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Guardians of the Loveless Isle

This is totally unrelated to the post in question, so I don't see any point in taking this there, so to speak. But someone on my f-list (in a f-locked post, so don't go looking for it) just called taking parts of the Bible you like out and using them out of context "cherry-picking". Which is fine for the post in question. I'm not arguing against that person's usage.

But it made me realize how little I think of the Bible as a single book. I mean, it isn't cherry picking if it was never a fruit salad. And a bunch of squabbling geezers forcing a bunch of fruit in the same bowl doesn't make it a fruit salad neither. And preserving it by canning it makes it pretty mushy and significantly lower in nutrition. You end up having to put artificial colours and flavours in it just to get people to try it. Usually, afterwards, they wish they hadn't. Meanwhile, ripe fruit is rotting on the vine, but thanks to the marketing campaign, people think fruit salad is better for you and eat it instead. Even when it's been left on the shelf too long and eating it will kill you dead.

[How far can I push this metaphor, I wonder?]

[Pssst.—That's Enough.]

[OK, thank you.]

Now, that's not the same as picking out inconsistencies, but anyone who thinks Leviticus belongs with Luke hasn't really thought very hard about either. The mental gymnastics needed to conceptually unify those two books would drive you madder than a shuggoth-spotter in a moonbeam. [Although this may explain Michelle Bachmann, curiously enough.]

Even the Koran is a hodgepodge. "Let's see... This one's longest, so put it first and call it 'The Cow' because there's a cow in it." And this goes way back. Even the Vedas were clearly a "well, chuck them in four generally similar piles and sew them up." The Buddha is largely known through "Stuff teach was nattering on at us way back when." I'm not dismissing scholarly exegeses, but you have to understand that they are the maintenance work to keep the jaggernath rolling, and isn't original material no matter whether you call yourself mullah or rabbi.

But the idea that "THE BIBLE" is a unified whole is an alien concept to me. I can smell the stale popcorn from the revival tent in that concept, and I think it cheapens the cultural import of that particular portable library, kind of like convincing a scholar of the arts to don a suicide vest. Anyone have thoughts on this?

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
kmarkhoover
Jun. 28th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC)
I never thought of it as a unified whole, but a collection of oral and textual histories handed down by tradition. It has a very random feel to me.

barry_king
Jun. 28th, 2011 07:01 pm (UTC)
Yep. Pretty much on board with that. Portable library with some history, some spiritual stuff, and a lot of songs and letters.
(Deleted comment)
barry_king
Jun. 28th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
I would LOVE to see some of the real bible-thumpin' preachers actually try to live their lives according to Leviticus. It would make for good reality TV.
asakiyume
Jun. 28th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
There's no reason *not* to cherry pick unless you think the whole thing is totally divine and infallible, which I realize some people do think, but I'm not one.

There's stuff in the Bible that's contradictory, and some of it--from the perspective of an agnostic or a nonbeliever (or even from the perspective of a believer) is pretty dang unpleasant.

Not that the Bible's alone in that. Most religious texts have their unappealing elements.

...I like your extended riff on the metaphor, too, btw. Cherry picking is an awesome thing! How else are we going to harvest the cherries, for crying out loud??
barry_king
Jun. 28th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
I always thought cherry-picking was when you take only the bits you like out of fruit salad. They even have a kind of fruit salad with "extra cherries" for those fruit salad pickers.

There was an enterprising kid in our old neighbourhood who would climb the cherry trees and pick the cherries for a 1/4 cut of what he picked. Very sure-footed, climbing with a plastic bag and bare feet. That's more what I think of when I think of cherry-picking a book. Having to make an effort to find the bits that were worthwhile to make something out of. And giving most of the credit to the owner.
asakiyume
Jun. 29th, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC)
I think you're probably right in your etymology for the term, but I agree with the entirety of your second paragraph, too.

cherry picking--let's cherry pick our desired meanings.
(Deleted comment)
barry_king
Jun. 28th, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC)
I like the part where Abraham, Mr. plodding heavy, spends nearly a whole book buying a piece of land to bury his wife on. It's practically a modern short story.
peadarog
Jun. 28th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC)
I think it cheapens the cultural import of that particular portable library

Surely a lot of its cultural impact is derived from people trying to unify it. A lot of the translations into modern European languages also must have given it even more of a homogenous vibe than the original mixture of tongues in which it was written did.

