Rescripting some myths (Notice everything)
Oedipus (a communication failure)
I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) had a lot of text here about Oedipus, which can now be found at: DeadMaterial.html#Oed. Make one change to the Œdipus story and I propose it changes everything. I am uncertain what these consequent changes would be, but just do it and figure them out for yourself: The very instant Œdipus learns of the prophesy, he stops whatever he is doing and immediately orders a t-shirt which he wears, exposed to public view, 24/7/365.25. He never removes the t-shirt or hides it under other clothes. He buys extras to use when one wears out or has to be washed.
Not all myths are from ancient peoples. I believe there is an O. Henry story (1905CE) about a male who shows his
love for a female by selling his gold watch to buy her an ornament for her hair, while, in parallel, the female sells her long hair to buy an ornament for the male's watch. Similar to Œdipus, this is an instance of massively destructive communication failure: Had
the two confided their intentions to each other before acting on them, they could have both savored their
ethereal love and also retained their worldly treasures, instead of
lamenting enjoying their overarching
curse blessing in commiseration. ("You, jerk, are a spoil-sport and a kill-joy! You would make life
meaningless for everybody! Satan get thee hence!" "Thank you for the high compliment, Sir/Madam. I
appreciate the honor of being dubbed a kill-joy,
just so long as you do not try to effect 'consequences', your Second Amendment rights or other, upon me.")
There is a broader issue here: altruism. If do unto others as you would have them do unto you, if each person sacrificed themself for another, everybody would self-destruct (self-sacrifice) and no good would be done for anyone because there would no longer be anyone to benefit. How about this instead: For each person, get your own human needs met and then have so much to be grateful for that you will want to give back your surplus of blessedness to benefit others? That would be a win-win, and everyone would be elevated. I have quoted a magisterial statement by psychoanalyst Melanie Klein on this point elsewhere: here.
The parents of the two characters in this O'Henry story are indicted in The Hague on the charge of brainwashing children (aka: sentimentality). How do they plead? Not guilty, by reason of themselves having been childreared (ref.: Alice Miller's books, passim; a variant of insanity defense).
A long time ago in a city that much later would probably be ravaged by United States President (POTUS №43) George W. Bush's obsession to get tyrant Saddam Hussein's head on a plate so he, a prodigal son, could earn his father's blessing -- but that's a different story}}. A long time ago there was a convocation of master builders who got together and decided they wanted to establish a communication link with their G-d. They "wanted to make a name for themselves", which would qualify them as peer interlocutors with the One Who Already Had made a name for Himself.
They did not aim to overthrow or kill Him (which would have been irrational, since they knew He was omnipotent). They only wanted to do what the classical Greeks did around the same historical period:
"...to have substituted for the magical communion of species and the confusion of distinct orders a spiritual relation in which beings remain at their post but communicate among themselves will have been the imperishable merit of the 'admirable Greek people,' and the very institution of philosophy." (Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, p. 48)
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:1-4)
The master builders worked out a plan, made their blueprints and got to work (Aside: in the U.S.A., during World War II, the effort to build the B-29 Superfortress bomber was more costly and perhaps more complex than the Manhattan project to create "the bomb". "We live in fame or go down in flame... Nothing can stop The Army Air Corps." Was Curtis LeMay a war criminal or saver of many Japanese lives or both?).
Note also that the biblical story does not say: master builders got together and hired a bunch of zeks to build a tower for them, like industrial revolution England, 20th century capitalist America and Russian so-called "communism", et al. would later do. No. The story says that the master builders built their tower with their own hands. It was an exercise in peer communication/civilization, not exploitation of many by a few. This seems to me a noble endeavor.
In any case, as the master builders made progress on their engineering project, their G-d got wind that something was up on planet earth, and He took a look. (Unlike He did with Job, He did not invite his bosom buddy Satan to join in this time. He did it all by His Ownsome.) He did not like what He saw. Maybe He was so paranoid that He misread the master builders' intentions? But even had they been so foolish as to try to overthrow Him, since they were finite mortals and He was Omnipotent, they could not have caused Him any real trouble, and He could gently and respectfully have restrained them: "Gentlemen, please stop what you are doing because I don't like it. Leave off building your tower and please get back to studying about Me in your yeshiva." That's all it would have taken. (And that might already have initiated the conversation so that the Tower would have become superfluous?)
