Archive of April 2009

April 19

Evil Haiku

The Quaker meeting which I attend has been doing a series of workshops along the lines of "Twelve Quakers and ...." where the ellipsis might be various things including God, Jesus, Equality, Simplicity, and, this month, Evil.

During the closing session on "evil" we were invited to write [[Haiku]] and although many felt the form could only be used in the traditional Japanese way to describe natural beauty, but I had no issues with taking the verse form and mocking the traditional Haiku stereotype with these efforts to capture something of the subject of evil.

There are four, each standing alone, and alternating the traditional with the free format form of Haiku.


Bloody splash

Taking life


No love

Just hurt

Abandon hope you

Held in the thrall of

All that is not love

Child eyes



Innocence lost


Mass graves were filled

Without thought or care until

Evil stared back



I was concerned with the etymology for clues; which I now realise is really a red herring since the exploration of the spiritual meaning to a Quaker only concerns the modern udeage really.  However I did find what I turned up interesting, and I learned that any ideas of derivation involving "devil" or "Eve" are mistaken.

"Evil" has gotten distinctly worse over the millenia. Originally it seems to have signified nothing more sinister than "uppity," and in the Old and Middle English period it meant simply "bad"; it is only in modern English that its connotations of "extreme moral wickedness" came to the fore. It probably comes ultimately from "upelo-", a derivative of the Indo-European base "upo-, under (source of Greek hupo, under, Sanskrit "upa", at, to, and English "up" and "over"), and so its underlying connotation is of "exceeding due limits, extremism. Its Germanic descendant was "ubilaz", source of German übel, evil as well as English evil."

It seems this finding by John Ayto lines up perfectly with Scriptures. An example of this is found in Ezekiel Chapter 16 verse 49. When most Christians think of the sin or evil of Sodom, they usually think of the immoral sexual sins of Sodom of which homosexuality would be considered the height of their depravity. Yet this is how the Creator describes Sodom's condition:

Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abominations before Me; therefore, I took them away as I saw fit.

This passage seems to line up very nicely with the original meaning of the word "evil." The modern church generally teaches that the "evil" of Sodom is the height of wickedness and that its fate of destruction by fire is an example of the destruction of the world which has not become a part of the church. However, the Creator says there is a worse condition of "evil" than that of Sodom's. Jerusalem is a type and picture of His own people, the "apple of His eye." Here is how He describes the condition of His own people, those who certainly would not consider "Sodom" as their own sister. Speaking to His own "chosen" people He says:

Samaria did not commit half of your sins; but you have multiplied your abominations more than they, and have justified your sisters by all the abominations which you have done. You who judged your sisters bear your own shame also, because the sins which you committed were more abominable than theirs; they are more righteous than you. Yes, be disgraced also, and bear your own shame because you justified your sisters. When I bring back their captives, the captives of Sodom and her daughters, and the captives of Samaria and her daughters, then I will also bring back the captives of your captivity among them, that you may bear your own shame and be disgraced by all that you did when you comforted them. When your sister Sodom and her daughters return to their former state, then you and your daughters will return to your former state.

It seems the word "uppity" seems like a good definition for the word "evil." It also seems like the "chosen" people are more "uppity" than Sodom and Samaria. It seems almost blasphemous to think that the wickedness of the Creator's own people will justify the likes of Sodom and Samaria and that they will be restored to their former state. That Sodom, in the eyes of God, is a sister to the "chosen" people. It certainly is not a sermon I have ever heard preached in the 200+ churches I have attended. But then I never heard that Sodom's primary sin was "uppityness," fullness of food, and abundance of idleness, and not strengthening the hand of the poor and needy. I have been in many churches that are exhibiting the very sins that are ascribed to Sodom. I have never heard a preacher describe their congregation as "sisters to Sodom." Can you imagine what would happen to all the hot air evangelists spew out if we actually believed the plain Word of God that the "uppityness" of God's own people have "justified" the worst sinners in the world? Why, it would completely stop all the hot foul wind coming from these "last days revival" messages preached by thousands of "ministries" trying to raise millions of dollars to save a few more before God finally destroys this "uppity" world. We just might repent of our own "uppityness" and let God restore this whole fallen mankind to its former state. We might then find the time to "strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy."


Credit to Gary Amirault for the above


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April 02


I have read many more books since my last post, but this is far more worthy I think for a long overdue post.  From my earlier blogging you may know I sing with a Choral Society.

For our next concert on July the Fourth we shall be adopting an American theme, and this has led us to the piece "Harmonium" by John Adams. The poetry he adopted to go with this "choral symphony" will mean a good deal to me, as you can read below.

Apparently he had much of the opening of the piece already in mind and then the poem slotted into place.  I do think the result is striking - these poems are powerful enough in themselves but set to music can add another dimension, perhaps? (I have mixed feelings on that score, but then again the music stands by it's own merit also).


Negative Love or The Nothing


I never stoop'd so low, as they

Which on an eye, cheek, lip, can prey.

Seldom to them, which soar no higher

Than virtue or the mind to admire.

For sense, and understanding may

Know what gives fuel to their fire:

My love, though silly, is more brave,

For may I miss, whene'er I crave,

If I know yet, what I would have.

If that be simply perfectest,

Which can by no way be express'd

But Negatives, my love is so.

To All, which all love, I say no.

If any who deciphers best,

What we know not, our selves, can know,

Let him teach me that nothing; this

As yet my ease and comfort is,

Though I speed not, I cannot miss.

- John Donne

Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,

And I had put away

My labor and my leisure too,

For his civility.

We passed the school where children played

At wrestling in a ring;

We passed the fields of gazing grain,

We passed the setting sun.

We paused before a house that seemed

A swelling of the ground:

The roof was scarcely visible,

The cornice but a mound.

Since then 'tis centuries; but each

Feels shorter than the day

I first surmised the horses' heads

Were toward eternity.

- Emily Dickinson

Wild Nights--- Wild Nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our Luxury!

Futile---the winds---

To a Heart in port---

Done with the Compass---

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden---

Ah, the sea!

Might I but moor--- Tonight---

In thee!

- Emily Dickinson


This concert will have tremendous personal resonance for me.  A couple of years ago when I started singing I had just been jilted by a wonderful Canadian woman, who had given me many things.  Not least among these were a renewed passion for poetry (John Donne among our favourites), a brief awakening of youthful passion before I seem to have settled into middle age proper, and in her parting the idea to sing.  So now to be singing of love and these poems almost feels a dedication to her.

The first evokes our relationship so very much for me, since my parting words to her were that she had "given me the greatest gift, myself".  The middle one has more to do with how I feel now, with the brevity of life weighing on me.  The last brings back fond memories of just how passionate our relationship was whilst it lasted.

Singing has been quite a challenge to me, but a rewarding one.  On an amusing side note it felt quite peculiar when I joined the society because one of the Alto singers was strikingly familiar to the lady who I had just been rejected by!  To this day I find myself awkward if I have to talk with her!

If you get a chance to listen to the Harmonium you'll realise it is not the easiest piece to do justice to... I hope I can.  I think you can see from this that it would mean a lot to me.  I am still feeling very much in love with this woman and if there is an opportunity for me to lay this ghost to rest then perhaps this is it... Or perhaps I have to carry my love for her to the grave.  I can think of worse crosses to bear!

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