Blasphemy by a Poetess – Lucille
The above is a poem by Lucille Clifton, once poet laureate of the State of Maryland in the USA.
The poem is drawing its imagery from the Rod of Moses, which was cast by him before the Pharaoh which turned into a serpent. Another imagery deployed in the poem is also from the life of Moses, when he saw the burning bush, out of which Jehovah spoke to Moses during his stay with his Midianite Father-in-law Jethro.
I would fain explain the contents of the poem were it not to lead to an inescapable conclusion that I relish smut. Consequently, I refrain from expatiating the contents thereof. However, I’d like to furnish the title of the poem, “To A Dark Moses”. That this poem has been written by a “poetess” gives greater credence to the intensity and meaning of the iconic imagery around which this short poem is woven.
If this poem were to have been penned by a male poet, the question would be on authenticity and a natural question: How would he know?, unless he were a Tiresias with a distinct memory of both his existences!
In any case, taking a Biblical imagery and revered characters out of the Bible and portraying it in matters relating to carnal matters in a kind of this poem would in no way have ingratiated herself to the Christian community which would have bothered to read it.
But it is also a point that since she was a Poet Laureate, this poem must have been scrutinised by the puritans of his time. Probably, it was their ilk which prevented her from winning the Pulitzer Prize, though having been a finalist twice.
In India, we are a touchy lot. When our icons are drawn to furnish parallels on carnal matters, there is a serious risk of the poet running not only ‘offending the religious sentiments of fellowmen and fellow women, but may even trigger riots and reprisals of the worst kind.
I am sure that in the US no such things happened, as poets like Ginsberg, EE Cummings, Plath, Bob Dylan had already liberated free expression from the thorny sensitivities of the Christian folks, by then.
I had serendipitously fallen on the Judgement of a Madras High Court Justice by name Seshasayee, recently, wherein the Hon’ble Justice had averred that there was no need of any legislation laying down ‘reasonable restrictions’ in terms of Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India, by the Legislature or the Executive, but that it was the ‘Duty’ of every citizen to respect the sentiments of his fellow citizens. The Hon’ble Justice goes on to state that when a citizen demands a ‘Right’, he has to also observe the ‘Duty’ cast on him as they are jurisprudentially correlatives.
My understanding of Hohfeld is that when I have a Right, then the Jural correlative would be a Duty on the other and not on the person who has a Right.
Secondly, when the State is infringing in my justiciable Rights, how far would the argument be correct that I have to be Duty bound by the nebulous sensitivities of all humans in India who could be affected by my freedom of speech and expression?
The Fundamental Duties in Article 51A of the Constitution is worded as a positive command and non justiciable, consequently enforceability would be lacking.
May be the judgement is a good step towards building harmony by making those persons who provide a platform for others to conduct programs, responsible; however, how could the police take action based on an assurance given to the police and other civic authorities on behalf of a person who has been guaranteed Fundamental Rights Himself?
Seems we are poised for interesting times with the elections round the corner.
Shorn of all aesthetics these are men and women who are not ppl who inspire one’s imagination, they just are safety valves of Relief. Depending on them is merely depleting and boring.
Freud in his book JOKES AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UNCONSCIOUS alludes to a pithy saying:
“ A wife is like an umbrella, sooner or later one has to take a cab.”
I’m sure, every reader has got what it means. That comparison of an ‘umbrella’ with one’s spouse has happened merely because the institution had been reduced to one of RELIEF.
To not fall into it, one has to glorify Romance. What is that? Not that one should pamper one’s spouse with all the material needs – the reason being ‘needs’ met may provide a thankful heart but never a craving mind.
Romance is linked to the MIND. The person has to get preoccupied with the thoughts of the other- that’s Romance. When preoccupied with lovely thoughts our minds imaginatively improve it and make it colourful than reality. Reality may be drab, but the very thought of being with that person alters the surroundings because of an idyllic mental setting created all by they person. To prolong that is Romance.
From this relief there can be culmination but not a ‘relief’ as there is a craving to perpetuate that state of mind.
If one gets into the mode of building pressure through the process of natural welling up, that needs Relief, but when the Mind effervesces and builds up volume it needs Sustaining. That’s why in the first case, one catches a cab. If one enjoys the drops and droplets which splatter on him and the dripping of those edges off the umbrella and relishes each moment, the Mind looks for NO ALTERNATIVE.
When I read this Freudian book as a boy of all 19 years, it was posited by me with a physical meaning, which today feels CRASS, but with mellowing down and cooling of the hotheadedness of youth, the ‘joke’ is to be interpreted to sustain ways to enjoy the umbrella during rains.