But G-d did not do this. Whether or not He understood the master builders intentions, He threw an omnipotence fit and messed up all their minds, so that their ability to communicate among themselves was killed and their project aborted. Thus ends the story of the Tower of Babel.
But not quite the end. I read somewhere, reference very sadly lost!, that "God reigns in sorrow". Well, didn't He ask for it at Babel? Mortals were going to invite Him into a peer conversation but He blew the opportunity to not be alone. I think He reaped what He sowed. That, for me, was the disaster along with here on earth for thousands of years after and continuing to the present day, the sorrow and the pity of which Elsa Morante wrote: "...and history continues".
G-d f-cked it up for everybody. But, who knows? Maybe even had the master builders at Babel been able to finish their project and open their communication link with their G-d, and even if G-d had joined as a peer interlocutor into the wholesome fun (equality of discourse does not require equality of horsepower), maybe mankind would still have blown it, and in 20th/21st century CE we would still have post-modernist Robert Venturi persons-demeaning architecture ("das Arschloch des Abendlandes" before DJT) instead of Louis Kahn students' (e.g. Mario Botta) humanistic works everywhere? (If push comes to shove, better Paul Rudolf's George Crawford Manor than Venturi's Guild House, even though I once got a Letter to the Editor published in the New York Times proposing that architect/Yale Professor Rudolph died of lung cancer due to the asbestos in his Yale Art and Architecture Building.) What do you think, my reader?
What does "...so that we make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered..." mean?
The story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible is very short, approximately 86 words. Therefore there is an hermeneutical challenge here. I propose: A name is a handle for organizing appearances (ref. Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason"). Do animals experience objects without language? What is animals' (e.g., a cat's) experience like? I will not further pursue this line of inquiry here.
And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. (Genesis 2:19)
I here want to note that, in the story of The Garden of Eden, G-d assigns Adam to name all the animals (see right). How about the following: Without names, what exists [whatever that means] would not be experienced as "synthetic unities" but rather would only as scattered appearances [whatever that would "be" or less-than-be]. Might the project of building the Tower mean: The builders wanted to organize their doings into a unified concept: "civil society", and, to do this, they had to give it/themselves a name, and with that name they would enter into the world (i.e. experience/the living present) as peers with all other named entities, e.g., their G-d. Having a name they, as a city (Greek: polis) would thereby be able to enter into a conversation with all other naming/named beings, e.g., their G-d. Think of any old meeting where nobody knows anybody else. If the persons do not wear nametags it is chaotic and uncomfortable. With nametags, there is order and interaction among the persons proceeds much better.
Of course, "making a name for themselves" can also mean doing shining deeds which get associated with them, so that when they enter the conversation, they come with "credentials", achievements, etc., so that their voice carries more weight, auctoritas, than "just anybody". But I see nothing wrong with that, either, since, as Sophocles wrote, man can achieve everything except immortality. G-d will always have bigger credentials and achievements (Item: He made everything). In sports, medals are also awarded and champions crowned in classes lighter than heavyweight ("What did you do, cat?" "I chased away a dog that was attacking a small boy." "You get a seat at our table, cat.").
Thus we get back to my thesis that The Tower of Babel was a project the master builders -- i.e., we ourselves -- undertook/undertake to initiate a universal peer conversation, including, should He choose to enter it, their G-d. And, if He so chooses, He will not be alone and will not reign in sorrow, for we will be with Him (see the ending of Hermann Broch's "The Sleepwalkers"). He will not be alone, at least for a while, for He made men (and women) mortal.
The Tower of Babel in the 21st Century CE
I find it curious. Today we have ground based electromagnetic radiation transmitters and receivers of the highest power that do not need to be more than maybe a couple hundred feet high. Yet architects seem hellbent (hell is below the earth, not above it) on building ever taller "skyscrapers", often in twisted shapes as if trying to show the public that a build that looks like itt's going to fall over can still stand up. Structural engineers have to do something to earn their paychecks and this is what they get to work on. Are they panting for even more willful stress? Even the word "skyscraper" is aggressive, as if the buildings want to remove the sky's old layers of paint? Or harvest it's bark? But I have figured out a benefit of all this: If you make a building tall enough, you will no longer need to design in fire escapes for the upper floors: just provide enough parachutes for everybody to jump to safety.
