When following coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (let us call it the
“Oil  Slick”),  I  cannot  help  but draw comparisons to the Dust Bowl of the
1930s,  which  exacerbated and prolonged the Great Depression. Both natural
calamities  occurred  during periods of economic weakness, characterized by
high  unemployment  and  sluggish  or  negative  growth.  Both  occurred in
relatively  impoverished  areas of the country where wealth is dependent on
natural  resources  (agriculture for the Dust Bowl, fishing/tourism for the
Oil  Slick).  Those  who  will be directly impacted are people who are most
vulnerable to any sort of unanticipated calamity.
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theological musings

April 26, 2010

i suppose before i start, i should qualify the following remarks with a bit of autobiographical framing:

i am religious, yes.  jewish to be exact.  however, my type of jewish is an odd duck to hunt and then mount.  it’s rigorous, but it’s leftist.  it prefers the ecstatic fervor of the hasidim, but (and!) it is radically egalitarian.  it is clearly un-orthodox.  you might even call it heterodox.

so, this brings me to my musings.

the one thing that bugs me the most about the theological debate as it stands is the pathological obsession with biblical inerrancy.  first of all, the idea of the bible as lynchpin of faith is a distinctly protestant notion.   it is clear to anyone with the barest understandings of interpretive history that there is not really any such thing as “biblical literalism.”

even the debate surrounding this principle has ceded ground from the outset to this ridiculous position.  to be forced to represent yourself as “not believing in a literal interpretation of the bible” already positions you as a weak-tea version of the true religionist who has enough strength in his convictions to override modern lily-livered qualms and put the whole world in G?d’s hands.

whatever.

the jewish (and catholic and muslim and even protestant) traditions have a long and rich history of biblical interpretation.  but not only that.  there are whole scores of religious literatures which make reference to the bible and are grounded in it, but serve their own function as well.  in fact, the study of the bible in the world of the yeshiva (advanced jewish study academy) has relegated the bible to a distant fourth behind the talmud, jewish law, and ethical texts.  the bible is present, of course, but it functions more as the ground whence texts bloom than the dominant focus.

now, all that being said, i want to acknowledge the feeling of needing perfection.  the books of psalms tells us, “the Torah of the Lord is perfect.” (Ps 19:7).   i want to propose a radically difference understanding of perfection.  from plato on down, we have felt compelled to understand perfection as implying stasis, wholeness.  i want to suggest a more fluid understanding of perfection.  it is an organic perfection, one emerging from the amazing adaptations happening around us all the time.  michael jordan was perfect in that game, because he was able to provide what was needed at the time.  the clash was perfect because they were able to create the most wonderful friction.

the Torah is perfect because it is able to provide us with what we need in every time.  the bible is perfect because it will never stop being an incredible textual resource and framework.

we must loose ourselves of this silly notion of “biblical faith.”  all faith is “biblical” in some way.  we are always conditioned by the externalities that help form us into the people we become.  our bible hums around us at all times.

perfect.

Ever since 4 billion years ago when our earliest protozoan ancestor slouched the earth looking for highly excited electrons to cut down a few quantums, energy has been an important part of life on earth. Here are some highlights:

10,000 BC: Humans develop agriculture, thus providing the first form of regular and reliable base-load generation. No longer do men need to wait for a half-eaten carcass to show up at the cave in order to have a good meal.

4,000 BC: Draught animals are domesticated, thus allowing humans to utilize energy stored in grass and other such indigestible sources.

2,251 BC: The Great Pyramid of Giza is built with nothing else but the energy of human brawn. Egyptian seers laugh at the ineptitude of Boston’s Big Dig.

500 AD: Bedouin nomads in the Middle East begin raising camels in arid zones and selling them as draught animals, thereby effecting a useful transfer of energy from arid zones to population centers. Meanwhile in Europe, where population density is too high to maintain draught animals, people develop windmills and waterwheels for additional energy.

1698 AD: Thomas Savery invents the steam engine, causing dinosaurs to turn in their graves. They are later exhumed.

2004 AD: 6,000 years of draught-animal utility are rolled back as Jamba Juice begins feeding its customers wheat grass.

2009 AD: Federal subsidies in the United States lead to a wave of wind and solar energy developments, with the apparent goal of returning us to an intermittent-energy society. Pre-historic farmers wonder why they ever bothered to invent agriculture.

2010 AD: A post about energy appears on “Yesterday’s Salad”, introducing a new level of reductionist absurdity to the blog’s miscellany.