These fragments I have shored against my ruins

Anoplogaster

 

fangtooth

 

Some reflections on a strange-looking fish.

 

“… by day these fish remain in the gloomy depths and towards evening they rise to the upper layers of the water column to feed by starlight, returning to deep water by daybreak.” – Wikipedia

Even in the case of strange creatures like the Fangtooth, one may find a certain poetic beauty. There is something poignant about this ugly chap who rises from the depths to feed by starlight.

Given the world we can observe about us, together with the microscopic and subatomic world and the abstract world of mathematics, we might ask ourselves what the God who made things is really like. Add to this consideration the fossil history of the world – it’s past zoology and botany -evidenced by long-extinct species of which the dinosaurs are but one example, God (whoever/whatever we understand the word “god” to mean) certainly appears to be the enigma of enigmas. Why create giant flesh-eating dinosaurs? To what end a world of shifting seismic plates and random global catastrophes, bizarre insects and viruses? Opinions (and dogmatic assertions) on this matter are infinitely varied, and it is worthwhile listening to the Christian fundamentalist as much as the militant atheist if only to ponder the variety of perspectives. I confess I think the jury’s still out. Irrespective of our conclusions It does appear the creator of the world made some strange things, which I propose must in some measure inform our opinion of ‘him’ (him being merely a  convenient pronoun). Consider for instance the “Fangtooth”, or Anoplogaster, pictured above and below. While strangeness is subjective (as are all our concepts of beauty and ugliness), perhaps Anoplogaster’s unfortunate appearance is beautiful to God?

 

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Above: image of Fangtooth courtesy of http://m.neogaf.com/showthread.php?p=129757451

Monstrous creatures of the depths are “monstrous” because we have a preconceived notion of the monstrous. It’s really just a construct. Beauty and ugliness are relative concepts: Umberto Eco’s On Beauty and On Ugliness are a useful introduction to a very complex subject.

So-called monstrous creatures certainly challenge our understanding of the sectio aurea, although who knows if a ichthyologist would not find the Golden Section right there in the scales and teeth of Anoplogaster? I suspect she would.

Perhaps it would be useful look at monstrous creatures another way – through a microscope for instance.

 

images-22

ABOVE: Surface of zebrafish skinhttps://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/sem/fish.cfm

The microscope reveals a world which, for me as a graphic designer, provide a powerful argument for – if not a nice friendly deity – then certainly for intelligent design. No one throws some balls of wool on the table and a Kaffe Fassett jersey appears. No amount of atheist rant will convince me that an Afghan balouch could manifest with out the artistry of an Afghan weaver.

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Above: detail of an Afghan Balouch rug. Mid 20th century.

I imagine the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas peering through an electron microscope and saying to the huddle of peeved atheists, “I told you so”. (Dawkins on the other hand, a copy of his own book The Blind Watchmaker, would remain stubbornly unconvinced.)

[http://www.iep.utm.edu/design/#SH2b]

The Fangtooth isn’t particularly large compared, say, to a human being (though to a human embryo this aquatic carnivore would appear as a leviathan). In matters of the monstrous, clearly size counts.

images-25

Above: Monstrous monsters. You just know this isn’t going to end well.

It is interesting to note that the humble zebrafish is a distant cousin of ours. Apparently we share 70% of the fish’s genes. It’s a disquieting thought that you and I are related – albeit in the ancient past – to Anoplogaster.

 

If you kill one person, you go to jail; if you kill 20, you go to an institution for the insane; if you kill 20,000, you get political asylum.”

Reed Brody, Human Rights Watch

Big Fish Eat Little Fish

dp818314

 

Big fish eat little fish

” A comment on the hierarchical man-eat-man (or fish-eat-fish) world of human society”.  (i)

“Small organizations or insignificant people tend to be swallowed up or destroyed by those that are greater and more powerful … The proverb was first recorded in a text dating from before 1200. In Shakespeare’s play Pericles (2:1), the following exchange occurs between two fishermen: “‘Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.’ ‘Why, as men do a-land—the great ones eat up the little ones.'”(ii)

 

