Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #34 (October 15th, 2006)

And when God shall say—"O Jesus, son of Mary: hast thou said unto mankind—`Take me and my mother as two gods, beside God?'" he shall say, "Glory be unto Thee! It is not for me to say that which I know to be not the truth; had I said that, verily Thou wouldst have known it: Thou knowest what is in me, but I know not what is in Thee; for Thou well knowest things unseen!

"I spake not to them aught but that which Thou didst bid me: `Worship God, my Lord and your Lord;' and I was a witness of their actions while I stayed among them; but since Thou hast taken me to Thyself, Thou hast Thyself watched them, and Thou art witness of all things:

"If Thou punish them, they are Thy servants, and if Thou forgive them…Thou, verily, art the Mighty, the Wise!"

Sura "The Table" 5:16-18

Those of you who were still reading the monthly book when issue 300 came out might remember one of the last Aardvark Comment guys was David W. Johnson who had his own public access cooking show and who had resolved that he was going to write me a letter every week while I was finishing the book. It was a vow he managed to stick to and, for that reason, I gave him a substantial amount of coverage in the back of the last issue. He still writes semi-regularly. His longest entry was a 35-page letter which was inspired by reading Collected Letters 2004 (where he's very well represented in the index on pages 121, 179, 259, 291, 299, 300, 351, 375, 401, 444, 470, 511, 520 and 529—as you can see his "semi-regularly" is pretty semi-regular). David figured if I could write 587 pages, he could write 35. It took me the better part of two days to read that one, taking notes as I went so that I could answer it intelligently. Just before I started the "No Preaching" series, I got a money order in the mail from him for $300 US, which would have paid the rental on the Registry Theatre for three readings, but which I took as a sign from God that I should cover the rental myself and give the money order to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. It was major, major encouragement, though and directly led to my decision to book three more rentals after the first batch of four which I'm pretty sure I otherwise wouldn't have done.

[Trevor Grace, who recorded the Doug Wright Awards for me, started recording the "No Preaching" series as part of a proposed Dave Sim documentary he was doing with Sandeep and which Sandeep has ultimately given up on for the same reason everyone else has: the story is just too big to make into a 90-minute film. But it did mean that things worked out in that way God has with them. Sandeep and Trevor and two or three other guys have been the only people to show up for the readings and Trevor started selling the recordings on eBay and has been able to make a $300 contribution to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. As a result, the "No Preaching" readings thanks to you mostly atheistic Yahoos are among the most successful fund-raising events for the Food Bank even though no one goes to them.]

David lives a pretty much hand-to-mouth existence, alternating between Indiana and Florida so I knew that $300 US if it wasn't his life's savings definitely represented a substantial sum of what he had been able to save from his job at the Universal Studios theme park over a period of many, many months. There was no doubt in my mind that I had been entrusted—make that E*n*t*r*u*s*t*e*d—with that money.

4:05 pm: For those of you keeping track on your time sheets at home, no you haven't missed part of "A Day in the Blog & Mail Life"—I ended up skipping from Saturday's entry to Monday's entry and now I've doubled back to fill in Sunday's.

Once again I retire a little early for my prayer time (Asr—afternoon prayer) and manage to get through the rest of Sura 24 "Light" coming to the end of it with less than a minute to go until my actual prayer time, so this is a rare instance of ending my pre-prayer reading right at the end of a Sura. You remember last week when I said that I think all three Revelations (the Torah, the Gospels and the Koran) are a mix of God's word and YHWH's own observations? Sura 24 strikes me as a good example of the latter in a couple of spots:

God is the LIGHT of the heavens and of the earth. His light is like a niche in which is a lamp—the lamp encased in glass—the glass, as it were, a glistening star.

This is the passage from which the Sura derives its name. And I think this description begins as a description of God—that God is the light of the heavens and of the earth but that the term light is intended here in the same sense in which it is intended in the first chapter of John's Gospel, "that lighteth every man who commeth into the world". That is, it isn't about illumination (I think it's no coincidence that Sura 25, the one immediately following it, is called Al Furkan "the Illumination" as a means of making the distinction clear) but about spirit, soul or whatever it is that "lighteth every man who commeth into the world". The subsequent sentence, I believe, is YHWH's response. In the first sentence the description is that God IS the light, the second sentence describes "His light" as if it is a separate thing. Which in this case, I think it is, YHWH, "a glistening star" encased in glass—which I would assume are molten silicates—within the earth.

Legend has it that this was the Sura which was sent down in the aftermath of the "necklace" incident when the Prophet's favourite wife, Aisha—still barely an adolescent—having lost her necklace got left behind by the caravan, discovered by one of the men of the tribe and brought on his horse or camel to where the others had camped which had started a lot of (primarily) female tongues wagging and created this massive controversy which threatened to tear Islam apart.

Verily, they who throw out charges against virtuous but careless women, who are believers, shall be cursed in this world and in the world to come; and a terrible punishment doth await them. Their own tongues, and hands, and feet, shall one day bear witness against them of their own doings. On that day will God pay them their just due, and they shall know that God is the clear Truth itself…

It really goes on and on in this vein and is all over the map when it comes to male and female relations and then strikes this bizarre note:

And speak to the believing women that they refrain their eyes, and observe continence; and that they display not their ornaments, except those which are external; and that they throw their veils over their bosoms, and display not their ornaments, except to their husbands or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons or their husband's sons, or their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women or their slaves, or male domestics who have no natural force, or to children who note not women's nakedness.