Yet another question to keep sad-eyed mermen tossing in slumber, I suppose.
barry_king
Jun. 28th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC)
That is a very good point. For that matter, English pretty much hit its stride around the time the bibles were being translated and smuggled in. I've often wondered if it was Shakespeare that helped keep the Tyndale–>King James series of translations iconic or vice-versa. Like all cultural traditions, they gain strength and inertia by sharing.

So yes, not all unification is some kind of twisted supplanting of history. Or simply exegesis.
slave2tehtink
Jun. 28th, 2011 09:19 pm (UTC)
I locked down LJ to avoid one specific person, if you want to link people to my Dreamwidth account it is the same account name it is here. ETA Which is to say that it's not locked down here because I have something against people reading it, the thing is public on DW. I'm just, um, avoiding one particular unpleasant person in the most cowardly and low-drama way possible.

"...it isn't cherry picking if it was never a fruit salad." and the follow-on discussion here is something I shall now ponder! But you are probably right, you sometimes are.

Also, a long time ago in an account far far away which I think you have since deleted, you discussed saving tomatoes for seed. Speak to me again of saving tomatoes for seed, sir, since I am about to be deluged with tomatoes.

Edited at 2011-06-28 09:20 pm (UTC)
barry_king
Jun. 28th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
But of course! My bare-bones approach:

1. Make sure it's not a hybrid variety.
2. If it's a known heirloom, pick before you *ahem* pick, one or two of the fruit that is most typical of its breed.
3. Let those ones ripen on the vine as much as you dare, but not rotten.
4. Let it overripe at room temperature for a while in a protected place where nothing small (fruit flies) or large (husbands) will get to it. Not the fridge. If it shows sign of spontaneous bruising or if a week has gone by, it's ready.
5. When it's overripe, break out the pulp and smear as many seedy bits onto a paper towel as you want seeds.
6. Mark the paper towel with the breed name and hang it to dry someplace dry, but out of the sun.
7. When it's dry, you can stack them like cards. Put them somewhere airy, but not too dry or damp. Someplace you'd be comfortable.

They will last about two years like that. When it comes time to plant, pluck of the fattest seeds and plant them two together, killing the smaller of the two by pinching it off.
slave2tehtink
Jun. 29th, 2011 10:36 am (UTC)
thank you! I am pretty sure my Black Sea Man tomatoes are not hybrids, but we shall find out! And next time around, I won't plant ALL THE SEEDS. Because five fruiting tomato plants is a little bit much for two human beings...
cecile_c
Jun. 29th, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
You could even say that the reason why some religions have survived all this time is precisely because they are a collection of bits and pieces, all patched together and full of inconsistencies, and that allows people to reinterpret them every now and then to fit their own times. If the texts were very clear with only one possible interpretation, would they be so popular with so many different times and cultures?

On the other hand I do realise that as a fifth-or-so-generation atheist, I can only view the Bible as an archaeologic document. When you don't see it as the word of God, it's easy to point out that different parts were written in different contexts and it's okay to "cherry-pick", as you say, since it's all just a collection of subjective points of view you can decide to agree with or not. I talked about it with some actual believers, and they were quite incensed that I would suggest disregarding the obsolete parts, since for them the whole was sacred; yet they did their own selecting and interpreting themselves... One girl called it "reading between the lines". To her it was quite different from "cherry-picking", though.
barry_king
Jun. 30th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
Also an excellent point, that by the fragmented nature, every generation's need for a re-interpretation strengthens the work's relevance for that time. A very similar point to what Peader was saying.

And clearly people are doing that with the notion of faith as well. I'm not exactly atheist or agnostic. I'm more un-committed, or of the feeling that even logical truths are limited in their applicability, so I look at the whole business of religion on practical terms. So for me, some parts of the collection may provide you with some useful guidance. Some may just be silly. But the assertion that all of it is sacred, I think, is something that a person has to make on their own, and may be essential for some people to reach some kind of understanding.

But for me, it's clearly a set of fragments derived from Mesopotamia and the Levant with a style that defined the "modern" view of what an individual is, and so it's a very important cultural artifact.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )