Monday, April 13, 2009

"Look! It's moving. It's alive. It's alive... It's alive, it's moving, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE!"

Henry Frankenstein, Frankenstein (1931)

"Be afraid. Be very afraid." Yes, I am back. The DHOSF has lain fallow for the winter, like a field in repose, like a bear in hibernation. But now it is back with the Spring and ready to roar in the wild woods once again. Winter was rather dreary here in the DHOSF, no spectacularly bad weather, no local heart crushing disasters, nothing very jubilatory, either, but one notes that was not the case in most of the rest of the world. The dreary drum roll of death and disaster continued and continues to roll relentlessly around the planet, with the shining moment of the election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States of America thus glittering even more brightly. Fires, floods, wars and revolutions, murders and mayhem continue their ceaseless cacophony round the globe and, sad to say, it all becomes rather numbing, like a pain that one has suffered far too long that eventually becomes a kind of warped and malign companion. The world is frankly insane, perhaps more insane than it has been for many a century and its citizens are simply weary with fatigue. The stress is so constant, so all-pervasive that, if one can, one retreats into the private space of one's home and pulls the curtains and locks the door, or if one cannot, it is back to trudging the streets, carrying that invisible cement block on one's back, "Tote that barge, lift that bale."
Devi and I have not been particularly divine in our daily lives recently. You will remember Devi, of course, my wife, who in her many incarnations has spread good cheer to the countless millions who pray to her as the goddess of Compassion. We remained rather palace-bound the greater part of the winter, but as Spring continues its steady inroad into the DHOSF I imagine that we shall recommence our sorties into the greater world at large to partake of the simple festivities of the woad-daubed hordes.

In keeping with my previous habit of noting some of the greater inanities in this our world, I shall remark on a few that caught my eye in the past few months and some that are still in development. One I particularly enjoyed was a story of elephants in a Kenyan game preserve texting park rangers. The elephants have been fitted with devices that notify the rangers when they are agitated, i.e. being hunted, chased, or dead. It seems rather redundant to receive a text message stating, "Hello, it is Jumbo, and I have been killed by ivory poachers," especially when the carcass is found minus its tusks, but there you have it. Still in the animal kingdom, from China came this news service highlight: "BEIJING (AP) -- A college student in southern China was bitten by a panda after he broke into the bear's enclosure hoping to get a hug, state media and a park employee said Saturday." Well, he got one, did he not? There is also a heartening tidbit from Germany this week; a woman jumped into the pool in the polar bear habitat at the Berlin zoo during feeding time. She was rescued by zoo employees but not until she had been decently mauled by one of the bears, upset that this rude woman would crash his dinner party. She was given a citation by the police for trespassing, as well. The Darwin Awards never lack for nominees and it is a shame that the animals were not allowed to finish the job of removing these fools from the gene pool. I was intrigued to read that when Moses returned to Egypt to free the Jewish people, he left his hounds, Tophah and Ketaph, behind in Canaan. I imagine he did so fearing that they would be ridiculed by the sleek and elegant Egyptian hunting dogs, torn apart by jackals or, even worse, seduced and then savaged by the merciless Egyptian cats. He should have known better than to have orthodox shepherd dogs.

In the sphere of the upright, I-walk-on-two-legs genre of animal, I note that the top Saudi cleric has reiterated the appropriateness of child brides in Islam, this despite a recent (nonreligious) appeal ruling in Saudi Arabia granting a divorce to an eight-year old girl who was horrified to find herself married (without her knowledge or consent, of course) to a fifty-six year old man. And they find that appropriate - Mohammad would weep (I think). On the plus side for the Saudis, a recent royal visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota had an actual, visible impact on the local economy. I imagine it did, considering that the royal entourage is two or three Boeing 747s, they book entire luxury hotels "for privacy" and their shopping jags are legendary, wiping out entire malls in private, late night visits. The Pakistani government has all but ceded the northeast of its country to the rule of the Taliban, hoping that "diplomacy and dialogue" will bridge the gap and that they will be content with that. Umm hmm, sure, right, whatever you say. What unbelievable fools. In Malaysia, the Fatwa Council has officially banned yoga and tomboys, under the enlightened viewpoint that both "contradict the spirit of Islam." A $60 million dollar replica of the Taj Mahal has been built in Bangladesh. Why?? The one and only original is not enough? Leaving aside the other idiocies of this idea, it strikes me that perhaps Bangladesh has better things to do with sixty million dollars, ummm, perhaps feed its starving millions? When you really think about it, you know that $60M could not even come close to replicating the Taj Mahal, so one wonders, is it papier-mâché? "Marbleized" contact paper on plywood? It certainly cannot be even remotely real or life-sized. Perhaps Sudan is "clearing" Darfour in order to build a replica of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, complete with mortuary temples, Solar Barque and a miniature Nile running past its feet. They already have a good stretch of the real Nile, but what the hell . . . . I note that the Somali pirates took a high hard one right up the trunk this weekend in a meeting with some US Navy SEALs. Good for the SEALs and good for Obama to have authorized that. Score: one rescued American captain, three dead Somali pirates and one captured pirate. The French pulled off a similar feat last week with an hijacked French yacht - unfortunately, they killed one of the French hostages, but rescued the rest and made a croque-monsieur out of the pirates. Knowing that this is going on, why do companies continue to send their ships down/up the Suez Canal? (Yes, it is more expensive to re-route them, but so what?) If the international shipping community were to simply stop doing it, I imagine the Egyptian government would look at the loss of revenue and quickly decide to have a very serious talk with Somalia. The Egyptian armed forces are not powerless nor do they suffer from the "Italian High Command Syndrome." They have not intervened thus far because continental Islamic politics weigh more heavily, for the moment, than international opprobrium. Let the dollar speak for itself; they had to do something serious with their own insurgencies when tourism in Egypt almost died a few years ago.
Mass shootings (again) in America and Germany, Belgium continues to produce the most psychotic child molesters anywhere in the world, Italy suffers a massive earthquake and people are outraged the buildings fell over (they are medieval, you fool), Sarkozy makes France rejoin NATO (DeGaulle could be heard twirling in his grave), the Queen of England grazingly hugs Michelle Obama and the British are aghast ("the Queen does NOT do that!") or delighted ("A charming and natural show of affection! Bloody marvelous!"), take your pick, the Swiss are forced to cough up some of their banking secrets, the Czech Republic welcomes Obama like an homeboy, Russia and the Ukraine throw punches over who gets to gouge Europe the deepest, China tries to jilt the US dollar as THE international currency and is laughed out of the room (thus forcing them to save face by buying billions more of the American debt), Zimbabwe continues to be simply unreal, South Africa denies a visa to the Dalai Lama, the headliner for an international peace conference there and thus the conference is cancelled, Col. Qaddafi storms out of an African League summit because some Arab countries are "too conciliatory" with the West, which is hilarious considering that he is the recently elected president of the African League, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is considering nationalizing himself, etc., etc., etc. The tragicomedy never ends, folks.

