wayne Leman at Better Bibles Blog has re-translated the Lord's Prayer to suggest "how to pray in contemporary English." I've retranslated it below to suggest, rather, that the prayer is poetry.

Willis Barnstone, who has studied Greek poetry for some time, has translated the gospels too. He says, "...it is clear that one of the world’s major poets is and has been for two millennia Yeshua the Messiah. His pen was in the hands of others who recorded and translated his words into Greek"

"Matthew, the gospel with the most dialogue, anthologizes the diverse wisdom talk and prayers of Yeshua from the other gospels into the Sermon on the Mount, a string of poems that includes the psalm of the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew is mainly poetry."

Matthew is trying to convey the heart of the uttered prayer into written Greek (into the poetry of a Hellenist script). This does, eventually, help to cause "the spread of the gospel of Jesus" across the Roman empire; and in many ways writing in Greek is defiant of the elitist sexist Roman men who were trying to get everyone to use Latin.

Yeshua (aka Jesus) may be a poet who puns in Aramaic. For instance, some have suggested in his Aramaic there is "punning between the words 'father' (אבא, abba), 'Abraham' (אברהם, abraham) and the verb 'to do' (עבד, `abad)" so that his "conversation was actually conducted in Aramaic, but translated into Greek by the gospel writer." Here's an example:
John 8.39
They retorted and said to him:
"Our abba (father) is Abraham!"
Jesus says to them:
"If you are Abraham's children, `abad (do) as Abraham would `abad (do)!"
This example is important since the Lord's prayer starts with the perhaps scandalous idea in Jewish culture at the time that God is an "abba," a daddy, a papa, someone who's a parent who's intimate. The Greek translation by Matthew loses this scandal: the Greeks, of course, understood the gods and goddesses as their parents. Matthew wasn't necessarily trying to make dynamically equal the poetic oratory of Jesus and Matthew's written Greek version of that. He understood that language conveys culture.

One of my favorite translations of the Lord's Prayer shows how culture is conveyed in language. It is the Cherokee version by bilingual (Cherokee-English) speaker Elias Boudinot, published in the first bilingual newspaper in the U.S.  [Update below, a pic of that text reproduced:


So, without much commentary, I'm trying to show below the ways the Greek of Matthew is poetic. I'll only say that the personal pronouns are key (and my formatting below tries to show this some):

πάτερ ἡμῶν
ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς
ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου
ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου
ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς
τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν
τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν
καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν
τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν
ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς
τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν
καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς
εἰς πειρασμόν ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς
ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ ὅτι σοῦ
ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία
καὶ ἡ δύναμις
καὶ ἡ δόξα
εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας·

father of ours
that one in the skies
specialize that name of yours
send that kingdom of yours
birth that wish of yours
as in the sky on the ground
that bread of ours
that dailyness give us
and debtless make us
that obligation of ours
as also we
make debtless
the obligation of others
and do not guide us
into testing but rescue us
from that evil doer because of you
there is that kingdom
and that power
and that brilliance
into the ages.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

When I Get Honest

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and I get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Anglo-Saxon Protestant Heterosexual Men

Come, dear brothers
let us cheerfully acknowledge
that we are the last hope of the world,
for we have no excuses,
nobody to blame but ourselves.
Who is going to sit at our feet
and listen while we bewail
our historical sufferings? Who
will ever believe that we also
have wept in the night
with repressed longing to become
our real selves? Who will
stand forth and proclaim
that we have virtues and talents
peculiar to our category? Nobody,
and that is good. For here we are
at last with our real selves
in the real world. Therefore,
let us quiet our hearts, my brothers,
and settle down for a change
to picking up after ourselves
and a few centuries of honest work.

by Wendell Berry

Awaking the Dead Hebrew, Part IV

David Ker is learning Hebrew backwards. This post should be the last Part in that series here. So much was unsaid in the earlier three parts; I think we may have to go backwards to 1971, and earlier. Earlier, I think I suggested:
In Part IV, let's look at the Helen of Hellenism and hear how she learns language. Let's really do listen to Rahab (not) of the Hebrews and watch how she learns Hebrew backwards.
In 1971, there were women in Bombay learning English whose mothers spoke Marathi. Yasmin Lukmani went to their high school, listened to how they were motivated to learn, and looked at their test scores. She found that they 1) were using English as an instrument to access the Western world, and that they 2) were learning quite well despite the fact that they 3) weren't especially motivated to integrate into that Western world. The correlation she was able to establish (i.e., between 1 & 2) led her to publish an article in Language Learning: A Journal of Research in Language Studies.

Linguists in the Western world began to argue. First, they produced a slew of research articles trying to disprove (or to prove) what was seen as Lukmani's great findings: that an "instrumental" motivation for learning a second language was completely different from "integrative" motivation; that one motivation or the other correlated directly with success in learning; and that the "instrumental" motivation was the stronger predictor of measurable success.

Second, the binary "instrumental / integrative" seemed to fit in so well with the Chomskyan linguistic revolution just getting steam in the U.S. The Aristotelian binary joined with the other "either / or" attempts to abstract out "language / languages" even for women learning for their own reasons in Bombay.

But Yamuna Kachru says, "Hold on; not so fast." And, she writes this:
Observations and analyses in this laboratory [of World Englishes and not just U.K. or U.S.A. English] bring important SLA [second language "acquisition"] concepts and claims into focus and reveal cracks in theory-building.

For example, Mesthrie (1992), on the basis of his study of South African Indian English... observes: 'The New English data suggest that we are not dealing with discrete settings ('off' and 'on'; 'plus' or 'minus'; etc.), but with a continuum of settings. This makes the acquisition process more fuzzy and susceptible to social conditions than Universal Grammarians would allow'...

