The Unsinkable brian cork™

Brian Patrick Cork is living the Authentic Life

And, you could easily beat up T. S. Eliot. He was sort of an effete, elitist, fragile weenie

November15

I had this thought recently: “I could easily beat up T. S. Eliot.  He was sort of an effete, elitist, fragile weenie”.

I actually meant it.

So… I’m building off a very similar post I built late last week.

I’m a socially awkward person, and this blog helps me. I almost lost it. but, I was okay. I am somehow still connected to all of you. And, I’m a better man for it.

And, I’m grateful for so much in my life. Especially for the events surrounding, and relative to last Monday night. Only God knows.

Meanwhile, my brother Greg recently reminded me there exists a certain poem.

Have you ever read the The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock?  It’s a classic and wildly complicated poem – a meditation on aging and the aching disappointment of being human (especially male and human) – by T. S. Eliot, arguably the greatest literary observer of the first half of the (or maybe of the whole) 20th Century.

I don’t particularly have an issue with being fifty (50). I do have an issue with the human race, apparently.

I am familiar with the poem. And, it’s quite a bit about being authentic, or living the authentic life, says, or interprets, I.

Isn’t there something in it relevant to Kipling?

All men, and the women whom love them, should go find that book. Do it!

I do have many regrets. But, I’m not ready to be weary. I understand the messaging around decay, but I take that more along the lines of the moral, as opposed to temporal. There is no sense of emasculation or sexual frustration. And, I’m convinced my own immortality will have me long thumping my chest at the redoubtable Mr. Eliot (thusly, I never have an issue with speaking my mind). I’m also skeptical of anything that speaks to multiple personalities. I am who I am. And, I’m simply a dark-minded man with a willingness, if not a penchant, to put on the air of bravado.

I like the way the poem is formed though. If memory serves there are references to other literary targets (Dante, Pope Boniface VIII, Ulysses,  to name just a few of the more interesting). So, if nothing else, it’s fun by association.

Go read it. Do it!  Will the mermaids sing to you?

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

brian patrick cork

chaos abounds in Thomas Jefferson's library. and, the dewey decimal system be damned

October5

I’ll admit we started this fight explorative effort with my earlier post: A Great Bargain.

On January 4, 2007, Keith Ellison became the first Muslim member of the U.S. Congress. After the official swearing-in ceremony, he took a ceremonial oath using a Qur’an owned by Thomas Jefferson, and acquired by the Library of Congress in 1815. My heart and hopes were warmed considerably with Ellison’t notions and maturity around tolerance.

Timely and relevant, said I. And, I retain that position, mind you.

Yet, out there, exist people with a separate view. How did that happen, you ask reader?

Consider:  How Thomas Jefferson Read the Qur’an by Kevin J. Hayes, (you’ll find it under Early American Literature), published in in 2004.

thomas JeffersonAnyway, read the whole thing.  Do it!  The article, I mean, but really, only if you’re certain you can appreciate it. But, also, ponder it’s ramifications.

Here’s why…

For many Muslims the election of Keith Ellison to the U.S. Congress was a great moment in U.S. history, and his use of the Jefferson Qur’an, an added bonus.

But should Muslims feel good about the fact that Jefferson owned a Qur’an?

I think so. Let’s be clear about that. I made my reasons clear in my aforementioned post.

However, after reading Kevin J. Hayes’ article, I can see why other people, and not just a few my need to stop, pause, and wonder. I’m not sure it’s accurate, so much as compelling.

So, let’s discuss and evaluate it with an open-mind here. Both Thomas Jefferson and Mr. Ellison would certainly approve.

I began reading Hayes’ article with great enthusiasm, interested to learn more about Jefferson’s connection with the Qur’an. My enthusiasm, however, steadily waned and by the end of the article, I was rather annoyed.

My enthusiasm diminished because, according to Hayes, Professor of English, University of Central Oklahoma, Jefferson was not a particularly big fan of Islam. In fact, Hayes concludes that Jefferson believed that Islam was:

“a halfway point between paganism and Christianity.”

I’m not sure that was fair or accurate. And, the irony here, of course, is that Islam teaches that it is the final revelation and, among other things, does away with pagan beliefs that had crept into previously established religions.

Hayes, in brief here, argues that Jefferson approached the Qur’an initially as a legal text and ultimately found fault with Islamic beliefs. I have to agree with that because it’s what Jefferson will add in his own memoirs. One piece of evidence Hayes uses to support his claim is the organizational scheme of Jefferson’s religious books. According to Hayes, Jefferson considered carefully where to physically place his books in relation to each other and was upset when the Library of Congress cataloged them in a different order, after he sold his personal library to the government. The Dewey Decimal System be damned!

