Thursday, August 21, 2014

Proverbs: a Book Report

The following is from a work-in-progress called "The Bible: a Book Report" in which I read each book of the Bible, summarize it in my own words, and occasionally give some commentary.  I will also include biblical artwork by famous artists.

The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings (aka, proverbs), which are traditionally attributed to King Solomon.  For this report, I began by trying to paraphrase each chapter.  However, because the proverbs get quite repetitive, I ended up cutting out repetition as I went along, and instead emphasized what I felt were the most unique ideas of each chapter. This is why, in my report, some "chapters" (particularly toward the end) are very short. 

"King Solomon" by Gustave Dore


These are the proverbs of Solomon, the son of David, the king of Israel.  The purpose of these proverbs is to teach wisdom, justice, and equality.  To gain this wisdom, you must first fear God.  Fools don’t like to learn.  My son, listen to your father’s advice.  It will give you wisdom.  My son, don’t follow the ways of sinners.  If they say, let’s go hurt some innocent people, and steal, don’t follow them.  They only hurt themselves.  That’s how it goes with greed—eventually it takes away from those who seek to gain.  Wisdom is like a woman who cries out in cities, “How long will you act like fools?  Listen to me, and you will avoid calamity.  Be a good learner, or things will go bad for you.  Listen to me, and things will go well.”


My son, listen to me, try with all your heart to understand, seek wisdom more than riches, and you will find God, who is the source of all wisdom, and your life will be better.  You will avoid the pitfalls of sinners.  You will avoid the wiles of strangers, who will make you falter and eventually die.  Be a good man, live a righteous life, so you may have a full life.  Because wicked men will suffer and die.


My son, remember the law and the commandments, and keep them.  They will bring you long life and peace.  Remember to be merciful and truthful.  Trust in God, and follow His commandments.  Be humble.  Don’t consider yourself wise—trust in God.  It will bring you good health.  Remember to give back to God, the first part of your income, and you will actually be more prosperous.  Don’t get mad when God punishes you for doing wrong.  God corrects people he loves.  Wisdom brings happiness, way more than material wealth.  The wise man will live long and prosper.  He will find peace.  Wisdom is like a tree of life.  With wisdom, God created the universe.  My son, be wise, and you will find life and safety.  You will sleep well, and not be afraid.  God will give you confidence.  Be good to people, and generous.  Don’t hurt your neighbors.  Don’t be envious of those with a lot of power, because people like that tend to oppress people.  God gives his grace to humble people.  Wise people will be vindicated, fools will live in shame.


Listen up, my children.  I’m teaching you things my father taught me.  This wisdom is tried and true.  Avoid violence.  The way of the just is a shining light.  The way of the wicked is darkness.  Find wisdom, find life.  Don’t speak falsely.  Be a straight-shooter.


Son, listen up. Just as wisdom may be compared to a woman speaking virtue, foolishness may also be compared to a prostitute speaking lies.  Often, the lies sound good, but they lead to injury and death.  My children, don’t listen to that prostitute.  She will be your total ruin.  Wisdom may be compared to your virtuous young wife.  Enjoy her.  Enjoy her breasts.  She is ravishingly beautiful, and she loves you as much as you love her.  With such a beautiful, loving wife, why would you consider going to a prostitute?  Enjoy real love, not fake substitutes.


My son, don’t cheat your neighbor.  Don’t cheat your friends.  If you borrow money, pay it back right away.  Don’t be lazy.  Consider the ant, who works so diligently.  Laziness will lead to poverty.  Don’t speak falsely.  There are seven things that God really hates: arrogance, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises evil things, feet that run to mischief, a false witness who speaks lies, and a gossiper who sows discord among friends and family.  Listen to my words, my son.  They are like a lamp to light your way.  Don’t sleep with your friend’s wife.  Don’t steal.  Don’t live in jealousy.


My son, listen to this wisdom.  Avoid the prostitute of folly, as enticing as she seems.  That is the way of death, and many men have fallen.  


Instead, listen to the voice of wisdom.  She cries out in the city, “Listen up, fools!  Listen to words of truth and goodness.  It’s actually not that complicated.  Be humble, instead of arrogant.  The humble king is the good king.  Wisdom is ancient, existing before the creation of the universe.  It is eternal.  Those who find wisdom find life.  Those who do not, find death.”


People who are wise take criticism well.  Foolish people don’t.  Wisdom is sacred.


A wise son makes his father happy.  A foolish son makes his mother suffer.  If you gain by doing evil, you gain nothing.  If you gain by doing good, you do well.  Wise people are not lazy.  They work hard.  The wise man gains blessing.  The foolish man incites violence.  A good man is remembered with fondness.  A bad man is remembered with scorn.  The wise man speaks, and his words bring life.  The fool speaks, and his words bring violence and harm.  Hate begets hate.  Love begets love.  


