Archive for December, 2009

As I indicated on a previous post, there are certain items that I would have in my portmanteaus if ever a cataclysm of noble note were to strike our civilization and threaten our humanity; the items in my portmanteaus’ keep might offer something to the people or civilization attempting to emerge from such calamity.

A Rod and Reel

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.  We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tried his own flies and taught others.  He told us about Christ’s disciples being fisherman, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.

A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean

They picked up the gear from the boat.  The old man carried the mast on his shoulder and the boy carried the wooden box with the coiled, hard-braided brown lines, the gaff and the harpoon with its shaft.  The box with the baits was under the stern of the skiff along with the club that was used to subdue the big fish when they were brought alongside.  No one would steal from the old man but it was better to take the sail and the heavy lines home as the dew was bad for them and, though he was quite sure no local people would steal from him, the old man thought that a gaff and a harpoon were needless temptations to leave in a boat.

The Old Man and The Sea, Ernest Hemingway

Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”  They said to him, “We also will come with you.”  So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;  but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”  They answered him, “No.  So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.”  So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.

The Gospel of John

My father is a fisherman.  This is not his paid profession, though he has won and placed in many tournaments and with them the spoils of his art and diligence.  He’s fished all his life, since his early days growing up here in Raleigh on a small pond behind his house. He works to provide for the family, but I imagine he will give up his career in medical research and statistics, and give over his many remaining years to searching out and catching the many fish from which his job has kept him.

Throughout my own lifetime, my father has imparted much of his fishing knowledge to me, so that fishing is less about skills and knowledge and more about natural feel and intuition. Still, all his skills and knowledge are the easy reason he catches many more fish than I ever will.

I wonder why my father wasn’t born to a fishing village, to which he would offer his skill and knowledge to keep the village feed and thriving.  Some tribes honor their great warriors or chieftains or even priests; his tribe would honor its champion fishermen. His fisherman guild would inspire the youth of the clan and the surrounding clans to send their young boys and men to learn his near mystical approach to fishing:  one part expertise and knowledge of fishing, one part intuition, perception and insight on fish.

My father attended university to become a veterinarian, and so naturally studied chemistry and zoology.  Mastery of zoology only makes sense for a master fisherman: knowledge of build, feeding and migratory patterns, etc .  I remember in his study, adjacent to my bedroom, posters of fish and shark species, complete with their Latin and Greek nomenclature, and so as I studied these ancient languages, we’d chat about the taxonomy of the fish he had caught many times over.

Leiostomus xanthurus : spot (croaker), my grandmother’s favorite eating fish.

Sciaenops ocellatus : red drum, which my dad would hold up to my ear, so I could hear the near-percussive drumming sound, giving the fish its name.

Rachycentron canadum : cobia, of which my father has recently become a master. In recent years he caught either the first keep-able cobia of the season, or the largest of the tournament.

I’m not sure if my father loves competing in fishing tournaments like other athletes do their respective contests.  Part of me gathers he likes the camaraderie of his fellow fishing friends, and he loves the fishing and the fish, but I do doubt he’s compelled by the trophies that he’s occasionally brought home as spoils (n.b., I do know he likes the fishing gear that is offered as tournament prizes).

A rod and reel would only make sense in my portmanteaus, especially if I were to seek out Shakleford Banks as my place of escape given the cataclysm.  I’m not the champion my father is at fishing techniques, fishing seasons, and fishing spots, not to mention the skills to handle the fish once they are caught, though we’d both concede to my mother and his late mother, my grandmother, as to the cooking of those fish.  With a rod and reel I’d have a possibility of continuing and sustaining life, eating fish, and enjoying their catching.

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I recently saw The Road, the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel, in which a man and his son navigate through a “post-apocalyptic” America, scavenging for food, shelter, and warm, and avoiding men who have turned to violence and cannibalism.  The world is bleak. The sky is black with ash, not allowing any sunlight to permeate and deliver life to plants and animals.  In a sense, the world is dying, turned in on itself as trees fall and grass withers away.  The man and his son, both unnamed throughout the story, hang on to the hope that if they travel south, they might encounter others like-minded who are the “Good Guys” and “carry the fire inside” them.

At the beginning, the man and his son carry a shopping cart to contain their few belongings.  At other times in the film, you see that the boy has small keepsakes, carry-alongs, relics that remind him of something nice or encourage him to something ahead. The cart is their portmanteaus, the very name of this journal I keep here on the internet for folks to casually read.