Jefferson apparently placed the Qur’an between books on the religious beliefs of the ancient Greeks and Romans and the Old and New Testaments. Hayes states:

“The idea of progress underlies Jefferson’s organization of his religious books, and the list suggests a general progression from pagan to Christian…The library catalogue…suggests that Islam, as a monotheistic religion, represented an advance over the pantheism of ancient times. The organization of the library catalogue implies that the Islamic belief system was an improvement over the pagan religions yet fell short of the belief system Christianity represented.” (p. 254)

Although I’ll hold myself out as a Jeffersonian, and quite keen when it comes to historical research, I cannot judge whether Professor Hayes’ research is complete, his arguments sound, or his conclusions reasonable. So, perhaps, it is feasible that Jefferson did not understand the teachings of Islam (he did make the effort and had little outside influence to aid him) and found it to have pagan elements. Hence, the waning of enthusiasm and the ensuing disappointment as I read the article.

Why the annoyance?

The annoyance stems from the gratuitous jabs, on the part of Hayes, at Islam that interrupt what appears to be typical scholarly discourse.

For example, Hayes makes the following statements:

“Sanctioned by their government, the attacks of the Barbary pirates on American merchant vessels represent an early example of state-sponsored terrorism directed toward civilian American targets”. (p. 257)

and,

“The ambassador explained that the conduct of the Barbary Coast pirates “was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise” (Papers 9:358). Even today, especially today, the ambassador’s words have a chilling effect.” (p. 257)

Add to these comments Hayes’ discussion (p. 251) on George Sale’s highly criticized translation of the Qur’an published in 1734.

To wit…

Hayes initially states, “Reading George Sale’s translation, he had the opportunity to receive a fair view of the religion.” Hayes also notes that this was the first English version translated directly from Arabic, a fact that appears to be disputed. He describes Sale’s translation as including “a thoroughly researched and well documented overview of Islam.”

Moreover, Hayes states:

“Publishing his edition of the Qur’an in a Protestant European nation during the eighteenth century, Sale, of course, could not present a fully objective view of Islam. Though he does refer to Muhammad as both an infidel and an impostor, his overall treatment of Islam is remarkably evenhanded.”

Admittedly, I have not read George Sale’s translation or his discussion on Islam, but I find it nearly impossible to believe that he could demean that community of belief  in this manner, and give a “remarkably evenhanded” account of Islam. Jefferson, himself would have expected fairness and accuracy.

In any event, Sale’s translation has received widespread criticism and no English-speaking Muslim would consider it a good translation to read. Yet Hayes seems, for the most part, to be satisfied with it.

Hayes concludes his article with the following statement:

“Reading the Qur’an as his formal legal training was coming to a close, Jefferson had already developed the critical ability to recognize it for what it was–and for what it was not. On his library shelves and in his mind it remained at a halfway point between paganism and Christianity.” (p. 259)

Early American Literature, the journal that published Professor Hayes’ article, is described as:

“The journal of the Modem Language Association’s American Literature Division 1, Early American Literature publishes the finest work of scholars examining American literature from its inception through the early national period, about 1830. Founded in 1965, EAL invites work treating Native American traditional expressions, colonial Ibero-American literature from North America, colonial American Francophone writings, Dutch colonial, and German American colonial literature as well as writings in English from British America and the US.”

With this stated purpose in mind, it seems completely out-of-place to weave into an academic historical account of literature, inflammatory and seemingly personal beliefs about a religion. Such statements make me question the scholarship of the entire article.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork


perhaps not a road to perdition, but finishing well

July24

almost half my life. and, perhaps many of those years intelligently designed to be the most purposeful.

the intention to build a foundation that could be viewed in retrospect with pride and satisfaction.

along the way high adventure, uncertainty, trial and travail – zesty ingredients all, and a recipe for potential.

from: A Tale of Despereaux

“have you ever had hold of the tail of a rat? at best, it is an unpleasant sensation, scaly and cold, similar to holding on to a small, narrow snake. at worst, when you are dependent upon a rat for your survival, and when a part of you is certain that you are being led nowhere except your death, it is a hideous sensation, indeed, to have nothing but a rat’s tale to cling to.”

who knew each of those years was, in truth, a lonely paver, part of a road, with ugly twists that would lead down a path of despair-filled pot holes – each possibly a portal, to each, it’s own hell.

love and devotion rewarded with undermining actions pointing toward some truth that is insidious hatred, and best left unspoken, lest they be given their fullest of power and awful, putrid fruit.

from dantes inferno:

“In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself again in [or through] a dark wood, [so dark] that the straight way was utterly lost. Alas how hard it is to say what it was like, this savage and sharp and strong forest, which even in thought renews my fear! So bitter was it that death is little moreso; but in order to speak of the good that I found there, I’ll tell of the other things I saw there.” (Opening lines of Canto 1)

and, there is no road map, light or apparent truth to guide.

perhaps only our wit; a sense of humor – oh, and iron will.

more dante:

“The leader and I by that hidden way entered to return to the bright world; and without care for having any rest we climbed up, he first and I second, so far that I saw some of the beautiful things that heaven bears, through a round opening; and thence we came forth to see again the stars.” (Canto 34, lines 133-139)

yes, I know, the road to perdition is paved with good intentions. but, what the hell?

