Winter Holds Its Breath

Hazy clouds and about 38 degrees.  No rain, nor snow,  some sun off and on. The grass still is mostly green and the mothers day Rhododendron have leaves curled like toilette paper rolls.  Here in Sitka the season just doesn't know what to do. 

The news of the world is sad, reading about the killings in Paris: with the attendant protests which carry on their back some of the original racist and anti muslim sentiment.  Fear, and hatred, the trumpeting of universal and unbreakable principles... always ring with the preamble to martial music and war.  But how can we go to war against terror, against an emotion? 

I can only imagine one way, through renewed effort of courage and understanding.  Steadfastness, not in the principles, but in the flawed everyday carrying out of the expression of our principles.  

That's why I was sad that the Paris perpetrators were killed.  I had hoped they were to be captured and given lawyers.  At least one should have had a woman lawyer.  This trial would have been long and talky.  The families of the dead would have been given the opportunity to scream their curses at living  ears, and in time say bitter prayers along side.  To my mind I would want to see families of the prisoners get their chance to talk about their faith and disavow violence yet, again in time,  try to explain what it feels like to see your prophet mocked in a country that does not welcome your faith or your practice.  In my vision of justice I would have this trial go on and on....and eventually have the French people take the verdicts together and see that justice is something that is hard to build together on this earth and not something that is meted out by a few individuals with guns.  

But of course this is just me.  It seems the world likes stories that fit into film scripts... revenge stories...faster solutions.  The wold likes men with guns dispensing justice.  I have been guilty of this myself.  There is nothing like a revenge fantasy to sell copies.   

I am in my second reading of the Qur'an, and have just finished a fine book about the history of Al-Qeada, called The Looming Tower by Jeffery Wright.  I found The Tower a fascinating and well written book, but plan to keep digging.  What Wright says is, the tale of Islamic extremism in the modern world started with Sayyid Qutb  in the 1950s in Egypt.  A relatively obscure writer with relatively few followers.  The idea is a reaction against Western Colonialism certinally  but  Qutb also evolved his ideas from an interesting linguistic reality in the nature of Arabic and it's relationship to the Qur'an.  

This, as a writer, is what interests me about peoples relationship to this text ... but bear with me, because as you will see, I'm no expert here. The Qur'an is pretty much everything on the Arabian Penninsula as far as written culture.  It's hard to overestimate it's importance.  The rules of Arabic grammar, tense, and syntax evolved to accommodate the reading of the Qur'an.  The Angel Gabriel comes to the Prophet first in Medina then in Mecca and speaks into his ear.  The Angel reveals the word of God.  Remember this is the God of Abraham.  Same God of the Old Testament, of Issac, and Noah and Jesus.  Mohammad, the Prophet praises Jesus profusely, in the Qur'an. Much of the Holy text is written in the second person: "You, prophet... you do this... you must tell the people this" in the voice of the Angel of the lord.  but sometimes the Angel is so filled with the fervor of God's word he starts speaking in Godly voice,  "And the Heavens will feel your voice..."   The Angel tells the Prophet how to unify the people at the temple. He tells the Prophet in the most detailed language, how to do real estate trans actions,  Divcorces, Pretty much everything the people need to know.  Why?  To bring them together under one leader in one church. For at this time, some six hundred years after the birth of Christ, most of the people on the Arabian peninsula were not Jews or Christians, nor Muslims but were pantheists believing in multiple gods, some of local sects, some of Roman, or Greek origin.  This caused distention, and also disruption in politics and the economy.  

It became tradition carried on to this day for the followers of the Prophet Mohammad  to memorize large sections  of the Prophets teaching. Some still, by adulthood are able to memorize the entire Holy text.  Now, imagine that.... the voice of the Angel of God, talking directly to you, as if you were a Prophet.  Repeated over and over into your mind, when you were say 7 or 8, Until you remembered every word of a three hundred page text that encapsulated the given law and wisdom of your culture..   

This is not just a book.  This is a deep cultural identity.  Qutb believed and wrote that nothing more was needed in life BUT the Qur'an.   He lived and studied for a time in Greeley Colorado after World War II and he found the new western world to be silly and licentious where he found the life prescribed by the Qur'an was dignified, masculine, Godly, and ordered.  Western, democratic capitalism was rapacious, pansexual, and unGodly.  To Qutb's mind the two cultures were mutually exclusive, they could not coexist. Liberal democracy could only pollute the vitality of Islam.  In 1966 Sayyid Qutb was happy to be hanged in Cairo for his opposition to the opening of Egypt's overtures to the Western developers. .  His teachings have become the foundation of Islamic extremism around the globe ever since:  one very quite and dignified writer who studied in Greeley, Colorado, set the tuning fork humming that would topple the World Trade Center.

I suppose, as a person who respects writing, I should take heart that Ideas Matter.  Writing Matters. How a piece of text is written, the choice of person, first, second or third, is a critical  decision. And I do...because if anything is true this must be:  The words of one Living God appears to have brought us to the brink of war then the words of the same Living God should be able to bring us back from that brink.  And it will be brought back by the words of Silly, and Profane artists, Women, Intellectuals, Jews, and Christians, Palestinians, Native Americans, Homosexuals, and all the multitudes of human and non-human I cannot think of that this One God surely must speak through if this God created and is responsible for them all.  They all, even the hummingbird at my feeder must have a say in this matter of world peace.  Even the scallop on the rocks, and the baby asleep in the trailer down the road.  Surly God, (praise be his name) has not forgotten her.  This baby may grow up to have the answer saving us all. 

God Bless all this love that cannot be killed, by anyone, anywhere, and long may it be shared, freely.   


A night so dark

         I close my eyes 

to see some light.