The world Englishes perspective has shown that concepts such as interlanguage (Selinker, 1992), fossilization (Selinker, 1992), input (Krashen, 1981), as currently formulated are of no relevance to indigenized varieties of English. Indian, Nigerian, or Singaporean English speakers follow the norms of their own varieties rather than the norms of American, Australian, or British English.

While theories of formal linguistics seek the most efficient representations of phrase and sentence structures and theories of bilingualism continue to grapple with basic questions such as how many grammars bilingual people have in their brains, the study of world Englishes reveals the research focus that may be brought about by tying data to theory, rather than the other way around. Consequently, questions of uses and functions of the language, rather than how it is acquired, come to the fore as the salient face of the inquiry. (page 81)
Did we hear that? "rather than the other way around"? Sounds like Ker's learning backwards.

So let's go backwards further, to Helen. Yes, I'm talking about Helen of Troy, Goddess, Princess, Whore, the very same person Bettany Hughes has written about. How unlikely that the mother of the Hellene mother tongue would be motivated to learn that barbarian language of the men of Troy! Hughes recalls the problem of Greek men:
When, in Ancient Greece, the rhetorician Gorgias stood up and delivered his 'Encomium of Helen' (a defence of Helen of Troy's indefensible character) - this was a great joke. How can you laud the most sluttish femme fatale of all time? But the rhetoric also got people thinking - maybe, just maybe the skilled speaker had a point.
So the Greek men, and we, ask "How can you laud the most sluttish femme fatale of all time" for learning a foreign language? What would motivate her? As if laughing, the man Gorgias writes:

πς ον χρ δίκαιον γήσασθαι τν τς λένης μμον,

τις ετ' ρασθεσα

ετε λόγ πεισθεσα

ετε βίᾳ ρπασθεσα

ετε π θείας νάγκη ναγκασθεσα

πραξεν πραξε, πάντως διαφεύγει τν ατίαν

For those of us not native speakers of Gorgias's Greek, Laurent Pernot summarizes:
Gorgias undertakes to excuse her by arguing that...she could only have done so for one of these four reasons: (1) she obeyed the gods' commands; (2) she was carried off by force; (3) she was persuaded by speech; (4) she succumbed to love.
We are back to motives. And to directions. For learning a language not our own, a language dead, if moribund to our own culture.

Men like Socrates, who taught Plato, would believe in 1) a dialogue that demands a give-and-take, between one's own position and another's, a kind of trans-position.

Men like Alexander, who was taught by Aristotle, would be convinced mainly 2) by force, by an im-position.

Men like Aristotle, who ultimately rejected the teachings of Socrates and Plato, would recommend only logic: 3) the language of "either / or" proposition.

Either of these three / or what's laughable. Either a man's centrism, his hard unyielding power, and his logic / or its opposite: extreme, soft, irrational love. Or is it opposite? Perhaps it's radically altered. Like an apposition (a non-position with respect to the positions of men; a grammatical appositive in which two side by side are different and the same in the same instance). So maybe it's backwards.

Is Ker motivated: 1) to obey a divine command (a mixing of heaven with earth, of Hebrew with English)? 2) to do something he absolutely has to (with no choice on his part)? 3) to listen to experts who reduce language and the Hebrew language to essential features?  Or?/and?

Since we've mentioned Hebrew, lets turn to the woman who had to learn it. To Rahab. Like Helen, a "most sluttish femme fatale" among men. Yes, I know, some will say she didn't have to learn Hebrew. She did fine in Jericho with the non-Jewish men, speaking with them. And those Jewish spies? Those guys were the ones who had to learn the language of Jericho; it's what spies do, right? So I'm asking why the "either / or"? The Trojan spies learned what Greek men liked, and Helen learned Trojan too. The Hebrew spies knew what the men in Jericho liked, and Rahab learned Hebrew too. The motives? Well, I think we may just want to ask the questions. Don't some motives allow people (men and women) to acquire, as if not really having to change their nature or their identities?

And what about this puzzler? What's this word? In Joshua 2, there's silence in the text, where Rahab speaks?


So many times in so places, she's learning Hebrew, speaking the language.

Helen having learned (of men, of love, of language) overhears. She translates:

καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῇ οἱ ἄνδρες Ἡ ψυχὴ ἡμῶν ἀνθ' ὑμῶν εἰς θάνατον. καὶ αὐτὴ εἶπεν Ὡς ἂν παραδῷ κύριος ὑμῖν τὴν πόλιν, ποιήσετε εἰς ἐμὲ ἔλεος καὶ ἀλήθειαν.

(see Joshua 2:14, the Hebrew, the Hellene;

notice Sir Lancelot Brenton's rendering the Hellene into English:

"And the men said to her, Our life for yours [even] to death: and she said, When the Lord shall have delivered the city to you, ye shall deal mercifully and truly with me."

and now Dr. Leonard J. Greenspoon's:

"And the men said to her, 'Our soul for yours unto death.' And she said, 'When the Lord hands over to you the city, you shall show me pity and truth.'"

Greenspoon says nothing in his commentary about how it is that the Greek language of some unknown translator forced by Alexander the Great's lackey king in Alexandria would let Rahab speak. In fact, I can't find a single commentary ever published by men that explains what motivates this translator who's learned Hellene and Hebrew and who lets Rahab speak.

See the traditional Hebrew text, and the traditional English translations, all of them here have Rahab silent. All let the men only speak. Are we surprised? Things are backwards here.)