Source:
(i) http://introtowestern.blogspot.co.za/2014/10/bruegels-big-fish-eat-little-fish.html
(ii) http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/262390/what-is-the-proverb-of-big-fish-eats-small-fish

Image source:
http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/338694

Artist: Pieter van der Heyden (Netherlandish, ca. 1525–1569)
Artist: Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, Breda (?) ca. 1525–1569 Brussels)
Publisher: Hieronymus Cock (Netherlandish, Antwerp ca. 1510–1570 Antwerp)
Date: 1557
Medium: Engraving; first state of four
Dimensions: 9 x 11 5/8 in. (22.9 x 29.6 cm)
Classification: Prints
Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1917
Accession Number: 17.3.859

References:
Netherlandish Proverbs
http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/netherlandish-proverbs.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlandish_Proverbs

What do I love

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Fig. i

Victorian infographic
Source: http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.co.za

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Fig. ii

‘New and Improved View of the Comparative Heights of the Principal Mountains and Lengths of the Principal Rivers In The World, The whole Judiciously arranged from the various Authorities Extant’.

Author: WR Gardner, Publisher: William Darton

Date: 1823


 

Source & acknowledgements:
Materia Obscura
(i) http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.co.za/2009/12/victorian-infographics.html?m=1
(ii) http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.co.za/2008/10/river-deep-mountain-high.html?m=1

 

Afterlight life

That star in the night sky
Is not there anymore
But we see it and will see it
For millions of years yet to come.
Did the star die?
Did it live?
In life, we call this phenomenon
A ghost, a hallucination.
(Is life a ghost too?)
What if the star never lived?
Or maybe its death dies
While the star continues to live,
Cheating death
With its afterlife light.

by Dejan Stojanovic

Acknowledgment: 

http://m.poemhunter.com/poem/afterlife-light/

To feel much more than know

“To hear never-heard sounds,
To see never-seen colors and shapes, 
To try to understand the imperceptible
Power pervading the world;
To fly and find pure ethereal substances
That are not of matter
But of that invisible soul pervading reality.
To hear another soul and to whisper to another soul;
To be a lantern in the darkness
Or an umbrella in a stormy day;
To feel much more than know.
To be the eyes of an eagle, slope of a mountain;
To be a wave understanding the influence of the moon;
To be a tree and read the memory of the leaves;
To be an insignificant pedestrian on the streets
Of crazy cities watching, watching, and watching.
To be a smile on the face of a woman
And shine in her memory
As a moment saved without planning.”

Dejan Stojanovic

The Ship of Fools

brant_narrenschiff_schoensperger_1498_1

We’re setting sail to a place on the map
From which no-one has ever returned
Drawn by the promise of the joker and the fool
By the light of the crosses that burned
Drawn by the promise of the women and lace
And the gold and the cotton and pearls
It’s the place where they keep all the darkness you need
You sail away from the light of the world on this trip, baby

You will pay tomorrow
You’re gonna pay tomorrow
You will pay tomorrow

Oh, save me, save me from tomorrow
I don’t want to sail with this Ship of Fools, no, no
Oh, save me, save me from tomorrow
I don’t want to sail with this Ship of Fools
I want to run and hide
Right now

Avarice and greed are gonna drive you over the endless sea
They will leave you drifting in the shallows
Drowning in the oceans of history
Traveling the world, you’re in search of no good
But I’m sure you’ll build your Sodom like you knew you would
Using all the good people for your galley slaves
As your little boat struggles through the warning waves
But you don’t, pay

You will pay tomorrow
You’re gonna pay tomorrow
You’re gonna pay tomorrow

Oh, save me, save me from tomorrow
I don’t want to sail with this Ship of Fools, no, no
Oh, save me, save me from tomorrow
I don’t want to sail with this Ship of Fools, no, no

Where’s it coming from
Oh, Where’s it going now
It’s just a, it’s just a Ship of Fools

Lyrics and music by Karl Edmond De Vere Wallinger of World Party.

