Thursday, April 26, 2007

Some Interesting Biblical Cross-Referencing

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
--Matthew 27:45-46

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?

2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.

4 In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.

5 They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.

7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

8 "He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him."

9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother's breast.

10 From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother's womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

13 Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.

17 I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.

18 They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.

19 But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

20 Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.

21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.

23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

24 For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.

26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,

28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.

31 They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn—
for he has done it.

--Psalm 22

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:28-30

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Created Meaning

Suppose I woke up one afternoon in a Macy's department store and I had no idea how I got there. After rubbing my face, visiting the restroom, and checking men's slacks just in case they actually have anything in my size, I'm sure I'd begin to ask questions like "Why am I here?", "How did I get here?", and "Did someone put me here, and, if so, then for what purpose?". I was having a hard time answering these questions on my own, but an elderly sales associate told me that I was placed there by Macy himself so that I might begin a lifelong career in retail. Of source, I rejected the associate's explanation; for all I knew, it might have been a self-serving lie on her part, and I had no direct evidence that such a person as Macy existed, much less that this putative Macy cared anything about my career. I was not wearing clothes suitable for an interview, and I woke up at the opposite end of the store from the service desk where the job applications were kept. If I was meant to get a job there, I had no special indication this was so.

My appearance in the department store may have a meaning: Perhaps Macy did indeed bring me there (kidnapper!) to get a job. Perhaps it is a prank my friends are playing on me. Perhaps it is a sign from God that I should not get wasted then go wandering around town, passing out in random locations.

My appearance in the department store may not have a meaning: Perhaps I merely suffered from simultaneous attacks of narcolepsy and somnambulism. Perhaps I got wasted and went wandering around town, but God wasn't trying to show me anything from it. Perhaps, because of some unanticipated consequence of quantum physics, I teleported into that Macy's store while taking an afternoon nap.

What if, I tried to create a meaning for the situation I was in? I don't know why I would want to do this, since I'd much rather know the actual meaning of my appearance in Macy's, if there is one; but suppose I did. If we take the phrase "create a meaning" literally, then it is simply absurd. I cannot create a meaning for my appearance in Macy's. I may discover it, I may imagine it or pretend it, but I can't create meaning after the fact, simply because I cannot change the past nor intentionally cause something that I did not intentionally cause. Is this what existentialists mean when they talk of creating meaning?

Of course, existentialists are smarter than that. But then, what does it mean to create meaning? I suppose if I appeared in Macy's without intending to be there, I could let the visit serve some purpose. I couldn't properly say "I'm here because I need to buy a new belt", but I could say "Since I'm here, I might as well buy a new belt." This makes perfect sense. The thing is, it seems to me that none of the existentialists are as bland as that. Nietzche could have saved a lot of paper if he merely said "Life is meaningless, but, since we're here, we might as well do what we like and not let any old customs or religious dogmas get in our way", but he didn't. Maybe I've just answered my own question. If life is meaningless and we might as well do as we like, then thinking people might as well do the absurd and create meaning, just because they like doing it.