Weekend Update 23

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That’s my little nugget (apparently the size of a mango). Isn’t he adorable? The doc says that he is turning out “pristine” – in other words, no noticeable defects, or disorders of those that have been screened. Though after seeing this image of his face, I’m a little concerned he will come out looking like this:

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Uncanny resemblance, no? Luckily the profile pictures are a little more reassuring.

I’m afraid I had a back-swing in my “pneumonia” since Sunday (sorry to those of you whose comments I didn’t answer, I plan on getting to you today or tomorrow), and I went in to see my doc on Thursday. He scolded me for not coming in sooner, and put me on another dose of antibiotics, saying next time – if there is a next time – he’ll do a chest x-ray. My OB was a bit put out, saying that pregnant women don’t get the care they need because doctors are too afraid of being sued. I should have gotten a chest X-ray before my FIRST dose of antibiotics, and certainly before a second. I am feeling frustrated right now. I just want to know what’s going on with my lungs and fatigue.

On a happier note, I’m participating in the 24 in 48 readathon this weekend (if I don’t end up sleeping the entire weekend). Here is my post with which you can follow my progress.

On the Blog

I published notes on Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of How to Read the Bible, as well as a review of Don Quixote.

Next week, I have three reviews scheduled: notes on How to Read the Bible Chapter 4, a review of No One Cares About Crazy People by Ron Powers, and a review of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Currently Reading

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Great Courses

great courses

Acquired

Acquired

Orphan Train and Code Talker were for my nephew, who had to pick two books out of a reading list for his summer reading. Because, yeah, he choose to go to a prep school where they do things like that. 🙂

Completed

Completed

24 in 48 Readathon July 2018

The 24 in 48 Readathon starts at 12:01am ET Saturday and ends 11:59pm ET Sunday. Check it out.

Currently Reading

Saturday Morning

12:01 – 6:00am sleeping. 😁

6:00am – 7:00am Blogging

7:00am – 9:00am Grocery store run and more blogging. Now it’s finally time to start reading!

9:00am- 3:30pm 4 hr 50 min of reading

3:30 – 8:00 Dinner with parents

8:00 -8:50 5 hr 40 min of reading

Books Read

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban pg 332 – ???

The Egyptian Book of the Dead (Goelet translation) pg 9 – 18

Pilgrim’s Progress issue 13 –

Beyond Belief 8hr8min –

The Handmaid’s Tale pg 123 –

The Vanishing Hitchhiker pg 1 – 18

Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes

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Summary: When Don Quixote goes insane and decides that he is a knight errant, he adopts a simple-minded friend to be his squire and they sally forth into the world to right all wrongs. He has many misadventures due to his tenuous hold on reality.

My Thoughts: This was an incredibly difficult book for me to read. I have wanted to read Don Quixote for a long time, ever since falling in love with the soundtrack for Man of La Mancha. However, I have made 4 failed attempts to get past the first half of the book. This time, I finally prevailed.

The first part of the book was very difficult for me because the story of Don Quixote and Sancho was interspersed with way too many very long side stories about other (often unimportant) characters. Frankly, I found it boring, but I SO wanted to know how the story ended.

The second half of the book was actually much easier to read because it covered the story of Don Quixote and Sancho without developing any unnecessary characters or reading any unnecessary love letters/novels. I’m glad that, in the end, I stuck with this book and finished it up. 🙂

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The following is my analysis adapted from Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well Educated Mind’s description of how to think about a novel. It will have spoilers. 

👽What is the most central life-changing event?

There are two central life changing events in Don Quixote. The first is when he goes insane at the beginning of the novel. He begins to think he is a knight errant, and he sallies forth to right all wrongs. The second life changing event is at the end of the book, when he suffers defeat at the hands of another knight, who tells him to go home. After this event, Don Quixote begins to see ever more clearly that he has been living in a fantasy world.

👽Am I transported? Do I see, feel, and hear this other world?

In the second half of the book, yes, I was transported. The first half, no. I think the purpose of this book was to make people laugh and to parody books of chivalry rather than to engross people in a deeply engaging story.

👽Can I sympathize with the people who live there? Do I understand their wants and desires and problems? Or am I left unmoved?