dante, in his inexplicable quest that remains inferno, expresses his amazement at seeing so many people who were never willing to commit themselves to any real attempt to be happy, whether by choosing good or evil.

and, T. S. Eliot alludes to these lines in “The Wasteland.”:

“these fragments I have shored against my ruins, why then ill fit you.”

yet, there is always hope.

let’s pause, catch our breath, and with hope consider the Mountain Interlude from Robert Frosts the road road not taken:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

being my fathers son, I have no choice, and, remembering His face, matched with desire but to lean forward to make each purposeful stride meaningful as the more years can yet equal triumph, and a hearty: “oh well done”.

it would be all that I can ask, and that be to finish well.

peace be to my brothers and sisters.

brian patrick cork

frankenstein, prometheus and intelligent Design

July21

The unrelatable (based on genius) Turin Hurinson, aka Joseph Simmons has recently offered up: Promethean Fire, Promethean Clay.

The inspiration for this posit is Mary Shelley’s timeless, Frankenstein.

And, more importantly it’s subtitle, “The Modern Prometheus”.

“Every essay I’ve ever read about Frankenstein that talks about that subtitle says it is a reference to the myth of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, and giving it to mankind. The implication of the subtitle becomes, Prometheus trangressed against the gods by stealing fire (=science), and Frankenstein did the same thing.”

Additional excerpts:

“Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus created mankind out of clay, on the orders of the other gods. If we consider the subtitle in light of this myth, the comparison is not between a trangressive Prometheus and a transgressive Frankenstein; the comparison is between a Prometheus who created life under the orders of the gods, and a Frankenstein who created life illicitly.”

[…]

“I don’t know why this second interpretation is never used. It has slightly different implications, and seems more appropriate, since it draws a parallel between Prometheus’s actions and Frankenstein’s actions, rather than just a parallel between their attitudes towards authority. It also makes the subtitle a judgment of Frankenstein’s character, rather than a judgement of Prometheus’s character, which seems more reasonable, since the book is about Frankenstein not Prometheus.”

[…]

Read his post in it’s entirety here, but only if you dare.

Because that ignited my own thinking around intelligent design; man’s fear of the unknown; his desire to explain away evil without accountability; and, stories, or mythology that allow us to face inner demons and explain how we interpret Gods plan (in our own terms).

So… It’s been far too long since I visited with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. But, I have now engaged the monster  in light of this myth and thinking that:

“…the comparison is not between a trangressive Prometheus and a transgressive Frankenstein; the comparison is between a Prometheus who created life under the orders of the gods, and a Frankenstein who created life illicitly.”

[…]

God is said to have created man in his image – or, the image He desired. He gave man the choice of good or evil. Man, according to the Bible, chose evil.

Prometheus made man upon direction of a God. He then handed him Pandora’s box, and distributed evil that preyed upon the world of man.

Victor Frankenstein created a creature that was the image of a man but was more animal, at first, in his views. But, he called his own creation evil from the beginning, treated him accordingly, and the creatures self image was that of a monster. The monster allowed himself to become the victim of men and attacked them with vengeance in his heart.

Man actually created Zeus. So, naturally he gave man Pandora’s box in retaliation because too many men fail to recognize their own internal evil. I think I mean that men find it hard to accept they are evil or don’t want to take responsibility for it.

God created Victor Frankenstein and gave him, as with all men, the gift of discernment and choice.

God did not create the monster.

Victor Frankenstein never gave the monster, his creation, any choice.

Victor Frankenstein can represent a man that, through his own free will (a kind of Pandora’s box) unleashes evil on the world. The monster is only a symbol of man’s potential for evil.

This will likely lead us to a discourse around intelligent design.

I don’t know why, exactly, just yet. But, I can feel it coming.

And, I am already thinking this is likely going to be one of those instances where I wish I could revisit a comment and revise it from time-to-time. I feel as though I painted myself into a few corners here. But, I you can also expect me to revisit this line of thinking quite extensively over the next couple of months. I sure hope you join me and feel free to chime in!

If none of this, or not even a little of it, makes sense, go watch the complete DVD set of the updated Battlestar Gallactica. This may fail yet to snap my thinking into place for you. But, it remains a great show, and is a mind bender from time-to-time.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

posted under Books, Religion | 5 Comments »

What’s All This About?

"What am I looking at?", you might wonder.

Lots of stuff.

Meanwhile, here, I discuss events, people and things in our world - and, my (hardly simplistic, albeit inarticulate) views around them.

You'll also learn things about, well, things, like people you need to know about, and information about companies you can't find anywhere else.

So, while I harangue the public in my not so gentle way, you will discover that I am fascinated by all things arcane, curious about those whom appear religious, love music, dabble in politics, loathe the media, value education, still think I am an athlete, and might offer a recipe.

All the while, striving mightily, and daily, to remain a prudent and optimistic gentleman - and, authentic.

brian cork by John Campbell





photos by John Campbell

 

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