Saturday, November 8, 2008

From Jeff to Nadine

Hi Nadine,
The wedding isn't until the 23rd and I'm going to miss the sacrament proper as it's in Fresno and I have a strict policy of avoiding Fresno. I am, however, involved with ushering in the bachelor party festivities (which gives you some idea of my priorities).

I probably wouldn't have had a chance to even do that if my friends' arrival in LA did not coincide with a screenwriters conference I'm attending there next week. I leave on Wednesday, ironically after an SDMA (Seattle Direct Marketing Association, which still has nothing to do with coffee, btw) board meeting. My winemaker friend arrives friday morning and the groom arrives the following day, they will be heading on to Vegas, while I'm celebrating my mother's birthday and then flying back up to the wet. Altogether I do think the Pacific NW has good weather, it's certainly more interesting than that which I experienced growing up in LA and even living in the Bay Area, especially since a big chunk of the time I was there was during a drought when it was relentlessly dry and bright. This time of year, though, when it's obvious the warmth of summer and those long days free from rain are gone for another year, can be particularly depressing.

I'm very much looking forward to LA, not just for the weather, but to see my family and my good friends. It's by another funny coincidence that I even know them. My roommate from freshman year in college had had a foreign exchange student the year prior and he returned to visit while I was living with his host brother. We hit it off and kept in touch as he came back to work in the Napa Valley several times (he could work his vintage in the southern hemisphere and then come up to ours to do another). When I graduated I went down to Australia and worked with him on his winery. I went down in 1990, 1992, and 1994. The guy getting married went down in 1989, 1991, 1993, and many other times hence. He is now the importer and distributor of Jenke Vineyards wine in the US.

I must admit I had to do some research this morning to find where exactly the Gloria occurs in the mass. I had recollected it coming some time around the Eucharistic prayers, but found it both there and in the Introductory, see here for a full reading of the mass:

Obviously, your interpretation of the words differs from mine, testament to the fact that we hear what we want to believe. On close examination, looking at the translations from the Greek and Latin, there are a variety of different phrases used. This is the best explanation I could find:

"In Ephesians 3:21, the Greek expression which literally translates to something like "of the age of the ages" was translated as "world without end" in both the King James Version and the Douay-Rheims Bible. Although the 1970 New American Bible still uses the expression "world without end" here, many modern versions use the expression "for ever and ever" for this and other similar Greek expressions.

Perhaps this will help:
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, even as it shall be in that age of the ages, that world to come which is without end."

This last reading, I think, would be in line with your way of looking at the words. "That world to come" is where I run into difficulties as I see no evidence of another world other than the one we live in now, and the great emphasis some people place on this other imaginary world seems to detract from the amount of attention those people should be paying to the one in which they definitely exist.

There's a great book called "A History of God" written by an ex-Catholic nun named Armstrong:
which examines the roots of the major religions, "The Great Transformation" is another work of hers that I strongly recommend. This will get back to the malaise I find myself as we approach winter solstice, since all religions ultimately derive from some form of sun or sky worship, directly related to human's ability to farm. Developing societies could free themselves from hunting and gathering through agriculture, which was dependent upon a good growing season. A bad crop could lead them back into the less civilized state, or worse, starvation.

So, they worshiped the sun and celebrated winter solstice as that turning point at which the days grew longer (a return of their life-giving sun). This nature worship developed into pantheism (tree-worship being a good example) that Christians have long sought to diminish. That said, once Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome, the "primitive" rituals were absorbed into Christianity, eg, the birth of Christ coinciding with winter solstice. There is, of course, no evidence Jesus was born on december 25th. The stories revolving around the life of Jesus, propogated by Paul (the true genius of marketing) eventually were adapted to fit with pre-existing prophecies and pagan rites. Jesus was, in essence, a political dissident opposed to the Roman army occupying his homeland. He developed his brilliant philosophy, unconditional love of thy neighbor, turning the other cheek, non-violent non-cooperation, if you will, to counter a dominant force. It wasn't until he bumped up against the established religion by reeking havoc in temple and challenging the existing faith of his tribe that he was turned over to Pilate for crucifixion. This is poignantly ironic when you consider how Christians behave towards those who hold differing beliefs.

Paul's genius was co-opting other forms of worship to fit the story of Christ and then writing letters and preaching the word (the first press releases and media tours). Rising on the third day stems from Egypt's Osiris, who was placed in a tree, sent down river, and then after a lot of work on his wife's part "resurrected" into god-like form: Springtime rituals of rebirth spanned the civilized world, so it was natural to layer Easter upon them. All this made the Christians move from worshiping in the catacombs of Rome to the recognized faith in the western world a more manageable transition.

The Catholic mass most closely resembles those early meetings as it holds a direct lineage, all other Christian sects are derivitive of "the one true church" (a phrase I don't believe). Which gets us back to "a world without end" and what those words meant in Greek, in Latin translations, and in what they mean to our ears today. The whole phrase: "As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end," can be broken down in terms of what Paul was marketing. "As it was in the beginning" was inserted into the prayer to give the faith an undeniable provenance, as in "we may be Johnny-come-latelies, but our tenets were right before anyone knew they were right"; "is now and ever shall be" establishes it in the present and into the foreseeable future; "world without end" or "forever and ever" is where my ears as a child heard a belief that could be passed on from generation to generation into an eternity on earth, which grows increasingly better, if in fits in starts. Your interpretation would fit with my cynical view of Paul's most brilliant marketing ploy, ie promising an end product which you cannot see until you are dead. That promise of peace and happiness is virtually irrefutable because anyone experiencing it would be, in the physical sense, dead, gone, mute, as it were, unable to call customer service to complain.

This is the long way round to say I don't buy the "rapture" business. It's a compelling story cobbled onto another story which derives from stories that hold their foundation in the natural world, which, I have to admit is the only world I can see and therefore the only world I will venture to understand, and, if possible, make better for myself, others, and those that come after me. If this is what people want to call secular humanism, so be it. I just see it as the only logical view to take.

Well, that went a bit long. Now, here it's already past 8:00 am, the boys are watching Scooby-Doo and I think I might make some pancakes. We've started making them from scratch, and there is a big difference from the mix. It stems from the egg, ahem, doesn't it always.

All the best, nadine, hope you're having a good weekend.


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