‘Hoping all the verses rhyme’

This interworld can really be an incredible place at times.  Being relatively new to the blogsphere, it still constantly amazes me the many ways in which messages can be spread and different communities can be formed.

The other day I posted a little piece about some shenanigans going on in the world of popular music, and the fact that such shenanigans become the focus of a great deal of discussion, while other, more important, occurrences remain shockingly overshadowed.

I ended the post with some optimism- in the form of my discovery that Ray Davies, storyteller and songsmith, was releasing a new book soon (although not, sadly, soon enough for it to be my cottage book in 2 weeks), reassuring me that there are still vibrant, talented, relevant voices out there.  I let his brother, Dave, sum up my feelings in his own talented manner, and sent the post out into the interworld to illuminate, educate or entertain as it would.

Imagine my surprise when the hits on my little blog started increasing, like, exponentially.  Turned out that the master of a Kinks website included a link to humble ol’ colemining, and wonderful Kinks fans from all over the world have subsequently been kind enough to click and have a look.

Although I am not remotely mathematical (Humanities Ph.D. and proud of it), I do have a certain fascination for statistics and tracing patterns (it must be my sociological training), so watching new countries pop up in the site stats not only excites me in a geekish way, it really brings home just how unifying something as global as music can be.

All these people, first connected through their love of an amazing band, came to check out what I have to say, and from there kept on clicking and visited some of my fellows in the WordPress community whose icons or site names caught their attention.

Kinks fans rock.  Truly.

A big part of my studies of world religions has been focused on the transmission- the communication– of texts.  The stories we tell- about ourselves, our gods, our communities- have been historically subject to a an incredible degree of dissemination.

With the omnipresence of the interworld these days, it’s easy to forget that texts- and letters- have always been wont to travel widely.

We can trace the overlapping similarities in the mythologies of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Israel through the trade routes that expanded their respective audiences and brought elements of significance into the stories and practices of the other cultures they bumped into along the way.

Likewise, early Christian writers took (or sent) their writings to other communities as a means of spreading, discussing and evolving the precepts and practices of their developing beliefs.

That early webmaster, Paul of Tarsus, communicated regularly with the church houses that had been established- in his name- throughout the western Mediterranean region.  Many of the later doctrines of the Christian Church(es) were drawn from these letters- from his interpretations of the character and message of Jesus of Nazareth.

Historically, as a species, we like to hear from other people, to discuss what they think about things, look at how they deal with times of trouble and benefit from wisdom that has a different origin from that which is immediately familiar.

Nowadays, those of us who are fortunate enough to be party to the constant accessibility of online communications can exchange ideas and opinions instantaneously.  And get responses back almost as immediately.

Brave new world indeed.  The interworld at its best.

One of the bloggers that I think is pretty groovy, Opinionated Man, has undertaken an exciting experiment here in the interworld.  He has started something he calls Project O, as a means of creating and furthering dialogue about opinions- where they come from, how they are expressed, and whether they are universal rights (that’s a very brief synopsis- check out the link for the full template and game plan).

My input is currently scheduled to be offered up at 6:00 AM on September 8.  I have no doubt that there will be insightful perspectives, lively debates and windows into the mores and realities of cultures from all around the world.

The Opinionated Man really knows how to strike a chord- and this experiment in communication is right up my alley.  The discussions are already starting- I encourage you to participate if it’s something you’d be into.  Regardless, responding to the template made me stop and think about my opinions- and how they were/are formed.  Can’t wait to see what everyone else has to contribute.

In any case, all this togetherness, connectivity and talking ’bout stuff has put a pretty positive spin on a week that wasn’t all that great in many ways.

It’s the beginning of the last long weekend of summer- which can sometimes be a little melancholy (since it’s one more indication that winter will show up sooner rather than later, and I hate the winter)- and I’ve been locked in my head with some pretty heavy reflection over the past few days weeks.

The positive energy that has come my way is helping to shift my view forward.