Deal fairly with everyone.  Don’t be a hypocrite.  When you act with wisdom, the whole community benefits.  Conversely, when you act with malice, the whole community suffers.  People who lack wisdom do not care about their neighbors.  When you do good, it is good for your soul.   Conversely, when you do bad, it troubles you.  Do not be deceitful.  Goodness is life.  Evil is death.  Be liberal and generous with what you have.  Don’t place too much confidence in material wealth.  It is fleeting.


Love knowledge.  Be a good man, and God will favor you.  Take good care of animals.  Work for yourself, and work hard.  Fools tend to think highly of themselves; they are wrong.  Truth and goodness are intimately linked.  So too are lies and evil.  Good words can heal.  Evil words can harm.


Some people are materially rich, but spiritually poor.  Conversely,  some people are materially poor, but spiritually rich.  If you gain by lying, you gain nothing.  Hope deferred makes the heart sick.  When you get what you desire, it’s a tree of life.  Wisdom is a fountain of life.  If you hang out with fools, you will become a fool.


Wise people build things.  Fools tear them down.  Flee from fools.  Wise people are self-aware.  They understand pain, even in laughter.  Fools believe everything they hear.  Wise people do their research.  If you have mercy on poor people, you will be happy.  Fools speak; wise people act.  Be slow to anger, and you will have greater understanding.  If you oppress the poor, you offend God.  If you want to honor God, have mercy on the poor.


When someone speaks to you in anger, respond with gentleness.  God sees everything, both the good and the evil.  God sees even into the hearts of people.  A small, humble meal made with love is better than a rich feast made without love.  It is good to listen to the counsel of others.  The right words spoken at the right time can do immense good.  


We may consider ourselves good, but God knows the truth.  When you act wisely, you will make peace even with your enemies.  People make plans, but God leads us.  Be just in all your dealings.  Wisdom is better than gold and silver.  Pride comes before a fall.  It is much better to be humble. 


If you mock the poor, you mock God.  If you laugh at other’s misfortune, you will experience misfortune.  Grandchildren are the crown of grandparents.  Forgiveness is an essential part of love and friendship.  If you seek to justify evil, or if you condemn good—you offend God.  A friend loves at all times.  A cheerful heart is good medicine.  A broken heart is like illness.  Fools are into bribery.


Let desire be your guide into wisdom.  Before you make up your mind on something, listen to the full story.  Language has the power to kill or to give life.  Some friends are closer to us than brothers.


Kindness is important.


Be careful about drinking too much—it can make you say stupid things and become violent.


God prefers justice to animal sacrifices.  If you cover your ears to the cries of the poor, don’t expect people to help you when you are in need.  Sometimes giving someone a secret gift goes a long way.


It’s better to have a good name than great riches.  Rich and poor, God made them both.


It’s okay to beat children, to correct them.  (I have a problem with this one, for obvious reasons).  


Don’t gloat when your enemy falls.


If your enemy is hungry, give him food.  If his is thirsty, give him water.  


It’s okay to whip fools. (I also have a problem with this one).  


People can make each other better, like iron sharpens iron.


Evil people can become paranoid.  Good people have peace.  Don’t cause good people to go astray.  If you try to hide your sins, it won’t work.  It’s better to be honest.  Don’t harden your heart.  Get-rich-quick schemes are usually a bad idea.  Don’t rob your family.


Avoid flattery.  A good leader listens to the poor.  Don’t be too hasty to speak.  Think about your words.  Don’t hang out with thieves.


Here are some words by a guy named Agur: “I am a fool.  But I found wisdom in God’s words.  I learned to avoid vanity and lies, and to be content with a simple life.  There are still many things I don’t understand, however.  I learned a lot from watching different animals, and how they behave.”


Here are some words by a king named Lemuel that he learned from his mother: “Don’t drink alcohol.  It will impair your judgement.  Judge righteously, and do not neglect the poor and the needy.  Try to find a virtuous wife, who is wise and strong, compassionate and  kind.  Her children will love her, and bless her.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Audacity + Half Goon @ The Continental

Last night I went to see two of my favorite local bands play at one of my favorite local venues to see cool bands.  I saw The Audacity and Half Goon at the Continental.  I took some pictures with my little pink camera.

Here's Half Goon...

And here's The Audacity...