A girl that I had a fling with on the UK Tour in '93 ended up marrying an Egyptian Muslim and I remember her telling me (or writing to me in a letter) that it took some getting used to. She'd be having a shower and one of her brothers-in-law would suddenly appear and pull open the shower curtain and check her up and down and then turn around and leave and when she'd tell her husband about it and that she wanted it stop, he wouldn't say anything. Of course, I had no idea what was up with that at the time, having never read the Koran, but when I did read it and came to that passage, I thought, Well, there it is.

That to me is an example of YHWH inspired nuttiness that you should look at and say, "I don't care if it's in scripture, that's no way to run a society."

Personal opinion. I think the whole Sura is "skewed" by the "necklace" episode. Want another example?

Force not your female slaves into sin, in order that ye may gain the casual fruitions of this world, if they wish to preserve their modesty. Yet if any one compel them, then verily to them, after their compulsion, will God be forgiving, merciful.

See? To me, that's just nutty. It's very reasonable to read that as God forgiving rape and it's not exactly clear if it's the rapist or the "rapee" who is being forgiven. Again, we know better than that. That's no way to run a society whether it's in the Koran or not. The same way that there's no way there is any validity to stoning someone to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath just because it says you should in the Torah. You're not supposed to be brainless sheep about these things. You're supposed to, in my view, separate them into good laws and bad laws and obey the good laws and ignore the bad laws.

4:22:00 - Begin Asr prayer

4:32:20 – End Asr prayer. Closer to ten minutes than I've been in a while. I must've gotten a little worked up about the nuttiness in "The Light".

Anyway, the reason I bring up David Johnson here is that (as you can see from my letter to him on page 444 of Collected Letters 2004), he was the first person to expose me to the Kingdom Interlinear translation of the Gospels—the word-by-word translation of the Greek into English. He then copied out a bunch of it by hand—I mean pages and pages and pages because I had expressed interest and he couldn't afford to make photocopies and wouldn't dream of taking money from me to do photocopies when he could copy out all that Greek and English by hand for free (I mean YI!). I mean, not only the English but the original Greek in the original Greek characters which he doesn't know any better than I do so he had to basically DRAW each character—and was sending it to me to read and then finally loaned me his own copy of the book and then finally just told me to keep it. I kept reading it and reading it and finally decided I had to write commentaries on what I was reading just to get the whole jumble straight in my head. And, of course, I promised him that when I had my commentaries done I would send him copies of them. I mean, there's another instance of having being E*N*T*R*U*S*T*E*D with all of that hard work on David's part and then with his own copy of the book.

I should maybe or (maybe not) mention—but here I go—that Billy Beach (Hi to Billy, Francesca, Kevin and Emily) got me my own copy somewhere along here—the Kingdom Interlinear Translation is a Jehovah's Witness book and, as a Jehovah's Witness, Bill was of course able to get one more easily than either David or myself. Well, now I had two copies and instead of sending his copy back to David as I should have, I remembered that Frank Miller had said a few years back that he intended to do a Life of Jesus at some point, so I thought I would send it to him and said, basically, in the cover letter "If you just use the word-for-word English translation it would have a very exotic quality and be a real eye-opener." I mean, I share the Muslim view on visual depictions of the prophets, so I couldn't do it and I might be on the wrong side of the line in even assisting in such a thing but I balanced that against the sale that a Frank Miller Life of Jesus would have and took a flyer. Heard nothing back. Phoned him before I went New York in the fall of 2005 and heard nothing back. Phoned him when I was in New York and heard nothing back.

I really should have sent the book back to David.

Anyway, David is a very devout Christian, very apologetic about how wrong he thinks I am in believing that Muhammad is God's Last Messenger when he's certain that Jesus is God's Last Messenger. As I wrote him [Collected Letters 2004 page 375] "No, I'm not offended at all by your saying that. Much of the world believes as you do. All I hope is that we are coming to a time period where more people will recognize the importance of their own faith and their own decision-making."

When I last heard from him he was back in Florida, back at Universal Studios' Triceratops Ride and having kind of a bad go of it where he was living with a couple of roommates. Bad neighbourhood, insect and vermin infested house, etc. His faith as always getting him through the bad times. Well, I had just finished my commentaries on the first chapter of Mark's Gospel the day before his letter came in and I thought, well, I can wait until I have the whole thing done, but it's already been two years. And I realized that one of my worries which had been a worry all along is that my commentaries are very far from Christian Orthodoxy and I was worried that, in addition to his tough life situation, what I had to say would not exactly brighten his day as a devout Christian. Finally I decided that my obligation to give him the first look at what I had written outweighed all other considerations. So I printed up however-many-pages-it-was and sent it off to him.

Anyway, this week's mail included a distinctive David W. Johnson envelope with his distinctive hand-writing and his new, unhappy Florida address. Whatever he had written it was short and to-the-point. One sheet of the small size spiral notepad paper he favours by the feel of it.

Oh, boy, I thought, tearing it open. Here we go. Deep breath.

It was a money order for four hundred dollars US made out to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. No note, no letter.

As Jack Kirby said at the only Kirby Awards Ceremony I was ever at in San Diego.

"If I wasn't such a tough guy, I'd cry."

Scripture at the Registry Theatre

122 Frederick Street in Kitchener


November 12 and 19

with the Fifth Book of Moshe

[also called Deuteronomy]


If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

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