On the side of The Deity: Is G-d busy elsewhere, and not noticing what's going on here? Has G-d grown up and now realizes that these silly people trying to poke at Him (Her, Other) are no more a threat to Him (Her, Other) than a seven year old with a wooden sword is to a bunch of army soldiers in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle with backups and air support?
What's the point? To make challenges for Controlled Demolition Incorporated (CDI) some day in the 2200's? What goes up must come down. The higher they stand the harder they fall. The Master Builders at The Tower oif Babel just had bricks and mortar, and they did not have radio. They did their best with the technology they had. Bravo for them! In my opinion, the physicists at CERN (the Superconducting Supercollider) and the astronomers using Hubble (the space telescope) are being far more true to the spirit of the Babelonians than fashionista architects who get off on using their freehand drawing skills or Cad-Cam to decorate sheds, and design Ducks. They can buy loudspeakers from North Korea and mount them at the top of the buildings and have them "Quack!" into the air.
If you want to offend God, take God to court in The Hague; The annals of the testimony of victims would be meaningful even if the trial itself would not be useful, because you cannot carry out a sentence against a defendant found guilty in absentia. But I think these architects do not care about ethics, only, like Elon Musk and other perma-adolesceent boy techies, what gee-whiz app they can create to deploy advanced technology without any interest in what use it might have or not have for people. "Oh? How could civilization survive even a day without Twitter?" Not small songbirds, but mini-emails to "foolowers" (I meant: followers), i.e., people who are not leading their lives. Dr. Joseph Goebbels might have liked Twitter.
There is also the story of Abraham. G-d decided to sit down for cocktails at the Harvard or Yale Club with his bosom buddy Satan and the two made a little gentlemanly bet -- no, that was Job. Back to Abraham: G-d, sort of like the Catholic Church Inquisition was later wont to do, decided to test Abraham. G-d commanded him [Abraham] to murder his son. Abraham passed the test but G-d had the decency to cut the experiment short before the poor little boy would have prematurely met his Maker.
I see two crimes here: (1) G-d should not have tested Abraham that way. That's GPU / Stasi / CIA / etc. stuff, unworthy of Omnipotent transparency. But (2) Abraham flunked the test of being fully and honorifically human (in the 21st Century CE, United States Republican senators would fail a similar test from their less-than omnipotent Deity). Abraham could have responded to his G-d: "G-d, Sir, as a commissioned officer in the human species (rank: Patriarch), I respectfully submit that I cannot obey your unlawful order. Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. You will do with me what You will. I apologize to You, who I know made me and everything else. But I will not be a traitor." Who knows what would have happened after that? It certainly would have taken "guts" on the part of "our boy". In our time, the Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff has stood up to his (POTUS №45) rTump (albeit even had (POTUS №45) Trump fired him he would probably still get his pension and lecture fees and a consulting gig somewhere -- unless (POTUS №45) Trump tried to get him tried for treason, i.e., disloyalty to (POTUS №45) Trump). What do you think, here, my reader?
In the matter of Job
One fine afternoon in Heaven, G-d sat down down for cocktails at the Harvard (or was it the Yale?) Club with his bosom buddy Satan, and Satan proposed a little gentlemanly bet, say, to pay the bar bill for the day: Satan called G-d's attention to the righteous man, Job, and bet that they could make Job curse G-d if they tormented Job sufficiently. G-d liked the little experiment, and said to Satan that it was a deal. So poor righteous mortal Job got tested.
Unlike the Biblical story, this Job wasn't having any part of it. Just in time before he lost all his worldly goods, Job hired a lawyer. He petitioned for a restraining order, and sued for punitive damages for theft, mental cruelty and other felonies. Ah, my reader, you are right if you here think: But what court could Job appeal to, since G-d is the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of All Creation, and He is immune from indictment so long as He holds this office, which of course, is forever? I agree with you. And so this rehabilition of the myth of Job ends here, with poor Job no longer disposing over the means to be righteous, covered with boils and in other ways afflicted. Sancho Panza said: There is no pain to which death does not bring an end. Question: Who won the gentlemen's bet?