Week nights are the best nights to catch cool free shows at The Continental.  Week-ends suck, FYI.  Viva independent music in Fullerton!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Psalms: a Book Report

The following is from a work-in-progress called "The Bible: a Book Report" in which I read each book of the Bible, summarize it in my own words, and occasionally give some commentary.  I will also include biblical artwork by famous artists.

The book of Psalms is a collection of Hebrew worship music and poetry, written by different authors, in different time periods, and for different reasons.  Many of the Psalms are ascribed to King David, who in the books of Samuel and Kings is often described as a musician.  Each psalm is unique, but there are certain recurring themes that run throughout: hope, misery, pleas for help, faith, the goodness of God, vengeance on enemies, deliverance for the nation of Israel, praise, thanksgiving, war, and peace.  

"King David Playing the Harp" from the Westminster Psalter (1250)

The Psalms are sort of like the soundtrack to Israel’s history, expressing the community and individual’s response to events and their meaning.  One unique thing about the Psalms is that they reflect a personal, individual relationship with God, as opposed to one strictly mediated by priests.  When I read the Psalms, one main theme seems to be most prominent, and that is, “Help, God!”.  For the very beginning of their existence, the Israelites suffered tremendously, and the Psalms offered people a kind of personal, and communal outlet for their anguish, and their tenacious hope.  I have decided to include a selection of quotes on this theme, divided into two sections: “Help me out, God” (personally) and “Help us out, God” (as a community)—a kind of ancient Hebrew mixtape.  As usual, I have put the Psalm quotes into my own words…

On the theme of: “Help me out, God”…

“Be gracious to me, God, for I am suffering;
Heal me, O Lord, for I am tired in my bones.
And my soul is disheartened.
How long will this last?”

--Psalm 6:2-3

“My God, my God, why have you neglected me?
I cry out, but deliverance seems really far away.
I cry out during the day, 
but you don’t answer;
I cry out at night, 
and I can’t sleep.”

--Psalm 22:1-2

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become so disturbed?
Hope in God, for I will again praise Him
Even his presence is comforting.”

--Psalm 42: 5

“My heart is in anguish within me,
And I’m scared of dying.
Fear and trembling and horror 
have overwhelmed me.
I prayed…
“Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would wander far away,
I would live in the wilderness.
I would find a place of refuge
From this shit-storm.”

--Psalm 55: 4-8

“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
My soul takes refuge in you;
In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
Until destruction passes by.”

--Psalm 57: 1

“Save me, O God,
I feel like I’m drowning.
I feel like I’m slipping down a mountain, with no foothold
I feel like I’m drowning in a flood
I have cried so long 
that I’m tired, 
and my throat is parched
and my eyes are all red.
I’m waiting for God.”

--Psalm 69: 1-3

“O God! 
Some violent men are actually trying to kill me!
They don’t care about you.
Listen, I know you are merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and full of grace and truth.
So help me out, here!
Give me strength!
Give me a sign, here!
Let those assholes see it, and be ashamed,
Because you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”

--Psalm 86: 14-17

“Listen up, God!
Listen to my cry for help!
Don’t be silent when I’m suffering so much.
Listen to me,
Give me an answer.
I’ve taken up chain-smoking,
I’ve got weary bones,
My heart is withering, like grass.
I’ve lost my appetite.
When I’m alone, I literally cry out.
I’m losing weight, to an unhealthy degree.
I’m like a lonely pelican.
I’m like an owl in a waste land.
I can’t sleep.
I’m like a lonely bird on a housetop.

People are persecuting me,
They are making fun of me.
Food doesn’t taste good any more,
Tears fall in my beer,
It’s because you are a wrathful God
It’s because you don’t care about me.
I spend my days in misery;
And I wither away like grass.”

--Psalm 102: 1-11

“I am afflicted and needy,
And my heart is wounded within me.
I feel like a lonely ghost
I feel like an insignificant insect.
I’ve stopped eating.  
I am literally wasting away.”

--Psalm 110: 22-25

“I feel like dying,
I feel like hell;
I feel distress and sorrow.
I prayed: ‘Please, God, 
I beg you, save my life.’”

--Psalm 116: 3-4

“Too long have I lived 
among war-mongers.
I am for peace.
They are for war.”

--Psalm 120: 7

“Out of the depths I have cried to you, God.
Please listen.
I know I fucked up.
Who doesn’t fuck up?
But you are a God of forgiveness.”

--Psalm 130: 1-4

“Rescue me, God, from evil men;
Preserve me from violent men,
Who devise evil things in their hearts;
They continually stir up wars.
They are liars.
Save me, God, from bad men,
Preserve me from violent men,
Who keep making things hard for me.”

