Yellow, the color of sunshine, hope, and happiness, and, as this is Easter Sunday, a sign that He is Risen.
If I think I am, am I?
The subject came up this morning when Oz’s daughter tried to quote scripture. ” ‘You are as you thinketh,’ Jesus said,” she said.
Looking it up, Oz found this:
Jesus says in Mark 7:15-16, “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” Jesus is explaining that we are what we think. Proverbs 23:7 backs Him up: “For as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he.”
This is a good shout out for the theory of positive thinking. So, get rid of that stinkin’ thinkin’.
Et si tu le fais bien et vite, tu comprends francais.
Has Oz mentioned that his grandmother was French? Oh, there is so little we know of each other, but then, very little we know of ourselves.
“Tout bien ou rien.”
I think I got this from John Muir in his dedication of the book On National Parks, 1901. He got it elsewhere, though where, I don’t know. The sentiment is surely an old one.
I translate it as all is well or nothing. That is literal. Somewhat like the English, All or nothing, but not quite.
Some translations give it as, Do your best or not at all. That works too. If that is the case it is like the Flemish, Als Ik Kan, literally, as I can, and figuratively, to the best of my abilities.
The French phrase, tout bien ou rien, contains opposites, all or nothing, polar extremes, it is good or it is not. Shakespeare likde this form of “simplespeak”. It is ambiguous and clear, depending on the intended purpose of the speaker. One is afraid to argue for seeming the fool.
Ambiguity is a fact of life. It puts one in trouble and keeps us out of trouble. Just ask any politician, who has to explain contrary positions to opposing sides.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Ludwig Wittgenstein.
I cannot fly
but I can see
I cannot be a butterfly,
But if I eat
a caterpillar, or two, or three
Will I, can I, would I
have butterflies in my stomach?
Would I feel light, would it be right
Would I be airy, like a fairy
Or just sick to my stomach?
One of the first jokes I learned as child goes like this:
Q: Why did the little boy go to the kitchen window and throw the butter out?
A: He wanted to see the butter fly.
Wittengenstein speaks to the nonsensical attempt to understand purely mental concepts like color. Green, blue, red, and yellow are purely mental constructs. We cannot represent them as absolutes, but rather as categories that only can be understood over a broad range. Or not at all if one is blind.
Humor is our acknowledgement of the futility of imposing absolutes to any word. Paradoxes are punny and puns are paradoxical. We see both, understand that both cannot be true and yet they are.
Two more butterfly jokes:
Q: Why wouldn’t the butterfly go to the dance? A: It was a moth ball.
Q: Who is the king of the insects? A: The Monarch!
Oh, to listen, to hear, I think it queer I speak and no one hears. It is no better than to talk to my dog, but at least he’ll sit and stay, even if he knows not why. Then again, he must think me strange, that I cannot talk as he. To me, his growl seems quite rough, his language quite complex, yet quite simple, if only I would take the time to listen and hear.
Just like us, dogs talk through body signals and barks and emotion rises or falls with pitch or volume. Like us, love is expressed best in a look, a lick, a nuzzle when we need it most.
Oz had a glass of wine, which got him thinking about the Oscars, translation, understanding, and Chinese poetry.
Lost in Translation, one of my favorite movies, written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Insert Oscar shout out here for female writer-directors. The 2003 Indie movie stars Bill Murray as an aging actor Bob Harris, who befriends college graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in a Tokyo hotel. The romantic comedy-drama plays out on many levels while the couple film a Japanese whiskey commercial.
Bring in the Wine, eighth century Chinese poet, Cen Can (aka Cen Shen and Cen Jiuzhou) commiseration about getting old and getting drunk with old friends. The Chinese characters are 將進酒 Jiāng Jìn Jiǔ, which must have been a mouthful if one was already drunk. Kind of like saying, “rubber baby buggy bumpers,” which makes no sense, but it is still fun to say.
You know, we are not so different, Japanese, American, Chinese, then and now… A little whiskey, some wine makes it easier to get along. And the hell with getting lost.
Tuesday, I am leaving Oz and flying to Atlanta with Martin Luther.