I do sympathize with both Don Quixote and Sancho. I feel bad at how Don Quixote is taken advantage of and made fun of throughout the book – especially during the second half. Don Quixote only wants to right wrongs (and to be the most valorous night in history, of course), and he is kept from his goals by his unrealistic views of the moral values of others in the story. Sancho, on the other hand, isn’t only out for his self-interest – no matter what he keeps saying – he clearly loves Don Quixote and would follow him to the end of the world. He just wants to be able to talk a lot while doing so.

👽Is this a fable or a chronicle?

This story is supposed to be a “true history,” and should therefore be considered a chronicle. It follows the “true” life of Don Quixote from the beginning to the end of his madness.

The next question is: If the novel is a chronicle, how are we shown reality: Physical? Mental? But how do I even answer that? Are we shown reality at all? Sometimes, through Sancho, we can get an idea of what’s going on, and sometimes the narrator tells us what’s going on. But often, we just hear Don Quixote’s words, which we know aren’t a reflection of the “true” reality. But it is real to Don Quixote. Therefore, I’d say we see reality though both a physical and mental lens.

👽What does the central character want? What is standing in his or her way? What strategy is pursued to overcome this block?

Don Quixote wants to right all wrongs and to become the most valorous knight in history. His own madness is standing in his way. He sees things not as they are, but as he wants to. For instance, when he “helps” the boy who is being beaten by his boss, he takes the evil man’s word that he will “give the boy what he deserves.” Don Quixote thus abandons the boy to a worse fate than he’d have had if the knight errant hadn’t intervened. This is because Don Quixote views everyone else as having the same moral sense of right and wrong as he, himself does. But he is using an antiquated moral sense that no one shares with him.

Don Quixote never overcomes this block, other than to realize that he is mad, and then to die.

👽Who is telling you this story? Is this person reliable?

This story is generally third person limited, though there are times of omniscience, and other moments of first person when Cervantes talks about his own adventures trying to get this history written. No, I don’t believe the narrator is reliable, especially in the first half of the book. He seems to have a prejudice to be too kind to Don Quixote. The second half of the book has a much more reliable narrator, though it seems that Cervantes wasn’t himself the narrator of that section, rather it was a fictional historian.

👽Where is the story set? Is it natural or human constructed? If natural, does nature reflect the emotions and problems of characters? Or is the universe indifferent? 

The story is set in the lands surrounding La Mancha, Spain. This is a natural environment, and nature does (sometimes) reflect the problems of the characters – as when it gets very dark on the night of the adventure of the water mill. But this was in the first half. In the second half, I’d say the universe is indifferent.

👽What style does the writer employ?

The style is humor narrative.

👽Images and metaphors. Are there any repeated images? If so, is this a metaphor, and if so, what does it represent?

The images that are most often repeated are descriptions of how scrawny and long-faced Don Quixote is. Perhaps this was just for reality’s sake. But to me, it represented the wasting away of mental illness in a time when there was little sympathy for the mentally ill.

The other image that was very common was that of the inn. In the beginning, Don Quixote always believed that the inns were castles, but as his madness waned, he realized they were inns. I think they were meant to show us just how mad Don Quixote was at any given time.

👽 Does the end have a resolution or a logical exhaustion?

The logical exhaustion of the story is when Don Quixote becomes self aware and realizes the gravity of some of his mistakes.

👽Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones, and why? Did the author choose characteristics to make a statement about the human condition?

I sympathized with both Don Quixote (who was mad and treated poorly by many people, though treated well by others) and with Sancho (who was treated well only by Don Quixote, and then, only sometimes). I think the “human condition” point that Cervantes was trying to make (other than just making fun of books of chivalry) was that people’s worth should not be judged by their status in life, but by their deeds and intents. The Duke and Duchess were horrible people – cruel to Don Quixote and Sancho. But Sancho, despite being a fool, was a wise and fair governor.

👽Did the writer’s times affect him?

Whose doesn’t?

👽Is there an argument in this book? If so, do you agree?

I think the main argument is as I said above, a person’s status does not reflect the quality of that person as a moral human being. And, yes, I totally agree.

How to Read the Bible, Chapter 3, by James L. Kugel

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Chapter 3 covers the story of Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve. In short, Cain was jealous and angry at Abel because Abel seemed to be preferred by God. Cain murdered his brother. God punished Cain by making him roam the lands without a permanent home. In order to prevent him from being murdered because of his deeds and roaming, God said that anyone who murdered Cain would suffer vengeance seven times over.

