Gently making fun of literal interpretations: “Thou shalt not kill potatoes”
Most humans begin life at a very young age, which may explain why they can be so naïve when it comes to complex things like language. When there are two distinct languages and someone is translating from one language in to the other one, there are at least three distinct factors that affect the quality of the translation.
The first two are quite obvious: the more fluent that a translator is in each of the two languages, the better that we can expect their translation to be. In other words, if we had 100 translators all together, we would expect that the translators who were the most fluent in both languages would probably produce the translations that were most likely to be approved by everyone else in the group, too. In that case, consensus or popularity could be a decent measure of accuracy.
Another issue besides general fluency in each of the two languages is familiarity with the way that the original author is addressing the specific subject matter. This is already assuming that the translator has some expertise in the subject matter itself (like even if I know two languages very well, I might not be the best person to translate an instruction book for how to perform brain surgery or piloting a helicopter). But what about the nuances that the original author may have used? What about any “inside jokes” or symbolic references?
It could be a notable thing when a group of people present so little direct comprehension of a subject that they rely on books (or even translated ancient texts) as the foundation for how they organize their activities. It is one thing to respectfully credit ancient sources for their usefulness as resources (tools). It is quite distinct to assert that authority comes from certain sequences of words.
“I have authority because I am repeating the exact words of the ancient teacher who actually did not speak this language at all, but they said something like this and then some translators with however much comprehension of the subject created some translations. So, now I worship exactly one of those translations as having special authority as the exact words of the ancient teacher who did not actually speak this language that I am using. Got it?”
For example, in the famous stories about Jesus, did Jesus assert authority based on quoting Isaiah? Jesus repeatedly quoted Isaiah, but was Isaiah the source of the authority of Jesus? In fact, there is at least one passage in the Bible noting how Jesus did not quote scripture as the basis of his own authority, but instead spoke with authority whether or not he was quoting scriptures from prior teachers.
If, hypothetically, we were to assert that the authority of Jesus was based exclusively on his repetition of Isaiah’s statements that were later written down, then where did the authority of Isaiah come from? Did Isaiah’s statements have special authority before they were written down or only after they were written down (or without regard for the issue of whether they were later written down)? Did Isaiah’s statements have authority before Jesus ever read the transcripts of Isaiah’s prior statements?
The audience who is fluent in a particular language is who can give meaning to sequences of words in that language. How many meanings can different audiences give to the same words? More than one meaning, right?
Next, let’s focus on something simple that needs no quotations to be obvious. The word authority is related to the word author and also to the word auto. Authoritative means self-generated, like authorship or automated.
How can the authorship of Jesus come from anyone or anything outside of Jesus? Someone’s authorship can be said to come through them or from within them, but logically it cannot come from someone else.
I cannot invent a saying that I have already heard. That would not be inventiveness, but duplication.
What if logic, not conformity to prior traditions, was the basis for authority? Traditions may have social influence through popularity, but do they have practical relevance? Someone who focuses on the practical qualities of relevance and logic and inventiveness may be a more effective leader than someone who simply has a lot of followers.
The idea of authoritative inventiveness is of course distinct from social influence in general, such as the influence of an armed robber or of a wealthy lobbyist or of a propagandist who creates the programming curriculum for a television network or a school system. Maybe those people are inventive in their actions and maybe they are not.
Note that inventiveness is also not limited to words. There are many ways to be inventive.
Earlier, I mentioned three issues in regard to translating an ancient transcript of an oral tradition. Two issues were the fluency in first the original language and second in the “destination” language. The third issue I mentioned was the translator’s familiarity with the specific way that the original author was addressing a subject.
For instance, how familiar is the translator with the subject of inventiveness? If unfamiliar, then they can easily create an imprecise translation- even one that lots of other people who are also unfamiliar with inventiveness will agree is technically accurate (though perhaps of no practical value).
When someone is unusually inventive and then talks about inventiveness, that could be rather challenging to translate well. They may talk about it in an inventive or unfamiliar way. That can be had to understand at all, much less to translate.
Further, why are people even so interested in a translation about inventiveness? Doesn’t their own lack of comprehension of the subject of inventiveness create the interest in the subject at all?
לֹ֥א יָדְע֖וּ וְלֹ֣א יָבִ֑ינוּ כִּ֣י טַ֤ח מֵֽרְאֹות֙ עֵֽינֵיהֶ֔ם מֵהַשְׂכִּ֖יל לִבֹּתָֽם׃
”They have no da’as nor binah; for their eyes are smeared over, that they cannot see; and their levavot, that they cannot understand.”
http://biblehub.com/ojb/isaiah/44.htm (Isaiah 44:18)
For those of you who are not familiar with the Hebrew language, here is a more complete translation:
They have not known, nor understood: for their eyes are covered that they may not see, and that they may not understand with their heart.
Here are a few versions of Isaiah 6:10, in which Isaiah uses similar metaphors:
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.”
“Dull the minds of these people; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed.”
“Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”
So, while these metaphorical references might be famous to Christians as sayings made by Jesus, he was just quoting Isaiah, which is explicitly noted in Matthew 13:14-15….
Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
So it is clear enough that both Isaiah and Jesus were interested in the subject that we could call spiritual blindness (or “spiritual darkness”). In other words, they appreciate poetry and are aware that most people do not even understand poetry. Many people could even worship the word inventiveness and yet be completely blind to the simple reality of inventiveness itself.
Sorry, I meant to say that only some people appreciate pottery, not that only some people appreciate poetry. Of course everyone appreciates poetry. Don’t be silly.
Everyone knows that Harry Potter is the father of his son, who shall be named Emmanuel, which of course is Hebrew for “Clay.” So, therefore, Clay “Emmanuel” Potter was conceived by a virgin (like Horus, which is probably just the word for clay in another language).
