Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Step Back

What do you think of this Jack H character? You've looked at enough of these pages to form an opinion. Does he seem to be a terribly sad man? Ironically self-absorbed? Dogmatic in his certitudes and scathing in his ire? I've just scanned through the last six months of his blog -- all that's visible without delving into the monthly archives (have you done that yet? He's quite brilliant, don't you think so too?) -- and I don't quite know what to think about him.

I suppose the best policy would be to not take him seriously. Clearly he has his passions, but it never seems clear when he's being entirely forthright. Sometimes he says things that would break my heart, coming from someone else -- and then he makes some snide comment to undercut the whole thing. I suppose it must be defensiveness. But with him you never can be sure.

He clearly thinks America is something pretty terrific. Odd to find a cynical character like him with such an unalloyed enthusiasm. And he has a weird obsession with justice, or rather injustice -- did you pick up on that? But some of it's kind of endearing, like the way he seems to love his son, or is it sons? He's kind of ambiguous on that detail, isn't he? And what's with this attitude about God? Hardly what you'd call reverential.

My favorites, of his efforts? I like Pornography. Hm, that's an awkward sentence. I like That which I most feared... as it were. Or Come muore un italiano. Well, I suppose there's a lot that I like. Starting My First Novel makes me smile. Some of those surreal mood pieces, like object and h, or What My True Name Might Be. Well, that's why I read him. Some of it's pretty interesting.

Some of it's sort of hard to take, though. Seems kind of raw. A little too personal, if you take my meaning. Like that thing called Jason. Isn't that just about the only time he's actually used a whole name? Or Poison. My God, Jack H, a little too much sharing there, man. Everyone has a poisonous relationship with their fathers. Get used to it. I prefer the safer stuff ... you know, current events and such. Don't you? The way he gets so indignant? I don't know what his big mystery is, the big grief he keeps circling. Obviously it has something to do with his foster kids, or maybe it's his childhood. Anyway, I like his sense of humor. Crazy as it is, it hints at his being sane.

I've been in communication with him, and sometimes I do worry. Because for all that he's a clown, he's kind of a nice guy, kind of decent -- he tries to be. I like him. I don't know why he's so hard on himself. He gets very depressed -- he says he's always been that way, since he was a kid. And he doesn't sleep well. And he seems to need to drive himself to exhaustion. Of course he's open about all that, he's said as much, but I wonder if there's more to it. I think there must be. As he'd say, there's always more to everything -- and less.

So I was talking with him earlier, and he was musing about the meaning of life, the way he does. And then he just stopped talking, and stared at me. I don't know how to explain it, but it was the creepiest thing. Really intense. Nothing dramatic, that you could see, but it was like looking out of the eyes of Jesus from the cross. I just felt like crying, and he hadn't said anything. Then the moment passed, and he said, "Anger has never gotten me anything that I've wanted."

Well, I was just wondering what you thought. I think he's pretty close to crazy. But I like crazy. I'm going to try to talk him into not writing any more on his blog, though. He spends about an hour a day on it, and that seems like a lot of time to waste. He should be out meeting people. I wish there was something I could do for him, to help him be happy. But, again, like he says, happiness is a choice.

On second thought, don't bother, you know, chiming in. It's enough that he has me. Anyone else would feel like a crowd.

He says he's thinking about just giving up. What do you suppose that means?



Teague said...

It is a little difficult to engage in substantive communication with someone who seems to want, desperately, to remain anonymous (yes, I ought to know). If a blog evokes superficiality, you can hardly complain that you are wrestling below your weight. But it is also very hard to be sincere and honest with someone if you are never sure where sarcasm and irony will end and when mutual vulnerability will begins. Rather, what comes next ?

I am 'tender' from having the 'shirt' ripped off of me too. Who done it is the polemic of the Adversary. But I been shamed before good Christian brothers. Who are. Unlike me, who am an embarrassment. Mutual shame doesn't build any bridges that will bear weight, does it ?

