"The Bible says that God hurt people if they married foreigners. There is a bias against Canaanites … the biblical storytellers hated the Canaanites, because [they] didn't believe in God," says Avraham Malamat, historian/biblical scholar, in Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler.
Safe and warm in the comfort of Clobber Landing, I am vicariously walking the Bible, the five books of Moses, reading the above-mentioned book. Travel Books: the original virtual reality experience.*
To that end, I'm only half-curious in discovering, testing or potentially jettisoning any currently held personal religious beliefs.
I took to the pages, in part, believing and wondering; I had several questions. For example, do any of the parochial biblical stories have actual historical roots or universal application? How many of those ancient writings are fables, guides, moral compasses that are in desperate need of revising for a modern world? How many biblical tales, one by one, will fall into the dustbin of history, if they haven't already?
Thus, my reading was more research than redemption. In that regard, I have almost finished retelling my new version of the story on what happened to Cain after he slew Abel. You never know, with redheads, what they'll do.
In tandem, with the above, a few years ago, while sitting in the waiting room of an Intensive Care Unit awaiting the fate of a loved one, I picked up a copy of the National Geographic. Therein there was a story about an archaeological dig and discovery of some ancient civilization in Africa. The pictures of the skeletons, the pieces of bones, like ghosts, jumped off the pages and came alive for me. In that moment, I became fascinated with Archeology, with History. So near to family, with one member uncomfortably dancing along the fragile line o'er which lay death, that ancient civilization, those families, became my own, in the future. We will all be lost to time, lost in time: bones under water; secrets in the sky.
Since, I've become more intrigued by the roots of our universal family tree, moving ever backward, ever forward, from 'Hava Nagila' to 'Homo Naledi'; from walking the song lines of the Australian aborigines to sailing with the sea-farers of the South Pacific whose navigational skills were based solely on the stars, the moon, the water, the original GPS system.
What became of the people who lived on Easter Island? As we find exoplanets, which may contain some form of life, I'm hoping for a colony of clowns. I envision travelling to Mars and other planets in our own solar system. Are we delusional that we'll beat it out of here in time, off our own little blue dot island before our environment collapses and is unable to support human life?
Studying the past can guide the future. In Walking the Bible, the author searches for the archaeological evidence; the papyrus, places and people mentioned in the Bible. At time, though, it appears some of the diggings are more than a search for 'homeland' and 'roots,' but a justification as well for expansion into occupied territories and increasing new Jewish settlements in the West Bank; a revised version of This Land is My Land and only my land, but that is another topic for another time.
The need to get closer to old bones as mine fossilize and decay? Well, as Agatha Christie, another writer who was actually married to a relatively famous Archeologist, once said, "the great thing about being married to an archeologist is the older you get, the more he loves you." That’s sweet.
History, for me, has become more than a listing of the dead British Kings and Queens foisted upon us in high school, when we were young and couldn't have given a rat's ass about Nero or Napoleon; all those British Hanks and German tanks. We were here to make history not wallow in it. Get out the protest signs; toss off them bras. We were out to change the world, build the true New Jerusalem, and live happily ever after with Melanie and Donovan in some Octopus's Garden while our kids danced to 'Baby Beluga.’
There came a time of course when eventually the revolutionary feminists among us changed the name 'history' to 'herstory', much to the consternation of the raw meat-eating masculine word derivation police, who completely missed the point.
Then, well, you know. You've lived it. You're still living it. You reach a point when you realize that history is still hard at it or we're still hard at history, searching the entrails of our own lived times. History uncovers and changes things, as much or more so than evolution, and in particular through the discoveries of archeology and related sciences.
History, to be sure, doesn't change, per se. Unless you're Marty McFly or H G Wells, there's no going back in time in real time. Events of the past don't change; they're static; gone. What changes are new facts uncovered under the dirty linen or shrouds surrounding any event, or series of events, and thus also our perceptions or points of view, sometimes with dramatic effects. History, however, does move through time into the future in a different way; it breeds and shapes us.
We are not born innocent little rubbery tabula rasa-cals. We are mysterious replicated ancients porting genetic bare-boned blueprints of our ancestors, past cultures. We are what we eat but also what are ancestors ate and where, and under what circumstances, including where we stood on the socio-political food chain.