Excerpt from http://freethoughtnation.com/isis-is-a-virgin-mother/ :
The virginity of Horus’s mother, Isis, has been disputed, because in one myth she is portrayed as impregnating herself with Osiris’s severed phallus. In depictions of Isis’s impregnation, the goddess conceives Horus “while she fluttered in the form of a hawk over the corpse of her dead husband.” In an image from the tomb of Ramesses VI, Horus is born out of Osiris’s corpse without Isis even being in the picture. In another tradition, Horus is conceived when the water of the Nile—identified as Osiris—overflows the river’s banks, which are equated with Isis. The “phallus” in this latter case is the “sharp star Sothis” or Sirius, the rising of which signaled the Nile flood. Hence, in discussing these myths we are not dealing with “real people” who have body parts.
Obviously, by now you must be wondering what all of this has to do with killing potatoes. I will now reveal this deep and practical spiritual doctrine.
Those who harvest potatoes may notice that the part of the potato plant that people eat is the root of the plant (like the carrot is also a root, as well as the onion). If you eat the root of a plant, then the rest of the plant is basically going to die, right?
So, because God commanded you personally not to kill anything ever, you will go to hell and experience eternal guilt if you have ever eaten any potatoes (or carrots or onions etc). Without killing the organism, you can eat a fruit or a single leaf of a plant, but you can’t eat a carrot without the carrot dying, right? You can’t eat a potato without killing it either. So you are guilty of killing potatoes even if you personally did not kill them yourself (but just ate some that someone else killed before you ate it).
As for those who assert that there is no commandment in the Hebrew tradition of “thou shalt not kill,” these people are probably hysterical and need to be whipped and crucified in public in a holy ritual of human sacrifice to show everyone that killing is very bad. The Hebrew people (some who even claim to understand the Hebrew language) may protest that the commandment is actually “thou shalt not murder,” but they have no right to make such an assertion because they are not even real Christians, right? How arrogant of them to question our logic, right? What could they possibly know about human history?
Sure, maybe God commanded Moses to start a war and slaughter a few neighboring tribes, but what about the ancient teaching to take an eye for an eye? If someone cuts the eye out of your potato (at least without your written permission), then don’t you have the right to put a needle in the eye of a rich camel trying to get in to heaven? If you do take the camel’s eye, what are you even going to do with it? Where are you going to take it? Why would you even want a camel’s eye? That is really disgusting of you and you should be very guilty about this entire potato-killing situation.
In conclusion, all religions teach peace and love. I know that there is a saying in the book of Ecclessiastes about a time for love and hate, for peace and war, for killing and healing. However, if I do not like the content of those passages and find them embarrassing or terrifying, then I can just claim that those translations were imprecise (probably while I worship other translations from the same translators).
So, when people lack self-confidence in regard to their own perceptiveness, inventiveness and authority, then they may cling to groups, such as a particular denomination or political party. That can be reassuring for those who are most anxious. That can be good for them at that stage of development. Maybe they even seek the glory of a position within such a group. Such positions certainly have their value.
Later, they may realize that all large groups have a tendency to favor familiarity over relevance and precision. So, they may value a particular author or teacher more than a specific network. That is also good for them at that stage of development. Maybe they even seek the re-assurance of socializing with others who are fans of the same “cult celebrity.” They can bond with each other and validate their emerging common interests (which may be beyond the typical range of interest of a large group or institution).
Rare is the one whose preference is to both appreciate competent guidance from a perceptive expert… while also developing inner clarity and intuition. They may value a relationship with a particular teacher, but not for the sake of attracting validation from others who also respect that same teacher. What if they valued the teacher simply because of the quality of the teaching?
Last, if some teacher says that they are only interested in promoting a particular set of spiritual doctrines, why would they say that? Why exclude all other possible priorities and interests (other than spirituality in general or even just one specific spiritual tradition)?
Beware of those who present spirituality as the pinnacle of human purpose. It is a doorway to be used, not to be worshiped. It may seem to be a very valuable doorway (which someone may experience with an over-powering attraction to explore). Let them do so.
But why expect anyone else to value it the same as you? Maybe you do value it now. If so, isn’t it true that until you did, you didn’t?
Likewise, we should not celebrate the root of the potato as if that is the only part of the plant. Maybe that is the only part we eat, but without the leaves and the soil, the root would not grow.
Is spirituality deserving of unique respect among all fields of human endeavour? Perhaps for you it will be for a time. However, if someone told you to hold your breath until you master spirituality and experience enlightenment, that might be a joke (though perhaps a joke that provokes very clear insight very efficiently).
If a particular “spiritual exploration” produces for you an increasing respect for all aspects of life, so be it. Spirituality can even be used as an excuse to retreat from a particular momentum of activity (and that may also be quite appealing for someone at a certain stage).
Use it like a tool, like a ladder. If it does not reliably produce a noticeable improvement to the quality of life for you and your kin, why else would you invest any further time in it?
Those who are most terrified by an idea may be the fastest to flee from it. Those who are disturbed but not totally horrified may be likely to hysterically argue against it. How reassuring it can be for them to gather in to groups to validate their presumptions, pretenses, and delusions!
Many creation myths feature “virgin births,” such as the birth of Eve from out of the side of Adam (who was of course a virgin in the sense that he did not engage in sexual activity in order to produce Eve). Pictured here is an ancient statue detailing a similar myth regarding the birth of the Buddha from out of the side of his mother (which in many sects of Buddhism is not emphasized or even mentioned at all).
What really bothers me is that different cultures and groups are inventive in different ways. Don’t they understand what inventiveness means?!?! 😉