I wish you a happy Labour Day weekend with heartfelt thanks to all of you who choose to spend some time following along with my (often somewhat derailed) trains of thought about people and our stories and/or whatever little ditties may be floating around in my brain.

As a special shout out to the oh-so-many of my fellow Kinks peeps who have stopped by today, I leave you tonight with the words and wonder of Ray Davies, and a shared hope that we all find some ‘better things’.

Let’s keep talking folks.  Pretty awesome stuff can happen when we communicate with one another.

Proud- Part 2

Continuing where we left off yesterday…

In case you missed it, or don’t want to read the whole of Part 1 (although I’d love it if you did), let me explain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up: (to steal a line from Inigo Montoya).

This week SCOTUS made landmark rulings, overturning Prop. 8 (which banned same-sex marriage in California) as unconstitutional and invalidated the provision of DOMA that prevented same-sex couples from accessing the same benefits available to heterosexual couples.

This is a GOOD thing.

As usual, and as noted by George Takei, the bible thumpers are out in force screaming about the whole thing- regardless of the fact that it affects the lives of heterosexuals in NO way, shape or form.

We talked briefly about the mythologies of Mesopotamia and Greece- two of the major cultures that influenced the development of biblical mythology- and found that neither of them took any issue with homosexuality, nor proscribed against it.

Which leads us to that much-thumped book of stories (terrible way to treat stories- all that thumping).

Starting at the beginning (or the re-beginning, anyway):

Genesis 9.1  And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”

Genesis 9.7.  “And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.”

This is YHWH speaking with Noah and the fam post-flood.  Right after the deity had just completely wiped out his own creation (with the exception of one family and those animals that made it onto the boat.  Poor dinosaurs and unicorns.  Sniff).  No over-reaction there.

He is setting the scene with this initial covenant (ironically- given its use by the LBGTQ community- represented by the appearance of a rainbow in the sky) for the big-C-Covenant-to-come by setting out some initial commandments and telling Noah and his progeny to go forth and re-populate the earth that he had just finished destroying.

Obviously, this would be difficult if there was much of a homosexual component to Noah’s family (being, as it was, the days before artificial insemination).  These early passages set the stage for the oft-cited idea that marriage is all about procreation, a key facet of upholding the covenant with the deity.

The laws found in Leviticus echo this idea with a more definite attempt at controlling behaviour.  Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13 both suggest that ‘lying with mankind as with womankind’ is an ‘abomination’.  The Levitical laws are social controls– meant to establish order in the new nation under the covenant established with YHWH.

Some of them are practical concerns (the food laws are generally accepted to have had a whole lot to do with lack of refrigeration capabilities in the desert and therefore efforts to avoid having the population die out from food poisoning), while others were meant to set the Israelites apart from their neighbours, and those they conquered in the name of their god.

The gods, mores and practices of the Canaanites (the original residents of the ‘Promised Land’) had a great deal in common with those of the Mesopotamian City States, which were not institutionally against homosexuality.  To distinguish themselves- and assert the holiness of their covenant- the Israelites had to adhere to an identity that was very much against the ‘other’- which meant distancing themselves from the social realities of the surrounding cultures.

Biblical literature is full of examples of the Israelites falling off the YHWH-wagon and taking up the pastimes and habits of those around them- which often included the worship of their gods.  Major covenant violation there- breaking of Big Rules #1 and #2, in fact.  Not going to please the old man at all.  Best to enforce the complete separation from the other by reinforcing mores that are supported by earlier Hebrew myths.

Going back to Genesis, the story of Sodom and Gommorah is usually dragged out as the main justification for the ‘abomination’ associated with homosexual acts, because the mob at the door wanted to access Lot’s angelic visitors and to ‘know’ them- in the biblical sense.  Even Lot offering his own virgin daughters to placate the crowd in their stead did not turn the citizens away from their violation of the laws of hospitality and lack of charity to visitors (I should think that the impulse to rape guests in the city would definitely qualify as being inhospitable).