When I agree with Ker (funny David Ker puning on the direction of the Hebrew text), I think he's on to something. It's not the "jug to mug model" of learning. It's something that will change him, that he will change. It's the kind of outsidergoingin learning that Helen and Rahab and Yasmin Lukmani and her students and Mary Sidney Herbert and Julia Evelina Smith and Ruth Behar and Mary Douglas have been doing. Backwards stuff, an awaking and an awakening of the dead language.

Slaves conquer the cotton fields, and that's OK with masters

What's wrong with this picture? Ever read a study biased by the conclusions of the researcher?

"Across all decision-making realms, it tilts to the woman," says Rich Morin, lead author of the study, being released today.

"We'd all like to believe we're moving toward gender equality — not just in the workplace but in the home," Morin says. "There's evidence that men are doing more around the house these days, but when it comes to absolute equality in decision-making, it's the exception, not the rule, in the typical American couple."

from Sharon Jayson, "Women rule the roost, and that's OK with men," USA TODAY.
(HT Kruse Kronicle)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Good Feminist," translating

here's some sort of related 'good samaritan' stuff:

1) some 1998 commentary from Dallas Willard, Ph.D., professional philosopher, author;

2) some 1st century translation (Hebrew-ish aramaic to imperial Greek) from Luke, M.D., professional physician, reporter-historiographer;

3) some 21st century translating (Luke's Greek to Yiddish-English) from Aristotle's feminist subject, yours truly.


1) [the bold below here is mine; and the bracketed things are my interruptions of the philosopher, Willard]:

Of course the words good Samaritan do not occur in the story. . . [T]hat phrase would have been what we call an “oxymoron”: a combination of words that makes no sense. For the Jews generally, at that time, we could say that “the only good Samaritan was a dead Samaritan.”...

In the United States, of course, he would tell us about the “good Iraqi,” “good Communist,” “good Muslim,” and so on. In some quarters it would have to be the good feminist or good homosexual...

[T]he aim of the popular teacher [at the] time was not to impart information, but to make a significant change in the lives of the hearers. Of course that may require an information transfer, but it is a peculiarly modern [and I add, “masculinist”] notion that the aim of teaching is to bring people to know things that may have no effect at all on their learners.

In our day learners usually think of themselves as containers of some sort, with purely passive space to be filled by the information the teacher possesses and wishes to transfer—the “from jug to mug model.” The teacher is to fill in empty parts of the receptacle with “truth” that may or may not later make some difference to the life of the one who has it. The teacher must get the information into them. We then “test” the patients to see if they “got it” by checking whether they can reproduce it in language rather than watching how they live. [Notice the lack of agency of the learner by this “masculinist” way of “teaching.” Notice the sexist nature of the metaphorical language in this paragraph.]


2) [the punctuation, italics, bold font, and line spacings are mine, not at all Luke's Greek, to show correspondence with the translating after 3 below]:

καὶ ἰδοὺ.

νομικός τις ἀνέστη ἐκπειράζων αὐτὸν.

λέγων: “διδάσκαλε τί ποιήσας ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω”

ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν: “ἐν τῷ νόμῳ τί γέγραπται πῶς ἀναγινώσκεις.”

ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν:

ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου,

ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου,

καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου,

καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ἰσχύϊ σου,

καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου;

καὶ τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν.”

εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ: “ὀρθῶς ἀπεκρίθης τοῦτο ποίει καὶ ζήσῃ.”

ὁ δὲθέλων δικαιῶσαι ἑαυτὸνεἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν: “καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον.”

ὑπολαβὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν:

ἄνθρωπός τις κατέβαινεν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Ἰεριχὼ. καὶ λῃσταῖς περιέπεσεν οἳ καὶ ἐκδύσαντες αὐτὸν καὶ πληγὰς ἐπιθέντες ἀπῆλθον ἀφέντες ἡμιθανῆ

κατὰ συγκυρίαν δὲ ἱερεύς τις κατέβαινεν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἐκείνῃ.

καὶ ἰδὼν: αὐτὸν ἀντιπαρῆλθεν.

ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Λευίτης γενόμενος κατὰ τὸν τόπον ἐλθὼν

καὶ ἰδὼν: ἀντιπαρῆλθεν.

Σαμαρίτης δέ τις ὁδεύων ἦλθεν κατ' αὐτὸν καὶ ἰδὼν ἐσπλαγχνίσθη καὶ προσελθὼν κατέδησεν τὰ τραύματα αὐτοῦ ἐπιχέων ἔλαιον καὶ οἶνον ἐπιβιβάσας δὲ αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ ἴδιον κτῆνος ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς πανδοχεῖον καὶ ἐπεμελήθη αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν αὔριον ἐκβαλὼν ἔδωκεν δύο δηνάρια τῷ πανδοχεῖ καὶ εἶπεν “ἐπιμελήθητι αὐτοῦ καὶ ὅ τι ἂν προσδαπανήσῃς ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ ἐπανέρχεσθαί με ἀποδώσω σοι.

τίς τούτων τῶν τριῶν πλησίον δοκεῖ σοι γεγονέναι τοῦ ἐμπεσόντος εἰς τοὺς λῃστάς.

ὁ δὲ εἶπεν ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔλεος μετ' αὐτοῦ.

εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς πορεύου καὶ σὺ ποίει ὁμοίως.


3) [This is the voice of the woman, that Greek-speaking woman whose mother was Greek but whose father was a Jew. The woman whose daughter had been up at the temple--no, not The Temple--where she got addicted to the spirits and they to her. The woman who begged Joshua, or whatever his name is (we never know her name). The woman's reading Luke's Greek aloud. It's not Joshua's Hebrew-aramaic. It sounds goyish; she sounds: English-Yiddish-ish, perhaps. Treyf, unkosher, an unclean taste in the mouth, perhaps]:

Look at that:

There’s a Toyre-Enforcer [Rules Enforcer] getting shtolts [uppity], testing him.