OR Is it just that the same data is getting interpreted by a mind that doesn’t remember the exigencies of the youth? Maybe.
Winds that blow
Move the leaves;
Leaves that move
Sway the stalks;
Stalks which shift direction,
Alter the equilibrium of the branches; &
Branches which move laterally
Strain the trunks –
And that my friend
Breaks the trunks.
Except the winds, there
Is no Fact- Rest is all Reaction.
But the Trunk breaks.
Winds of change, though mild
Has to be sensed by the Trees
To avoid a fall.
Allow the wind to go through
Because, the root can’t hold out against
The turbulent winds of change.
A PIL filed before the SC challenges the recital of certain Sanskrit shlokas by all students in the assembly proceedings in KV schools. When the matter came up before the SC, the SG of the Union Govt argued that Sanskrit shlokas were a part of even the words written on the emblems of the Supreme Court and the Nation. His averment was that the words were secular and therefore cannot be declared a religious text forced on children in education.
The matter has been referred to a Constitution Bench.
The question to be framed to answer this issue is whether the Liberty of a child to be educated in a Govt. run school be taken away, if the compulsory recital of a phrase – moral in its content, but ostensibly taken from a religious text and uttered in a language which is neither the student’s medium of instruction nor a regional language – be not followed by any student.
Secondly, whether for non- recital of such shlokas a student could face penalty?
Thirdly, whether the school authorities have a Right to impose a duty on a child for recitation of an Ethical statement having a strong nexus with a Religious text, especially in a language which has no common application and stands in line with languages, like Latin, which are considered ‘dead’ but are in vogue only in religious ceremonies?
Fourthly, are the school authorities who are merely tasked with providing liberal education, become disciplining authorities in the event of disobedience or refusal by a student to submit to such recital on the grounds that the child believes or has been made to believe that the recitation of such shloka was an anathema to his or her religious beliefs?
The SG’s comparison of certain Sanskrit words like Satyame ve jayete, in Sanskrit is distinguishable on the grounds that those words, though taken from the religious texts of a particular religion, have been secularised in its application by serving as Declaratory statements and not a PERSONAL AFFIRMATION OF ANY INDIVIDUAL.
It would be interesting to watch the outcome in the next two decades!
This was not a Queen bee with its own colony, it had become the princess fed with Royal Jelly and kept secure in its own quarters.
This princess bee used to see its mother Queen bee being frequented by drones which came from time to time to discharge their duties and urges. These drones never understood the power politics of the Queen bee.
The Queen bee felt that the numbers of worker bees which made up the colony were not sufficient to let the Princess bee take off with its own supporters and decided to retain the Princess, well quartered and nourished with royal jelly, but it felt that when the need to make its own offsprings arose, the Princess bee would fly away and take away those meagre workers.
So this Herodias of a Queen bee told a drone, why don’t you visit the quarters of the Princess bee.
The Drone was not happy, as the workers didn’t recognise the authority of association that came to him when he was associated with the Queen bee. However, as is wont of all Drones to have irresponsible romantic behaviour, the Drone visited the Princess.
The Princess, which saw the intruder with suspicion, started giving way to his glob talk of how she should embellish her quarters like her mother Queen. Fascinated by such descriptions and such security and servility shown by the worker bees, the Princess bee was drawn like Desdemona to the black Moor.
It culminated in consummation and the Princess bee became another Queen been in the same hive.
The Queen bee was eager to know about the thraldom in which the Drone has kept her, so that the hive could be repopulated and at an appropriate time the Queen II could be sent away.
The Drone became a story teller at one quarters and a seller of dreams at the other. This continued as long as the Queen II did not visit Queen Bee I.
But alas! The Queen Bee II crawled her way with her paraphernalia to the quarters of the Queen bee I and found that neither the quarters of the Queen I was as exotic as portrayed by the Drone, nor was the Queen I as young and attractive as she had imagined. After paying respects to the mother, the Queen bee II trundled back to her quarters, whereupon the Drone entered the hive and straight made it to the Queen Bee II.
The Queen II listened to all those imaginative stories and was still enamoured of such a possibility if she could get away and get the Drone to implement its imaginative ideas in a hive of her own.
Now that the population of the hive had increased, the Princess bee, apprehending like Jacob the reprisal of Laban at severance, took off to a new destination.
The hive was halved and the Queen was happy that she had done enough to keep the hive bustling.
The Drone searches for the Princess bee and found it far away, when it was guided by a spy worker bee, which went with the Queen II and after knowing the location came back to the Queen bee I and was in her service.
