Into Light: Part Three – From Script Into Lyre

(Part One is here.;  Part Two is here)


(‘david playing his lyre’ by juliania)

Now from ‘a little Plato’ to ‘a little Bible’.  I take a very short cut.  I shall proceed directly to the second writing in the sand by the one often addressed publicly as Teacher by his contemporaries, whose name is Jesus, the name still often heard from our lips, when we feel strongly about something and at the same time feel free with our language.

I find this a remarkable phenomenon, namely, that we occasionally feel free to express what’s in our hearts with his name.  It seems to reveal, in spite of our intentions, that at heart we are not indifferent to him, but rather touched by him — one way or another.  And that I find as something to wonder at after all these centuries.

The writing in the sand takes place in Jerusalem, in the Temple that traces its origin to King Solomon.  Matthew, the writer of the first gospel, also traces the genealogy of Jesus, his bloodline, to exactly the same source, King Solomon.  He does not hesitate to spell it out as follows:  “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.”  That is to say, by another man’s wife, whose name is Bathsheba.  I find this an astonishing prelude to Jesus being in this Temple in Jerusalem, as he faces one particular woman caught in adultery.

Now I am ready to consider the writing in the earth that he does with his finger in the Temple in Jerusalem, (John, Chapter VIII.)

“Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and early
in the morning he came again into the temple,
and all the people came unto him and having
sat down He was teaching them. And the
scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman
taken in adultery, and when they had set
her in the midst, they said to him, “Teacher,
this woman was taken in the very act of
committing adultery.  Now Moses in the Law
commanded us, that such should be stoned,
but you, what do you say?”  This they said
tempting him, that they might have to accuse
him.  But Jesus, having stooped down, with
his finger wrote on the ground.  So when
they continued asking him, he lifted up
himself, and said to them, “He that is without
sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
And again having stooped down he wrote on
the ground.  And they which heard it and by
their own conscience being convicted, went
out one by one, beginning at the eldest
until the last; and Jesus was left alone
and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted up himself and saw
none but the woman, he said to her:
“Woman, where are your accusers?  Has no man
condemned you?”  She said, “No man, Sir.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go,  and sin no more.”

Members of the Class of 1974, it appears to me that what Jesus was writing with his finger on the ground, on the piece of the promised land, of the Holy Land, were ‘the two commandments’ as he calls them, ‘on which’, according to him, ‘all the Law hangs and the Prophets also’: ‘the first and the greatest commandment’, and ‘the second like it’.  (Matthew 22: 34. . , Mark 12: 28. . , Luke 10: 25. . .)

When he stoops down the first time, he writes with his finger what appears to be the first of the two commandments:

“Thou shalt love the lord thy God
with all thy heart, and with all
thy soul, and with all thy

At this point the woman’s accusers still persist with their questioning and testing him in the name of God and his servant Moses, who came down from the mountain into the desert with the stone tablets and the Law engraved on them.  So Jesus, in keeping with the spirit of the first of the two commandments, says to them:  “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”

Then he stoops down again, for the second time, and writes what appears to be the second of the two commandments:

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor
as thyself.”

At this point each man present begins to look into himself, and, each having looked into himself, they all leave, not as they came, for they came loudly and together, but they leave quietly and one by one, starting at the eldest and the wisest unto the last.  And so Jesus, noticing that they are all gone, and that he is left alone with the woman, addresses her in the spirit of the two commandments, each illuminating the other at his heart:  first he says, “Neither do I condemn you,” and then, “Go, and sin no more.”

And so it appears that with his finger Jesus transposes the Law engraved in the tablets from the stone into the earth, the same earth on which he stooped down, on which the woman stood, on which the custodians of the Law of the Land, her accusers and his testers, stood, namely their common Holy Land in this their Holy Temple.

In doing so he leaves in their hands nothing but stones with which to stone the woman or him or both.  And yet the custodians of the Law were able to look into themselves and read the Law as written deeply in their hearts before God, the giver of both their Land and their Law.  Thus Jesus with his humanity has restored the woman and her accusers to their humanity, uplifting it gracefully to the Law before God, the Mosaic Law of the Holy Land on which he stoops down, writes, and rises, on which they all stand and walk.

At this point I catch a glimpse of a remarkable reversal within our ultimate horizon.

