Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Fire Next Time. II

The important part about the David Brooks flood column that commentators seem to have missed is asking, if Noah had such terrible leadership qualities—
What does Noah do now? Once again, Noah is silent. He does nothing. He sits in the ark for another seven days twiddling his thumbs. He is waiting for God’s permission to disembark.
—why did old JHWH pick him for the gig in the first place? I'm sure there must have been some much more suitable candidate.

Look at ingenious Greeks Deucalion and Pyrrha, who figured out how to broaden the gene pool for repopulating the earth after their flood (the Titaness Themis gave them the oracular advice to "throw your mother's bones behind you", so they threw stones—the bones of Mother Earth—over their shoulders and these turned into new people). Did Noah think of anything like that?

Deucalion and Pyrrha casting stones, from relief in the Labirint d'Horta, Barcelona, via Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Or alternatively, why would anybody look to the Tanach to supply them with ideal models of leadership?  It's not a political science treatise ffs.

And if willingness to argue with God is a good criterion of leadership—
Noah is a good man, but his story is a lesson in the dangers of blind obedience. The God of the Hebrew Bible wants respect for authority and deference to law. But He doesn’t want passive surrender
—what about Jonah? He was the most argumentative of them all, and he was a terrible leader, really the worst (also my favorite character, though I'm also very fond of David, whose leadership record is as implausibly mixed as Lyndon Johnson's).

Also, for the record,
Rabbi Sacks writes, “One of the strangest features of biblical Hebrew is that — despite the fact that the Torah contains 613 commands — there is no word for ‘obey.’ Instead the verb the Torah uses is shema/lishmoa, ‘to listen, hear, attend, understand, internalize, respond.’ So distinctive is this word that, in effect, the King James Bible had to invent an English equivalent, the word, ‘hearken.’”
Jim comments in yesterday's comments,
whoever translated the King James bible from the Hebrew didn't make up the verb hearken; it is a very old English word that comes from a proto-German root (Thx OED). Please do your research, DFB, before you make a fool out of yourself again. (Also, in the original image accompanying his Op/Ed, I do love the mermaid shampooing her hair and admiring herself in a hand mirror. Certainly more interesting than his scribbles.)
To which I replied,
I was drafting a long discussion of hark/hearken, obey (used in the Tyndale Bible) and hear (Wycliffe), with comparative notes on equivalents in Latin (udivi), French (obéi from Latin ob-audire), and Luther's German (gehorcht arrives on an etymological path identical to that of "hearken" but is always translated "obey") when Drifty posted and I decided to just go with the Shorter and go to work. Also I'm not here to criticize Rabbi Sacks--it's his mistake, not Brooks's--but he said they invented it "in effect" which is some kind of waffle way of admitting they didn't invent it, I think. The fact is that all the European languages were playing with relationships between hearing and obeying centuries before most of them became acquainted with the Hebrew Bible.
And finally,
People are still good at acting individually to tackle problems. Look at how many Houstonians leapt forth to care for their neighbors. But we have trouble with collective action, with building new institutions, or reviving old ones, that are big enough to deal with the biggest challenges.
Actually those Houstonians were working pretty collectively, coordinating efforts through social media, in ways that were small enough to function before government was able to get moving (which it eventually did, to good effect). Hmm, collective action, collectively building big enough institutions new or old, sounds like some of that GOVERNMENT to me. Just sayin.

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