Tag Archives: God

She said she said


I was from the south, young, Jewish, and IN LOVE
with a preacher’s boy—so naturally I ended up following
him to the small Baptist university his family chose for him.
(It didn’t last.) The point is that there, religion was mandatory,
so I took the course on The Old Testament,
in which the professor kept going on about Yahweh.

At first, I didn’t know what in the world she was talking about.
In Hebrew, YHWH is pronounced Adonai,
and I kept wondering—and still do—how she couldn’t know that.
I mean, you’d think someone would explain it to her.


To my shame, I do not know when and from whom I received this story. It was, I believe, in an email or a comment in response to one of my poems. If you are the original author, please accept my apology and contact me so I can grovel appropriately.

Yahweh was the national god of the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel (then known as Samaria) and Judah, and may have developed from ‘El’, the head of the Bronze Age Canaanite pantheon. After the return from exile in Babylon, Yahweh had become monotheistic, the sole Divine Presence. The relationship of Yahweh to the tetragrammaton of YHWH, and on to the numerous names and titles of God used throughout Jewish history is a fascinating history that is too long and too complex to get into here. (But I urge you to follow the links…it really is interesting.) Christian bibles tend to translate YHWH as either Jehovah or Lord, although a modernist approach is to leave the tetragrammaton unchanged.

The point being, in Judaism, it is traditional to say ‘Adonai‘ for the word YHWH. But it is not that YHWH is pronounced as Adonai (which, by the way, strictly means ‘My lords’) it is a substitution made out of reverence and respect. Another is HaShem (The Name).

Thank you for reading All she needed do was ask. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Acre, Israel, some years ago; the family was there as part of our Bahá’í pilgrimage. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Vision

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Focus down to the tiniest speck
or gape across a billion years,
but how, exactly, how?
Irises, corneas, rods and cones
are light, not sight,
the question of the question remains.

It’s patterns, I think,
it’s all about patterns—
we are pattern machines
and patterns rule our world:
edges and curves, light and dark,
colors that rise to surfaces
and memories that play
through and throughout.
It is all sight unseen, memories akin,
up and down, round and around,
moving one side to the other until,
effortlessly, we see ourselves
in the illusion we are sure surrounds us.

He is—don’t you see—the Cause of causes,
not the cause. That is the pattern for us.

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Thank you for reading Vision. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken on a walkabout photography day in Boston, Massachusetts. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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Pete Hulme’s “Dust for winds to scatter”

Pete Hulme writes the Everybody Means Something blog, a treasure trove of deeply reasoned, well-written and thought provoking essays, reviews, ideas and poems on a wide variety of topics. Here is a poem, Dust for winds to scatter that he released recently:

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You will note that Pete’s poem is after the great Spanish poet, Antonio Machado‘s poem:

¿Y ha de morir contigo el mundo mago
donde guarda el recuerdo
los hálitos más puros de la vida,
la blanca sombra del amor primero,

la voz que fue a tu corazón, la mano
que tú querías retener en sueños,
y todos los amores
que llegaron al alma, al hondo cielo?

¿Y ha de morir contigo el mundo tuyo,
la vieja vida en orden tuyo y nuevo?

¿Los yunques y crisoles de tu alma
trabajan para el polvo y para el viento?

Since I do not speak Spanish and could not find a better translation, I was forced to work with Google’s site translator:

And is it to die with the wizard world
where the memory keeps
the breaths purest life,
the white shadow of love first,

the voice that was your heart, the hand
you wanted to retain in dreams,
and loves all
who came to the soul, to the deep sky?

And you must die to your world,
is life in the old and new order yours?

Do anvils forge your soul
working for the dust and the wind?

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Besides the unifying theme of struggle leading, in the end, to the wind blown dust, the reference in Pete’s poem to the idea and style of Machado’s work is clear—both are filled with a full measure of heart-filled anguish by one who has loved truly and deeply. Moreover, both poems ache so perfectly that it is not possible to read either (even in the Google translation) and not ache with them, for both talk of the essence of what it is to love and to love in life with an intensity that catches the breath and fixes the imagination.