No matter whence our alma mater, the original Legos, proteins, out basic building blocks, formed not in a faraway galaxy, but before there were galaxies. I'm talking The Big Bang baby! Kaboom.
We are 'stardust.' Although one should probably take the wiser more mundane scientific geological analysis route in defining that word, than perhaps go chasing some tribal ritual by fire with a bunch of yuppie yahoos dancing naked under a full moon or sunrise, at Stonehenge. Though that may bring pleasure and comfort and draw one closer to the mystery of it all. Heck, I'm all for vibrating cosmic strings and the concept of consciousness being at the heart of it all. Going with that flow is better than sticking your finger in a light socket.
In any case, we do come from ashes and go back to dust. And if God exists and created life ex nihilo, thus, the original magician, then we also come into the real world with a touch from the heavenly father-mother's cosmic garment, even if harbouring some divine sparks that the absented-minded creator lost and which turned into evil, or sin, or whatever. God, there are many weird religious theories out there! It’s best to stick to facts and watch 'Jeopardy.’
Whether or not a God made a mountain out of a molehill or an Adam out of a hundred pounds of clay is completely unclear. I'll leave that for each of you to pontificate on while watching the sunset o'er your own Stonehenge.
Now, the one problem with neglecting history and your ancestors, is that old curse, that if left to itself, if left to dry-up and be forgotten, it is bound to repeat itself,. So, woe is me for not heeding its lessons or all that'll be left of us will be those weird haunting stone statues on Eastern Island looking out on an uncaring sea, Watson the computer, a few cockroaches, Keith Richards and the Kardashians.
That brings us full-circle back to the quote written at the beginning of this piece.
It stopped me in my existential track shoes. The Bible may be a spurious source of history, written and rewritten, over the centuries, by 'scholars' as well as other meddling ne'er-do-wells, with an agenda. Still, modern day 'preachers' and their flock of 'believers' still heed that fear of the Canaanites, the foreigner, whom in some countries, which will remain nameless, are referred to even in their law books as 'aliens.' We don't have to go to Mars to find aliens; they're already here apparently.
In today's crippled world, it is the Syrian Refugees and others, that is, all others, who are the modern Canaanites. It used to be there was a communist under every bed. Then there was the 'yellow peril,' and then the domino effect; then an 'invasion' from Nicaraguans or Cuba. Now there's a Muslim terrorist at every airport and, for some of the more unhinged nut-bars, obviously not enough Jews killed in concentration camps during Dubya Dubya 2.
It is truly a new War of the Worlds. All that's missing is the radio narration by Orson Wells, though Rush Limbaugh and Steve Bannon, aka 'the Joker' of Trump Tower, may suffice. All we need to figure out is who are the real aliens, aka "bad dudes"?
I can't recall the reference, now, but there is an ancient civilization, recently discovered, that baffled the scientists, for it had no discernible temple, no obvious prayer meeting place. Everything about the construction of the village or town implied that there were no Trump Towers hovering over shantytown huts made of tin. Was it an early Kibbutz or Ashram?
One stupid misguided fish sported legs, crawled, out the sea muck, onto land, and evolved into our precursors but he or she is our fish! Those gills are our relatives. "In the beginning was the word and the word was God" or "and the word and every word consisted of A, G, C, T; the four and only basic elements in all DNA.
Get a grip people! God hurts people if they marry foreigners! Who is fucking with whom here!
Okay, last time I left Cain, I had him propped up on the other side of the Bodhi Tree where Buddha sat, taking notes. Now, what of this then about Joseph and a coat of many colours; hmmm, a rainbow, a rainbow coalition might work, eh.
Okay so I'm nuts, or as a close friend recently said, "You're funny and ridiculous." So be it.
Life has a funny way of making one look at the meaning of life from time-to-time, especially when you get a few grey hairs and history or 'herstory' or 'yourstory' is just the ancient glue that informs about the you that has always been you. What's in your closet? Keep on digging; keep writing your own life story.
Please note: no animals injured during the preparation of this piece, though imbibing of a few adult beverages took place.
Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.
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