I have only just recently stumbled over your blogs. I would have been glad to have had a chance to interact with you on your chronological work. Not because I agree with it, but because I think I like the spirit and the quality of the mind behind the work (don't get all prickly at a supposed faux civility, I credit that to God's work in you, despite you). I think you (like me)could have used some sharpening in how you proceeded with your chronological research and a few 'wake ups' in response to your conclusions. Confidence in the author and in the content of divine revelation is a good starting point. Respect for the manifestation of common grace in the disciplines of scholarship requires a lot of work, and a surprising amount of humility when that respect and work are governed by a desire to know God and his ways-- not to express self justification (that there's a boomerang, son).

In my mental play, I can get all juvenile too. Hurts too much to get that way physically anymore. Isn't that part of the problem with Jack H. ? We know there is a time for that, and there is too little time for that.

Frankly, some people close to me told me that they thought you might be my twin. That, of course, was a loving slam. They would merely like me to be less, ummm, like you. Even if I do make them laugh it makes them wince at the same time. For me. You know how edifying that is.

TR, I enjoy your literacy, wince at the sharp knives you play with. When you have done with whatever constitutes your catharsis and want to do something more with your chronological studies, I, for one, would like to converse with you.

The Chieftain Of Seir said...

A loving slam against who? Jack H or you?

Normal is boring. Uncontrolled abnormal is too much fun. Controlled abnormal is the ideal.

The question is, can you control abnormal?

Jack H said...

C -- Indeed. Who. I allow myself my little games. Where's the harm in it? If it goes too far, as it does sometimes, I can, uh, step back and change the rules. It's my game, and I'm the only one playing. Anyone might watch, but the ticket is free so there's no complaining.

I'd settle for boring. I'm easily amused. Doesn't seem to be an option, though. I heard the question recently -- would you rather be happy, or have courage? If you have happiness you don't need courage; if you have courage you can bear unhappiness. Isn't there some third choice? Of course, the world being what it is an all, we must opt for courage. If it's an option. That way, we might do some good. Cows are happy. That must stand as the answer to all your questions.

T -- Buried somewhere in these pages is a reference to an ancient Egyptian wisdom saying I came across years ago. Something like, Be good to your children and love your wife, obey the laws, and perhaps the gods will have favor on you. If we can be touched by something scratched onto fragile papyrus three and a half thousand years ago, then surely a blog, or an email, or a text message, or any of the ephemera of modern communication can have substance. As much substance as communication can have, that is. I play with that puzzle a fair bit, as you might have noticed.

Anonymous? Desperately anonymous? Oh, it's simple. I think it makes me mysterious. I'm very sly, that way. My real name is Jacob Haymish, of 2388 E State, Tarzana, CA, 91356. My SSN is 560-43-8334, and my mother's maiden name is Olafsen. My PIN # is 8334, at the B of A on the corner of State and 3rd. That should just about cover it, right?

Where ever did you come up with the horrifying image of someone ripping someone else's shirt off, to shame them? That's just awful. Oh ... wait ... some dim serpent of memory is snapping at my heel.

But that's what comes next. We start with vulnerability, then move to sarcasm. Some of us return to tenderness and know it as for the first time. Some of us remain in perpetual shock -- 'how could this *happen*' -- and vow that it will never happen again. What are we to make of a world over which even the Son of God weeps?

"Prickly"? *You're* prickly. For my part, I choose to believe every good thing said about me.

As I must have said, somewhere within your hearing, my work on ancient chronology was done in a previous decade. It would take a fair bit for me to reabsorb the data unto competence, and I haven't the internal resources for that, at the moment. There is a final treatment that I'd need to write -- I have most of the research done for it, but it's been stalled for a decade. The cares of the world and all that. Hope that doesn't make me a seed sewn among thorns.

