Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On the gods, their agents, and their doings, part two

From Ryunosuke Akutagawa's "The Spider Thread" (1918), collected in Rashamon and Seventeen Other Stories
And now, children, let me tell you a story about Lord Buddha Shakyamuni.

It begins one day as He was strolling alone in Paradise by the banks of the Lotus Pond. The blossoms on the pond were like perfect white pearls, and from their golden centers wafted forth a never-ending fragrance wonderful beyond description. I think it must have been morning in paradise.

From Virgil's Aeneid, Book Four, Robert Fagles's translation (2006)
"I . . . you have done me
so many kindnesses, and you could count them all.
I shall never deny what you deserve, my queen,
never regret my memories of Dido, now while I
can recall myself and draw the breath of life.
. . . .
And now the messenger of the gods--I swear it,
by your life and mine--dispatched by Jove himself,
has brought me firm commands through the racing winds.
With my own eyes I saw him, clear, in broad daylight,
moving through your gates. With my own ears I drank
his message in. Come, stop inflaming us
both with your appeals. I set sail for Italy--
all against my will."

Deuteronomy 4:27-31,
And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples and you shall be left men few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. And you shall worship there their gods that are human handiwork, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. And you shall search for the Lord your God from there, and you shall find him when you seek Him with all your heart and with all your being. When you are in straits and all these things find you in time to come, you shall turn back to the Lord your God and heed His voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful god. He will not let you go and will not destroy you and will not forget your fathers’ covenant that He swore to them.

From Justin Marozzi’s Tamerlane (2004)
When reports reached the Turk of this lightning manoeuvre, he was “seized with panic as though it were the day of resurrection and bit his hands with grief and remorse and roared and howled and burning with the fire of anger was almost suffocated and abandoned rest and sleep.”

From Pearl S. Buck's Imperial Woman (1956)
Since snow had not fallen in the late winter when the wheatfields needed snow as fertilizer, the gods must be persuaded by three days of public reproach, the priests carrying the gods out from their pleasant temples to survey the dry and frozen fields.

From Garry Wills’s What Jesus Meant (2006)
The angel has to reassure [Mary]: “Have no fear, Mary, this is because you have found favor with God.” Did she know already how dangerous is such favor? God’s chosen people are commonly chosen to suffer. Of Jesus in particular, John Henry Newman wrote: “All who came near him more or less suffered by approaching him, just as if pain and trouble went out of him, as some precious virtue for the good of their souls.”

From James Jones’s From Here to Eternity (1951)
“That’s right,” Malloy said. “But listen. A guy named Spinoza wrote a sentence once. He said: Because a man loves God he must not expect God to love him in return. Theres a lot in that, in lots of ways. I don’t use passive resistance for what I expect it will get me. I dont expect it to pay me back any more than it ever has. That isn’t the point. If that was the point, I’d of given it up years ago as a flop.”

From Garry Wills’s What Jesus Meant (2006)
Jesus’ followers have the obligation that rests on all men and women to seek justice based on the dignity of every human being. That is the goal of politics, of “the things that belong to Caesar.” But heaven’s reign makes deeper and broader demands, the demands not only of justice but of love.

From John Mortimer’s Quite Honestly (2006)
“How did God come into it?”

“Well, he didn’t really. Not when Robert was a vicar. In those days he seemed to take God for granted. But as soon as he became a bishop—I don’t know, I suppose because it was a step up and Robert felt responsible for God and treated him more as an equal. Anyway, he began to find fault with him or question anything he did. Of course, it’s got a lot worse since President Bush. He can’t understand how God would have anything to do with the man.”

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