I first heard the lyrics of this song by World Party in 1986, without realizing its refrain referred to the medieval satirical poem the “Narrenschiff” – the ship of Fools -which the humanist  theologian Sebastian Brant conceived of as a picture of a lost and foolish humanity. Written in 1494, Das Narrenschiff  “… satirizes the follies and vices of medieval social, political, and religious life. Written in vernacular German rather than Latin, The Ship of Fools was an instant success, showcasing the potential of the new printing technology and attesting to the interest in literature by a non-Latin-educated audience.” (http://www.enotes.com/topics/sebastian-brant)

Oh, save me, save me from tomorrow
I don’t want to sail with this Ship of Fools
I want to run and hide
Right now

https://g.co/kgs/8FSASm

I recall the words of the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer, author of The God who is there and founder of the L’Abri community (I made my way to the Swiss L’Abri when I was 20, a copy of his book my only guide). He wrote that when the church fails in its prophetic role in the world, when it ceases to be salt, God raises up secular prophets to voice the plight of mankind and his need of salvation. These anguished voices repulse and horrify the bourgeois christian, content with his received wisdom and comforted by his platitudes. It may surprise us that an evangelical of Schaeffer’s stature could regard the artists Francis Bacon or Pablo Picasso as prophets. But if you look at their work you will see a depth of humanity broadly missing from the evangelical churches of the West. Step into a “Christian bookshop” in Bible Belt America and the posters on sale with their scripture verses as if the text somehow legitimizes and christianizes the otherwise conventional picture of a sunset or a landscape. Bible-verse key rings and bumper stickers (my favorite: “God recycles people”). Images of a blonde caucasian or ruggedly good-looking, swarthy, Camel-ad Christ provide assurance to the Western Christian that His Lord wasn’t heaven-forbid! – overly semitic in appearance. (Were Jesus to visit post-9/11 USA today I have no doubt good honest Customs profilers would detain Him for questioning.)

To return to secular prophecy: look at Picasso’s Guernica, or Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion  … the tortured state of man and the world cries out from these paintings.

guernica

 

I occasionally have the misfortune of listening to Sunday radio church services with their ubiquitous broadcasting of badly arranged “christian” songs with repetitive, over-sentimental lyrics. (whatever “christian songs” means of course: music is either good and authentic or of poor quality and inauthentic). “Secular” music (again, a dubious category!)  at times expresses its own prophetic voice – yet why does it take secular musicians to express the condition of mankind – and to confront a self-absorbed, materialistic Christianity with it’s own folly? Would the rogues gallery of Prosperity Gospel advocates (Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Benny Hinn et al) ever self-critique on reading De Vere Wallinger words:

Avarice and greed are gonna drive you over the endless sea 

save me from tomorrow
I don’t want to sail with this Ship of Fools
I want to run and hide

I doubt it: Why should they? They already have the monopoly on the truth, don‘t they?

+++

In researching this post I stumbled upon an interesting website which is certainly worth a visit:

http://www.shipoffools.com/shipstuff/index.html


Notes and Sources

The image used on this site is sourced from:

https://archive.org/details/OEXV4SUP33

Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève Livres
Das neue Narrenschiff by Brant, Sebastian (1457-1521)
Published May 23, 1495
Usage Public Domain Mark 1.0


“Guernica is a mural-sized oil painting on canvas by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso completed in June 1937. The painting, which uses a palette of gray, black, and white, is regarded by many art critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history.” (Wikipedia)

For an overview of the bombing of Guernica – the event which inspired Picasso’s work of the same name:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Guernica


The God Who Is There
By American philosopher and Christian theologian Francis A. Schaeffer. (1982).
The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer A Christian Worldview. Chicago, IL: Crossway Books. ISBN 978-0-89107-236-2.


The wolves of the marketplace

“I refuse to be in the madhouse of the inhuman.

I refuse to live with the wolves of the market place.

I refuse to howl …”

Marina Tsvetaeva

Marina Tsvetaeva

images-2

“I have two enemies in all the world,
Two twins, inseparably fused:
The hunger of the hungry and the fullness of the full.”

Marina Tsvetaeva, Selected Poems

Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva was a Russian and Soviet poet. Her work is considered among some of the greatest in twentieth century Russian literature. (Ref. Wikipedia)
There is a short biography of Marina Tsvetaeva at:
And

“Everything passes away-suffering, pain, blood, hunger, pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the Earth. There is no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why?”

– Mikhail Bulgakov