Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Le Monde 100: The Abyss

The main purpose of Man is Men's exploration of the Le Monde 100 is not to get particularly involved with summarization and analysis of the list of works. But, as this list was compiled primarily on the impact that the books had on the public, I am mainly focusing on my personal response to these books.

That being said, I was stunned by a particular passage from The Abyss. Not for its literary value or message but due to a tidbit of information that affected me personally.

Looking back at the relationship I had with my late grandmother, I realize how enormous the impact of her opinion and life-choices made upon me. The strength of viewpoint was forceful. The seriousness of her intent was ever present. The lifestyle of her choice was so nomadic and selfless in so many ways that any assertion that she made carried as much currency as one can gather through a personal example.

Her opinions were solidly grounded in the supernatural. Her studies of the Bible were as thorough and proactive as her lessons were to her children, grandchildren, and students. 

She directly influenced my personal decisions as well. As Bible education was an ongoing perpetual endeavor between us, she was present as I prostrated myself and attempted to align myself with the heavens. She taught me that the connection between the material world and the spiritual was solidified through morality and love as manifestations of heaven. It was through her counsel and her counsel only that I forewent a life path into a secular career in order to pursue higher spiritual goals. 

The supernatural realm brought with its morality its own manifestations of fear. Invisible to the rest of us, my grandmother was constantly complaining of attacks on her by demonic forces. I, too, lived in fear of these beings as well as she would never fail to relate the dangers of their ilk. 

However, in time, I grew doubtful of these attacks. Although I was always on the alert for them, they never showed up. This lead to an unfortunate interchange with my grandmother between my grandmother and I. Unfortunate because it was the last interaction we ever had.

In 1995, she was not necessarily abreast of technological advancements especially in the world of computing. My uncle, however, had given to me a computer to take across the country to her. I was to set it up and help her understand how to use it for one solitary purpose - to access the state of the art CD-ROM Biblical library that had been recently released by our organization.

Upon arriving and installing the computer, we had a long arduous lesson together on the basics. It was unfathomable to me how she could not make the connection between the white arrow cursor on the monitor and the movements she would make with the mouse. For her, it was an alien concept. In time, though, she conquered it and immediately immersed herself in the rabbit hole of clickable archived research.

A few days later, I received a panicked phone call where I was working about an hour away. She was very distressed and demanded that I take the computer away. When I arrived, she was at the kitchen table composing a letter to the organization. It was a warning to headquarters of the fact that computers are an avenue for demons and that they must not be used.

After digging a little deeper, I realized that as she was researching certain passages of the Bible would be stored in the Window's Notepad for later use in a similar way as cutting and pasting. As it was 1995, glitches in this sort of thing happen all the time. So, when she inadvertently opened the Notepad, she found a passage overlaying an apostle's urge to be faithful over a reference to Baal of Peor, which she interpreted as a demonic scramble urging her to be faithful to Baal of Peor.

When I found the reason why this happened, we launched into an epic argument. She was convinced of a mystical origin to this situation whereas I was equally convinced of an earthly origin to the same situation. As the discussion heated up, she looked me squarely in the eye and said that she was being attacked at that very second. I could not, for the life of me, understand in what way that could be. Was I the source of the attack to her?

I wanted to drop the subject completely knowing that we were philosophically polarized. But she would not. When I left, we were both fuming.

The letter that she was writing is of importance to this story. She viewed herself as one of the Chosen Ones of our organization, which, at that time, made her one of the symbolic voices of the organization. However, as this unique role is strictly self-revealing, there was no call from headquarters to receive counsel from any of the Chosen Ones. My grandmother was never one to wait for an invitation to counsel though.

This brings me to The Abyss by Marguerite Yourcenar. This passage jumped out of the book at me:

"Friend Zeno," said the Captain,"...Is it worth the trouble of toiling for twenty years' time to get no further than doubt? Doubt will grow by itself, anyhow, in any well-stocked pate."

"Yes, incontestably worth it," Zeno affirmed. "Your doubts and your faith are but bubbles of air on the surface, but the truth which condenses inside of us, like the salt deposed in an alembic during a hazardous distillation, is beyond explanation and all limitation of form; it is both too cold and too burning for human utterance, too subtle for the human word, and more precious than writings can be."

"More precious than the August Syllable?"

"Yes," said Zeno, but he lowered his voice, in spite of himself.

The August Syllable.

What was that? I had never heard of that. What made the doubter Zeno lower his voice in spite of himself?

I started looking for what this was but I found nothing on Wikipedia or in any reference books.

But in the special notes to Rotherham's Emphasized Bible, I found this passage:

At first it may seem amusing that by the simple process of resolving the word "hallelujah" into its elements and then translating it in harmony with its force and intent that we actually get rid of the word (as one compound word) altogether! That is so but consider the gain. We not only catch a fresh sight of the ancient worship as a living thing, but we gain an accession to the instances in which the thrice Holy Divine Name (in its abbreviated form of "Jah" = "Yah") occurs in the Old Testament; and to condescend on the minor matter of pronunciation, it seems peculiarly becoming that the same translation that ventures upon the spelling "Yahweh" should set free from its almost meaningless combination (often flippantly ejaculated, and sometimes lightly used as a badge) the AUGUST SYLLABLE YAH. The relation of Yah to Yahweh is so generally admitted , that to accept the obvious pronunciation of the former and refuse the proposed pronunciation of the latter, would appear to be inconsistent.

The division between my grandmother and I was not unique. Her proclamations of insight created problems, as the policy of headquarters for our organization was to maintain a unified approach towards revelation as opposed to following haphazard spontaneous epiphanies.

One of the last major rifts between her and our leadership that I can remember was the abandoning of any usage of God's name in any form except for THE SYLLABLE "JAH."

This was unsettling for other members of our organization as our standard usage was an inherent part of our culture and worship. My family worked to mute my grandmother's attempts to make this particular revelation a major part of her but she was captured by the concept of the August Syllable. Now, going through her memoirs and journals, there are numerous places where Jah is written over other words to take prominence in her writing. Slips of paper are sandwiched among the pages with just the August Syllable. It was a very big deal to her towards the end of her life.

In the Abyss, Zeno was a man of vigorous rationality but the moderation of his voice was a nod of involuntary respect to the August Syllable. In spite of every logical computation that a skeptic may make, whatever vigorous reasoning is employed on belief and existence, we must always tip our hats to our inherent limitations. Uncertainty must be ever-present in order to flow with this life in the most sincere way possible. The August Syllable is the boiled down product of a belief - the final stronghold of the discipline of finding divinity through language. 

To be truly sincere, I too must nod to the August Syllable.