At my first lookout point in the prison cell in Athens, what I saw was stretched from the Lyre into the Script.  What I see here at my second lookout point in the Temple in Jerusalem is stretched from the Script into the Lyre in the reverse order of abiding consequences.  Before taking a look at the consequences, I notice that prison and temple are also two images, two radically different icons of the human body with a view to what is simply good:  the first from Athens, the second from Jerusalem.  And now to the consequences, of the reversal between the Script and the Lyre.

Jesus, by his own account, came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.  The Law, to begin with, is the Script engraved in the stone tablets, and the Lyre is in the hands of the Prophets composing, writing and singing their songs before God, and bringing back the spirit, or the breath, of the Law to the breath of human life.

Already in the Book of Samuel we see bands of Prophets coming down from high places with Lyres, or psalteries, in their hands.  King David was especially skilled at the lyre or psaltery.  By far the greatest number of the Psalms in the Psalter is attributed to him, by the inscriptions that mark them in the Psalter, which is Israel’s hymn book.  Many of the Psalms carry the musical and the liturgical directions for their use in the worship in this Temple.  King David is also credited with organizing this worship and the cantors.

Now, in the story of Jesus, the woman, and her accusers, at the precise moment of humanity restored and gracefully uplifted to the Law in this Temple I see King David coming back with the Psalm 51 –which bears this remarkable inscription for all times and for all generations:

“To the choirmaster
Psalm of David when the Prophet Nathan
came to him because he had been with

Likewise, when Jesus’ own hour comes for which he came to fulfill the Law and to be crucified, he begins on the cross another song of King David’s, Psalm 22: 1.

“My God, my God, why hast Thou
forsaken me?”

Shortly after, he uses Psalm 31: 5,

“Father, unto Thy hands
I commend my spirit,”

and with these words he breathes his last.

Thus, it appears that where Jesus goes, in touch with his own destiny, fulfilling the Law, he recognizes in public that King David was there before him, with the lyre and the song, singing the way of his and his people’s destiny before God as preserved and kept alive in the liturgical tradition of the Temple.  And that’s what I call ‘Biblical recollection’, deeply embedded within our heritage, within our ultimate horizon.

I gave you a sample of such Biblical recollection in the simple case where two people, in touch with their respective destinies, meet and recognize each other even across generations or whatever else might separate them within their common ultimate horizon. And when this happens, I see the stiffnecked, redblooded people becoming radiant with imperishable radiance — in their Temple, in their homes, in their schools, on their streets, in their ongoing lives:  from the Script into the Lyre.

And from this point of lookout in the Temple in Jerusalem, I perceive in the prison cell in Athens something similar occurring, something I failed to see when I first got there:  Socrates and the jailer recognizing each other and saying to those around, what a good man the other is.

Members of the class of 1974,  this is the end of my speech.  With it I tried to uncover for you a touch of faith, a touch of holiness at the living roots of our heritage, in this place of your choosing, the Church of the Holy Faith.  With the speech I tried to point towards the imperishable radiance within our ultimate horizon, as I came to catch a glimpse of it.  See for yourselves, at your own lookouts.

And now, instead of the customary prayer, I should like to pass on to you another verse from the Book of Psalms:

“This is the day that the Lord has made,
let us be glad and rejoice in it.”

(Ps.118: 24)

Thank you.

38 responses to “Into Light: Part Three – From Script Into Lyre

  1. Thanks so much – that looks so much better ( I did try to compress the quotations but could only get the centering function with double space.) I just did add “Part Three” as I’d forgotten to put that in.

  2. arrgh; I’d forgotten, too. i’ll show you how to do it some day, it just seemed easier to do it myself for now. i’ll stick your painting in when it comes, and read this soon as i can.

  3. it’s beautiful, juliania. we can also color any of the bible verses if you wish.

  4. Yes, thank you so much, wendye. I did some editing to correct a couple of spellings and moved the verse punctuation so it’s easier to read. I think the quotations are fine as is – I’ve taken you away from needed tasks I am sure. This is very good just as it is.

  5. oh, you’re so welcome, and it was my pleasure, darlin’. i only feel badly that i’m going in too many directions to read it yet. but i may be zeroing in on finishing a few tasks, whether they like it or not. ;~) (the tasks, that is….)