--Psalm 140: 1-5

“I cry out to God,
I tell him my troubles.
When I feel overwhelmed,
He understands.
When I was really lonely and scared,
I cried out to you, God
I said, ‘You are my refuge,
You give me hope.
Listen to my cry,
For I am very low;
Save me from my persecutors,
For they are too strong for me.
Bring my soul out of prison.”

--Psalm 142

“Listen to my prayer, God,
Just listen, and don’t judge, okay?
Humans are flawed creatures, you understand.
I am overwhelmed.
I am appalled.”

--Psalm 143: 1-4

On the theme of “Help us out, God”…

“God will give strength to oppressed people,
He’ll help them during tough times.”

--Psalm 9:9

“God, you listen to humble people;
You strengthen their heart, 
You listen closely to people
like orphans
and those who are oppressed,
So cruel dickheads can’t scare or hurt them anymore.”

--Psalm 10: 17-18

“Where the fuck are you, God?
If you are sleeping, wake the fuck up!
Are you hiding or something?
Because we are living in oppression
And are really hurting down here
Wake up!  Help us!  Save us!
We need some grace down here.”

--Psalm 44: 23-26

“God is our refuge and strength,
He helps us when we are in trouble.
We won’t be afraid, 
even when the whole world is screwed up,
And the sea level is rising,
its waters roaring and foaming,
and once-tall mountains are covered.”

--Psalm 46: 1-3

“God, you have rejected us.
You have broken us;
You have been angry; 
Please restore us.
The world is really messed up.
Heal it.
You make your people see hard things,
You make us drink the wine of astonishment.”

--Psalm 60: 3

“God, why have you rejected us forever?
Why are you so pissed at us?
Remember your people?
Remember when you said we were yours?
Remember when you saved us?
Zion, your holy place, is in ruins.
If you get a chance,
come see what it’s like
to live in these ruins.

--Psalm 74: 1-3

“Well, God, we’ve been conquered.
Invaders have totally fucked up your temple,
And destroyed Jerusalem.
(Thanks for nothing).”

--Psalm 79:1

“How long will you answer our prayers with anger?
We are crying all the time,
Our enemies laugh at us
Please restore us.
Please look upon us with favor,
like you used to do.
Please save us.”

--Psalm 80: 4-7

“Be gracious to us, God, be gracious to us;
People are treating us cruelly. 
Rich, powerful, apathetic people.”

--Psalm 123: 3-4

“While living in exile in Babylon,
We sat by the river
And we wept,
When we remembered the home we lost.
We hung our harps on weeping willows.
Our conquerors made us sing songs
of home, as a kind of cruel joke.
How can we sing songs about you, God,
When we have lost everything?”

--Psalm 137: 1-6

The Jamaican ska band The Melodians did an awesome version of Psalm 137, aka "Rivers of Babylon"

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Job: a Book Report

The following is from a work-in-progress called "The Bible: a Book Report" in which I read each book of the Bible, summarize it in my own words, and occasionally give some commentary.  All of the artwork in this report is by the British Romantic poet/artist William Blake.  

Once upon a time there lived a man named Job, who was a good man, and prosperous.  He had seven sons and three daughters and they lived happily. 

Meanwhile, on another, spiritual plane of reality, some sons of God and a being called Satan came before the Lord.  God said to Satan, “Check out my servant Job.  He’s a really good guy.”  Satan replied, “Of course he’s a good guy.  You have totally blessed him.  I wonder what would happen if you took away all his stuff.”  So God was like, “Alright, Satan.  Go ahead and take away his stuff.  Make him suffer, and we’ll see how he responds.”  It was like a fucked-up bet between God and Satan, with Job as their innocent victim.

"Then went Satan from the presence of the Lord."

So Satan went ahead and caused all of Job’s livestock (his whole fortune) to be stolen and/or killed.  Then Satan killed all of Job’s children.  How did Job respond?  He fell to the ground and, amazingly, worshipped God, saying:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

So far, so good.  God was winning the bet.  But Job’s suffering wasn’t over.

Satan and the sons of God again came before the Lord, and God was like, “See, Satan!  Told you.  Job is legit.”  Satan replied, “What if you made him, like, physically suffer?  Not just emotionally or economically, but in his flesh and bones?  Then I bet Job would deny you, God.”  So God was like, “Alright, Satan.  Go ahead and give him physical suffering, only don’t kill him.”  Satan said, “Will do.”

So Satan gave Job horrible boils all over his body, and he was in constant, chronic, severe pain.  Job’s wife, seeing his suffering, was like, “Fuck God.”  But Job, still, amazingly, kept his faith.

Some of Job’s friends came to visit him, to console him in his grief and pain.  When they saw his condition, they wept and sat with him in silence for a long time.  They could tell he was going through some heavy, heavy shit.