The heart of my reconstruction is a timeline derived entirely from the primary source of the Bible, as I must have stated. I believe that I stated the few several assumptions, which allow a range of about 60 years. From my dogmatic fanatical intolerant bigoted religionist point of view, that timeline is pretty much inviolate. So it's the secularists who have it wrong. The Age of Base Metal, and the Elam appendix, are a very narrow part of my work, and I'm very confident in it. But I love anomalous data, it invigorates me, so I'm always open to correction. Upon sufficiently servile request, etexts might be made available.

Like me? Be like ME? How could such a thing be possible? I am sui generis. Let's have no more of such foolishness.

Catharsis. Let us hope that's what it is.


Teague: said...

TR-- "For my part, I choose to believe every good thing said about me."

Yes. I can see what a good Chooser you are. Must have something to do with your theology.

I can't give you back what you lost, but whatever you really lose was never His. Depression is not the refuge of the effete, it is the last, heroic stand of self affirmation. Sorta pre-taste of hell.

Yes, you are a "dogmatic fanatical intolerant bigoted religionist."

Could reveal poor animal husbandry skills to think that even your clone--in those regards-- should allow you the decadence of believing that your most basic presuppositions inevitably yield your 'inviolate' timeline.

Yeah, I suppose anomalies are like aphrodisiacs to people with sharp minds or willfull hammers. Frankly, I think people who "love anomalous data" are a dime-a-dozen. You are worth more than that.

When you lift up your eyes and the presence of Hope displaces your anger, perhaps you will re-invest a little of your mental gifts in finding new, credible interpretations of conventional data that are consistent with your view of Scripture. That is not to say that scholarship will embrace your 'timeline' but that at least you will have mastered contempt in one more way. Or, perhaps your past investments were nothing but your own possessions that should be cast off.

Jack H said...

I do indulge myself, don't I. Come, laugh with me. But for all that I enjoy a light tone, I approach my efforts here, as elsewhere, with as much integrity as I might muster. I may not state the rules that I play by, but I play by rules.

In my chronological work, I started with the assumption that there were valid data to be extracted from the Hebrew scriptures. Upon testing that hypothesis, as with the Elamites, I found it to be valid. From that I put together a timeline extracted entirely from internal information within the Bible. The posted timeline is not complete, since its purpose is simply to provide context. But the methodology is self-evident, and may be tested.

Neither hope nor anger played any part in its composition. I will admit that faith did play its part, but no more than that of any scholar who examines his evidence and finally finds it to be trustworthy and consistent.

If you reject my conclusions, that is most certainly your right. You would subscribe then to one of the standard timelines, or some idiosyncratic variation. The embarrassment you will come up against from such an assumption is that there are absolute and irreconcilable contradictions between standard scholarship and the very clear historical data of the Bible. History can identify no plagues of Egypt. The Hebrews are taken to be the Hyksos. Joseph, who ruled for decades in that land, is an utter non-entity in standard chronicles. I point out in the piece you have read that any number of cities from the archaeological record flat out contradict the assertions of the biblical account.

I have resolved all of that. The price has been high, in that it required the complete reorganization of major time blocks into a new pattern, as several of the imperfectly posted charts outline.

I lay this out explicitly here, because I sense in your comment a certain disapprobation of my conclusions. My silly tone sometimes invites correction. I'm avoiding such foolishness here, for now. In this elliptical forum, our terse comments may not convey our precise meaning. So I read your suggestion that I might find "new, credible interpretations of conventional data," and from it I take it that you find my conclusions incredible. I assure you I am not offended or distressed in any way by this.

Likewise, your position on anomalous data seems a trifle curt. Every one of my conclusions has been based on conventional data, extracted from easily-obtained and universally respected reference materials. I have reinterpreted their meaning, not ignored or twisted the data to mean what I might need them to mean. You must have seen this in my handling in Base Metal. I see even from the abstract for that article that I was clear on these points.