  6. first, let me say that this teacher is an extraordinary man, and is not only a visionary, but a poet in his own right. what he has *seen* and narrated to you all might speak more to the Light and Grace within him than the words of socrates, jesus and david and their stories and narratives ever might have conveyed to another human being.

    i have a dozen questions, and a few i did look up, especially as to moses, mosaic law, and different beliefs as to the authorship of the Torah, for instance. even the interpretations of what was on the Tablets, as well, and the advent of mosaic law as contrasted to sumerian and hammurabic law. the genealogy bits i’ll leave alone as incomprehensible, but unimportant, to the larger gift of your teacher’s very high and spherical and complete understandings ( i see them as spheres, not lines, but i do understand why he uses that geometry). ;~)

    it’s fascinating that he speaks about ‘recollection’ in the ways that he does, or did, almost in a way that explains how we may be in each others’ destinies or karma…for the best in ourselves to become ‘infused with Light’, with spirit, and the great degree of trust that can be held within that mind/soul state. he, and jesus, make the case for being nonjudgmental almost palpably correct, and as i’ve said, that’s one of the demons that plagues me the most. so this all does speak to me, juliania, and i know i’ll read it again, and probably more than once.

    thank you for such a wonderful three-part gift. and i’ll likely be back as i absorb more of it and other bits ping further questions and wonderings.

  7. realitychecker1

    Wow, juliania, quite an oevre you’ve got there lol. I have been without a working computer for ten days or so, so I just read all three parts in sequence–much of it waaaaay above my pay grade, but clearly right in your wheelhouse. Sometimes knowing you is like being in a dark tunnel and following close behind someone with a lantern lol. I will admit I have always been a big fan of Phaedrus, as rendered by Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Eventually, all the lines merge together, don’t they? Thanks for this excellent food-for-thought contribution, darling juliania. (Hope you are getting close to being danceworthy again, m’dear.)

  8. Ooh, I can’t wait for your thousand questions, wendye! On ‘scholarship’ (ah me, my skepticism slip is showing), the main part of that for my teacher was tradition (you say that the way Tyve says it in ‘The Fiddler on the Roof’ – which movie I went to see when we still had driveins in Santa Fe – ah, them were the days!) Tradition for the Orthodox is always first and foremost the four Gospels, with the Epistles of Paul standing in a lesser light – during the Sunday morning service it is most important to stand during the Gospel Reading – the Epistle, which precedes it, not so necessary. The Big Book the priest carries in procession is only the Four Gospels. So, all scholarship (and my teacher/priest was extremely scholarly having studied at the Sorbonne) comes from those four sources, Paul remaining on a lower platform, so to speak.

    “Scholarship’ has proclaimed in some quarters that the main quotation I gave is spurious ( a little bias there?) and that John is not the John who saw and wrote – either the Gospel or the Book of Revelations. To me that is a pomposity colored by delusion. I maintain, along with Elaine Pagels, that the B of R is John, a young John having to deal with his exile at Patmos and the sight of so many of his dear friends in this new faith being heartlessly murdered. One could write such a poem today about the wars we have inflicted upon the world. I don’t believe it foretells ‘end times’ except with reference to such ‘end times’ as a few of us have the ill luck to endure – end of empire being the biggie. Loss of moral traditions right up there too. And, for future reference, the Apocalypse of John is not an important part of the Orthodox canon, on a lower rung even than Paul’s epistles. John was a bruised youngster then; he did better later on.

    So, for Orthodox like me and my teacher, tradition always trumps scholarship, though the latter can buttress the former. Always for us the latter is where skepticism flaunts its petticoats, and that would be a major difference between me and the rest of the world these days. I just have more faith in the former, which I think tallies with most indigenous cultures also.

    But on with your thousand questions, wendye!

  9. Realitychecker, it is wonderful to see/hear/read you, and I hope you are well! Yes, I am ambling along, even forgetting where I put my cane at times. But it is a new me for sure – injury and hospitalization does that for one, doesn’t it? Skating on thin ice we humans be, and now more than ever.

    I dreamed about my teacher last night (love it when I do that) and no doubt that was both of you urging me to come sort things out a bit. The thread of this escaped me, I have to admit, on first hearing, on second reading and on third re-reading. It is subtle, I believe, and wendye got it that the thread in this third part is compassion.

    Not many would dwell on the genealogy Matthew gives, or link it to the Son of David references that crop up here and there in the Gospels, David being more venerated as a mighty king and Goliath slayer than for his weaknesses. Somewhere it does say that Jesus preferred the title Son of Man, which I think goes with my teacher’s interpretation. In Orthodoxy Matthew’s genealogy is read, I believe, leading up to Christmas, and for me that ‘wife of Uriah’ always stands out. She was Solomon’s mother, so it is a ‘broken’ link among many others in the early tales, one that enriches them rather than weakens the thread, in my view. These were indeed human beings, not super heroes (to coin a phrase.)