To the utter shock of the Drone, it found that Queen Bee II was surrounded by three drones all competitively displaying their skills to impress Queen II. When the original drone entered and tried to shoo away the other drones, the newly coronated Queen said, Dear Drone, do not bring your hierarchy of that old hive with that hag Queen here. I set the rules and I am entitled to my imperial pleasures at my will, I’ve learnt that it is the day to day existence of a bee which is important and not those fanciful castles you told of as being the residence of my mother Queen.
If I let someone he shall like, Esther come and serve me. The sceptre is in my hand and you may come in only at my pleasure.
The Old Drone flew away chastened with the thought : A DRONE HOWEVER INFLUENTIAL IS NEVER POWERFUL.
What irritates me is the lengths to which pseudo interpretations have been stretched and forwarded to justify Ruth as a Book, worthy of being placed in the canon of the Bible.
Let us get some facts in here. Facts which are narrated in the Book of Ruth, shorn of all interpretations.
Ruth was a Moabitess, married to one Mahlon and his brother being Chilion; her husband Mahlon and his brother also died; with no male left surviving, Naomi the mother-in-law, was left with two of her daughters-in-law Ruth & Orpah; despite the Liberty granted by her mother in law to her daughters-in-law to go back to Moab, Ruth’s people, Ruth chooses to be with Naomi, but Orpah after a customary leave-taking parts from the other two.
Up to here there is no conflict of facts.
The trouble starts with the entry of Boaz, a man with means, as shown in the Bible, and a man of tremendous Character, which neither gets highlighted by the interpreters of the book RUTH. I think the trap that the interpreters had fallen into is that as ‘Ruth’ had been made the name of the book, they probably feel that they are obligated to believe that Ruth ought to be the protagonist, like Esther became in the book of ESTHER, much later in history, of this book too.
Naomi returns with her daughter-in-law to Bethlehem Judah, the place of her dead husband Elimelech.
Naomi, calls herself ‘Mara’ and elicits sympathy from her people citing that she who had left for Moab, during those years of famine, had returned having lost her husband and her two sons too.
Ruth takes the leave of her mother in law to go gleaning in the fields as that was the season of barley harvest and also they didn’t have the wherewithal for their meals. Ruth, serendipitously reaches the fields of Boaz, her kinsman once removed on her deceased husband’s side.
Boaz notices this woman, enquires his servants and gets a background feed on Ruth. Instructs, his overseer of the harvest, to be kind and even let some of the sheaves fall purposely so that Ruth could glean and gather well.
This Book of Ruth, is so truthful to facts, that an ignorant reader is likely to be misled into emphasising on facts which could advance his or her own interpretation on Ruth and Naomi instead of the real protagonist Boaz.
If not for Boaz’ Character this whole book would have petered into a Book that depicted the deployment of feminine charm to ensnare an older man with means, like Judith in the Apocrypha, and thereby survive the insecurities heaped by circumstances on an unsuspecting young woman.
Neither are Naomi’s instructions to her daughter-in-law Ruth edifying, nor the words uttered by Ruth in the night to a half drunk man exemplary. Yet this Book of Ruth stands as a monument to the character of Boaz, one of the forebears in the line of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.
Naomi hears the kindness shown by Boaz to Ruth and her scheme is revealed in her utterances thus:
Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking.
And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.
When such instructions were given by Naomi to Ruth, the intentions don’t seem very spiritual. But to be fair, when humans are driven to abject poverty they could be forced by circumstances to succumb to any degrading job.
The irony is that Naomi had instructed her daughter-in-law ‘he will tell thee what thou shalt do’, instead Ruth tells Boaz the most appalling thing by shamelessly telling Boaz: “I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.”
It is at this point that the character of Boaz is revealed, despite being inebriated Boaz ever so gently spurns her, and refrains not only from taking advantage of a helpless young widow but assures her that he would do the ‘kinsman’s part’, if the closer kinsman refuses to do his part.
Deuteronomy 25 deals with this ‘kinsman’s part’:
5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her.
6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
7 And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.
8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;
9 Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house.
10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.
Boaz remembers this law or had contemplated this earlier and probably was working on it, when these two women jumped the gun and made all those indelible statements of disrepute thereby letting many preachers and Christian evangelists either gloss over the statements of Naomi and Ruth or end up sanctifying the profane.
Can you believe it, in one of the Pentecostal churches once a very senior pastor, who later went on to become the Chief Pastor of the Church said that Naomi was symbolic of the Church which prepared the individual to be worthy of the Second Coming of Christ preparing individuals the way Naomi prepared Ruth for the tryst with Boaz – some interpretation and some spirituality.