If you read the Prophets (Ezekiel for example) and early Talmudic tradition, the ‘sin’ of Sodom and Gommorah was identified as this social injustice and lack of hospitality.  Since violating the proper social order leads to chaos, such actions were deemed dangerous and punishment was required (with YHWH again following his pattern of the overkill model of punitive judgement).

Later interpretations and compositional strands in the mythology itself- and stronger shout-outs against homosexuality drawn from the influence of Zoroastrianism from the period of the Babylonian exile- tended toward a more completely negative view of same-sex pairings, based in cultural bias rather than social prescriptions.  Even with this syncretism of prejudices, it wasn’t until the 1st century CE that Jewish writers- such as Philo of Alexandria and the Roman historian Josephus- unequivocally asserted that homosexuality was, in fact, the great sin that caused the destruction of the twin cities.

When it comes to support of anti-homosexual proclamations from the OT, basically we are talking about examples of institutionalized aversion to the other, as the political and religious powers sought to maintain control and social order in a developing nation, while avoiding the assumption of outside ideas into Jewish beliefs and practices.

Moving on to the NT…

Jesus says nothing, nada, zilch about homosexuality in the words that are attributed to him.   In fact, in Matthew 10.14-15, he compares the fate of anyone who is unwelcoming of his followers to the lack of hospitality displayed at Sodom and Gommorah- noting that any towns that turned them away would suffer even more than the Sodom and Gommorah-ites.

Jesus was a 1st century CE Jew who was looking to reform the religious tradition in which he was raised.  He welcomed those from the margins of society and his mission was one of inclusion- values that he felt were being ignored by the authorities of the Temple.  If Christians want to maintain that his message was all about the love, they really need to stop involving him- completely undeservedly- in their hate-mongering.  Poor guy must be rolling over in his grave.

On the other hand, the early Christian writers- Paul of Tarsus for example- were seeking to develop a minority new religious movement within a larger social, political and religious background.  Like the Israelites, they had to differentiate themselves- first from the Jews and then from other cultural groups that were in any way displeasing to the Roman officials.

There are mentions made in some of the canonical epistles (Romans 1.26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6.9-11 come to mind) that speak against all kinds of perceived sexual improprieties, but this is hardly surprising.  Paul wasn’t a big fan of sex in any form.  Have a look at 1 Corinthians 7, if you have any doubts about that reality.

The upshot of all this discussion (and I could go on, believe me), is that ideological objections to homosexuality drawn from biblical mythology are few and far between (especially given the volume of canonical literature alone).  Those that do exist are clearly culturally and temporally driven- by political expedience for the purpose of the maintenance of social order, flying under the radar of the ruling majority and/or in order to support increasing the number of followers of the deity of the covenant.  Yet people want to use 2000-3000 year old political and cultural ideas as the basis for life-affecting legislation in the 21st century?

Sigh.

My wonderful friend Tracey had a conversation with her son about the events of the week.  Hopefully more people will finally embrace the reality that this amazing child knows intuitively.  It is beyond ridiculous to hold to the proscriptions dictated by Bronze Age people, looking to assert their national dominance (and that of their god) over the indigenous peoples of the land they sought to conquer and claim as their own.  And citing the epistolary writings of the PR people for a struggling new religious movement trying to find its footing in the face of majority persecution- against the model and words of the ‘founder’ of said movement?  You call that justification?

Humbug.

The SCOTUS decision is a welcome step toward the arrival at a point that should have become moot long ago.  I honestly can’t believe we are still talking about this.   Yet seeing the vitriolic responses in the ‘news’, the comments sections of opinion pieces and in various incarnations of social media, I realize that dialogue apparently remains necessary.  Still.  So let this be my two cents- and my happy (and relieved) reaction to an historic ruling that upholds equality, intellectual rationale and just plain common sense.

Happy Pride everyone.  May the fact that human decency, fairness and reason finally saw some light this week set the tone for a joyful weekend.