    But my point was that only in reading and writing this whole piece down have I seen all the intracacies of the speech – I should say, not all, but more of them. For instance, I hadn’t remembered that the whole point of the adultery story was the softening of the hearts of those who would throw stones, not the forgiving of the woman. That’s really what we face now, isn’t it? (Thinking of armed teapartyers here.) Righteous fury only takes one so far, on any ‘side’.

    ‘Nuff said, eh? Thanks for your input!

  10. given my memory, i’ll need to read this part over again, especially as you’ve introduced some new things that are even harder for me to understand. ;)

    but since you’ve almost called for it, and even though my favorite is ‘if i were a rich man’, let’s enjoy it!

    i like this speech, and your teacher’s tapestry woven of threads from athens and jerusalem, even leaving deitiy out of it, it’s remarkably spiritual, and i hope i can remember the journey… i needed it.

  11. Yes, wonderful, wendye! All the subtleties of that song are present to any rich tradition, and we are so bereft of them in the harshness of empire – ‘far away from us’ indeed! And they are not far, they are in our very thoughts, peering and analyzing – hard to stay sane!

    Oh, that Topol! My teacher was very like, even in the Orthodox tradition, as he was born in Constantinople, raised in Paris, a prisoner in Dresden during the firebombing there, a choir director for Tlingit and Aleut (and any who would come) in Alaska, and finally taught in my college. At his memorial his closest friend at the college compared him to Alyosha in “The Brother’s Karamazov” – or rather, said he WAS Alyosha. He loved to say that on first arriving in Alaska, he met a native child who regarded his flowing black beard and hair and shyly asked, “Are you Jesus?”

  12. I’m an incorrigible romantic, so this is my fave from the film:

  13. ah; i’d reckoned a romantic might like this sequence more than motl’s song (i do): ‘lttle bird, little chavala…’

    i loved hearing more of your wonderful teacher’s story. a glorious man, and thank you again for so wonderfully bringing us this ‘light arcs toward the Lightest horizon’ story in both mental discipline and spritual expansion.

  14. Yes, that’s beautiful too, but sad. Oh, and wendye, after my sister helped with the photo she visited and loved your carpenters piece – I recommended she go see the blacksmith one as well.

  15. poignant, but for me, the girls are flowering so gracefully into women, ready to leave the garden, so tevya was trying to come to terms with it, as we’ve all had to do. cycles, always cycles of little births, little deaths, and needing…acceptance. but romantic in a good, if painful way. beau was there to summon her away to their new family…

    i am so tickled your sister like that piece. and i keep forgetting to tell you that richard’s 1999 moskvitch tomato seeds sprouted! little cotyledons from two of the four, and given the paper towel got a bit dry once, that’s pretty cool. i will send them one day soon.

  16. I’ve been thinking about your last comment here, wendye, and I have to say my memory on the movie fails me a bit when it comes to the family disruption that is caused by the love between the youngest daughter and the Christian youth – in light of the persecution of Jews by the Russian authorities as a menace to the community and something that divides them and finally drives the family to emigrate.

    As I remember, this harsh reality is softened by the attitude of the local church but not all the way – I could be just remembering what I hoped would be the case; you could perhaps enlighten me on that. It is certainly the case for my teacher and the Jewish professor he quotes at the beginning of his speech – they were the best of friends always, and were themselves Russians as well, each of them or their families having suffered persecution forcing them to emigrate.

  17. Sorry, that ‘anonymous’ above is me, juliania2 – wordpress is not letting me comment as such even though I am logged in.

  18. Doggone it; that same thing happens for mafr. would you be willing to go to this page, click ‘i didn’t find the answer, then follow the two instructions below that (in the grey boxes). i’ve tried before, but since the avatar associated with my email and wordpress account does show up, they haven’t been able to help.

    can we stick a pin in your question for now? i’d need time to remember and visualize the film, and my head is full of a lot of other mind-pictures right now. i’m getting less adept at multi-tasking now. ;)

  19. didn’t chava and her boyfriend elope and get married in the russian orthodox church? i remember a scene with mama skulking into the church for information, although i don’t remember what caused her to inquire.