However, to consider Pete’s poem a slavish imitation to the original would be very wrong, as he adds, I think, two essential elements that are his own: that the love he has born, being human, has not been born perfectly; but that, still, beyond this, this love he has borne has transformed him sufficiently to glimpse the mercy of the Divine. These added elements are more than beautiful and worthy sentiments, they are at once sublime in their cohesiveness, approachable by the least among us and transformative for those who can mine the core of humility buried in the depths of the poem. For me, it is a poem that only improves over time and grows sweeter to the tongue with each re-read.

What is more, I suspect that Antonio Machado feels that way too.

Thank you for reading Pete Hulme’s “Dust for winds to scatter”. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

Comments © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. Poem © 2014 by Pete Hulme; all rights reserved. Oddly enough—for me, anyway—it is used by permission of the author.

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There, but for the grace of God…

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Will-o’-the-wisp, trick of the eye,
why this, why that, why me?
So many questions—too many questions—
but the best to ponder is this:
What is it, this ‘is it’, ‘to be’?
Me, I have this nagging sense
that if you can pose an answer,
you’ve missed the question altogether.

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I am reading Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt. It is a fascinating book and I am enjoying it immensely. In a practical sense, the question seems as relevant as the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, but let’s be honest: no one ever said that metaphysics had to make practical sense. (Just don’t say that to anyone who has got themselves caught up in the topic. It can get ugly and very, very boring.)

What fascinates me is the range of responses from a wide variety of disciplines and the degree of passion aroused in the answers. And throughout it all, as much as I am enjoying the journey for an answer—because let’s face it, there are no definitive answers, just definitive opinions—I do have this nagging feeling that whenever it comes to something that is really important, that there is hiding, off to the side, at 90 degrees from where we are looking, the real question and answer that we should be pondering. There are times when, while I cannot see it and I cannot say it, still I know it’s there, in the corner of my eye, and I almost have it, but not quite, not quite…

The quotation, There but for the grace of God, go I, is attributed to John Bradford, an English protestant jailed by the Catholic Mary Tudor, and  was said as he watched a group of prisoners being marched off for execution. His own turn was coming, however; he was burned at the stake on July 1st, 1555.

Thank you for reading There but for the grace of God… I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Pennsylvania and is the reflection of a tree in water. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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On this bridge, as far as I can see

Out of control, whirligig,
one round, two rounds, three rounds, stop—
the road a blur of nothing having happened at all.
Except (in a right world)
I’d be dead in the river below
instead of up here on the bridge
needing a smoke so bad
I thought I’d eat the pack.

But isn’t that the truth of it?
Because that’s when they nail you the hardest,
those pesky, insolent things,
those principles of your certainty.
Eventually they catch up with you
and stumble you like dozens of tiny hooks
bowing humbly at your feet,
each pointing their little barbs straight at you:
icy roads and too much speed,
truth and honor and lies—
and you ask yourself as you sit there,
Why did I ever think
I could get away with that?

In 1981 I was working as the site engineer at the construction of a gas transmission plant that I had designed in northern Alberta, Canada. Being December in northern Alberta, and especially then in the 80s, that meant that the world was made up of cold, ice and snow, and after that more cold, ice and snow.

That day was the last working day for the Christmas Holiday; we wouldn’t be back to the site until after the New Year. I was the last to leave and start down the rural, dirt road that had been cut into the forest to where the plant was located. I was en route to my apartment in Calgary in southern Alberta, but foolishly, while my friends in northern Alberta knew I was going south for the holidays, my friends in the south did not know when to expect me, if at all; I hadn’t really shared my plans with them.

Being excited at the thought of the vacation, I did not take into account what I was doing until I crested an icy hill. I am going way too fast, I thought, and I was. Going down the other side I had to tap my truck’s brakes to have any hope of making it around a bend at the bottom of the hill heading to a bridge that was over  a 20 foot drop to a rocky, fast and icy cold river below. When I did I instantly lost control. I can’t remember if or how I fought for control of the vehicle, but I do remember ending up swinging around in lazy circles in the exact same spot in the middle of a bridge—three times—and stopping looking exactly in the direction I should be going. How I wasn’t in the river below I still don’t know. After a few minutes, and yes, a cigarette or two (I’ve since quit) I put the truck in gear and drove on, slowly, shaken and thinking of what could have just happened, but didn’t.

To quote a favorite prayer: I beseech Thee to aid and assist me at all times and under all conditions, and seek from the heaven of Thy grace Thine ancient favor.

Thank you for reading On this bridge, as far as I can see. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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