Lot’s Wife And The Danger Of Curiosity

At a conference devoted to the influences of the Old Testament on Hebrew literature, a speaker discussed Lot’s wife (Genesis 19, 26) as a source of poetic inspiration. In Hebrew that dramatic story is summed up in 6 short words: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”
I have been so used to these words that their actual meaning was almost lost. But rexamining the sentence I thought about the danger of curiosity and the high price of the desire to learn.
We learnt  in school that Lot’s wife was punished because she disobeyed God. Yet, in Genesis 19, 17 God says to Lot: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee.” There is nothing in the text about Lot's  responsibility to warn his family not to ldo so as well. Moreover, although God talks only to Lot, he is not held accountable for the actions of his wife, and she is the only one who is punished.
It is intriguing that the Bible states that the wife (who remains nameless) looks "behind him,” and not behind her. It seems that Lot is very much part of the action.
Curious, eager to learn, and independent: those have always been the qualities of women in pursuit of knowledge and education. They fought to advance themselves in their societies and strived to contribute to their communities. But those were also the exact reasons why Paternalistic societies have regarded education as dangerous.
Only yesterday I suddenly saw the source of and the justification for the zeal and conviction of those men who made sure that education would not be available to women. From the account of the Fall we understand that knowledge is synonymous with disobedience. But in the case of Adam and Eve they were both punished. I never before had traced the beginning of male oppression to the unjust act of God, who punished a woman for a non-sin, in Genesis 19.
Until fairly recently women  in Europe and in the US were denied education, in the introduction to Equality for Some: The Story of Girls’ Education, Barry Turner states: “The female intellect is a recent educational discovery. Traditionally Western civilization has distrusted and discouraged clever women, initially because they were regarded as a threat to the spiritual well-being of the community” 
It wasn’t thank to God of Genesis 19 that Western women won their battle for education, they did it all on their own.
But in other parts of the world, women and girls are not so fortunate, a good example is the  Saudi Arabian film Wadjda. It tells the story of  a bright girl who is determined to win money to buy a bicycle she’s forbidden to ride. She hopes to accomplish this feat by winning a Koran competition. Learning, she trusts, would bring about independence and freedom of mobility. But when she honestly and naively admits that she intends to do with the money, she doesn't get the prize.
Riding a bicycle has been a feminist symbol of self reliance since Victorian time: at that time the safety bicycle became available for skirted women. While bicycle gave them physical independence, education had given them some measure of mental independence and self control.
Wadjda is not different from the hundreds of school girls who were kidnapped on April 14th from the Girls Secondary School in Nigeria. In the name of God, His male executors on earth have taken upon themselves the mission to eradicate education from their country.
In the Biblical story Lot moved on leaving his wife behind, we could no longer afford to do so.
PS  And of course I should not forget Malala Yusafzai.
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Cervantes, Rimbaud, Chekhov, Yeats

Question of the day: How many writers keep getting better until the end? Or how maybe, how few? You could throw Shakespeare in there, since the Tempest is masterful. Truman Capote and Harper Lee don't count, since Capote could never finish another book after In Cold Blood and Lee could finish only one. Joyce disappeared into Finnegans and never reappeared. Who am I missing?

And I wonder why? Does genius require a physical vigor, or emotional, or both, lost over time?

Sorry, that's three questions.


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Jewish And Arab Women Refuse To Be Enemies

The announcement on Facebook read: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” and next to it a call for a demonstration in the Arab Israeli town of Tira. I knew right away that I wanted to go.
This morning we gathered,  about 1000 participants, Jews and Arabs, many carried signs in Hebrew and in Arabic. My favorite was one held by a young woman, which said in Hebrew: "Jewish .and Arab women refuse to be enemies." I could sense the good-will and the positive energy all around.
The speakers were Jews and Arabs and I appreciated the fact that everyone’s suffering was acknowledged: that of the Palestinians civilians in Gaza whose life is in danger because of the Israeli air raid and that of the Israelis civilians, especially in the south, who suffer the Hamas rockets attacks..
In preparation for today’s demonstration I  reread  a small British pamphlet written in 1952 by that period Feminists, in the Conference on The Feminine Point of View.
On the topic of “World Peace” the women  claimed:
“It has been  generally believed through the ages that women are more averse to war than men (a view expressed in the Greek play Lysisstrata  over two thousand years ago). Certainly war disrupts the home life which is the woman’s main interest and concern. In so far as women are in general less aggressive than men, more averse to physical violence, and more concerned for the suffering of the individual, there are grounds for hoping that their greater influence would make for world peace in the long run. The monstrous absurdity of modern weapons of obliteration is likely to make an increasing number of women reject war altogether on ground of commonsense as well as mercy.; whereas many men seem to be fascinated by exhibitions of vast power”
In 1952 the conference expressed the hope that  women will  “become better educated politically and more confident in their own point of view, they may be expected to be critical of war propaganda and the claims of national prestige. The tendency of women to be more emotionally disturbed by the idea of war and its horrors may bring about clearer thinking on the whole question of that “inevitable necessity” of war which so many men seem to accept with the kind of mesmerized acquiescence.“
In the demonstration today one of the speakers, an Arab woman, talked directly to the women in the audience and said very similar words. She said what all women know (and often say), that not a single woman from Gaza or from Israel is involved in the attacks, but that it is always the women who pay the price for men’s war.

