Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Wednesday, 8 April 2015



Agoraphobic nomads
leaning obliquely on crutches:
as empty as children
and faceless as prophets,
made up like clowns;
relying on the crowd around
them to shield them from
the desert they are compelled
to cross...

Skulking under goatskins
hiding from the Light.

5 March 1978

Just as I empathised with the fallen angels in ‘Children of God’ I also empathised with God’s chosen people in this poem.

Agoraphobia is a condition where the sufferer becomes anxious in environments that are unfamiliar or where he or she perceives that they have little control. Triggers for this anxiety may include wide open spaces, crowds (social anxiety), or traveling (even short distances). Can you imagine a worse thing for a sufferer than having to trudge around a wilderness surrounded by over half a million men, women and children? Basically it’s like the whole of Winnipeg getting up one morning and going for a wander round the Spirit Sands desert for forty years.

I get God coming along and laying down a few laws. We’re all still in agreement that murder, theft and adultery cause more problems than anything. Fine. But to get them to wander aimlessly until they all died off—which, let’s face it, was the point of the exercise—was cruel and unusual punishment. And all for having a party around a golden calf. Then again I never really got the calf thing either. The big problem most people have with religion these days in the lack of hard evidence. A matter of days previously they’d crossed the Red Sea and if Cecil B. DeMille is to be believed that’s not the kind of thing to make you doubt in your god. And yet that’s what the record says happened.



Gwil W said...

In today's paper Dr. Arye Shimon is reported to have found the bones of Jesus and numerous family members including Jesus' wife Mary and their son Judas in a place known as the Talpiot grave and has made so-called 'scientific tests'. I haven't googled the story yet. But you never know . . .

There's no physical evidence of an Egyptian army ever being drowned in the Red Sea. The only reference outside the bible as far as I can glean is that Roman emperor (name escapes me) reported in his diary that all the Jews had been expelled from Egypt for being the Pharaoh for being too troublesome. So that part, at least, appears to be true. It would therefore appear that the Egyptian army escorted them out of the country to make sure they left. Perhaps there was a storm and it was assumed that the army had perished but it had in fact completed its task and returned.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve never got the whole icon/memorabilia thing, Gwilliam. Bones are bones. Why would they be worth hanging onto once the person had done with them? It’s like the care people take with corpses. As if they might hurt them. I was reading something yesterday about someone who learned Beckett signed a copy of Waiting for Godot with a particular Parker pen and this person kissed it. It’s a pen. It’s not as if some of his genius rubbed off. The computer I’m working on just now isn’t special. It’s a tool. I’m writing in my head and merely using the keyboard to transcribe my thoughts. There’s nothing magical about the machine and in a few years it will have been replaced by something new and fancy. That’s life. I’m not sure I own anything I venerate even slightly. I have signed copies of books which are nice I suppose but the books aren’t any better or worse because they’ve been defaced by the author.

As to what happened when the Israelites left Egypt who cares? I’ve never really been a history buff; we’ve enough here and now to deal with. I was taught that the Bible was factually accurate and I’ve never worried whether it is or isn’t. You either buy into it or you don’t. You can’t limp on two different opinions and you can’t cherry-pick. IMHO. For me the Bible is on a par with Shakespeare; it’s a rich source of quotes and not much more these days. You don’t have to believe. Beckett didn’t and he referenced the Bible all the time.

Gwil W said...

The poet R S Thomas who was also a priest used to say about Dylan Thomas that whatever else you could say about him, his bohemian lifestyle etc., he knew his bible.
The King James is a wonderful piece of literature which puts modern bibles like the NIV to shame.

Jim Murdoch said...

New York Times, May 23, 1881, p. 8
The Rev. Dr. Pentecost ... illustrated the tenacity with which people cling to the old Bible by telling a story about an agent of a Bible society who was trying to collect money in a country church for a new translation of the Bible. The agent asked an old farmer in the congregation to contribute. "What's the matter with the good old King James version?" the farmer replied. "That was good enough for St. Paul, and it's good enough for me."

I have no real loyalty towards the King James Version, Gwilliam. I have a box full of Bibles and I would regularly sit with half a dozen open comparing translations. I seem to recall being quite taken with Moffat’s version although I know it has its detractors. Didn’t like the Douay much.

Gwil W said...

Thanks. Great joke about the bible. There aren't many in it.

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