Sunday, 4 August 2013

"The most human human"

There is an episode in the Doctor Who series called, The Shakespeare Code, where the Doctor claims that Shakespeare is "the most human human there's ever been". Granted, I'm a huge fan of Shakespeare, especially his sonnets and the phrases/terms he's coined, and I'll give the Doctor that. But I also think that every culture has its Shakespeare by the simple virtue that the human language has something divine in it (ie, the very nature of the human language is a creative phenomenon).

For instance, I've been blown away many times by Inuit who speak the Inuit language well, and these people have never written a book nor spoken from a lectern in front of an audience; let alone that these people never even went to school. Nonetheless, eloquence is not the sole purview of the English-speaking world by any stretch of the imagination (modern Inuktitut spoken well has roughly the same structural elegance as Elizabethan English that Shakespeare spoke - I should know, I'm into linguistics).

There is also another writer that I'd consider "the most human human there's ever been" that would certainly give Shakespeare a run for his money, and just given the nature of a Christian culture in which Shakespeare grew up, he's most likely been hugely influenced by even if only subconsciously. This writer been accredited to have written the Book of Psalms, King David.

Even if he's not the sole author of the book there is a quality about the writing that suggest he would have written the great majority of the book. Where Shakespeare's preferred subject matter tends to politics, youth/old age and young love/foibles; King David's tends to the real psychological states we're all bound to feel in the course of our lives (even within a span of a single day): angst, joy, numbness, doubt, spiritual rapture, vengeance, forgiveness, etc. -all of which translates unreasonably well-intact through cultures and time.

Given that the Jewish culture seems unusually blessed with human genius, this David was a polymath: a great warrior and military tactician, musician, poet, philosopher, prophet, a penitent sinner, a great ruler of the unite kingdom of Israel, the very template of the Messiah to the Jews, but not immune to self-indulgence and debauchery - none of which he hides in his writings. In a word: he is the most human human that ever lived.

In fact, his whole life reads like a Shakespearean play:

Jonathan and Saul are killed in battle with the Philistines at Mount Gilboa. David mourns their deaths, especially that of Jonathan, his friend. He goes up to Hebron, where he is anointed king over Judah. In the north, Saul's son Ish-Bosheth becomes king of the tribes of Israel. War ensues between Ish-Bosheth and David, until Ish-Bosheth is murdered. The assassins bring the head of Ish-Bosheth to David hoping for a reward, but David executes them for their crime against the Lord's anointed. Yet with the death of the son of Saul, the elders of Israel come to Hebron and David, who is 30 years old, is anointed King over Israel and Judah. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_david)

continues the Wikipedia entry:

David conquered the Jebusite fortress of Jerusalem, and made it his capital. "Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house." David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, intending to build a temple, but God, speaking through the prophet Nathan, announced that the temple would be built at a future date by one of David's sons (Solomon). God made a covenant with David, promising that He will establish the house of David : "Your throne shall be established forever."

and:

David commits adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Bathsheba becomes pregnant. David sends for Uriah, who is with the Israelite army at the siege of Rabbah, so that he may lie with his wife and conceal the identity of the child's father. Uriah refuses to do so while his companions are in the field of battle and David sends him back to Joab, the commander, with a message instructing him to abandon Uriah on the battlefield, "that he may be struck down, and die." David marries Bathsheba and she bears his child, "but the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." The prophet Nathan confronts David, saying: "Why have you despised the word of God, to do what is evil in his sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife." Nathan presents three punishments from God for this sin. First, that the "sword shall never depart from your house" (2 Samuel 12:10); second, that "Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel" (2 Samuel 12:12); and finally, that "the son born to you will die" (2 Samuel 12:14).

David repents, yet God "struck the [David's] child ... and it became sick ... [And] on the seventh day the child died." David leaves his lamentations, dresses himself, goes to the House of the Lord and worships, and then returns home to eat. His servants ask why he wept when the baby was alive, but ends his mourning when the child dies. David replies: "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."

see: most human human?..and finally:

When David has become old and bedridden, Adonijah, his eldest surviving son and natural heir, declares himself king and worthy to marry Abishag. Bathsheba, David's favorite wife, and Nathan the prophet go to David and procure his agreement that Solomon, Bathsheba's son, should sit on the throne. Thus, the plans of Adonijah collapse, and Solomon becomes king.

It is to Solomon that David gives his final instructions, including his promise that the line of Solomon and David will inherit the throne of Judah forever, and his request that Solomon kill his oldest enemies on his behalf.

David dies and is buried in the City of David, having ruled forty years over Israel, seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem.

It is throughout all this the constant semiology of his spiritual interpretation of his experiences that give me cause to think that he wrote most if not all the Psalms. There is something of the human genius (in both the prophets and the Christ Himself as in all fields of human endeavour) that is at once the "other" and the "self" that makes, to me, the question of whether Judeo-Christian faith is a mere "superstition" immaterial. It is a personal choice informed by personal experience and reflection. Given the choice between meaning and meaninglessness, I choose meaning.

Jay

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