Biblical No2

February 14, 2009

It seems that there are very few who follow religion to the letter and maybe that’s either the point or just a good thing. I certainly wouldn’t like today’s society if we all followed a literal translation of the Torah, be it an ‘Eye for an Eye’ or that you’re not meant to touch someone who is unclean. It would be a very frustrating way to live.

The thing about not touching someone who is unclean applies to both men and women and has to do with menstruation and shedding ones seed (male ejaculation). You’re not meant to touch a woman for seven days after she has menstruated which makes daily work a hard task. Just think about the last time you touched a woman in any way (hug, handshake, handing them something) and the chances of them having menstruated in the last seven days. Further, a male who has ejaculated in the last day is considered unclean, making touching most men probably a risky business. The punishment for this is that you are then unclean, presumably a sinner untill your next prayer when you are cleansed.

The Samaritans, the kind loving guys who appear in the parable of the good Samaritan, still live in Israel although there are only about 700 of them. They hold very strict literalist views on cleanliness and the female menstruation cycle. For seven days each month the females of the household have what is endearingly referred to as a ‘holiday from housework’. They have their own room with tv and refrigerator, they are not allowed really to interact with the men of the house except to help them prepare meals. This brings up another point actually, that men aren’t allowed to sit or touch anything that an unclean person has touched. So if the women of the Samaritans touch something, the men are not allowed to touch it. This is why they are not allowed to come out of their room and the men have to do everything.

What really intrigues me here, other than the fact that they have these bizarre rituals, is that the Samaritans of today put emphasis on this being a holiday for the women. It isn’t repression, even if it was at some point. It is now liberation.

The most powerful part of the story of the good Samaritan is that the Samaritan helps a Judean and the two hated each other. It tells us that even if you hate your neighbour for one thing, if he’s hurt and alone, you should help. The Samaritans have their own Bible and in fact their own Ten Commandments with just one difference: one of the commandments is to build an altar on Mount Garizim. It’s facinating to think that if we were all Samaritans then instead of having hundreds of people at the Wailing Wall every day you’d have hundreds of people not so far away at Mount Garizim. Every Passover the head male of each household of the Samaritans sacrifices a goat. Again, if we were all Samaritans then there would, every Passover, be hundreds maybe thousands of goat sacrifices but at Mount Garizim.

There’s a facinating thing about Jewish people and sacrifice which I will talk about in more depth next post.


Biblically No.1

February 8, 2009

I’m currently reading A.J.Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically and I’m also trying to improve my memory. The latter of the two is inspiried by the very sad and unfortunate situation that Terry Pratchett is currently in. For those who don’t know, and I’m pretty sure that everyone does know, but Terry Pratchett recently found out that he has Alzheimers and if you’re interested there’s a really rather good show he’s doing about his search for a cure. Go check it out on iPlayer.

Anyway, I want to write down some stuff about the bible thing I’m reading, interesting stuff, useless facts that you will no doubt never need, but if you find yourself in the odd situation of being on the crystal maze maybe you’ll thank me.

Fact One:
There are 613 Commandments in the bible and that doesn’t include all of the suggestions and parables that are written. These 613 were all given to Moses on top of the mountain which is why he was up there for forty days. Most of these are the Oral Laws which were given by Moses to the Israelites who gave them to their sons and daughters, etcetera. Not all Jews believe in these Oral laws, there is a sect of Jewdaism who call themselves the Karaites who do not believe in the Oral law and only what is written in the bible. Whereas other jewish people follow the Rabbis interpretations of these Oral Laws.

Examples of this are laws like not mixing Wool and Linen, which is very specific and easy to follow, however there are other laws like ‘an Eye for an Eye’ which is where Jewish people need interpretation from the Rabbis. It’s said that it doesn’t actually mean to take and Eye for and Eye, but instead ‘cash for an eye’, typically the attacker pays the victim the monetary value of an eye. Then there are weird laws like ‘You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of it’s mother’ which if you take literally seems very hard to break and almost stupid to state. However, the interpretation of this by Rabbis gives the Jewish people the law whereby they can’t mix milk and meat, thus, no cheeseburgers.

It’s an interesting area and one which is trackled a lot in this book. One of my favourite parts so far is where the author tries to follow the law about not making a graven image of anything on the earth or in the sea. Taken literally it means that when his son askes him to create a Car out of play-doe he instead creates a circle, when asked to create Nemo (becuase his son is a good little protoconsumer) he creates an oval.

It does however get him into trouble now and again, there are a few pages dedicated to how he reacts to touching women. It says in the bible that you are not to touch a woman who is going through her cycle for a week afterwards. This means that he can refrain and pull back from shaking hands and hugging women with the excuse that he might be committing a sin.

More to come, when I remember perhaps.

Daily Routines

January 28, 2009

Daily Routines is a blog “how writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days”. I really enjoy it as it gives me inspiration for how I should be spending my day, how much time I waste and gives me insight into what real people do with their day when they’re not at work (or in some of the cases, whilst they are working).

It inspires me to formulate a rigid attitude to creativity but at the same time I’m of the feeling that disorder creates creativity. Inspiration comes from clutter and randomness (trinkets on the desk, photos on the walls, models and paintings scattered about) and minimalism is what I imagine firms use to make sure their employees work every single minute of the day.

In the book Queuing for Beginners there’s a whole chapter on the Englishman’s working day, and it goes into length about different attitudes brought over from America. The small desks, clean/blank desks, crammed workspace and firms trying to get rid of watercoolers because of ‘watercooler talk’ (an actual myth, there is no such thing according to the book). What it came down to was that firms wanted minimalism so their employees didn’t get distracted, but this kind of behaviour lowers moral and enjoyment in work. If you instead let workers make their desk their own little home then moral boosts and people enjoy their work more, you never know, they might even stay at work longer.

Cormac McCarthy – The Road

January 28, 2009

I finished The Road last night and I must say I really really enjoyed it. It’s full of hope, toil, strife, love, pain and it’s written in a gripping and engaging way. By the end I really did feel like I couldn’t put it down till I had finished it, ending up sitting up till well past midnight reading, something I don’t think I’ve ever done.

It’s been made into a movie and should be out later this year and I’d recommend it to anyone. I always find it’s best not to know much about a book/film before you see it, so I’m not going to give anything away, just be warned, it’ll have a rollercoaster of a ride with your emotions.

The English

January 25, 2009

There are two books about the English that I really love, one I have just finished and the other I read quite a while ago. The was Watching the English by Kate Fox and I’d suggest anyone English reads it to get a sense of how obsurd we really are, a feeling of dread from some of the obsurd things we do and to just laugh at it all. I’d also suggest anyone foreign reads it as it’s going to shed a lot of light on why we’re such a bizarre set of peoples. From how and why we queue, to how and why we say sorry if someone else bumps into us. These are small things I’ve always wondered and was too English to ask (not really, but it goes :). The second is the one I’ve just finished and is called Queing for Beginners, it’s less for the foreigner looking to find out about the bizarre species known as the English and more for and English person who just wants to find out a bit more about our past and what makes us English. What’s the history of commuting, why do we give up our seats, when was the first time someone got into a fight because a youngster didn’t give up their seat (this last one is far earlier (early 20th century) than one would have imagined, what with us all complaining that the country is going to the dogs because the youth won’t give up their seats anymore). I don’t have any other books about the English on my list to read, but I look forward to finding some, at the moment my love is for books about Music, recently having bought Musicophilia and seeing lots of books like This is your brain on Music (I think it’s called).