Monday, March 28, 2016

leave the gun, take a book

Because, despite the Leviathan of Amazon, there are bookstores everywhere I go, I keep finding myself buying books. Just in the last week I've picked up Walter Pater's Maurius the Epicurean, Gertrude Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas, The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry, and three or four others I can't even bring to mind. So many books, so little time. Also, I am nearly finished with Dana's Two Years Before the Mast; I admit I've begun skimming to get past the last few months of Dana's time on the California coast. Despite the skimming, it's a worthwhile book to read. You can see how it influenced Jack London, Melville, etc. You can even see, if you crack open one of Bill Tilman's sailing books (Mischief Goes South, for example), the continuing influence of Dana's book. How does one write about the details of sailing a ship? The way Richard Henry Dana wrote. You could take pages from Three Years and swap them with pages from Mischief Goes South and do no damage to the books (though the sailing experts would wonder how a three-masted brig briefly became a sloop and vice versa).

Also, I'm eating home-baked gingerbread. It's not prosphora, but it's delicious. Khristos voskrene, brothers and sisters. If you think God wants you to murder infidels, you are mistaken.

17 comments:

  1. I sometimes wonder if Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims ought to be reading the Q'uran in hopes of understanding current events. But then I recall that history is filled with horrors committed in the name of religions and scriptures. Is any religion exempt from the murders? It is all very disturbing, isn't it. All this leads me to my most recent blog posting -- http://thewritersalmanac.blogspot.com/2016/03/death-is-now-my-neighbor-and-few-other.html -- which reminds me of one reason the crime, detective, and mystery fiction is so popular: there is a catharsis available to readers who can "experience" murder within fiction, and that purge can help readers cope with (or escape) terrible realities. Any thoughts about the genre?

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    1. Actually, if you look at the actual historical record, 90% of all wars have non-religious causes. So history is filled with horrors committed in the name of government, nationality, culture, etc. The violence of religion is one of the foundational myths of Western secular culture, though.

      I would claim further that murder is committed not by religions, but by specific individuals with particular motivations that are not generally shared within their professed faith. Again, this runs counter to commonplace ideas, but that doesn't worry me.

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    2. Yes, I said "actually" and "actual" in the same sentence. Blogger needs an edit tool for comments!

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    3. Scott, I make a distinction between wars (except for Crusades, for example) and other murderous horrors; yes, the numbers are higher in wars, but the incidents of murderous horror in the name of religion throughout history cannot be minimized merely on the basis of numbers. You and I probably could see eye to eye on some of this issue if we had a face to face conversation rather than having to limit ourselves to off the cuff keyboarding comments. And, yes, Blogger can be a pain in the ass; my faulty keyboarding bites me often, and Blogger remains painfully indifferent.

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    4. I would also make a distinction between violence done "in the name of religion" and violence done as an actual part of religious practice. Where are the people saying, "Christ said I should kill you, right here in the gospel of Matthew." No, they aren't there. There are people saying, "I declare that God is in favor of killing you," which is a different thing entirely. A nasty thing, but not religion. When America goes to war, it is always claimed that God is on our side. I have yet to hear God affirm that. Same goes for terrorists, grand inquisitors, etc. The violence of religion is one of the foundational myths of Western secular culture.

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    5. What I meant to say is, I'm not sure we would see eye to eye on any of this issue. I think we have fundamental (sorry) differences of opinion about what constitutes "religion."

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  2. You say, "I would also make a distinction between violence done "in the name of religion" and violence done as an actual part of religious practice" and I would agree. It is too bad that this discussion, which I think could benefit both of us, cannot continue effectively via Blogger. So, onward!

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    1. I'm just cranky today. People are making me cranky. Sorry.

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  3. I read Dana eons ago, in conjunction with Melville, and liked him very much. The "autobiography" of Toklas was amusing, as I recall from equally long eons ago.

    I'm with Mudpuddle, didn't say and not saying, though I think "Love one another" is a pretty good reply.

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  4. I should just refrain from speech about current events, or save it for the metaphorical backdrops of those novels of mine that are quietly tucked away in the privacy of my home. But I am tired of the the recent violence, and equally tired of this violence being held up as an example of The Way Organized Religion Has Conducted Itself Throughout History. The former is a horror, the latter is a lie. If I am anything like a decent person, the message of nonviolent love found in the Christian gospels has made me that person. The secular society which surrounds me have consistently tried to stifle that message of love and replace it with selfishness and aggression and the idea that violence is an acceptable problem-solving mechanism. I cannot help but to draw certain conclusions from this.

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  5. single handed sailing used to be an interest: joshua slocum's solo circumnavigation was the most amazing feat... what a guy! once when sailing with his family he was wrecked on the coast of brazil and stranded there for a year or so during which he built a new boat and they sailed home.

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    1. Sailing Alone Around the World is a great book. Tilman had crews of five or six, usually. Sometimes they mutinied against him.

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    2. my interest is sparked! i'll have to look him up!

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  6. the most amazing single-handed experience i remember reading about(although i don't remember the name of the book)was about a french national who was sailing in a hurricane off the northern brazilian coast and pitchpoled: meaning his boat flipped over and did a 360 degree turn; that would definitely curdle one's hash!!

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    1. Holy cats! How big was his boat?

      I've been reading a lot of sailing books lately, and I had no idea how common it was for the sea to wash over the decks completely, sweeping anything away that wasn't lashed down. Even bigger boats, whalers and other commercial vessels, were stood almost upright by big waves in the far south Atlantic, or were swamped when deeply-laden with cargo. No wonder it didn't matter if sailors could swim or not, in those seas, in that weather. A far cry from ma femme und ich in our canoe on Lake Washington!

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