This film asked many questions of its viewer. One, perhaps, is Where would you go? My short answer her is Shackleford Banks. Question two is What would you take with you in a post-cataclycism world to either remind you of the past or hold hope for the coming future.

My portmanteaus journal will have a series of posts lists those few things I would take with me, and perhaps even a few reasons why.

My portmanteaus:

What would be in your portmanteaus?

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As I indicated on a previous post, there are certain items that I would have in my portmanteaus if ever a cataclysm of noble note were to strike our civilization and threaten our humanity; the items in my portmanteaus’ keep might offer something to the people or civilization attempting to emerge from such calamity.

The Greek New Testament

Choosing the Greek New Testament offers and asks perhaps more questions than it may eventually answer, so let us go right ahead and ask them.

  • Why the New Testament, and not a Holy Bible containing both the New and Old Testaments, books that provide the scriptures to a catalog of the Christian faith?
  • Why the Greek New Testament. Don’t you speak English and assume that anyone with whom you rendezvous at Shackleford would most likely speak English and not know Greek, specifically Koine (biblical) Greek?
  • You never scored high than a B on your college Greek classes, and you don’t know all the vocabulary or even grammar that The Greek New Testament contains. If this book is so important to you, why not a version that wouldn’t necessarily without worth if you were to pass.

Great questions.

I spent the morning reading through the first chapter of the Gospel of John, and I found it slowly coming back to me, but not without some difficultly. I haven’t read Greek, biblical or classical for near two years, since trying to teach the course at Broughton. There were a few things I had going for me.

First, the grammar and vocabulary are straight-forward but not easy; the Gospel of Mark is “easy.” The Gospel of John has often been described as the poetical Gospel, and the opening lines seem more like verse than prose.

εν αρχη : In (the) beginning | no article before αρχη. Saying initially sounds a bit casual.

ην ο λογος : there was the word | this word λογος, word, idea, speech, discourse

και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον : and the word was with God | there is an article preceding God, but saying THE God might sound silly.

και θεος ην ο λογος : and God was the word or the word was God | the inversion is a nice poetic turnabout.

There is a lot here.

The New Testament is a primary deposit of faith for the Christian Church.  What is written in the Gospels was set down there “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may gave life in his name, or ινα πιστευητε οτι ιησους εστιν ο χριστος ο υιος του θεου και ινα πιστευοντες ζωην εχητε εν τω ονοματι αυτου.

For whatever reason, and I’m sure there is good reason, a majority of the first writers of the Christian tradition wrote in Greek to tell the Jesus story.  In first century Palestine Greek was a common spoken language, most likely along with Aramaic,  and even more so a common written language.  As a good Roman, Paul, whose letters we have, wrote in Greek.  And perhaps written before Paul, many sayings of Jesus, documented in common in Matthew and Luke and attributed to a theoretical document scholars called quelle or Q, were written in Greek.

Did Jesus speak Greek? Maybe. I’d like to think he knew enough to converse, say, at a market (αγορά), and if he did speak with the Roman Centurion (εκατονταρχος), they might have had the conversation in Greek. Surely the conversation with the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate would have been in Greek, though the governor may have had a working vocabulary of Aramaic.

“τι εστιν αληθεια”What is truth? the same αληθεια can be found back in the opening lines of the John’s Gospel.

In reading the Greek, I have to remember not only the vocabulary and the Grammatical breakdown, I have to remember up those earliest days when I was compelled by my Sunday School teachers to memorize certain passages of the scripture.  The Greek requires a heightening of the senses to distinguish and interprets just what Paul, or the Gospel writer demands, just as the priest raises the Gospel, bound in gold and precious materials for the congregation, now standing.

I would keep in my portmanteaus a Greek New Testament, the ancient deposit of the Jesus story in the language in which it was first written.

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Now it is fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door of this house, except that it was very large;  also, that Scrooge had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place; also that Scrooge had as little of what is called fancy about him as any man in the city of London.  And yet Scrooge, having his key in the look of the door, saw in the knocker, without  its undergoing any intermediate process of change, not a knocker, but Marley’s face.

Marley’s face, with a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.  It was not angry or ferocious, but it looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look  —  ghostly spectacles turned up upon its ghostly forehead. (18)

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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