You will be familiar with the work of Thomas Kuhn, dealing with paradigm shifts. We have such revolutions because of anomalies. There will never be an apology from me, for this fact, or for my enjoying this fact. Again, my tone is not meant to convey indignation or offense. I am serenely content with your opinions, whatsoever they may be. I would just want them to be based on a clear understanding of my own opinions. If we agree to disagree, that's great. If we influence each other toward some other position, that's great too. That's what I mean when I say I'm open to correction. But I will be corrected by a more powerful, a more elegant, and a more robust theory, not by convention or dogma. Every man of integrity must make the same claim, and strive to achieve it. Not every reformer is correct. But they are not wrong, simply because they are reformers. We will of course agree on this very obvious fact.


Who's TR? You?


Teague said...

TJR--"Who's TR? You?" In a world of Chaos, and Complexity, in a blog of Cheshire posts, who knows. Only a forgotten prophet would know.

You misunderstand my oblique approach. Credibility has something to do with those who have a shared authority.

If I granted you the chronological parameters of your biblical timeline, I still would not be obliged to grant you your ancillary sanctification of the chronology of the ancient history associated with it.

It is possible, I say 'desirable', to accommodate a chronology of the ancient world within the same time span that you posit, which does not approximate that which you have laid out-- and (I would unseemly propose) is also much more faithful to known synchronisms between diverse rulers in the ancient world, etc., etc. Though you point me to the more relevant blog, I accosted you where I found you and from where I thought you might be going. Sort of like how I managed to be in the way of the girl who would become my wife, many years ago. . . .

But you are rightfully wary of Trolls. And what self respecting person wants to be lectured by a somebody who 'thinks' they know something (as I am sure you have been)? I thought you might follow my nuance enough to know that we both needed to be sharpened, not hacked.

Listen. You keep wrestling with the Good Humor man, I'll keep wrestling with the Real Evil man. It's all the same to me.

You are far more exposed than I am, and I cannot, and do not expect you to indulge me further.

Jack H said...

One does strive to understand. I hold social opinions in a light grasp, because anything more would be ungracious. If I have misunderstood, it hasn't been for want of willingness. As I say, elliptical communication is subject to distortion. That's why I strive to become clearer and more direct, when it appears there might be confusion.

Re my biblical timeline, it is what it is, and doesn't allow for a lot of wiggle room. My attempt to harmonize it with the great civilizations of ancient days arises from my constitutional desire that the world be as orderly as possible. Most certainly my solutions may be wrong. Of course. No one is obliged to agree with them, and any disagreement will be met with a spirit open to correction. The only reason I did the work that I did, is that no one else had done it, to my satisfaction.

I wouldn't present my conclusions as sanctified. I do think they're right, but show me where I'm wrong and I will be corrected. I have found the Exodus, very clearly, in ancient Egyptian documents. I have found Joseph as ruler of Egypt. I have found Moses, as a prince of that land, and the Pharaoh of the Bondage, and the Pharaoh of the Exodus, and his dead son. I have found by name Cushan-Rishathajim the Mesopotamian (Jdg 3:8). I have found Amraphel of Shinar and Arioch of Ellasar and Chedorlaomer of Elam (Gen 14). I have identified the Amalekites and the Hyksos and the Amu.

I consider these to be powerful synchronisms. If some other approach derives better results, I will yield to it. You haven't seen the greater body of my work, but I will simply assert here that there are no contractions between any known synchronism and my conclusions. What an obvious error that would be.

Very few people lecture me. No one, if fact. I haven't managed to be in the way. But I would be edified by a well-presented and authoritative lecture on an area that I'm interested in. Wisdom, after all, will not die with me.

As for trolls, I am, in one of my several identities, Jack the Giant Killer. I have no fear of monsters. For all that there is real evil in the world, as I pretend to know, we might meet the unknown with good humor. Access to violence is easy enough, if it's necessary. It's hardly ever necessary. Evil is rare.

They come, they go, those who drop in. I welcome them all and enjoy the company. If they return, they will find a place again at my table. We will converse late into the night, and part again for a time, as friends.