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Somehow it always felt a little odd that our calendar new year begins in the dead of winter. It hardly represents a time of new beginnings when you’re in the midst of deep slumber, hibernating, a cycle that some associate with death. What could possibly begin to renew or to start a new when paralyzed by the still, cold breaths that Mother Nature breaths upon our souls and across the land. If there is anything we could possibly hope for are the early signs that beacons our heart with glimmers of spring – the real promise of agricultural renewal and with it our spiritual and bodily resurrection; for we are biologically tied to the rhythms of the earth moon, sun and stars.
When you examine humanity’s agricultural and historical development through the ages, springtime is known to be a time for rejuvenation, resurrection, emancipation, deliverance and renewal. The Torah, for example, stresses both of these agricultural and the historical aspects during Passover that highlights the subtle relationship of nature and historic Biblical teachings. This relationship is not only true in the Torah, but also in the Christian bible and ancients myths of a variety of mono and poly-theistic cultures dating back to the days of Mesopotamia perhaps even earlier. It’s a blueprint, a diary of our cultural evolution. Cultural evolution tracks the historical development of Homo sapiens from hunter-gather to agricultural societies and these ancient teachings helped guide the way before science took over to lead us through the industrial revolution to present day.
Focusing on a specific passage that curiously made its way through canonization and into the scriptures that oddly enough makes no mention of G-d whatsoever and his chosen people is the Song of Songs, aka Song of Solomon or Ode to Songs. Recitation and study of the Song of Song that has been integrated into Jewish liturgy and religious practice since late antiquity celebrating, the festival of the Passover and on Sabbath day, commemorating Israel’s first Exodus from Egypt.
The Song of Songs is a wondrous collection of love lyrics, songs of passion and praise between a young maiden and her beloved. Spring is full of transformations not only of the weather but also plant life. As temperatures begin to rise warmer, the grounds begin to thaw, plants unfold to lush greens and flowers begin to bud and bloom. Here we find an encounter between a young man and woman, their growing love and as the pair transform we are treated to sensuous scenes from the natural world abound, “as the young pair make their way around the countryside and invokes all they see and smell in the world to express their inner feelings and laud one another’s beauty. Among the plants and fruits growing in the orchards sheep, gazelle’s moving on the hills and oils and spices in profusion; each and all convey the impressions that the loved one makes on the eye and heart.
The heart of the maiden speaks longingly of love’s fulfillment addressing herself, her beloved and her friends. And he responds in kind, with his own Song of praise and invocations for her to be with him in the fields, and exclamations of how her body stirs him so. Reciprocally, the pair express their love via images of flora and fauna, royal cities and armored towers. The many expressions of love bloom and burst like the natural world all around, only to reappear in every news forms. In such ways the songs suggest the mysteries of love and longing filled with pathos and possibility.”
What’s interesting about the Song of Songs is it’s dualistic themes that marks our human biorhythms and the natural patterns of the body coinciding with the cycles of mother nature and harmonizes with the spiritual reverence that G-d has for his people, their devotion to each other; body, nature and G-d. Viewed in this manner it is not difficult to comprehend that when one is ill-treated it affects all three levels; body, nature and G-d.
Christian’s vs Jews
As an individual brought up fully entrenched in Christian beliefs Passover was a time to read about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Never did we look to the Song of Songs for any aspects of this solemn celebration. Yet, after careful examination of the Song of Songs one can understand some of the main differences between Christianity and Judaism. The Song of Songs is studied and recited at Passover. For Christians, Easter is the resurrection of Jesus Christ while the Jews, who are still waiting for their messianic savior, celebrates Exodus from Egypt. For Christians it’s a long weekend celebration, in Judaism it’s a one week observance and celebration.
In the Good Book of Human Nature, evolutionary anthropologist Carel van Schaik and historian Kai Michel advance a new view of Homo sapiens’ cultural evolution. In terms of the Torah, they say, as a whole is the product of a surprisingly logical, even scientific, approach to society’s problems.
“Torah was a religion built around self-exclusion and that its laws functioned as a high wall around its people. Particularly in the foreign culture of the Babylonian captivity the Torah’s laws undoubtedly made assimilation more difficult and remained so under Person, Hellenistic and Roman rule.
The Torah had become a recipe for cultural survival where the goal is to remain loyal to G-d. It ensured identity and solidarity and a barrier against outside influence. [This self-exclusion] Strengthened the community, created mutual trust, and promoted cooperation. Torah a handbook for proper behavior aimed at preventing poverty, violence and at reducing suffering and disease. The Torah protects the weak including animals. The Torah’s high ethical standards were greatly admired even in ancient times. They are largely in tune with the code of conduct of the Hunter-gatherer world, in other words, the code of our first nature which looks at inequality, injustice and realize on solidarity; love thy neighbor.”