I have spent the latter part of the winter (and am still continuing) carefully, slowly and painstakingly reading a glorious edition of The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day trans. by Dr. Raymond O. Faulkner, Dr. Ogden Goelet, Jr., based on the original color illustrations of E. A. Wallis Budge and produced by James Wasserman. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1998. For anyone with a love of Egyptology it is irreplaceable, an absolute must-have. It is a full-color reproduction of the entire Papyrus of Ani with an up-to-date translation by Drs. Faulkner and Goelet. Many of the constructs of an Egyptian papyrus are strange for a modern reader, such as the idea that chapters exist but not necessarily in order. Thus, you might start with chapter 33, then follow on to chapter 16 and not actually find chapter 1 until halfway into the papyrus. Also, the Book of the Dead is not a religious text, not theological philosophy, nor is it a book of "Egyptian magic," so to speak. It is, for lack of a better term, an instruction manual on how to transit from mortality to immortality for the recently deceased. I have decided that from time to time I will end my blog entries with excerpts from the papyrus, the better to let you know that you must prepare yourself for your inevitable journey, and that the best way to do so is to be at least fleetingly familiar with the Book of the Dead. These excerpts will be at random and shall not be excessive (or at least so I hope). Wherever you read the name of Ani, I suggest you replace it with your own. With that in mind:

Excerpt from Chapter 30B: Chapter for not letting Ani's heart create opposition against him in the God's Domain

O my heart which I had from my mother! O my heart which I had from my mother! O my heart of my different ages! Do not stand up as a witness against me, do not be opposed to me in the tribunal, do not be hostile to me in the presence of the Keeper of the Balance, for you are my Ka which was in my body, the protector who made my members hale. Go forth to the happy place whereto we speed; do not make my name stink to Entourage who make men. Do not tell lies about me in the presence of the god; it is indeed well that you should hear!
Thus says Thoth, judge of truth, to the Great Ennead which is in the presence of Osiris: Hear this word of very truth. I have judged the heart of the deceased, and his soul stands as a witness for him. His deeds are righteous in the great balance, and no sin has been found in him. He did not diminish the offerings in the temples, he did not destroy what had been made, he did not go about with deceitful speech while he was on earth.
Thus says the Great Ennead to Thoth who is in Hermopolis: This utterance of yours is true. The vindicated Osiris Ani is straightforward, he has no sin, there is no accusation against him before us, Ammit shall not be permitted to have power over him. Let there be given to him the offerings which are issued in the presence of Osiris, and may a grant of land be established in the Field of Offerings as for the Followers of Horus.
Thus says Horus son if Isis: I have come to you, O Wennefer, and I bring Ani to you. His heart is true, having gone forth from the balance, and he has not sinned against any god or any goddess. Thoth has judged him in writing which has been told to the Ennead, and Maat the great has witnessed. Let there be given to him bread and beer which have been issued in the presence of Osiris, and he will be forever like the followers of Horus.
Thus says Ani: Here I am in your presence, O Lord of the West. There is no wrongdoing in my body, I have not wittingly told lies, there has been no second fault. Grant that I may be like the favored ones who are in your suite, O Osiris, one greatly favored by the good god, one loved of the Lord of the Two Lands, Ani, vindicated before Osiris.
Here is hoping that your heart does not lie about you in the great beyond. Until the next,

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