He states his case rhetorically: “Lerer [Teacher, Rev], What do I do to make the ebik my yerushe [the ageless life my entitlement]?”

“In the Toyre [the Rules of Torah], what’s written? How do you read it?”

He answers:

Balebos [Master], your own God,
out of your own heart, fully
in your own person, fully
in your own strength,
through your own thinking
; and
that shokhn [close associate] of yours as your very own self.”

“Straight answer. That’s what you do to make it, and to live on ebik.”

Now—the fellow desires Gerekhtikeyt [Lady Justice] for himself;—so he says this to that Joshua: “So what is this shokhn [close associate] of mine?”

Throwing such simple notions under the bus, that Joshua says:

“There’s this Ben-Odem [a mere human] going down from Yerusholayim [Jerusalem] to Jericho. He trips and falls down around bandits [gang bangers]; they—stripping him; beating, raping, leaving—dump him half toyt [dead].

As Balebos [Master] would have it, there’s this koyen [priest] going in the path down from Yerusholayim [Jerusalem].

Look at that: he’s going on the opposite side.

Same way with a Leyvi [a Levite]; as birth would have it, he’s leaving the place.

Look at that: he’s going on the opposite side.

Now there’s a half-goyish zoyne [a mongrel whore from the West Bank] going up the path where he is. She looks and her gederem [her stomach] retches. She goes over, bandages his gashes, pours on oil and wine. She puts him on her very own mule, carries him into a lodge, cares for him. On the next day, she takes out her tashngelt [two Roman coins] for the proprietor of the lodge. She says: “Care for him. What further costs there are, I myself, and just as soon as I get back, will repay you.”

So what is the shokhn? Of the three, what do you think is the shokhn of that one so unfortunate enough to be born, born only to fall into the gang of bandits?”

He says: “The maker of rakhmones [of mercy], the one who, to him, merakhem zayn [does mercy].”

That Joshua says to him: Same way to you: go, make, do.”


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Awaking the Dead Hebrew, Part III

Is this ever easy? I mean before I can even get to this part III of the series, David Ker is challenging whether language learning programs like the ones I try to run can succeed and whether English like I try to write it is grammatical. Last thing he said is, "Dang. I think this is about transitivity." (Did Shakespeare say, "Dang"?) I think Ker is still motivated to learn Hebrew backwards. Last thing Mike Aubrey said about that is, "what would be better is if they combined the linguistic stuff with the Greek & Hebrew stuff so that Biblical language study was more intuitive and acquisition-like."

Doesn't leave me much to say. I've got my Kenneth Croft Readings on English as a Second Language: For Teachers and Teacher Trainees right here, and my Wilhelm Gesenius Hebräisches u. Chaldäisches Handwörterbuch over there. All I can think is, "As old as these books are, why aren't they obsolete? Why isn't Aristotle obsolete for them too? And for Noam Chomsky? And Steven Krashen? And even for someone like Robert D. Van Valin, Jr. whose post-Chomsky RRG is 'motivated' by 'analysizing' and 'capturing' the 'interaction of syntax, semantics and pragmatics' of non-English languages so that one of RRG's 'distinctive features' can be 'the bidirectionality of the mapping between syntax and semantics'?"

That's a lot of mumbo jumbo, to use Ishmael Reed's crazy phrase (although he has different meanings that you have to learn). If you think this is an insider conversation, or an inside joke (maybe it is), then you might catch on soon. If you're catching on, then you see how limiting binaries can be, how stifling features are, how theoretically in abstraction (and how much of a pedantic choke-hold on practical stuff) some linguistics can be.

The thesis statement in this Part III is this: "Aristotelian linguistics is not too different from Aristotelian logic, which is not too different from Aristotle's silencing of females and of anyone who didn't acquire his kind of Greek." In Part IV, let's look at the Helen of Hellenism and hear how she learns language. Let's really do listen to Rahab (not) of the Hebrews and watch how she learns Hebrew backwards.

"Will the Real Feminist Please Stand Up?" Are you kidding?

Does Elizabeth Cady Stanton really stand for "Feminists for Life"?

Do the members of "feminists for Life" really stand against the "history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her" in which "He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself" and in which "He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God" so that "As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known"?

Has the John McCain campaign resolved, for Sarah Palin, "That the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to women an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce" and that "it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held"?

Have members of "Catholics for choice" been less feminist when resolving that "Keeping abortion legal isn't about liking abortion, . . . it's about trusting women to make decisions that are right for themselves and their families"?

Does a woman (or a man) deciding to stand up against or for another (whether a woman or man) require that the one deciding join, as some card-carrying member, a labeled group against or a labeled group for?

Will the sexists (the female-fearing, woman-hating, choice-and-voice-denying masculinists) just sit down, please?

HT Virginia Rutter, PhD, guest posting at Girl With Pen;
HT Charlotte living "Life as a (sometimes) reluctant academic," Far from Ole's


Should anyone be talking about Sarah Palin because it's sexist?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Woman" is another famous poser

"Woman" is another famous poser
For none can seriously contemplate
An American president or a German composer
In a viable context with the word for mate.
--Vladimir Nabokov

These are curious words from the Russian novelist-poet-translator, outsider to American culture. They're timely words, given Hillary Clinton's lost bid for the U.S. presidency and John McCain's choice in Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Jane Stranz posts Nabokov's entire poem, "Pity the Elderly Grey Translator." I think the Russian man understands American sexism in English, and is flaunting it as if he's not committing it himself. (He is.)

