05 February 2006

Standing on Fire

I have no topic but as usual my fingers will come alive on the keyboard and make words until sense follows. This may or may not have some sane point, but nobody is reading this anyway. Certainly not me.

The night has been filled with images of Orientalists and infighting, with ancient peoples and modern, and with scrolls and palm leaves. I remember reading the Koran for the first time--a copy that had the suras (or chapters or whatever they are) in the wrong order, or at any rate in an order different from the traditional. I had to go back to the index repeatedly to read it in sequence. I was in a high-school gym, seated on bleachers, while people were screaming all around me. (I'm not sure why, now--maybe some event was in progress.) I was working my way through a long piece on "Women" and I had the thought--my god, what a long-winded asinine piece of boring garbage this is. In a way it was a heretical thought--I felt committed to the notion that there was some "good"--some piece of significance anyway, some reason, some purpose, something--in any piece of literature people had chosen to deify. Even Gone with the Wind.

The Rig-Veda had kind of shook me up in that respect, but at least it had the charm of antiquity. It is not unreasonable that in trying to get in touch with people over ten thousand miles and three thousand years away the connection might be faulty. But the Koran was born in the full glaring light of history--it was written down on palm leaves, and assembled in a big council immediately after the death of its creator--why did people read it? What were they thinking? It was like reading Atlas Shrugged.

It was a moment only, and I went back to inputting data, taking it in as I took in other stuff--provisionally. Some day I would read it in Arabic, I told myself, and I could form a real opinion.

But that day never came. At school I had a choice among several possible languages, and actually signed up for Arabic--but at the last minute a chance to learn Coptic came up, and I switched. I figured that Arabic would come later--but so far it hasn't. And I haven't learned Chinese for the Tao Te Ching or Spanish for Don Quixote either.

Translations are always unsatisfactory, somehow. Like listening to a description of a banquet rather than being there.

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