Saturday, January 05, 2013

Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try, no Pearson scribbling for The Australian, above us only sky ...

 (Above: in a Fox manager during Xmas. More Doonesbury here, and click to enlarge).

There's a reason anything Christopher Pearson scribbles can't be taken seriously, and by golly the rich ripe blather in Potent symbols of a life more than our own is a perfect example (behind the paywall so you can find other more productive ways to use your Saturday).

As usual, albeit belatedly, it's the secularists who don't understand, as Pearson mounts a valiant defence of the Xmas season.

In the fortnight after Christmas, I often hear secularly minded friends wonder what all the fuss was about and whether we shouldn't be coming up with more inclusive ways to mark the end of the calendar year. 
 Even so, most of us still have folk memories of how the infant king cradled in a manger tugs at the heartstrings and this week seems a good time to set aside the cut and thrust of politics and talk about the feasts of Christmas and the Epiphany, which falls tomorrow.

Pearson wants a truce? After a year of malignity and malice, and that just one of any number of years?

Lucky the pond kept its fingers crossed, which it seems has quite a different meaning in Tamworth to the one the wiki outlines in Truce term.

Let's not worry too much about Pearson's mawkish sentimentality, though by golly you'd have to go a long way to find anything more Victorian and Dickensian than this kind of tosh (apologies to Dickens lovers, though he did after all write A Christmas Carol):

That is why, along with the angels, the shepherds, Mary, Joseph and the beasts in the stable, so many of us around this time still kneel and worship at the crib. The paradoxes captured in the tableau provide not only comfort but inspiration and food for thought. The unseen deity takes on human form. For the first time men are able to see the face of God. 
 The eternal Word condescends to become a babe in arms, unable to speak a word. His mother dandles the lord of all creation on her knees. There is no room at the inn, no pomp and circumstance, just bare necessities, which suggests a number of things about mysterious Providence. But the event doesn't go entirely uncelebrated: for the first time, men join in the songs of the angels. "Glory to God in the highest and peace to men of goodwill."

Dear sweet long absent lord, here we are on January 5th in the New Year, and Pearson is trading off on the arcane notion of the twelfth night of the Xmas season falling this very night, with the Feast of the Epiphany following on the 6th January (oh yes even the Twelve Days of Christmas has a wiki entry), so he can blub about a bub.

But okay, after you've knelt and had a blub about the bub in arms and no room at the inn, and mysterious Providence and joined in the song of the angels (and try to work out how many fit on a pin and which of the nasty ones will turn up in the next season of Supernatural), what on earth is Pearson on about?

For that we cut to the chase and the last couple of pars:

Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In doing so they recognised Christ's place in the Jewish tradition as a prophet, priest and king. The gold signifies royal rank (since he was of David's line), the incense betokens the priestly role of sacrificial offering and the myrrh, used for anointing corpses, portends the death of a prophet. 
 St Francis of Assisi came up with the first manger scene, which has ever since crystallised the way we tend to think of Christmas. The symbolism of gold, frankincense and myrrh is a healthy corrective.

A healthy corrective? To what?

The symbolism of gold is a healthy corrective to secularism and materialism and frenzied shopping?

By golly the pond wants some of that corrective symbolism - perhaps some hobbits could be despatched to get it (but please not at 48 fps so their noses stick out like footballs - The Science of High Frame Rates, Or: Why 'The Hobbit' Looks Bad At 48 fps).

And remember, the pond doesn't want any of your rolled gold nonsense, just pure 24 cts if you please.

As for frankincense, a quick survey of its wiki, here, confirms that the stuff is used in all sorts of ways, including for perfumes deployed in the cause of decadent sensuality (and let's not even get on to those hippies who light up a stick and waft it in your face).

And let's not forget that myrrh portends a lot more than the death of a prophet, because in traditional Chinese medicine, it's seen as having special efficacy in the matter of the heart, liver and the spleen (and truth to tell, Pearson could use a little help in matters of the spleen).

But never mind, it's another fine example of Xians once again ripping off another culture, because it was the ancient Egyptians who first got around to using myrrh in their traditional way of making Hollywood horror films using mummification.  (just as the first recorded use of incense was by the Egyptians, or so this wiki says, but it's a close run thing as to whether the Chinese didn't get into the act first with the burning of cassia and sandalwood).

And it's also very much a johnny come lately to the church service, another example of the decadence of refined ritual, and for confirmation look no further than the Catholic Encyclopaedia, which provides plenty of profane and pagan uses, but something of a gap in its spiritual application:

The use of incense was very common. It was employed for profane purposes as an antidote to the lassitude caused by very great heat, as perfumes are now used. Mention of its introduction into pagan worship is made by classical writers (cf. Ovid, "Metamorph.", VI, 14, Virgil, "AEneid", I, 146). Herodotus testifies to its use among the Assyrians and Babylonians, while on Egyptian monumental tablets kings are represented swinging censers. Into the Jewish ritual it entered very extensively, being used especially in connexion with the eucharistic offerings of oil, fruits, and wine, or the unbloody sacrifices (Leviticus 6:15). By the command of God Moses built an altar of incense (cf. Exodus 30), on which the sweetest spices and gums were burned, and to a special branch of the Levitical tribe was entrusted the office of daily renewal (1 Chronicles 9:29). 