The opening lines go like this
(with impossible American references to the likes of the elderly McCain and chosen Palin;
how could Nabokov know?):

Pity the elderly gray translator
Who lends to beauty his hollow voice
And - choosing sometimes a second-rater -
Mimes the song-fellow of this choice.

This couplet shows a female as the male's traitor
(as if a Palin or a Clinton steals McCain's poetic thunder):

The incorruptible translator
Is betrayed by lady rime.

And Nebokov's evidence comes earlier
(in lines where masculinism seems
inherent in prostituted language):

It is not the head of the verse line that'll
Cause him trouble, nor is it the spine:
What he really minds is the cursed rattle
That must be found for the tail of the line.
Some words by nature are sort of singlish,
Others have harems of rimes. The word

Nabokov, in fact, may be speaking from experience. There are rumors of his sexism, translated out of what he perceived to be Lewis Carroll's. In 1923, Nabokov translated Alice in Wonderland into Russian, and some critics think his English novel Lolita of 1955 is some perverted translating of Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) as Humbert Humbert and of Carroll's Alice Liddell as Humbert's Dolores Haze. For the novel, Nabokov coins the English word, nymphet.

The Russian had been accustomed to coinages. The second page of a later edition of his first translation notes the faithfulness to Carroll with added creativity (although none of the sexism is revealed):
As might be expected, Nabokov’s version is not only accurate and faithful in the passages that are susceptible of straight translation, but also exceptionally imaginative whenever the English text features a pun, parody or other linguistic tour de force. For instance, the Russian name of the Mock Turtle is Chepupakha, a conflation of cherepakha (tortoise) and chepukha (nonsense). When the Mock Turtle substitutes “Reeling and Writhing” for “Reading and Writing,” Nabokov has chesat’ i pitat’ (combing and feeding) instead of chitat’ i pistat’ (reading and writing). In place of “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!” Nabokov transmutes a native Russian children’s rhyme, but in all the other verse passages he seems to be adapting Carroll’s text as it stands in English. Once in a while his high spirits lead him into linguistic extravagance even where the English is normal. A striking example is his version of the first chapter title. “Down the Rabbit Hole” in the original, it emerges in Russian as Nyrok v krolich’ yu norku. Literally, on the face of it this reads “A Dive into the Rabbit Hole,” but the words chosen for “dive” and “hole” are also the Russian designations of two other animals: nyvok is a type of diving duck (its Latin generic name, Nyroca, is based on its Russian common name) and norka, a diminutive form of nora, “hole,” also means “mink.” Nyrok and norku are also amusingly similar in sound and appearance.
In 1964, Nabokov completed his most famous translation of Aleksandr Pushkin's Евгений Онегин, which he entitled Eugene Onegin.

With Pushkin's work, he was as rigid and as masculinist as many Bible translators are with God's. And he seems consistently insistent on faithfulness, though ranging between his creativity with Carroll and his textuality with Pushkin--a kind of progression from literary to literal, from dynamic equivalence to formal equivalence, his own answer to the translators' wars: translate either one way or the other, but never fail the original text.

(He was much different, perhaps hypocritically so, with taking his own Russian works into English or even his English back into Russian. Marice Friedberg notes:
Interestingly, in translating his own work Nabokov avoided both extremes. He did not anglicize a Russian narrative or russify an English one; in many cases he inserted explanations into the translated text or substituted a reference from the culture of the target language for the original reference. It is possible, of course, that Nabokov regarded his self-translations not as translations at all, but as similar works by the same author, which he thus felt free to rewrite. Still, the contrast between these and his earlier free renditions of Lewis Carroll and Pushkin is quite striking.
Not translations? Or translational kindnesses to his own works that he won't afford to Carroll or to Pushkin?)

Jane Grayson quotes Nabokov as famously saying with respect to his modern(istic) translation of Pushkin: "I want translation with copious footnotes, footnotes reaching up like skyscrapers to the top of this or that page so as to leave only the gleam of one textual line between commentary and eternity." Willis Barnstone repeats this statement, calling him "[t]he most intractable of the anti-translators." Ruben Brower quotes Nabokov as saying, "In my translation [of Pushkin's novel] I have sacrificed to total accuracy and completeness of meaning every element of form save the iambic rhythm, the retention of which assisted rather than impaired fidelity."

And then, as if to show he can flaunt rhythm (his own lady rime; No, his harems of rime), Nabokov nastily writes another translator's poem, "On Translating Eugene Onegin." Here are the ending lines:

Elusive Pushkin! Persevering,
I still pick up Tatiana's earring,
Still travel with your sullen rake.
I find another man's mistake,
I analyze alliterations
That grace your feasts and haunt the great
Fourth stanza of your Canto Eight.
This is my task--a poet's patience
And scholastic passion blent:
Dove-droppings on your monument.

Lest he hasn't spoiled it for you Russian readers already, Nabokov on page 134 of his commentary of his translation of Pushkin's novel in verse gives away "Tatiana": "The code name for Elizaveta Vorontsov was 'Tatiana'—Pushkin's heroine."

As we think about Nabokov as a translator, then, we ask Who's the famous poser?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Awaking the Dead Hebrew, Part II

David Ker has a plan: "I’m going to learn Hebrew backwards."

And in this post, I have an opportunity, the opportunity to continue an earlier post "Awaking the Dead Hebrew, Part I."

What I really want to say is this: how linguists think of "language" really seems to determine what they think about how to "know" or to "learn" a language (like dead Hebrew).