Ancient Interpretation: Ancient interpreters decided the meaning of this passage was that some people will stop at nothing – not even murder. But God will punish those who are wicked. Thus there is a moral order to the universe.

In addition, they decided that Cain was not human, but that he was half demon. Although most modern translations of the Bible say that Eve bore Cain “with the help of the LORD,” the word “help” is not included in the original text. What the Bible literally says is “I have gotten a man with the LORD.” Of course, that does not mean that the LORD God was the father of Cain, as angels were also referred to as LORD. The conclusion ancient interpreters reached is that an evil angel had impregnated Eve, and that Cain was the offspring.

Modern Interpretation: Again, the modern interpretation that Kugel mentions is the etiological one. In this interpretation, the individual Cain actually symbolized an entire group of people called the Kenites, who were fierce warriors and who were nomads. Thus, when one Kenite was killed, they would retaliate by killing “seven” Israelites.

Chapter 1’s review is here.

Chapter 2’s review is here.

How to Read the Bible, Chapter 2, by James L. Kugel

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Chapter 2 covers the story of creation and of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. In short, God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge or they would die on that day. Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, and gave some to Adam. They were expelled from the Garden of Eden, and had to now toil to survive. Adam lived till 930 years old.

Ancient interpretation: Ancient readers saw a problem with this story. Why did God say they would die on the day they ate of the fruit, if they were allowed long lives? Was it an empty threat? Certainly God doesn’t give empty threats. At some point before the second century BCE, someone thought of connecting this problem to a verse in the book of Psalms:

For a thousand years in Your sight are as yesterday, the way it passes, or like a watch in the night. (Ps 90:4)

If God’s “day” was a thousand years, it makes sense that Adam would have lived almost that long before dying.

Another interpretation that was made after the fact (and was not directly included in the Bible) was that Adam and Eve were immortal and sinless when they were in the Garden of Eden. This explains why death is the punishment for eating of the forbidden fruit. The disobedience of Adam and Eve were then thought of as “Original Sin,” from which all subsequent sins followed. Ancient interpreters named the punishment for this sin “The Fall of Man.” This is how the story of Adam and Eve was thought of until modern times. In fact, there are many people who are surprised to learn that the terms “Original Sin” and “The Fall of Man” weren’t ever mentioned in the Bible. What’s more, the interpretation that the snake was the devil was also a later interpretation, and it was not mentioned in the Bible.

Modern Interpretation: The idea that the book of Genesis was actually etiological (that it explained the way things became the way they are now) was suggested by the German biblicist Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932). Thus, the story of Adam and Eve moving from the Garden of Eden to toiling for food outside the Garden was the story of how humans moved from hunter gatherer to an agricultural system. They now had to toil long days to plant seed and harvest it.

Modern scholars also know that the discovery of agriculture corresponded to the discovery that a man had to plant his seed in the woman in order to make her pregnant. Thus the quote the man “will cling to his wife and they shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:24).

Chapter 1’s review is here.

Weekend Update Week 22

Not much to say about this week. I spent a lot of it recovering from the fatigue of pneumonia, and I’m getting better every day. The kids, unfortunately, got a lot of TV time as a result, but I got a lot of reading done, so…..I added a lot more books to the pile of “currently reading,” probably because I have been feeling so stir crazy and wanted some control over my life while stuck in bed.

We had a serious talk with M and he said that he wanted to go to brick and mortar school after all. I’m glad that was his decision, as he really needs to develop his socialization skills, and the choice gave him empowerment in a time when he feels very helpless about what’s going on in his life.

On a high note, I finally made some blog posts last week. I reviewed Hammered, by Kevin Hearne; and I made notes on the first chapter of How to Read the Bible, by James L. Kugel.

Next week, I already have two posts scheduled: Chapters 2 and 3 of How to Read the Bible, and I hope to finally finish Don Quixote and review that as well.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading

Yeah, that’s a lot of books, but I get restless when I’m sitting in bed, and I have a short attention span, lol.

I’m also working through a few of the Great Courses, which is how I chose some of the books I’m reading:

great courses

In my own twisted way, I feel that these courses, and my reading of the Bible, all fit in together quite well. But like I said, I’m getting a bit stir-crazy with all the bed-rest.

Acquired

Acquired

I’ve always wanted to learn a little more about philosophy, and as soon as I finish this course, I will start the Eastern Philosophy course. The Coppleston books were borrowed from my dad, as they are rather expensive.

