On Sundays I often try to find some kind of religious issue but I think that after last night’s Rapture Not and the likelihood of reactions all over the place, I’ll sort of go sideways and talk about The Book. First, let me say that I’m reading two books at the moment. “The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts -- with Contributions from the Faculty of the International Project on Conflict and Complexity” by Peter T. Coleman. It’s 224 pages long, I’m 53 pages in, and it begins with an account of the probs and punishments of the House of Atreus, a rousing theatrical text that surely qualifies as an Impossible Conflict.
What I get so far is that the Five Percent of Conflicts that simply cannot be solved are caused by no one simple cause (there’s a refreshing change!) but rather by an alignment of complex webbed forces and causes, possibly beyond any human or divine control and possibly not even conscious or maybe even accessible to consciousness. Maybe a stage of evolution. I also get that sometimes these conflicts, though arising unwanted and causing terrible horror and destruction, can produce leaps in understanding and compassion. Maybe you’ll remember that the key seed tragedy of the House of Atreus is the mistaken eating of the next generation, often one’s own children. But it ends in the realization that vengeance is futile and in the nobility of self-sacrifice.
As a kind of counter-force I’m reading at Steven Pressfield Blog | A Video Series and Blog from Author and Historian Steven Pressfield “The Warrior Ethos” for free as a “lightbox text,” which means an ebook on my computer. Pressfield is fascinated by war. Right now on his blog he also has “up” an explanation of how a publishing auction works -- that’s when an agent is selling your book by getting publishers to bid against each other.
There’s also a side bar he calls “Doing the Work Wednesday” which right now discusses “The Artist and the Addict,” the latter being addiction to resistance to getting down to work. A little roundabout and geared for beginners, but everyone seems to be doing a bit of "farming" the beginning writer now that everyone has access to blogging. It always strikes me as being like the rush to become Unitarian ministers in certain circles -- it’s kind of an ego thing and when the hard boring parts begin, one needs urging. It’s perfectly clear that not everyone is cut out for the role, but how will you find out unless you try?
So is being a warrior like that? Pressfield goes back to Troy and Sparta. Boy babies were examined for their wholeness and health at birth. Any flaws and they were thrown off a cliff, discarded. Then their education was a romantic hardening to do battle and the women were educated to be proud of their deaths. "Son, come home with your shield or ON it." Pressfield says that a body of formal protocols, rules of war, tribunals, and other restraints and guides have been produced over the last millenia but we’re leaving that now. This is post-civilization battle we’re entering.
It appears that one condition is spontaneous revolution of unprepared and desperate people -- not naturally warriors at all. And another is the return of the trained mercenary at the same time as the disappearance of the nation, which means that those who hire armies are doing it selfishly to defend their own wealth. Spartans without Sparta. What’s the diff between that and an international corporation or a mafia hiring Blackwater, whatever its name right now? Pressfield will argue, I think, that a good soldier is always one who exemplifies the Warrior Ethos. According to the newspaper this morning, those who can battle without subsequent trauma are those who identify with a group. Part of the ethos is belonging to a band of brothers (he allows sisters). Well, Jesse James thought so, too.
Okay, so what’s my next move in this biblio-head-to-head, different in content, different in form. What if these two books were sub-books in a larger book called “THE Book,” because that’s exactly what the Christian Bible is -- a compendium of books copied from Torah, from miscellaneous manuscripts and letters composed and revised and rewritten by various people over a long period of time. If there is anything the Bible is NOT it’s NOT a mysteriously coded instruction book or horoscope. “Half” of it advises beating plows into swords (the Warrior Ethos) and the other half advises beating swords into plowshares (The Five Percent Solution). Scrolls and scraps, curated by a committee of old men who wanted their own way and excluded anything they didn’t like. (The Apocrypha are the manuscripts excluded and you can also buy books of the manuscripts of the same age and types of origin that weren’t even considered.) The Bible is not so much a book as it is a bound library of stuff collected near the Mediterranean to suit the goals of a new institutional church.
And then the darn thing (“codex”) became a sacred object in the usual way -- the priests wouldn’t let the ordinary folks read it because they might get the pages dirty and they might get funny ideas about what they read: you know, not interpret it the “right” way. Of course, the biggest problem was that most people couldn’t read. Only a few years ago it was still forbidden to teach American slaves to read. (We’re at the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Slavery has returned but it’s covert.)
And then books were pretty expensive. But Gutenberg fixed that when he invented movable type which lead directly to disintegrating wood-pulp paperbacks with mind-pulp contents. But also lead to ordinary people owning Bibles and reading them, which lead to a movement away from corruption and back to basics, which lead to rebellion (protesting) against the church, which lead to all sorts of chaos and confusion and (gasp) religious freedom.
So where are we now? Still eating our children. But these days the books are not just print, they are videos of people talking directly through hand-held devices. All you need is electricity and internet infrastructure. They are saying that “texting” has caused a new uprising in Northern Africa. There will be crucifixions. There will be new centurions. There will be new Christians. And some people will reach for icons and amulets, like a Book.
Others will grab their smart phones in order to twitter. Do tweets remind you of verses? Is belonging to a Facebook group like being part of a soldier’s squadron? How many children will be eaten? What will we call the new religion that is bound to result? Rapturists? Or Raptors? We’re moving pretty fast, so maybe Velociraptors.