(A while back, Mike Aubrey posted on "knowing" a language, which starts to descend from linguistics down into philosophy, and further down into epistemology. How do you know, or know that you know? So now I'm trying to get back to my claim that What you think you know language is sort of spells out How you think you can come to know a particular language. I'm going to postpone that a little by suggesting an add-on to the thesis and by telling some stories. The add-on is this: Generally, male linguists (which are most of them), as early as Aristotle, think of language as something that inherently belongs, by nature, to them--something at which they are deeply competent / something for which they are not blamed if their performance is imperfect; something acquired / not learned. Mike, in comments on Part I, wants me to acknowledge Joan Bresnan's work. So, now the stories. First, against charges that Noam Chomsky's a "traditionalist, . . . an old-fashioned patriarch [who. . . ] never really understood what the feminist movement was all about," Chomsky claims he hired Bresnan and Donca Steriade, according to biographer Robert Franklin Barsky. Maybe this was Mike's point, but I'm not so sure Bresnan has been a good Chomskian, like Steven Krashen has been. Seems like Steriade found her way back to MIT, but from her publications, did not find her way back to Chomsky. Second, women and men can participate in Aristotelian or Platonic--i.e., traditionalist masculinist--linguistics; and most do.

Last week, I had lunch with a Ph.D. in Linguistics who's a native English speaker who's been a student of Japanese in Japan and a user of French in the U.S. and in France, confessing "after a decade in French, I still don't know how to get the writing style right"; and with a Ph.D. in Physics from a U.S. university who's a native speaker of Japanese, confessing "I don't know how to speak English properly, exactly." To make them feel better, I cracked a joke in Japanese, which they both laughed at politely--laughed at, because my Japanese is really funny stuff since I don't know it well; and politely, because I hadn't made fun of her French or his English. During dessert, we talked about my "knowing" dead ancient Greek and Hebrew, but neither asked how. They were more interested in how one of my teachers, who had learned more directly from Tommy Wildcat, gave me some pointers on awaking nearly-dead Cherokee from the now-dead Elias Boudinot / Ga-li-ga-na? Watie).

I'm not sure anyone ever asked Mary Sidney Herbert or Julia Evelina Smith how they awoke dead Hebrew (although their translating is good proof that they did, and here's some blogging on the translating by Sidney and Smith).

I do understand that Ruth Behar is "somebody who understood displacement from an early age" who learned Hebrew (as she had to learn her anthropology that breaks your heart) by "displacing" herself "to try to understand another" by "coming from the outside. . . while trying to become an insider." Behar's father, who reads the Torah, is not speaking to her; she calls it, "A nightmare: Seventy-five translated women are burning in the flames. And there my name, the name I took from my father, is burning too" (page 71).

I am fascinated to read how Mary Douglas starts in awaking dead Hebrew, saying: "It will be painful and a failure." Some time back, I shared this fascination with you, saying:

Douglas is "going to change Hebrew by learning it. Of course, she must change too."

You remember, I went on to conjecture more, saying:
1. There’s no law that tells her What she must learn to “learn” Hebrew.
2. There’s no enforcement officer forcing her to Do certain drills or exercises a certain way.
3. There’s not even a living speaker of ancient Hebrew to negotiate with her various meanings.
4. Rather, there is a good bit of listening, hypothesizing, observing, reading, did I say guessing, failing, and hurting she must do. She may listen to texts and she may read living and dead experts. But she cannot stay the same person and still learn Hebrew. The how requires adult human conversion to one profound degree or another.
Let me backtrack again to the thesis statement of this post: how linguists think of "language" really seems to determine what they think about how to "know" or to "learn" a language (like dead Hebrew).

Mary Sidney Herbert and Julia Evelina Smith and Ruth Behar and Mary Douglas think of language (even dead Hebrew) much differently from linguists such as Noam Chomsky and Steven Krashen.

Such linguists think of language as this abstract thing. At least, it's an abstractable thing. Hebrew of the Bible, for example, is what's written in the Bible. At least, to begin with, it's אָלֶף-בֵּית עִבְרִי or אלפבית. Especially if you're a man (and not a woman such as Mary Sidney Herbert or Julia Evelina Smith or Ruth Behar or Mary Douglas), you don't really have to change. You don't really have to go from the outside in because you're already an insider. (I'm running out of time to say more, or motivation to make this clear just yet. So Part III is coming soon enough. I suppose I may say something about Rahab, who had to learn [not acquire] the language of men, including the Hebrew of some of them. I do think Ker's on to something useful; more then soon enough.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Glass Ceiling Show-&-Tell

[from various sources, click and see:]

"And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons…"
--Barack Obama

"...2008! ...women still only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. When you break it down, the facts get more dismal: African-American women make 63 cents and Latinas make 52 ..."
--Louisa Warren, Writer, The Progressive Pulse

"This cartoon is also (inadvertently) an interesting illustration of something I think a lot of people get wrong about the proverbial "glass ceiling." The glass ceiling is a metaphor for the idea that women as a group are prevented by sexism and other gender-related factors from rising to the upper echelons of politics, science, business, you name it. (I'd actually argue there's one glass ceiling for white women, and another, harder-to-crack glass ceiling for women of color.) It is not something that can be busted by the achievements of one single woman."
--Ann Friedman, Editor, Writer, Television Commentator

Sexual discrimination was outlawed in the United States through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the hopes of allowing women to rise in the working world once proper experience has been achieved. Variations and related terms ("Glass Ceiling" wikipedia)

  • Bamboo Ceiling - The exclusion of Asian-Americans from executive and managerial roles on the basis of subjective factors such as "lack of leadership potential" or "inferior communication ability" where the East Asian-American candidate has superior objective credentials such as Ivy League credentials (in comparison to their white counterparts with only state university credentials). [15] For example, research shows that there are a decent number of partners at leading prestigious law firms in the United States who did not attend top notch law schools. However, you will seldom find an East Asian American partner of a leading law firms who did not attend a "T14" (Top 14 according to the US News ranking) law school.
  • Glass Closet - The exclusion of openly gay men and women from certain jobs, espescially in the media.
  • Glass elevator (or glass escalator) - The rapid promotion of men over women, especially into management, in female-dominated fields such as nursing.
  • Glass cliff - A situation wherein someone has been promoted into a risky, difficult job where the chances of failure are higher.
  • Celluloid ceiling, referring to the small number of women in top positions in Hollywood, as documented by Lauzen (2002) and others.
  • Sticky Floor - refers to women who are trapped in low-wage, low mobility jobs in state and local government.
  • Sticky Ladder - A term used to describe women's struggle to reach the top of the corporate ladder. This term describes the theory that women are not incapable of reaching the top; they just get "stuck" on the middle rungs of the ladder.

"The upshot for chief executives should be to move over to the ‘female’ side of management, whether you're a thoroughgoing left-brainer or a woman trying to manage ‘male’. Turns out, girls can do it better."
--Joanna L. Krotz, President and Founder of Muse2Muse Productions, Inc. and author

"Gotta go. My husband appears to be packing my bag, shredding my useless resume, and writing down some things I should say like, "Yes, of course I'm carrying a gun." He's a fast learner and supportive -- like Republican men."
--Dr. Kathleen Reardon in:

The Palin Glass Ceiling Bypass

Brokenness Owned: Cracks in the Code Words of Culture

[a bit more from Brennan Manning]:

I grew up in a lily-white neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, where code words in our Christian culture routinely included "nigger, spic, kike, wop, sheeny, faggot, swish, and queer." . . . it was the language of stereotype, the American shorthand still raging today--Willie Horton, law and order, welfare cheats--that whips up fear, ignorance, and votes and keeps discussion, dialogue, and minorities circumscribed.

Since my childhood, prejudice, bigotry, false beliefs, racist and homophobic feelings and attitudes have been programmed into the computer of my brain along with orthodox Christian beliefs. They are all defense mechanisms against loving.

The wounds of racism and homophobia from my childhood have not vanished through intellectual enlightenment and spiritual maturity. They are still in me, as complex and deep in my flesh as blood and nerves. I have borne them all my life with varying degrees of consciousness but always carefully, always with the most delicate consideration for the pain I would feel if I were somehow forced to acknowledge them. But now I am increasingly aware of the opposite compulsion. I want to know as fully and exactly as I can what the wounds are and how much I am suffering from them. And I want to be healed. I want to be free of the wounds myself, and I do not want to pass them on to my children.

I have tried to deny, ignore, or repress racist and homophobic prejudices as utterly unworthy of a minister of the gospel. Moreover, I felt that to acknowledge their existence would give them power. Ironically, denial and repression are in fact what gives them power.

The impostor starts to shrink only when he is acknowledged, embraced, and accepted. The self-acceptance that flows from embracing my core identity as Abba's child enables me to encounter my utter brokenness with uncompromising honesty and complete abandon to the mercy of God. As my friend Sister Barbara Fiand said, "Wholeness is brokenness owned and thereby healed."

Awaking the Dead Hebrew, Part I

My friend Linda speaks Hebrew with her kids everyday even though her mother tongue is American English and she grew up bilingual English / Indonesian. They live in Israel, where her husband, the kids' daddy, grew up. They only speak English when they have to.

The conventional wisdom about language learning is that kids do it so much more naturally than adults do post-puberty. "Linda's husband and kids acquired Hebrew. Linda had to get it differently, with much more of a struggle." But there are language theorists who believe (following Aristotle's logic) that language is innate and therefore naturally awakes in any adult as well as any child. Noam Chomsky with his binary "competence / performance" is one such theorist; and the proto-Chomskian Steven Krashen, likewise, has this logical separation "acquisition / learning."

The main problem with Chomsky's construct of language as innate competence that is awaked in performance is that he has to abstract just what "competence" looks like. All the world ever sees or hears is a person's sloppy writing or ever-imperfect speech. Krashen has to do the same thing; except he abstracts the ostensibly natural order of acquisition that should be monitored lest faulty learning gets in the way. What makes Chomsky's and Krashen's ideal Platonism so Aristotelian in reality is that Noam, Steven, and Aristotle all believe that language is the property of a homo sapien and not any other species of animal--Aristotle takes it a step further and says only members of the super race, the Athenian style Greek men, actually speak right and can write correctly; all the others are plant-like (such as females) or are like lesser animals (such as BarBarian men and the men who are Soloi, who mess up the Greek grammar).

Fascinatingly, ironically, even though Noam, Steven, and Aristotle say that this is all natural-born stuff, they feel like they have to write books on it and give lectures on it and teach it to their students who cannot acquire it so naturally as they have. (There are other ways of learning that these three men won't touch; I'll look at them in another post soon. Here's a quick peek at them for those of you who like to read ahead. I'll try to translate some of the ideas in the linked article in less academic English.)

For Linda's kids and husband, native speakers of Hebrew in Israel, there's this other thing: when they go to the museum in Jerusalem and try to read the ancient Hebrew scrolls, they become as non-native as she is. Sure, every one of them can more or less recognize the letters and pronounce them rather fluently. There's just this question of whether they really are awake to the now-dead language.

I say they can be more awake to ancient Hebrew, and that they can awaken it. In another post soon, I'll suggest some of the ways.

HT David Ker for getting us to think about "Learning Hebrew Backwards."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Strawberry, and (Blogger-like) Gaseousness

[another excerpt from Brennan Manning]:

[Too often I use] the gaseous language of the impostors who hide in evasions, equivocations, and obfuscations.

Several years ago, in the heyday of my impostor, I wrote a book review for a fellow impostor's first published work. I defended his prose style saying, "His floridities are merely orotundity. Nevertheless, his unremitting gaseousness has an organic fluidity and turgescence difficult to duplicate and oddly purgative for the reader." Whew.