All these interpretations crop up because one thinks that anything relating to ‘sex’ is anathema.
It was Boaz who with his sanest of interpretations at that spur of the moment deflected the idea of an ‘opportune sexual encounter’ into a ‘Necessity-Right’ paradigm and worked out a solution.
If in Mercantile Law, the Law follows the Merchant, in life Laws are built around ‘order & necessity’.
That Ruth was nubile, though a widow, was recognised by Naomi and an ‘undefiled bed’ had to be provided since she did not have any more sons, Naomi couldn’t. But she saw an opportunity in Boaz.
But why didn’t she work on the kinsman who was closer than Boaz? Maybe Naomi didn’t know; Maybe Boaz was a wealthier man and probably unmarried; maybe Naomi just wanted to keep the wolf away from her doors and wanted Ruth to become a concubine and reap the economic benefits from Boaz.
But Boaz excels over all these human predicaments, in which these two women were caught up, and equitably tunes the law, from its application as was then applicable.
He applies his candidature but finds out the hierarchy and realises that he was next in line after the first and consequently DOES EVERYTHING WHICH RUTH WAS SUPPOSED TO DO.
The Deuteronomy law was to be a claim by the widow and not by a suitor. Here the suitor argues with the first kinsman and there is ‘no spitting’ – (thankfully) as Ruth is still kept in the background.
Further, what is mentioned at Deuteronomy was the law applicable to brothers, not kinsmen. The law relating to Kinsmen and their claims are enumerated in Leviticus 25 chapter and the relevant portion talks of the Redemption rights and the Reversionary Rights which accrue in the Jubilee year.
25 If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.
On a conjoint reading of the above mentioned portions of the Bible, the law relating to Redemption was applicable on the 50 th year, which was the Jubile year. On that Jubilee year every person who was the inheritor of the property is to be put back in possession of that property which he had ‘sold’ during his times of need. Elimelech, when he left Bethlehem-Judah to escape the famine probably ‘sold’, his inheritance to someone and it could be redeemed by paying for the value till the next Jubilee year. Typically, the arrangement as envisaged in the Bible is one of usufruct Lease till Jubilee year for the purchaser and Mortgage money to the seller with a compulsory reversionary provision on the Jubilee year. During those years of lease/ mortgage the property could be redeemed by the seller or a kinsman.
Using these provisions of law, Boaz concocts a story to shoo away a kinsman who was willing to ‘Redeem’ the property of Elimelech and stumps the kinsman with a condition that the day he bought the property, that kinsman has to marry Ruth too.
Chapter 4:5 reads thus:
Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.
I can’t remember any passage from the Old Testament of the Bible, connecting the ‘right to redeem’ with that of the ‘obligation to marry the widow without a child’.
Boaz brings in the nexus. When a man redeems a property as a kinsman of the inheritor he pay only the mortgage money till the remainder of the next Jubilee year; but his advantage is that he becomes the INHERITOR OF THE PROPERTY, leaving it with him for his heirs to possess in the future. The first kinsman was EAGER to redeem.
The purpose of ‘redemption’ was the right vested in a kinsman to retain the property with that Tribe primarily and with the family, if possible. But to raise the name of the dead brother was exclusively cast on the brother of the deceased brother. So what is the kinsman’s part that Ruth initiates with the inebriated Boaz in the dead of the night on the threshing floor? Boaz realised the need of a young widow without a child expressed by Ruth so ‘ruthlessly’ and builds on it. The first kinsman is made to realise that the provision was not merely disposal of a ‘right’ but the presence of a claimant who stood second in line for acquisition of that ‘Right to redeem’ the property of Elimelech. Boaz makes an ASSERTION that he would raise an heir to the memory of Mahlon. An assertion that the property thus redeemed would go as an inheritance to the first child in the name of Mahlon.
This underlying fulfilment of the intent of the law of not only giving the kinsman the right to redeem the immovable property but also to secure the life of a young widow’s physical needs were integrated well and duly performed by Boaz.
Ruth’s necessity was met on the conjugal bed of Boaz; the property was redeemed and Naomi was probably put in possession; Mahlon’s memory was also sustained; Obed was born and probably enjoyed, possessed and had the title to that immovable property as an inheritor of Mahlon’s inheritance; all these happened because BOAZ UNOBTRUSIVELY DID THE RIGHT THINGS AND FOUND ACCEPTABLE WAYS BY INTERPRETING THE LAW AS INTENDED BY GOD.
Is there a better example of an inebriated person dealing with one of the most tantalising situations in life with such probity, in the whole Bible?