I plan to spend a lot of this weekend reading, and hopefully next week I will be up and about a little more. At least enough to wash the dishes and pay my bills.

Upcoming Events

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The 24 in 48 Readathon is coming up next weekend, July 21-28. Check it out.

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Dewey’s is having a Summer Readathon on 7/27-7/28. Check it out.

 

How to Read the Bible, Chapter 1 by James L. Kugel

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In 2016 I started a project to read the Bible, including the book How to Read the Bible, by James Kugel. I began by writing chapter-by-chapter summaries of this information-packed book while reading the Bible at the same time. This year, I have restarted my project and restarted the book, hoping for better results – is that insanity? This time, I will read this book first (along with other supplementary books) and THEN begin the Bible. This is intended on being a multi-year project, as my attempt to “read the Bible in a year” proved too difficult.

In his first chapter, Kugel describes the content of the Hebrew Bible. It is partly a history of the people of Israel, starting at the very beginning of time. Interspersed within this history are many laws of the Hebrews. A third aspect of the Hebrew Bible is the pronouncements of various prophets, and a fourth aspect is the writings of Israel’s sages (the “wisdom writings”). The final aspect of the Hebrew Bible is prayers and songs of thanksgiving.

Kugel suggests that an allegorical reading of the Bible was not originally intended by the Hebrews. It was meant to be exactly what it was – a mixture of history, laws, prophetic statements, and prayers. The allegorical meaning came later when the Hebrews wanted to make the Bible seem up-to-date. The Jewish commentator Philo of Alexandria (ca. 30BCE-Ca. 55CE) was a leader in allegorical interpretation. An allegorical interpretation was especially important to the Christians, who wanted the Hebrew Bible to fit their new faith (for example, predict as much as it could about Jesus) and be applicable to the present day. Soon, Christians had a belief that each passage in the Bible could have four-fold meaning – the literal, the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogical.

Biblical interpretation until the Renaissance was left to scholars, as the general population couldn’t read and didn’t own Bibles. This is why, when more people began to learn to read, and had more access to printed word, many long-held interpretations of the Bible were overturned. This, of course, helped stimulate the Protestant Revolution.

Another revolution in Biblical interpretation came with the scientific arguments of Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). Science seemed to be able to unlock the secrets of life without divine revelation – and it even suggested that some of the points written in the Bible were false.

In his introductory chapter, Kugel points out that there are some confusing or conflicting passages in the Bible; therefore, four assumptions were made in ancient times to interpret the Old testament and get rid of these inconsistencies.

Assumption 1: The Bible is a fundamentally cryptic text, and there is hidden meaning.

Assumption 2: The Bible is a book of lessons meant to apply to our own times as well as the time in which it was written.

Assumption 3: The Bible contains no contradictions or mistakes.

Assumption 4: The Bible was divinely inspired.

These assumptions have lasted through time. However, in the late 1800’s, after the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and other revolutionary and “heretical” scientific theories were being discussed, people started questioning these assumptions. Was the Bible indeed verbally inspired (that is, did every word of it come from God, or just the basic idea)? Clearly, the Bible contained “errors” or inconsistencies in the text. Also, did Moses really write the Pentateuch?

The question of who wrote the Pentateuch is one of the touchiest subjects in modern Biblical scholarship. Some reasons to believe that Moses, indeed, did not write the Pentateuch is that he would have had to know things that he couldn’t possibly have known during his own lifetime. Counter-arguments suggest that Moses is a prophet, so of course he knew things that he wouldn’t have normally known. Another questionable section is when the Bible states “Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3). Would such a humble man write that about himself?

Many modern Biblical scholars believe that the Pentateuch was written by at least four or five different authors over a period of centuries. Two of the authors can be identified by the way they refer to God: some parts of the Pentateuch referred to him as “‘elohim” other parts referred to him as “Yahweh.” The author who referred to God as “Yahweh” is now called J, and the author who referred to God as “‘elohim” is now called E. The author of Deuteronomy (who had a different writing style and apparently lived in a different era, based on knowledge of the past) is now called D. On top of all that, style analysis showed that there was yet another writer – one who was a priest and focused on laws – who is now called P.

The purpose of the rest of Kugel’s book is to describe modern vs. classical interpretations of the Bible, in reference to specific passages.