The conference of the Feminine Point of View was seven years after the end of the Second World War. There were hopes for a better future, and fear of the consequences of  the cold war.

 Today more than sixty years, women are "better educated politically," but so far we have not been able to make a real difference, or to promote peace in this area. Publicly not much has changed, most of the politicians are still  men, and  they have no interest in finding a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

In the past Israeli mothers were influential in getting the Israeli army out of south Lebanon. The men have failed us, let women have their say. b2ap3_thumbnail_izru.jpg
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A Green Room Full of Hopes

I’d write Green on the whiteboard with a green marker, and wait for the students I’d divided up into groups to brainstorm any English idioms they knew that contained that word.


He’s a bit green.

To get the green light.

Green, as in ecology.

Green with envy.

“Beware, my Lord, of jealousy.  ‘Tis the green-eyed monster...”


Sometimes, I’d simply ask, “If I say ‘green’, what do you think?”







The Green Room in a theatre.  London Fringe Theatre.  Frayed sofas smelling of stale cigarettes and lager.  A Tannoy announcing the Half, Fifteen Minutes and Beginners.  Actors sitting and smoking, doing vocal exercises, complaining about their agents, criticising the director (the one they idolised at the audition but now the critic gave a bad review, well, they really should be at the RSC on on television, instead of Fringe).  Hope for a successful career.


The impeccably ironed lawn of a Cambridge college.  Only Fellows are allowed to walk on it.  I walk across the one at King’s, while talking to the Dean.  We’re talking about Dante, and he says he’s going to give me a ticket for the Advent Carol Service.  Hope for academic achievement.


The soft, luxuriant green of Grantchester Meadows.  With jet-black crows skipping at the foot of elm trees, swaying in the East Anglian winds.  Hope for peace.


My green silk dress I wore on an unforgettable date.  He took me to a Maria Friedman concert at Cadogan Hall.  Sondheim and Bernstein.  Afterwards, we strolled through the winding Chelsea streets.  Hope for true love.


A bushy green fir tree, standing by the sash window, decorated in gold and silver baubles, lit up with a criss-crossing string of tiny white lights.  Hope for home and hearth.


The glossy green leaves of small lemon plants, grown from pips in pots on my desk during a harsh winter.  Hope for survival.


An e-mail from a friend I have yet to meet, telling me about a newly-set up haven for writers recently orphaned of their familiar internet forum.  A red room that provided much warmth and nurture.  She invites me to join a new room, a green room.  I picture a velvet green sofa with soft cushions, a crackling fireplace, the smell of coffee mixed with roasted figs, chocolate fudge cake on the table, a large bay window overlooking a garden with a weeping willow trailing its  mane in a limpid stream.  A group of writers, from different countries, different backgrounds, united in effervescent conversation, discussing every topic under the sun and moon.  Laughter.  Support.  Learning.


Hope for friendship.  Hope for writing and reading splendid words.



Scribe  Doll

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Latest Comments

Ken Hartke The Architecture of Trees
20 March 2018
To marvel is to live...even at the engineering of a lowly dandelion. Marvel mar·vel /ˈmärvəl/ verb:...
Rosy Cole The Architecture of Trees
20 March 2018
Beautiful. We labour under the misconception that all knowledge passes through consciousness.
Stephen Evans Sedona: A Serendipitous Journey
18 March 2018
Your quote of "I waited for the Lord" struck a chord with me, but I couldn't think why until I remem...
Rosy Cole Sedona: A Serendipitous Journey
17 March 2018
Ken, we shall look forward very much to hearing about your travels! :-)
Rosy Cole Sedona: A Serendipitous Journey
17 March 2018
Certainly, I've experienced some serendipitous revelations, often when dog-walking in the country an...

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