SHAKESPEARE AND JESUS
Under the title, Was Shakespeare a She? Newsweek (June 28, 2004, p.13) reports on yet another story of the search for the real Shakespeare.
I doubt the average American is aware that scholars over the centuries have had a hard time deciding just who Shakespeare is. Scholars know he had only a grade school education, and many scholars don’t think he could have written such powerful dramas if his education was so limited. Yet over the years, I’ve known a few geniuses, and I think that genius is genius and can accomplish much with little formal education. Once you’ve met someone with almost total recall, and memory is a big element in genius, then you know that she can read fast, retain a lot and connect many pieces of information together in webs of synapses. Shakespeare is a man of wisdom too, and wisdom is another entirely different animal than genius. Wisdom is discerning judgment about situations and people, and I once worked for a salesman who could read people like through an open window. Combine the two and who needs a teacher?
But this post is about none of the above. My point is that if scholars have such a hard time agreeing on who Shakespeare was who lived 1564-1616 CE and for whom they have a tombstone, lots of writing of his own, and some public documents, then how much harder is it to decide if Jesus existed, 0-30 CE, with no tombstone, no valid corroborating records, no writings of his own. And if he did exist who was he, really?
Think! Shakespeare was born in a time when records were a lot more common than when Jesus was born. More people were literate in Shakespeare’s time also, and in Jesus’s time, people believed almost anything and religions of all kinds abounded.
It’s hard for modern literalists to imagine the reality of the historical situation from which the Jesus story emerged. No one who wrote the New Testament was alive during the days of Jesus. The first writings of Mark appeared in about 80 CE, about three generations after the death of Jesus, and, obviously, Mark is only telling a story he has heard and not witnessed. Without written records nor photographs, who could remember much about a great grandfather in those days let alone about some rumored cultist from the Jewish tradition?
Further, the Jesus myth is made up of so many details borrowed from pagan sources and Jewish history (much of it mythological too) that it’s obvious that Jesus is a partly mythological figure if not completely a mythological figure. Resurrection, crucifixion, healing the blind and halt, reanimating the dead—all these miracles existed in other forms and in other religions when Jesus supposedly performed them. So it’s quite reasonable to expect that even if Jesus did exist, the stories that were told about him fifty years after his death might quite logically be made up of all these details from other religions in order to increase his importance and win converts.
In addition, recall the gullibility of the illiterate and superstitious people of those times. Desperate, impoverished, ignorant, suffering, they’d believe almost anything you told them about a better life to come. They could dream of that rather than accept reality. Imagine a life span of only 20 years in a tiny, dirty village with little contact with other villages, no newspapers or TV, little travel, no books or radio, no universal communication, no formal schooling, harsh unjust laws, and kingly disdain for his people. They could expect lifelong ignorance and hard labor and early death to disease or accident or war.
It takes quite a strong grasp of reality and an imaginative leap to understand just how unlikely the story of Jesus is or the likelihood that any real picture of Jesus (if he did exist) got passed on to the people who first wrote the letters and fictions that make up the New Testament. It’s so obvious his personal history is made up of a pastiche of other religions and traditions which existed during those days that only a desperate and ignorant believer would cling to such falsehoods.
Sadly, believers who are blinded by their own historical time can’t escape to understand the historical situation. And literalists are the least imaginative of people and so are usually quite unable to make the leap to understand history. That’s why literalists have such a saccharine, simpleminded , impossible picture of Jesus today. Their picture is all wish and hope and malarky. Again, if Jesus did exist historically, what modern people think of him is so far removed from reality that the picture of him is mythological now, even if it wasn’t then. Just the fact that Jesus is portrayed as a white man so often in the recent past shows us just how distorted the Jesus record is by modern believers.
THE TRUTH IS OFTEN SECRET
I’ve said what I’m about to say many times in the recent past in these post, but every time new evidence arises, I keep saying, “See! It’s so!”
Now it’s our boy, Clinton, who comes forth in his autobiography to discuss his dysfunction. (See this month’s June 28th Newsweek.) Through counseling and hard emotional work, Bill Clinton is joining the ranks of those in the know about themselves. To know thyself and to admit openly to what one knows is a wonderful freedom bringing act, an act which many liberals and few conservatives have performed. Limbaugh, for example, was caught being his addictive self, but he hasn’t really done the work to understand what happened to him. He went from food addiction to drug addiction without any real work on his dysfunction. He’ll fuck up again in the future or he’ll learn to be a little more sympathetic to other’s troubles by understanding his own. Let’s all hope he doesn’t stay locked in his destructive personality.
Clinton now knows that his dysfunctional childhood created in him a secret self which hid behind the surface he gave to the world. From that, he became a sex addict to the point of self-destructive acts that ruined his presidency and hurt others terribly. If he has done a better job of coming to grips with himself than has Limbaugh, then it’ll be good for all of us and for the country.
The crucial difference between an arch conservative dysfunctional and an arch liberal who has dysfunctional tendencies is that the liberal usually commits self-destructive acts which inadvertently hurt others in the process while the dysfunctional conservative is still in the bully mode, and he maliciously strikes out and hurts others rather than face his own painful dysfunction (see bullies, O’Reilly and Limbaugh). In either case, these pain-escaping and cowardly activities hurt other people (see untreated addict George Bush starting a war and killing Iraqis), but in the Clinton case, the damage is directed inward while in the other the damage is directed outward.
Pay attention to how the bullies attack Bill. His courage to face himself and to know himself scares them. Fear in a conservative comes out in attack mode.
"When confronted with two evils, a man will always choose the prettier." —Unknown