Monday, April 16, 2007

Being Home, Red Meat, Joshua Bell, Mystery Men and Knowing God

New Word Hotel, Saigon - figurines
Agent Orange, back from the land of stomach-shrinking food, where the days were marked by a porcelain figurine beside your pillow every night, like (intro: gas-canister of emo-ness) so many notches in a prison cell.

Rawr! Steak
First few days on the island homeland were spent prodding at steaks and bowls of steaming hot velvety beef stew and chunky oxtail soup before conceding defeat a quarter of the way through, leaving the heap of mashed potatoes-in-attendance to stand about morosely. My dining companions, suspicious of such uncustomary display of masticatory bashfulness, have taken to launching themselves across the table and shaking me by the shoulders, crying,"Who are you? What have you done to the real [Shadow]?

Well, it's the same life in which the same God's at work, God the Eternal Constant. But somewhere, a subtle shift, a Neo-and-the-black-cat hiccup in the rolling fabric of luminous green 1s and 0s.

In any case.

Back in Singapore in time for:
the tail end of the Joshua Bell and the Subway Commuters Saga involving Josh and The Gibson and a handsome reportoire of J.S. Bach's Chaconne, Partita No. 2 in D Minor; Franz Schubert's Ave Maria; Manuel Ponce's Estrellita; Jules Massenet's Thais: Meditation etc (full audio here), rush-hour commuters hardly batting an eyelid (or unplugging a earhole) and The Washington Post gleefully titling its report Pearls Before Breakfast, prancing about on an aesthetic high horse, brandishing Kant, Hume and Leibniz and pontificating about art requiring frames; and

Sanxingdui Bronze Mask
the last day of the "Mystery Men" exhibition at the Asian Civilisation Museum: artifacts from excavations in Sanxingdui ( 三星堆, Three Star Mound) (and also Jinsha), Sichuan, China. Most of the artifacts on display were bronze. (Cowry shells from the south China coastline and elephant tusks from Southeast Asia were also unearthed.) The scarcity of contemporaneous Neolithic and early Bronze Age writings on Sanxingdui and the dearth of knowledgeable old men to tap on the shoulder and say,"Mate, is that mask supposed to be Stitch or Spock?" meant that there was alot of guessing going on. (Ancient history's mostly guesstimate, it seems. Always an archaeological discovery waiting to be unearthed below someone's fallow farmland to rewrite history as previously guesstimated.)

Interesting how some of the expert guesses (assumedly untainted by the experts' own culture) approximate biblical history:
The Tree of Life (img)
Dating from about 1200BCE were 3 bronze trees, one of them 4 metres high. A dragon/serpent intertwines the branches.

Speculation is that this represents a Tree of Life. In Chinese artifactology, carvings of a Tree of Life typically depicted a bird and a dragon, the dragon representing immortality. Journey to the West, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, features a tree that produces a peach every three thousand years and gives immortality to anyone who eats of it. I expect a few other ancient cultures had a similar Tree of Life thing going.

Some creationists have taken the less-trodden route of suggesting that the Sanxingdui bronze tree actually represents the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and that the people of Sanxingdui are descended from the Chaldeans, Abram's folks.

Still, very Genesis (first book of Bible, not cobwebbed rockers).

Bridging the Divide Between Heaven and Earth (img)
Shamans were people through whom there was legitimate access to the divine.

Chinese writings apparently record that around 500BCE, the Chu emperor, King Zhao, was browsing an ancient Shu (whose capital is now thought to be Sanxingdui) edict dated around 1100BCE, ordering that communication between heaven and earth was to be severed. Asking around his imperial court, he was told of the myth behind this curious edict: in ancient times (the irony. What would the good King Zhao have said to us in the present peering at him, frozen in history by words, in the more recently antiquated past?), there was a separation between the divine and human/profane spheres. Only qualified shamans were allowed to bridge the chasm between two spheres. However, some humans took it upon themselves to perform the shamanistic rituals and attempt to access the divine themselves, bringing great disaster upon the country. The edict was meant to restore everything to its proper order.

The shamanic stuff is very Aaronic priesthood and this probably holds true for religious whatnots in most cultures?

Interesting though it may be to suppose that this depiction or that myth all hail from the One True Story told to us in the Bible, the ebb and flow of the latest fad in archaeological trends (Chinese characters reflecting biblical doctrine, evidence for a worldwide flood, several discoveries of Noah's ark) does not affect faith which is grounded, really, on the word of God in the Bible.

Knowledge that the Bible is God's only definitive revelation hailing from none other than the Bible itself a bit circular? Definitely! A terrible logical fallacy? Certainly, by a logician's definition.

But every worldview rests on an ultimate, unquestioned, self-authenticating starting point. Consider the logician's epistemology - why is rationality, as defined, the ultimate criterion for truth?

And if, in reality, the Bible alone is God's definitive word then where else would you be told the truth of this the Bible.

(True, most humans conduct their daily lives with empiricism and evidentialism as our handmaidens and find that them handmaidens do fair work. The Bible doesn't fail in regard to empiricism and evidentialism either, being authenticated (as far as any history can be authenticated) by contemporaneous records, archaeological evidence and tight internal consistency.

However, empiricism and evidentialism glimpse the truth but dimly and shakily.)

Funky museum exhibits may suggest the blindness of humans everywhere without God since the Fall, yet a yearning and groping about to know this same God and order their lives under him. It is God himself who must stoop to reveal himself to puny sightless humans. His word therefore can be the only thing that holds ultimate truth-value.

To know God and to be known by him: dead brilliant.


At April 20, 2007 3:24 pm , Anonymous g said...

some working trips are about real work.....some working trips are little more than free vacations ..... working trip or no i just wanna get out of this damn country! i don't know where i'd go but i'm ok for almost anywhere else....

At April 22, 2007 7:53 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i cannes agree


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