  20. Yes, that’s what I remember too – didn’t remember who it was came to the church, but I remember overtones of being unable to cross that divide. I’ll see what I can discover.

  21. argh; you logged in an are still anon and with a generic avatar? i do hope you’ll contact the wordpress folks. i love the kiwi, and it would suit you to have it.

  22. Hah, over at your wren trill I noticed an advisory in the white comments box that I should ‘click on appropriate icon – well, silly me was clicking on my icon to no avail. In the box was a lineup, first one the circled W so I clicked on that – presto changeo my little kiwi appeared! So, all is okeydokey now, and coming here, no need to do that, automaticly the kiwi pops up. I did attempt to contact wordpress – so glad I didn’t have to jettison my bird.

    But, to continue – I found the entire movie at Youtube, and have watched it all the way through. Also at wikileaks learned there were different versions and the movie has the mama entering the church and the priest coming towards her – then fadeout to her telling Tevye. So, we’re both right on that.

    There’s a marvellous dance sequence in the tavern where the Jewish folk are interdancing with the ethnic Russians, really well done.

    As I watched through to the ending, so beautiful the photography of the little village deserted and the long trek of the villagers, it really had echoes of what would be coming even to the church eventually – ‘first they came for…’ That it would be turnabout in the rapid changes of revolution and in another era other deportations…

  23. and, oh boy, did tevya get drunk in that bar scene! but yes, glorious dancing, and friends for the night, they were. the next day, not so much, and then the wedding pogrom. i hadn’t even considered about the fate of the church, which was a huge omission on my part. thanks for the reminder.

    glad you spied the icon choice. wonder if that’s what mafr needs to do?

  24. If he still gets the full signin box even on logging in here, in that box in small print it says to click on an icon – the circle ‘w’ is the one I chose, right in the white box area – your personal icon then replaces that, and everything is fine thereon out. I only had to do that once to get reinstated.

    The ambiguity of relationship between townspeople is nicely orchestrated all the way through, in the movie – ending with the scene between father and daughters but also a small touch as Tevye is saying goodbye to his animals – he mentions to the cow that she’ll be looked after by her new owner who is a fair man – he’ll treat her well if she behaves (I think it’s the cow, could have been that amazing horse. Even the animals are choreographed.)

  25. Blessed are you, wendye, this eve of the new year, for maintaining a site which is beautifully accessible even down to the earliest posts! I sought and I found here the comments still open for discussion – and that is a miracle in this age of sound bites and lost argument! Several things I wanted to say in connection with this post, and I think I have the words to say them – I hope I do.

    I have begun reading John Irving’s “A Prayer for Owen Meany” – here is the first sentence of that work:

    “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice — not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

    As I read on, and I haven’t gone far yet, I realized that I should be making a similar declaration on these three chapters of my life of witness (and how anyone cannot wish to be a writer after reading just a few paragraphs from John Irving, I have yet to discover.)

    I need to say this, I am a Christian because of the man giving this oration to this graduating class, for that is how anyone takes on a faith, takes it deeply to heart.

    John Irving published “A Prayer for Owen Meany” in 1989, the year Father Michael (he was an Orthodox priest, our priest in my community, who wrote this essay and delivered it in an historic chapel in Santa Fe, ) died. To me, and perhaps a few others, this conjunction is significant and appropriate. I have a beautiful Modern Library edition to read for the first time. With wendye’s permission, I hope to start a thread when I finish reading that will address this important work, as she herself, I make no bones about saying, is an example of prophetic dedication rivalling the prophet Jeremiah himself, about whom it was said that

    Behold, I have put my words in
    your mouth.
    See, I have set you this day over
    nations and over kingdoms,
    to pluck up and to break down,
    to destroy, and to overthrow,
    to build and to plant.

    Happy New Year!

  26. i am not a christian, even though ‘a prayer for owen meany’ may be one of my top 10 favorite books, and i’ve read everything john irving had ever before ‘son of the circus’ written several times over. dickens was his favorite author, tellingly.

    as always with irving, there are so many twists and turns to the story, and it’s replete with the irony he loves as much as i do. his definition of that word i used to know, and have searched for in vain. akin to: ‘what is implied incipiently is not borne out ___’. or backwards to that. enjoy the hell out of, and feel free to write; i admit that it’s not likely that we’ll see a lot of it the same way, but that’s all to the good, no?

    but now my mind will be cartwheeling with images, characters, and stories within the saga all day. ;) ‘THE VOICE’. ;)

  27. I’m not sure I’m the kind of Christian Owen Meany would approve of, wendye, but I’m loving the comparisons of the two churches , rector and parson ministered by, and the ongoing theme of friendship in the face of falling-short, plus of course a walk back into notsodistant past history.