I began a lecture on the eleventh step of the AA program with a story about a man in crisis who notices and eats a strawberry. I was emphasizing his ability to live in the present moment. Then I launched into what I considered to be a dazzling explanation of the step, an interpretation filled with profound ontological, theological, and spiritual insights.

Later, a woman approached the podium and said to me, "I loved your story about the strawberry." We agreed that one humble strawberry had more power than my pompous inanities.

The impostor's vocabulary abounds in puffy, colorless, and self-important words. Is it mere coincidence that the gospel lacks self-conscious, empty language? The Gospels contain no trace of junk words, jargon, or meaningful nonsense at all. Unharnessed and untamed, the impostor often sounds like a cross between William Faulkner and the Marx Brothers. His unctuous pronouncements and pontifications are a profusion of half-truths. Because he is master of disguise, he can easily slip into feigned humility, the attentive listener, the witty raconteur, the intellectual heavy, or the urbane inhabitant of the global village. The false self is skilled at the controlled openness that scrupulously avoids any significant self-disclosure.

Walker Percy captures this evasiveness in a chilling scene from his novel The Second Coming: "She spoke with the quietness of people after a storm which had drowned out their voices. What struck him was not sadness or remorse or pity but the wonder of it. How can it be? How can it happen that one day you are young, you marry, and then another day you come to yourself and your life has passed like a dream? They looked at each other curiously and wondered how they could have missed each other, lived in the same house all these years and passed in the hall like ghosts."

White Privilege and the Election

Remember "the racial dynamics at play in this presidential election."

A reminder from Courtney Martin.

Fleas and the Louse

Adam had em

Where'd this poem (the shortest in English ever) come from? It answers where fleas come from, says Ali.

But I want to know:

is this Adam or Shel Silverstein?
and where'd the first louse come from in our house? why's its family on my spouse? and in our hair as their lair? did my daughter and I get them there (in Oklahoma, hiking and camping)?

and how dare they fare so well now here in Texas
(and not in Arkansas, Hawaii, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Virginia where I'd lived months on end louse-less)!

Louse (says Eve)
from Spouse

and all Adam's children give us advice,
and this bugging image not so nice
(thankfully nice advice, for gone are those lice):

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Ordinary Self

[excerpts from Brennan Manning]:

The ordinary self is the extraordinary self--the inconspicuous nobody who shivers in the cold of winter and sweats in the heat of summer, who wakes up unreconciled to the new day, who sits back before a stack of pancakes, weaves through traffic, bangs around in the basement, shops in the supermarket, pulls weeds and rakes up the leaves, makes love and snowballs, flies kites and listens to the sound of rain on the roof.

While the impostor draws his [or her] identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness.

Mamma Mia

My mom celebrates her 70th birthday this month,

one of my mothers does.
To speak of her, and of my other mothers,
I mention my fathers first.

All of them, my fathers, are white
imposing their strong European names
upon their wives and sons and daughters,

upon my mothers
and brothers
and sisters, upon us.

They asked me to address them,
it was Father's Day during Mission Meeting.
I was to give a word, an MK token.

Hi, I said, I'm JK,
I'm a recovering missionaries' kid.
They laughed but don't acknowledge feminist ambiguities,

the work one does in recovering from,
in recovery of,
when secrets come out in safety.

My African American mother
passed away before the Fair Housing
Act was passed; "Nancy" not "negro," Papa.

My Vietnamese mother
died abandoned in a reeducation
camp when peace came, remember "Sister"?

My boarding school white mothers,
Edna, Liz, Ruth, then Mildred, like me,
graciously submitted, except for widow Mildred, then me.

Margarita had taught us her children to read
because she reads, has read for sixty some years this month.


When i was young
It seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees
Well they´d be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, oh playfully watching me
But then they sent me away
To teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible ,practical
And they showed me a world
Where i could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical

There are times when all the world´s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won´t you please, please tell me what we´ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who i am

Now watch what you say
Or they´ll be calling you a radical
A liberal, oh fanatical, criminal
Oh won´t you sign up your name
We´d like to feel you´re
Acceptable, respectable, oh presentable, a vegetable!

At night when all the world´s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won´t you please, please tell me what we've learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who i am, who i am, who i am.


Yeah, yeah

When I was a young skinny boy
My mama said to me
The world out there is hard and dirty
Mean as it wants to be
I know there's gonna be times
when you're down and out
So listen now kid
Listen now son
I'll tell you what it's all about

You gotta try to keep your
head above the water
That's what my mama told me
You gotta try to keep a step ahead of time
And even though you do
some things you shouldn't
ought to
Shouldn't ought to
If you love your brothers love
will come back to you
Love'll come back to you
Love'll come back to you
Love'll come back to you

Lived my life in so many ways
To find out who I am
Time's approaching
I really can say

Truly I understand
Got more livin' to do for myself
To run along now
Play along later
Stay up by the shelf
Sing it girls

Gotta try to keep your
head above the water
Yes you do yes you do
You gotta try to keep a step ahead of time
Even though you do some things
you shouldn't ought to
If you love your sisters, love
will come back to you
Love'll come back to you
Love'll come back to you

All the world is turnin' slow
Slowly it will die
But that is something I never will see
I don't know why
Tryin' to take the world the best I can
Write a bit now
Love a bit later
Stand up like a man
hey, hey

Gotta try to keep your
head above the water
Yes you do yes you do yes you do
Gotta try to keep a step ahead of time
Even though you do some things
you shouldn't ought to
Love your brothers and sisters,
love'll come back to you
Love'll come back to you
Love'll come back to you