Flying time is just over two hours, which gives me little time learn about this fascinating man of faith and letters. While in Atlanta for three days, I will find snippets of time in the early morning and late evening to read Eric Metaxas’ Martin Luther: the man who rediscovered God….
This is unfair to a holy man of God, but work creates its limitations on pleasure. And Martin Luther was a man who worked much and suffered for it.
Never talk politics or religion, my mother advised me, and never speak of both. Martin Luther spoke of religion, and tried to avoid politics, but one is always forced to choose. Erasmus did, though he would have preferred to stay on the side lines observing and commenting, but not committing himself.
Martin Luther had no qualms about where he stood on religion and famously said in April of 1521:
“Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me, Amen!”
“My conscience is captive to the word of God,” Luther explained. “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” His remarks to the so-called theologians and politicians at the Diet of Worms put forth the idea of man’s own ability to read and interpret the Bible.
This earth rattling idea made Martin Luther the first existentialist of the modern era.
I say modern era because Gutenberg printing press had thrust Europe and the world into the information age, the precursor to our own digital age. I say Luther was the first existentialist because he had the temerity to challenge the pope and state on matters of belief.
Every Man a Priest
Every man a priest he said.
He would walk back this idea in time as he realized the many “false” interpretations of scripture that man was capable of. He also chose to become an instrument of state and recognize the value of submission to authority. Anarchy was the only other choice.
Amazingly, his idea took hold. Not without centuries of religious conflict, not without heretical burnings, wars, and murders, all fought in the name of God, an irony he recognized. An irony that we still live with and perhaps always will.
Sorry, John Lennon.
Luther’s idea of personal responsibility would in time become the bedrock of the American political experience, expressed eloquently by Thomas Jefferson, All men are created equal and endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights, those being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Freedom of thought is liberating, it is daunting, it is challenging. It is the existentialist’s mantra.
It is your choice.
Which is why I find it ironic that Martin Luther came down on the “wrong” side of the question about Free Will. We have none, he said. It is all a matter of faith and love, and nothing else.
Paradoxical, yes, so too is life. We are such imperfect creatures, made in God’s image, but poorly.
I have, you will noticed, used quotation marks around certain statements of fact. This is because very little in life is certain. We may be certain of in-certainty, but that is it.
Death, as Luther observed, and our ultimate destiny to meet with God, alone.
Today, of course, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Eric Metaxas points out the historical trivia that after a visit to Germany, a certain Michael King changed his name to Martin Luther King, and his son became Martin Luther King Jr.
In April of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
What will the New Year bring?
Hopefully boundless joy, loving family and friends, few cares and an abundance of God’s blessings, then it helps to have a nut or two to tide you through the winter days, an adventure that lets you venture somewhere you’ve never gone before, and, at the end of the day, a thought to keep you warm in bed, may there be peace on earth.
It is that time of year when we all pause to think back on what the past year meant, on friends no longer with us, and what will the New Year bring.
Friends I have lost keep piling up like the round smooth stones hikers leave on the way up to the peak of Colorado’s Mt. Long. Hikers know what I mean, the rest of you need to get off your chair and hike a mountain to know.
Words and songs that keep coming back to mind. How about Donna Fargo’s What will the New Year bring? Friends, if you have tears, listen and prepare to shed them now.
And yes, I know this is copyright material, but I can’t help but think it is fair comment and a salute to a great artist from Mt. Airy, North Carolina and all the folks in Mayberry, including Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee and Gomer, who are now gone from us.
If you don’t know what I mean, you are under thirty and you don’t watch TNT.
This past year was good to us the one before just a little rough
The one before that was an awful thing what will the new year bring
Will it bring us a little boy to fill our lives with love and joy
We’ve had our share of growing pains what will the new year bring
You’re still one and one makes two now one and one make one
I hope you will love me throughout the year to come
We’ve made our mistakes with love we learned that it can’t promise us
Tomorrow and forever things what will the new year bring
Wish I hadn’t read our horoscope things look stormy for Scorpios
Virgo’s posed to sprout their wings what will the new year bring
Will you want me to love you the way you know I do
And will you walk through life with me another year or two
Or three or four or five or six hundred years or more
Happy New Year darling for whatever is in store