When, exactly, incense was introduced into the religious services of the Church it is not easy to say. During the first four centuries there is no evidence for its use.

Uh huh. Now there's a healthy corrective.

So it seems that the profaners and the pagans and the secularists do indeed have a healthy understanding of what's gone down over the years ... ripped off again by the late-breaking Catholic church which decided it wanted to goose up its church services with some heady perfumes, just like a bunch of hippies celebrating the Age of Aquarius.

And trust Pearson to overlook one of the few decent books in the old testament, the hearty Song of Solomon:

A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.

Oh yes, myrrh isn't just about corpses, it's about having a fucking good time.

Oh dear, as you can tell, the pond would do almost anything, even read the bible and its song of hearty sexuality, compared to Pearson putting the boot into the Jews for missing out on Christ:

From a Jewish perspective, Christianity must even now seem like the immensely ingenious hijacking of their exceptionalist meta-narrative as the Chosen People. To Christians, of course, it was always God's narrative to do with whatever he wanted, in the unfolding of what we call "salvation history".
The God of the Jews of the 1st century was a fierce and jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers on to the sons to the third and fourth generation. They were more preoccupied, perhaps, with divine justice than mercy and understandably feared contamination from the Gentiles. As well, they had an ill-defined sense of what awaited the dead, beyond the promise in the Book of Wisdom: "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God. To the foolish they did seem to die, but their souls liveth for evermore."

Silly old Jews, you're all off to hell because the only way to heaven is through Christ, but please, don't take it personally.

Anyhoo, and here perhaps is the finest point, the next time you read Christopher Pearson on climate science, remember that his chief love is mystical mumbo jumbo, and here's a first class example:

For Christians, the incarnation changes everything. There is an ancient prayer in the mass, when the priest prepares the chalice with water and wine. It tells us that the commingling signifies the mystery of Christ's dual nature as God and perfect man. Because he has taken our nature upon himself, he has enabled us to share in his godhead. Through holy communion, we believe that we can become Christ-like, transformed gradually by his flesh and blood in a metamorphosis called theosis.

Uh huh. Seems like theosis (which owes a lot to Eastern Orthodox theology) might be the flavour of the month, but it also glibly allows Pearson to step over the voodoo of transubstantiation. Take it away Luther:

... the Church had the true faith for more than twelve hundred years, during which time the holy Fathers never once mentioned this transubstantiation — certainly, a monstrous word for a monstrous idea — until the pseudo-philosophy of Aristotle became rampant in the Church these last three hundred years. During these centuries many other things have been wrongly defined, for example, that the Divine essence neither is begotten nor begets, that the soul is the substantial form of the human body, and the like assertions, which are made without reason or sense, as the Cardinal of Cambray himself admits.

Of course Luther is just as barking mad as the rest of them, in his own special way, but it's worth remembering that Pearson trots out this sort of stuff at intervals while explaining how climate science is just a religion with true believers:

It is something never quite dreamed of in Jewish eschatology. Human bodies suddenly come to be seen as uniquely graced. The pre-Christian and Manichean notions of war between the flesh and the spirit are confounded and man is, in a fuller way than the state of nature allows, at home in his own skin. That is why, along with the angels, the shepherds, Mary, Joseph and the beasts in the stable, so many of us around this time still kneel and worship at the crib. The paradoxes captured in the tableau provide not only comfort but inspiration and food for thought. The unseen deity takes on human form. For the first time men are able to see the face of God.

Take that Jews, take that secularists, take that climate scientists.

And now in a shame-faced way, the pond confesses the real reason - bless me mother for I have sinned - for having spent such a mawkish, sentimental blubbery time with Pearson pondering why the Jews got it wrong, why secularists got it wrong, and why only Catholics understand the mystical meaning of the pagan rituals of the Solstice, sometimes known as Xmas.

Yes, it's a chance to run more Doonesbury on the war on Xmas (and get your essential Doonesbury fix, remember to go here).

It's simply not possible to imagine a world without Doonesbury; it's alarmingly easy to imagine a world without Fox News and Christopher Pearson and The Australian and the rest of the Murdochians ...


  1. Methinks Christopher does lots of dandling although not with babies but with himself. Christopher who is obviously bark raving mad, is possibly the biggest dandler of all time. Just wondering is he going blind as well? The Australian is probably infested with dandlers and I think it might be spreading to the ABC as well.

  2. And here I was thinking the Epiphany was all about my birthday (which would make as much, if not more, sense)

  3. Why happy birthday Tim, and it would be irresponsible of the pond not to note that this makes you a Capricornian. Now if that doesn't add to your sense of epiphany ...


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