Adam and Evil
I had not thought about reconstructing the Story of Adam and Eve/Evil, but a Wikipedia search for who was the interviewer on "Witness to yesterday" (a TV program with interviews of interesting dead persons) sent me to Steve Allen and there I found the wonderful above quote. Steve Allen not an ordinary suburban lawn-mower Christian? Another example of how I was deprived in my childrearing of what was good in America at the time (1950's) -- a childrearing that taught me there was nothing worth anything (with a very few exceptions; one thing I was deprived of was the ability to much appreciate anything even if it was good). Also note that by "Eve/Evil" I am not implying that Adam's incestuous wife did anything wrong (nor that Adam and Eve's relationship was in any way wrong -- their Deity set them up). I am simply connecting the Deity with Evil. The Deity mistreated His creations (Adam and Eve).
Artists and craftspersons do not generally deface their work (in the present case, Deity kicking Adam and Eve out of The Garden of Eden, et sequelae) unless they are frustrated about something. What else could the Creator of All Things be frustrated about except Himself? Ah! The story of Adam and Eve is yet another invisible elephant in the room, which normative ethno-childrearing causes persons to not see.
Some Spanish I almost understand
Ave María: Dios te Salve María, llena eres de Gracia, el Señor esté contigo, bendita eres entre todas las mujeres y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre, Jesús. Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega Señora por nosotros los pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte. [Especially in the current time of Covid-19 pandemic.]
Áve María, grátia pléna, Dóminus técum. Benedícta tū in muliéribus, et benedíctus frúctus véntris túi, Iésus.
Sáncta María, Máter Déi, óra pro nóbis peccatóribus, nunc et in hóra mórtis nóstrae. Ámen. [Ditto supra.]
Let us go over all this again
What's the lesson(s) to be learned from all these myths? I think that our entire heritage of symbolic forms and symbols themselves needs to be seen/constantly reappropriated as a vast semiotic smorgasbord for individual/shared education and play (a place to study). "Take what you like and leave the rest."(Al-Anon dictum)
Maybe there is or maybe there is not a Santa Claus, but, in any case, we can consider him as semiotic raw material. Ah! We are adults and we do not believe in Santa Claus! What about circumcision, you august European/American university educated adult ladies and gentlemen?
The problems in/with the myths is that persons are childreared (or even: college educated!) into what -- I just love this diagnosis -- Wilfred Bion called shared hallucinoses aka social psychoses aka social customs. All social customs, be they evil or good -- FGM or Congressional Medals of Honor -- need to be ever again revisited and reappropriated (or done away with, etc.) because they are all just accidents of fate.
If an abolitionist had exited the birth canal in South Carolina, he might well have become a slave holder. Douglas MacArthur's CMH? I seem to have read that he was given it as a PR move to avert public discouragement after he [MacArthur] had botched managing the U.S. Phillipine contingent before the Japanese attacked at the start of the Pacific War (World War II). In June 2020, people seem to be fawning over the Reverend Al Sharpton. OK, but let us remember Tawana Brawley holed up in her garbage can [Correction: it was a garbage bag, not can] -- if that isn't a piece of semiosis, what is? Oscar the Grouch lived in a trash can, but he was a good guy and also fiction and he didn't lie to get innocent folks arrested for putting him there. Reflection is the accident that overcomes accidentality. Reflection lets the cat out of the bag. Meow!
"Was man made for the Sabbath, or was the Sabbath made for man?" That is the question. I vote for the
latter, for Matisse luxe, calme et volupté, not "Dulce et decorum est" and hurry up and get your gas masks on, boys! Been there, done that (ok, just "prep school"). I personally don't like it. Come out in the open,
all ye believers in miserating social customs! Fess up and admit you are the real killjoys,
and not only put us out of your misery but also get healthy and yourselves enjoy what time you have left
on this side of the ground while you still have some! "But we have been mutilated ourselves and we
are no longer capable of pleasure." That's genuinely unfortunate. Yes, you
executioners are victims too. So, I speculate, also was Adolf Eichmann, and, for sure,
Adolf Hitler, in whose childhood home the father mistreated everybody except the family's dog.
Maybe science and philosophy (psychoanalysis,
reconstructive surgery, etc.) can help you. We can try in our work/free time. Again, my reader,
what do you think? And, again again, thank you for