Genesis: punishment and blessings

Where do you begin with a piece of literature like The Bible? It’s the touchstone work of one of the worlds biggest religions, and there is so much here; so much to talk about, think about, recoil from, etc.   When a class of young, wide eyed first year students read The Odyssey, we all have just about the same real life context. Unless one of us is a devout worshipper of Zeus, the concept of the divine in the poem can be tossed around fairly easily. Not so with The Bible. I felt excited reading Genesis for the first time… I could almost feel the years of conflict, bias, ancestry, belief, etc. on my shoulders, all stemming from this very, very old book.

I am by no means religious, although I do like the idea that all things are connected in some way. The point is, I read this story like I would any other story. Interested in the characters, plot, dialogue, you know, that stuff. However, I am very interested in how this story in all it’s infamy effects how people live and see the world. I will not deny it, on first read I was fairly amazed. This God fellow came across as sexist, racist, and a little too comfortable with all this power he had. I did one of those indignant atheist things where I found everything I possibly could that went against human morals today, and complained about it to a friend. This friend was far more educated in the ways of Christianity then me, and explained to me the whole Old Testament thing. He told me the New Testament is fairly different, more love, and less fire and brimstone. Not sure what i’ve decided about that yet, but here’s some thoughts on Genesis, and some questions, if anyone can answer them.

The chain of wrongdoing in the Garden of Eden was interesting to me. The first decision made was the decision to gain wisdom and knowledge, and this is seen as a mistake and something that deserves punishment. What does this say about early society and The Bible? Are Adam and Eve being punished simply for disobeying Gods will or for wanting to know some of what he knows? In some sense, the idea of innocence and obliviousness seems kind of nice, but the tree also implies that there is an evil power out there, an ungodly power, which God himself might not have control of… that was interesting to me.

Starting from Eve, women are often seen as a temptation, a means through which one can commit evil, although God also sees them as important for a man to “have” God himself says “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you”. This explains a lot about the condescending way women used to be treated, and it makes me realise how deep seated all these concepts are, which is rather scary. In fact, the sudden way God decides anything, without needing any explanation, makes me nervous.

I have a whole number of thoughts, (why is some violence condoned and others condemned? Why is there such emphasis on spreading your “blood” around the world? What does this text say about family? When does The Devil come in?) But those can wait. Writing style not included, this is one of the most interesting texts i’ve read in a while.





Medea; vengeance and morality

Brilliant! This play presents itself in a short, simple way, but still seems to be beautifully complex. It reads like some sort of car accident; you only have a few moments to figure out what’s going on before you feel the entire force of it hit you. And then it’s over. Medea.

The clever part is that Medea herself seems to represent more then just one state of being. Yes, she is manipulative, malicious, and an emotional extremist who kills her children. But she is not without remorse, and many a time she would come into conflict with herself; wavering between thoughts of vengeance and those engrained notions of morality that everybody feels. In this course we seem to be searching out the very “human” monster. Well, here it is. The type of monster we can understand just before we recoil from. A monster that reads like a human is the most scary monster of all.

An important thing for me was how universal the struggles of Medea were. She talks of the “ceaseless work” of raising children, the “unending pain” of what was then a male dominated society. These are challenges that would continue to plague womankind for hundreds of years, and still do in many places. Although the context of Jason is noteable, (his heroism and such) you could substitute him for any other chap who is unfaithful to his wife and marries another, and the result would be pretty much the same. Jason is by no means innocent. He wronged his wife and broke his vows, but there was a certain obliviousness to how he did it, a certain transparency to his lies. In searching for a monster I looked elsewhere.

What IS different is the way that Medea reacts to her betrayal. Something here made me look at the idea of vengeance much more closely then I have before.  I must have read or watched hundreds of stories where the plot is driven by revenge. Often such a story will end with a moral message that sounds something like “If you spend all your time looking for revenge, when you finally get it you won’t have anything left to fulfill you.”  This type of idea usually works well when the hero has lost everything. Except Medea DID have something else. She had children she loved, she had a place to go, she probably could have pulled her life together.

For me, that is the most fascinating thing about this whole work. It wasn’t simply the act of betrayal that destroyed Medea’s life, it was her anger at such a crime. It consumed her and gave her a sort of desperation to do something, anything. He took a little bit, and she ended up taking the rest herself.


The Odyssey: disjointed reflections

When I think of well versed bards reciting The Odyssey to a crowd of people many, many years ago, it makes me realize a number of things about stories. On the one hand, not much has changed at all. I suppose Homer came about in the early days of epic journey tales, and he seems to have set the stage for many more recent books with similar themes. I spent a good portion of the novel waiting for Odysseus to arrive at Mt. Doom or meet an Orc army, so striking were the parallels between this and the work of Tolkein. I did however, come across a number of things that caused me to raise an eyebrow or feel vaguely uncomfortable; things I wasn’t used to. One of the first was the superficial nature of the characters, immortal or not. I sort of cringed every time Athena would make Odysseus tall, muscular, and handsome so that he would get some respect, or when a character would exclaim something along the lines of “Well, that chap is good looking and has an ephemeral glow, he must have good blood. Pour him some drinks!” Perhaps it’s the element of truth that disconcerts me.

There is a black and white sense of morality in this book. Distinctly old fashioned, as of course is appropriate for a poem written in 8th century BC. Grisly acts of murder and torture are accepted as rational and heroic, as long as they are justified. The whole text reads as an “eye for an eye” battle, but it did make me think a lot about the concept of right and wrong, and how different people might interpret it.

The Gods seem to be obsessed with material goods. A greek soldier could be as kind and loving as any, but if he forgets to burn some sheep thighs or pour out some libations to the Gods, he will have a rough go of it. I’m told this is just the way of the Greek Gods, but it is rather fun to point out their puerility. To be honest it’s actually really refreshing. You hear so much about the untouchable perfection of Gods that reading about them argue like teenagers and thinking about “revenge” is kind or nice. Homer portrays them as being very accessible. You can’t get away from the Gods, that’s for sure.

My last great mystery was what felt like an unfinished ending. Odysseus never made peace with Poseiden, never did what he was told to do in the prophecy. It just ended. I hear that the Odyssey has a lost sequel, explaining some of the suddenness of the ending; its a shame.

In summary, it was brilliant. What I originally saw as a very traditional, classic piece of text made me think about character far more then I thought I would. It snuck up on me, so to speak.

A Blog Genesis

Well, Hello! I’m Sam. I’ve never blogged before but the first thing I notice is that posting is rather one sided. I have all this time to write about myself, and no one can interject or steer me towards another subject. So this is why blogging is so popular…

I was born and raised at a remote childrens camp in Northern British Columbia where I would run around the forest with sticks, shouting loudly at various imaginary beasts. It was a brilliant childhood. Every day I rode a bus for two hours to the nearest school, where I would neglect my education and instead make music and make films. I don’t think the art medium actually matters, it’s just that I am so fascinated by the process of creation. I have spent the last few years recording music in dimly lit basements, playing at music festivals with close friends, and trying to look brooding.

Somehow I have found myself here. I’m majoring in Film Production, and am really interested in the way music and film work together. For now, I feel privileged and happy to be in Arts One with all you, and am excited to see how things will unfold.

Sincerely, Sam