Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Cairo Geniza (re-seen)

[Update 22 September 2013]  The Cairo Genizah as “a medieval Facebook, crammed with so much mundane junk that one could reconstruct an entire world from it.”

~ (Original Post) ~

The ancient Jews, whether learnèd or otherwise, were loath to burn any scrap of writing, lest it contain, somewhere within it, the name of God (or rather, in keeping with the Hebraic decencies, the name of G*d).   Accordingly  those  who lived in Cairo, buried all excess scrip and scripture, in storerooms and cemetaries.  

These rubbish-rooms  turned out to be the linguistic equivalents of prehistoric amber, preserving, to the wonder and eternal gratitude of philologists, a rich historic witness to the development of such languages as … Arabic.

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~ Commercial break ~
For our book-length semantic investigation,
in Arabic and the European languages,
click here

We now return you to your regularly scheduled essay.

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Our G.I.s in the Afghan theatre  are, for the most part, neither theologians nor philologers.  Accordingly, when some of them were instructed to dispose of a certain mass of material, they said “Aye aye, sir”.  Alas, among the cumbustibles were some Korans. 
Unlike the idiot pastor in the imbecile state of Florida (whose peninsular form would allow it to be conveniently sawn off and floated out to sea), these soldiers had committed an innocent error.   A bonehead error, it may be;  but then, most folks are boneheads (and will tell you so themselves) when it comes to anything fundamentally unfamiliar (algebraic geometry comes to mind, along with the finer points of Islamic theology).  Still, many people have died as a result, in the furious Afghan reaction.

Let it however be noted, that there are boneheads on the other side as well, who do not pause to reflect that the World of God is imperishable, and cannot possibly be burned.  All anyone can set alight, is pieces of paper.  As for God Himself being directly harmed by this -- as they say in Arabic,

~ ta`âlâ ~
-- He is far above such things.


I should have preferred to let matters rest at that, with linguistics and theology.  But alas, the press of political events  requires comment.

(1)  Last night on NPR, everyone was sadly shaking their head about Yemen’s many problems;  and to show us the way forward, interviewed a Yemeni woman, sympathetically and at length.   The Yemeni people, we learn from her, feel hurt, and left out.  American aid projects are not enough.  The local people need to feel cherished.  They need us to come and read them bedtime stories, and tuck them in at night; to feed the chickens in the dooryard, and watch the children while the parents go off to mosque.  And all right-thinking people at NPR agreed that this would be a wonderful thing.

Here’s a different idea:  How about let's not.   We’ve seen how well the touchie-feelie cultural-sensitivity stuff went for us in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Sorry, Yems, I loveya a bunch, but you’re going to have to build your own nation, like everybody else.

(2)  Unlike his ineffable predecessor in office, whose name  now  not even Republicans can force themselves to bring to their lips, our deft and intelligent current President, putting the lives of our troops and allies first,  followed up the obviously called-for apologies from military officers for the Koran incident, with one of his own.  (Note:  I work with soldiers, and can testify that they prefer that someone refrain from placing them in gratuitous peril, for his personal political game, to crowing -- from a safe distance -- “Bring it on!”)

Well, amen, only -- True to form, the right-wing crazies are trying to make things even worse:

Speaking loudest from the Republican field, former House speaker Newt Gingrich called the apology an “outrage”.

Read about that travesty here:

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