    I’ve been sidetracked plowing through a few wannabe authors who shall remain anonymous, so it is just a joy to come upon fine writing once again. And as you thought of me when mention of Plato came up, I have to say I thought at once of you when I read the Jeremiah quotes John Irving puts in his first chapter. As unlikely a pair as it would seem he’s writing about here – maybe you and me (I’ll leave it to you to figure out the passing over the head stuff as I’m sort of reaching for the Owen character pedalling back home after the awful blow has been struck.)

    Some authors’ minds, not many, are a treat to get inside.

  28. i’m not sure what you meant, but do enjoy enjoy enjoy the incredible stories within the greater story. it makes me smile (and tear up over certain of stories revealed at the end) just to think about it. you may laugh, but i actually found the address of his publicist long ago, and asked if john might sign my copy. i included return postage, and by jove, he did.

  29. Well, I’ve just read through the marvellous juxtaposition of Nativity play with ‘A Christmas Carol’, Owen playing the ‘lead’ in both. The counterpoint between the two churches, Episcopalian and Congregational, reminds me so much of my own childhood explorations, and it is just so funny there to hit on the similarities, even having had my own early experiences in ‘a land far away’.

    And all the disasters – in one Baptist community I had the task of bringing out the cake, a chocolate one, to place center table and, oh, I tripped! Splat it went on the floor. At another I had a solo to sing, had been practising with an eager churchlady for months, and when it came to performing I was terribly, terribly off key. I didn’t know it until everyone was so polite afterwards that then I did know. Aieee! Irving captures so well those agonizing moments!

    I don’t think I will do a ‘review’ – I could never do it justice. It just has to be read, plain and simple. Which was the intent in writing it, of course.

  30. lol to both ‘splat’ and ‘so polite i knew i’d been off-key’. i swear, though, some of our all-time worst memories are feeling humiliated during public performances, and novels as well as films underscore the point.

    irving’s passages on what exactly made owen meany the scariest ghost of christmas yet to come ever…and made one of the young girls pee her pants, iirc, was so wonderful, wasn’t it? was her name marlene early, or is she from another book? i keep meaning to go see what the passages from jeremiah that you’d mentioned were, but i get so easily distracted with other impulsive missions.

    that is a breath of fresh air from vendana shiva; no one has been at the forefront of the anti-gmo seed movement more than she. her tales of tragedy and corporate calumny have been riveting.

    do tell me what you make of this version of her caste mark, though. my stars, it’s larger than ever, and looks like plastic or something. eek, not to be piggish about it.

    hope you got some snow; we got maybe six welcome inches, and the peaks are quite white. it’s been so cold (around zero) that the snow crystallizes into wee gemstones; simply breathtaking.

  31. Gosh, we are so very much on a similar path – I noticed the same about Ms. Shiva. To me it looks very earthy, but I didn’t really notice it in her presentation, just the still photo. Her lovely smile was what I saw in the moving piece – had just read Irving’s description of the movement within a great novel, e.g. ‘Tess of the D’urbervilles’, and the solution for dyslexia being to capture the text within a frame.

    He got the ‘disturbance of the Force’ presented by television so very right there, didn’t he? Timewise historically, those Christmas pageants came before television, and it was expected (and dreaded)that they wouldn’t go well, at least by the adults. It just became wrought to the extreme when Owen became the center of both – masterful!

  32. One of the Jeremiah quotes is above, in my Happy New Year comment, and the other, which comes to the ‘author’ on January 25, 1987, is:
    Before I formed you in the womb
    I knew you,
    and before you were born
    I consecrated you;
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

    But Jeremiah says he doesn’t know how to speak; he’s “only a youth,” Jeremiah says. Then the Lord straightens him out about that; the Lord says,

    Do not say, “I am only a youth”;
    for to all to whom I send you you
    shall go,
    and whatever I command you you
    shall speak.
    Be not afraid of them,
    for I am with you to deliver you,
    says the Lord.

  33. To maybe illustrate the ‘movement’ theme, I just did a ducky search on the date above, got this:

    Ex-Hostage Criticizes Iran Arms Sales
    January 25, 1987|United Press International

    HARTFORD, Conn. — The Rev. Benjamin Weir, held hostage in Lebanon for 16 months, said Saturday that the Reagan Administration’s secret arms sales to Iran seriously undermined U.S. credibility in the Middle East.