"Let the day perish on which I was born." 

Finally, Job spoke, expressing his grief and pain and depression.  He spoke in poetry.  He wished he’d never been born.  He wished he could die.  He was almost suicidal.

Then Job’s friend Eliphaz spoke, basically arguing that innocent people don’t suffer, implying that Job’s suffering was caused by his sinfulness.  Job vehemently rejected this simplistic explanation.

Job’s friend Bildad continued Eliphaz’s faulty reasoning, saying that Job was somehow at fault for his suffering.  Again, Job didn’t buy this explanation, pointing out that both the innocent and the guilty suffer, seemingly indiscriminately.  Job also expressed his frustration that he couldn’t speak directly with God, and get a clear answer to his burning question: “Why is this happening to me?”

Job’s friend Zohar then got a bit angry with Job, calling him haughty and proud for not accepting the simple sin/punishment theory of human suffering.  To be fair to Job’s friends, the sin/punishment model was the predominant theory of the day.  Job’s refusal to accept this theory really fucked with his friends’ worldview.

"The just upright man is laughed to scorn."

Job was like, “Look at the world, guys!  Does the simple sin/punishment model fit the reality you experience and witness?  No, it doesn’t.  Innocent people, like me, suffer everywhere, all the time.  Life is a hot mess of incomprehensible pain.  Your theory is bullshit.”

At this point, Eliphaz became quite angry with Job.  He was like, “Damn you, Job, and your complex philosophy!  We’ve got a simple and clear-cut explanation for why people suffer.  People are basically evil, and should accept suffering as punishment for sin.”

Job replied, “You guys are the worst comforters ever!  Here I am, suffering like a sonofabitch, for no reason, and you guys are trying to pile guilt upon my pain.  You guys suck.”

Then Bildad got defensive.  “Are you calling us stupid, Job?” he asked, “Because that’s what it sounds like.  We are not stupid.  You’re stupid if you don’t accept our simple, out-dated, and insensitive theory.”

Job was like, “Dude, that’s fucked.  You guys are only adding to my grief and pain, and also making me feel lonely.  I need compassion, not condemnation.”

"With dreams upon my bed thou scarest me and afrightest me with visions."

Despite his suffering and his friends’ bone-headed “comfort,” Job amazingly maintained his faith in God, and expressed (in poetry) his hope that someday he would meet God and things would make sense. 

But his block-headed friends were relentless.  They weren’t willing to give up, or even modify, their sin/punishment theory.  Zohar kept going on and on about how the wicked suffer, the world is just, things make sense, etc.  Total bullshit.

Job was like, “Really?!  Really?!  Cus I’ve seen plenty of wicked people totally prospering and and doing very well for themselves.  Maybe, at some future time, justice will come, but this world is full of baffling, incomprehensible injustice.  The wicked prosper, and the innocent suffer.  Ever seen children in poverty and hunger?  How does that fit into your theory?”

Then a young man named Elihu, who thus far had listened in silence, spoke up.  He said he was afraid to speak his mind in front of these, his elders.  But when he realized that Job’s friend’s were wrong in their assessment, he decided to say his piece.  Elihu suggested that, while Job’s suffering may be undeserved, he may learn and grow from it.  Suffering may be a path to new understanding.  Elihu stressed the point that God is transcendent and, in many ways, incomprehensible to humans.  He suggested that Job look to nature as evidence of God’s power and glory, and find solace in all that crazy beauty. 

"I am young and ye are very old wherefore I was afraid to speak."

And then suddenly, out of like nowhere, God showed up in the form of a whirlwind, and spoke to Job!  God gave a long monologue, in which he basically said that He is of a higher plane of existence than Job, and so it’s natural that Job won’t be able to understand some things.  God spent a lot of time talking about how complex and amazing and wonderful the universe is—things like stars, mountains, weather, plants, and animals.  For example, God described, in great detail, how cool whales are.  God also said that Job’s friends, with the exception of young Elihu, were full of shit.

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind."

This satisfied Job, who concluded that, while he may never understand the deep and troubling mystery of human suffering, he can take solace (even amidst bewilderment and pain) in the deep complexity and beauty of the world.

Then God restored Job’s fortunes, and blessed him with lots of children, and a very full life, after his traumatic ordeal. Satan doesn’t show up at the end of the story, but it’s implied that God won the bet.

"So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Anti-Club Playlist 8/15/14

On Friday nights, I DJ at Mulberry St. Ristorante (aka The Anti-Club) in downtown Fullerton.  Here's the playlist from last night, with album artwork.  Click the song to listen to it...

“Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis

See you next Friday!