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2006-08-08 6:45 PM
This draft was written on Tue Aug 8, a week ago... but here it is:
Thoughts About Academic Arguments: I've often heard people describe the endless bickering in academia, the wildly disagreeing theories and postulations, that you can find someone somewhere who has concluded every opposite side of every argument. I was somehow lucky enough in college not to be plagued with tons of academic contradictions and bizarre theories. Majoring in Music, then Theatre, then Linguistics, I somehow skirted all the controversies. Well, that's not entirely true... certainly I know of the controversies of Noam Chomsky, but since I already come down on the side of natural and field linguistics in a descriptive fashion rather than a prescriptive and "universal language" manner, it's easy for me to scoff a little at "the other theories" and believe in my own linguistic conclusions. I naturally lean toward the same linguistic conclusions that seem to be held by the instructors I had at UC Santa Barbara. But I digress.
Lately, I've been reading a wealth on non-fiction, and thoroughly enjoying research and publishing on some new topics. And I'm finally running up against books and authors that are proposing a world view that is so significantly different than anything I ever considered. And it's more than just, "Oh, I don't believe this researcher, wow he certainly has a bias." It's more like, "Good grief, there are really people in this world who think this is really how the world is put together? They really have this kind of approach to academia and research that is so wildly different than anything I've ever read or considered? My goodness, how isolated have I been all these years?"
Case in point: I'm enjoying several books about the origins of Alphabets in general, or specific alphabets (and how this effected several orthography systems). In one book, I'm in a chapter that is describing the effect of the Hebrew alphabet, and the Hebrew cultures. The author went on for pages discussing monotheism (and its "invention"), the Exodus (and what a myth that is, and how he assumes it was a myth expanded and written down specifically to "create" a history by the Hebrew leaders that would enforce their leadership amongst their people), and the creation of an alphabet (only invented by and for emerging rebellious, and new, cultures). It's amazing how bizarre his arguments and assumptions get, although I have to credit him that he often prefaces his outlines with "Let us assume the following" so that he's not claiming it's fact, he's claiming it's one assumption that might describe some archaeological and historical facts and fills in all the other bits that have no evidence supporting them.
The other book is specifically about the origins of the Hebrew alphabet, where it came from, the "magic" of inventing vowels (which no one else had invented), and how the Hebrew alphabet therefore influenced all the other alphabets to follow. It has some very different claims about the origins of Hebrew versus the first book, which seems to venerate the Greek alphabet as the precursor to the Roman/Latin alphabet now, which is used so successfully (and almost universally) in modern times (especially since the instantaneous communication of the internet). Although I will credit this author, with his love of the Greeks, for a fairly well-presented examination of Chinese characters and the prevalence of that system, as well as the independent development and success of Hangul for the Korean language. But these are almost footnotes in the direction of the book.
Anyways. All that to say, Wow. I've never really quite grappled with extremely differing academic opinions, and it is somewhat of a challenge to remain fair and open-minded, but not feel like I'm being tossed about by any wind that comes along. It's interesting where I feel led to sink my roots a little firmer, without being completely intractable and stubborn.
There are some other books I'm reading that are having a similar effect, with different topics entirely, and it's all very amazing.
* * * * *
Now the newsie bits of my journal:
Wed Aug 2: First Day of Work - Worked at home, set up office
Thu Aug 3 - Lots of learning curve, researching, learning whatever I can
Fri Aug 4 - Got my new phone today, balanced all my accounts (again), paid all my bills
Sat Aug 5: Pirate Tourney & "Beaching" - Pirate tourney was wonderful, and camping with friends on the beach was really quite relaxing
Sun Aug 6: Home from the events - Just unpacking, as usual
Mon Aug 7 - Council Meeting, happy birthday yesterday to my step-brother Robert and to my old co-worker & friend "Craigor." Sorry I missed wishing you birthday salutations!
Tue Aug 8 - Studio tonight
* * * * *
Books I've Been Reading Lately: alpha beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World by John Man (2000, Barnes & Noble Books). This is the author who seems to have a Greek & Roman bias, and proposes that most (if not all) religious beliefs are based in myth and tradition.
In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language by Joel M. Hoffman (2004, New York University). Definitely from a Jewish point-of-view, but seems very fair and academic in presentation.
Why The Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History by David Klinghoffer (2005, Three Leaves Press, Doubleday). The author specifically starts as a Jewish scholar, interested in the intellectual and thorough description of how choices were made over history, and how those choices affected history itself. Very thorough, very interesting, extremely helpful and common sense approach to a topic that the author admits most Jews avoid discussing, whether out of a sense of not offending or being unprepared to make the academic arguments. One of the remarks on the back cover is a perfect summary, "Though written from a Jewish point of view, it is also profoundly respectful of Christian sensibilities."
A History of Christianity by Owen Chadwick (2005, Barnes & Noble Books). I bought this first for the excellent calligraphy and illumination photos inside. Although the SCA specifically does NOT recreate religion in our events, it is hard to ignore that much of the Middle Ages is dominated by religion. And looking for good costuming examples, several of the sacred paintings have some of the best material to examine. Certainly some of the best illumination and calligraphy can be found in religious texts. But when I dig into the narration of this book, this is one of those books that approaches some of the dictates in history and ascribes motivations to the church leaders for why they wrote what they did. It's been interesting to read some of the conclusions the author presents.
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