    Weir, a Presbyterian cleric who now lives in Berkeley, Calif., spoke at a news conference after an ecumenical conference. He lived for 32 years in Lebanon and traveled throughout the region before he was kidnaped on May 8, 1984, in Beirut by Shia extremists.

    He was held captive for 16 months, 14 of them in solitary confinement, before he was released on Sept. 14, 1985.

    Weir repudiated the sale of arms to Iran by the Administration, which may have led to his release.

    “That inconsistency and confusion has certainly undermined what was left of U.S. credibility in the Middle East,” Weir said. “It certainly makes it a lot harder.”
    Pretty neat to be able to look back that far. This mightn’t be relevant, but I am reading the Reagan/Contra passages, so maybe. . .

  34. We have had good snow in the mountains, just enough snow to keep my garden happy here. But cold until today – going out to sunbake now.

  35. iran-contra was one of the most insidious bits of u.s. modern history, wasn’t it. the empire never fails to learn how foreign policy based on ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ always comes back to haunt… of course, by now, peace is not the objective, never-ending war is. how insane is that? and yes, it’s quite relevant now because there are ongoing negotiations over iran’s nuclear material, and once again: the plan again seems to be to let russia hold it.

    wasn’t that a brilliant help to johnny’s dyslexia? i had a friend who had a student (charlie was his name) decades ago in mancos. he was so severely dyslexic that he taught himself to read braille. my stars.

    ah, the first of those verses presage a lot that becomes known toward the end of the novel. i don’t have the ear for biblical langauge that you do, of course.

    full moon certainly has been lovely on the snow. ;)

  36. You will note, I hope, wendye, that I put you in the same class of prophetic voices, and your oeuvre speaks to that more eloquently than I can. I finished reading the novel on Sunday morning, but it will keep echoing – there are so many passages that deserve attention.

    Sunday was for me the Sunday before the Nativity, old style, and today is Gigmas, my youngest son’s birthday. When he was born at home in Santa Fe his slightly older brother’s nappies were frozen on the line outside in snow covered Santa Fe, and I remember a ‘dust devil’ suddenly appeared and sent the nappies jerkily dancing on that frosty morning – a snow angel it must have been, for that’s what my youngest has turned out to be, after as many trials and tribulations as happen in the novel – well, not quite as many!

    Irving has a great passage on the question of wit in classical writings and how his students in this modern day simply don’t get it, for all his attempts to focus them in. This goes with his comments on the gradual falling apart of everything that he sees in Hardy’s works – I must say when I read them long ago I never picked that up. What a great novel, though, and how lucky you were to achieve his autograph on your copy!

    And here, to close, is the first part of the reading for Sunday from Saint Paul (Owen Meany’s first name is Paul):

    Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
    The conviction of things not seen.
    For by it the men of old received divine approval.
    By faith we understand that the world was
    Created by the word of God,
    So that what is seen was made
    Out of things which do not appear.

    I think that encapsulates all that leads up to that final recognition by Owen of the approaching travellers:


    The entire novel pivots around that point. And it is beautifully couched in Owen’s doubts, the impossibility, the test, but all he has to do and does is be himself in situations which don’t seem to be leading where he expects to be led – “what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.” And a man named John is witness.

  37. no, i confess that i hadn’t picked up that you were conferring on my ‘a prophetic’ mantle, and of course i have to disavow it; but how generous of you. but that passage, whether a believer or not, reminds me exactly of the zapatista credo by way of one of the mayan groups, and I hope that at the end of a long ‘bit of a businesses’ day, you might see the parallel (but then i am growing ever more demented) :

    “They don’t say “how are you?” Instead, they prefer to ask “what does your heart say?” If you are well, you respond “jun ko’on” (my heart is united). If not, you have to respond that your heart is in pieces (“chkat ko’on”). And you have to be honest.
    The verb “to struggle” does not exist in their language. Instead, they use the phrase “to form the word.” If one wants to understand the Zapatista struggle, it is important that first you understand their language.”

    “the word” is of course, what i’ve meant to highlight. so many uses in so many practices, beliefs….

    johnny was a true friend to him, wasn’t he? such a saga, and such a burden to owen to know that his parents believed that he was…another christ child born of a virgin birth.

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