I’ve been neglecting this blog again. Lately I just can’t find much to report or comment upon. The Bahá’í community seems to have gone quiet. Maybe I’ll collect some social networking numbers to maybe measure some signs of life?
Let’s look at Reddit, that is, subreddit membership.
It is commonly known that Muslims, for the most part, shun images of their prophet. They certainly do not approve of images of God, though Islám is perhaps as stained by idolatry as any religion. Muslims worship the Qurán as an uncreated being (the word of God exists before creation), they revere Muhammad as the perfect man, and they circumambulate a black stone in what is perhaps their foremost expression of worship. In addition to all that, the Qur’án itself reduces the will of God to a very specific image that can stifle the imagination.
Qur’án 2:115 (Muhammad al-Qtayfani)
But when it comes to the actual Face of God, the Qur’án anthropomorphizes God in a rather non-idolatrous way which I find quite inspired (“your mileage may vary”). It arises in the way that the Qur’án speaks of “the Face of God.” The Qur’án makes reference to this specific construct only twice. In one passage, the point is made that the Face of God can been seen everywhere, and presumably, in everything:
To God belong the East and the West; whithersoever you turn, there is the Face of God; God is All-embracing, All-knowing. [2:115]
Though Muslims generally reckon their religion to be based upon a book, Islám is a profoundly oral religion. Even its theology is fundamentally oral. The God of Muhammad, it might reasonably be said, is something of a poet; a lyricist and vocalist.
The book that Muslims hold in such reverence as to be an object of worship is not so much something to be read as something to be recited. The book is even named “the Recitation,” and its very first word, according to the traditional chronology of the book, is “recite:”
Recite [اقرا] in the Name of thy Lord who created,
created Man of a clot of blood. (96:1)
Harry J. Sutcliffe was born in Brooklyn, New York on 10 August 1925. He was delivered premature and lost his sight soon thereafter to an incubator mishap.
The “age of radio” was a special time to be a blind kid. Amateur radio was also a fascination of many blind hobbyists, one of whom was young Harry Sutcliffe. Anthony Mannino describes Sutcliffe’s career as a “ham” operator in his April 1963 Blind American article:
At the age of thirteen the young student became interested in amateur radio, and by the time he was sixteen was a confirmed “ham” operator. He did a great deal of reading of technical material on the subject and studied under the expert teaching of Bob Gunderson, well-known teacher of the blind. During World War II there were fifteen or twenty amateur radio operators at the school, who worked for the Radio Intelligence Division of the Federal Communications Commission, engaged in recording propaganda broadcasts. Young Sutcliffe also worked for the War Emergencies Radio Services of the Office of Civilian Defense of New York, covering telephone failures resulting from attack or other emergencies. For his participation in this important work he was awarded a citation by the late Fiorello LaGuardia, then Mayor of New York City.
I have seen her now: seasoned with eternity,
simmers in her sky-cold sylvan pool, hard and white
as the waning moon and quartzite banks, the last softening
membrane of youth seared away in the slow forge of forever;
breast peppered with translucent constellations
when the sun breaks through the leaves.
No fleshy delicacy—even of the slightest young brides,
but the taut, radiant hide of an ageless queen,
Immortal virgin, so say they, but naught of docile innocence;
her purity: homicidal violence.
She it is who haunts the dread hinterland,
forbidden interior, wildland of man;
No love for the society of Olympus,
and no Earth Mother, more terrible
than any Aphrodite.
I have etched here these scars on this stone, scraped
as I hide, catching my breath, wrapping my wounds,
year over year, binding my bones,
to report that I have run this long,
even to the sacred springs on Helicon.
Not pious nor merciful, she makes sport of me still.
The hounds come.
Here’s the presentation that I delivered (in part, having run out of time) at the 20th conference of the Robinson Jeffers Association in Carmel, California on February 16, 2014. It might interest anyone into Robinson Jeffers, the Central Coast of California, fire, Moby-Dick, Heraclitus, Zoroastrianism, etc.
When it began, in the old land,
Ararat and the noor seed, and the night skin
Cracked, and the sun slipped through,
Fat pomegranate boiling up with red arils
In thousands, and a little snow on the greater cone
Thawed and watered the seed that through March
And June became the noor tree.
A breeze blew through August, October bloomed,
And red orbs grew fat on her slender fingertips,
Loaded down her mighty arms to the earth
And the sun came down from the mountain,
Like pomegranate swelled and cracked,
And doves flew in, cut the red skin and grew
Fat and round on the tree, that bride
Who cast the virile fruit to the ground,
And the aril and the earth and the sun and the snow
Gave birth to Ararat’s children.
Three pomegranates fell down from heaven: One for the storyteller, one for the listener, and one for the world.
To the poet Robinson Jeffers, the eagle is a symbol of something like divine consciousness. Man, in contrast, is more like an inauspicious microbe. Man and eagle do have this in common: they both use fire. This is obvious in the case of man. For Jeffers, the eagle is an opportunist, seeking game and carrion in the wake of wildfires.
The key difference between eagle and man—according to Jeffers—can be seen in the poem Original Sin.  Man’s rise and fall are identified with one act: man’s harnessing of fire. One might make a case that the chief sin in the poem is man’s cruelty, and human cruelty is surely a sin that Jeffers decries, but there is also a side to Jeffers that laments the rise of civilization, and what better image is there for the rise of civilization than the taming of fire?
The old stories have it that when Zeus got word that Prometheus had given fire to man, Zeus had Prometheus tied down so that an eagle (or vulture) would eternally devour the rebellious Titan’s liver. This punishment might well have seemed justifiable to Jeffers. He did seem to think Prometheus a fool:
And this young man was not of the sad race of Prometheus, to waste himself in favor of the future.
All this original sin is perfectly natural, of course, and we must accept it as such, terrible though it may be.
But we are what we are, and we might remember not to hate any person, for all are vicious;
Natural though it all may be, there is tragedy in the powerful knowledge and tools of man as well as in his cruelty. In Original Sin, fire is the symbol for all three.
 Published in the Double Axe and Other Poems, 1948.
The Dead Men’s Child, published in Cawdor and Other Poems, 1928.