For Jews, Easter was a time where Christians would persecute the Jews with accusations of the Jews’ murder of Jesus which often made it a season of hatred and violence against Jews. According to Rabbi Benjamin Edidin Scolnic, in response the Jews have attempted to make Passover/Easter a holiday of brotherhood; non-Jews are often welcome guests at their Seder tables. The Rabbi further points to a recent Jewish-Christian dialogue on the Song of Songs between a famous Catholic priest and a famous rabbi from their different religious perspective. You can find their dialogue in two chapters from the book The Bible and Us by Father Andrew Greeley and Rabbi Jacob Neusner. It is said that it offers a concise, pointed, understandable way to see the differences between Jewish and Christian interpretation of the Bible that could serve as a spring board for an update on Jewish-Christian relations.
Every parent should want to have their children, especially their daughters, read and understand the Song of Song for which I will affectionately call it the woman’s redemption song. Redemption from what Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden is symbolically reclaimed through the Song of Song. The fall of Adam and Eve brought on a deep patriarchal tone of the Hebrew laws and their deep chauvinistic relationship between man and woman that permeates to this day. The Song of Song levels the playing field positioning man and woman on equal footing.
For example, fifty-six verses are spoken by a female while only thirty-six are clearly spoken from a male; the woman’s voice opens and closes the book; what stands out is the expression and perception of equality, mutuality of love; women initiate lovemaking almost as often as the men; both male and female voices at times are urgent and assertive, at other times vulnerable and tender. ‘Even the descriptions of the lovers’ bodies challenge the stereotypes we encounter in later Western tradition. Female speakers describe their beloveds as imaginatively and inventively as their male counterparts. Both male and female remark on their beloveds’ dovelike eyes, and at one moment a man is described as having cheeks and lips like lilies. Taken as a whole, the poems of the Song express strikingly nonsexist attitudes toward heterosexual love and, by implication, toward human relationships of all kinds. The reciprocity of feeling expressed between woman and men gives the Song special –perhaps even redemptive –resonance for our time’ [Song of Songs, Marcia Falk]
Consonant with this mutuality between sexes in the Song, no domination exists between human beings and the rest of nature; the natural world is neither idealized nor demonized but depicted as an integral part of human life. This concept runs contrary to what you find in Genesis where G-d tells Adam that he “will have dominion over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth…” Serving as foreground, background and metaphor the elements of nature are vividly portrayed with sensual imagery – the fragrance spices the taste of nectar and fruits, the sounds and of bird songs and human voices, the tender touch of skin. And everywhere sights for the eyes.
Sexual desire along with a sharing of agricultural tasks echoes the work done in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3) sexuality and productivity are interrelated in both texts. Rabbi Benjamin Edidin Scolnic says, “We have idyllic worlds in both Eden and the Song. It doesn’t take great effort or toil or sweat of the brow to tend a beautiful and fertile garden. What Adam and Eve lost is regained in the Song of Song.” Whether if one is religious or a person who points to the scriptures to blame for today’s gender divide, I highly suggest that today’s scholars, researchers, journalists, writers, rabbis, clergy and elders review and provide comparative studies of the account of Adam and Eve and the Song of Song, in an attempt to douse the fires of today’s gender hostility reminding us of the “Divine’s” (G-d, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, g-d, etc.) original intentions for the mutual relations between man and woman.
On the same project, I will also add the book of Job, specifically in G-d’s answer to Job, where we receive a detailed account of how G-d created the animals, the earth and how our environment all works in unison together as part of the grand Divine plan for Mother Earth. In the very least it rivals the sparse lines given in the verses of Genesis and which could provide another perspective in terms of spirituality, religion, ecology and climate change. In the same vein, it is worthy to note the hesitation of the ancients about including the Song of Songs, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes (Solomon’s Book) because ‘some authorities deemed them as mere parables and not worthy to be included in the sacred writings.’ What provoked the authorities was the suggestive language. Thankfully the men of Hezikiah came and interpreted the parables in a way that allowed these works to return to the sacred texts and in public domain.
Heat: Retrieving a Sacred Sexuality
Author and psychoanalyst, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells us; there is a being who lives in the wild underground of women’s natures. This creature is our sensory nature, and like any integral creature it has its own natural and nutritive cycles. This being is inquiring, relational, bounding with energy sometimes, and quiescent at other times. It is responsive to stimulus involving the sense: music, movement, food, drink, peace, quite, beauty, darkness.
It is this aspect of a woman that has heat. Not heat as in “Let’s have sex, baby, baby.” But like a fire underground that burns high then low, in cycles. From the energy released there, a woman acts as she sees fit. A woman’s heat is not a state of sexual arousal but a state of intense sensory awareness that includes, but is not limited to, her sexuality.
In the Song of Songs the composition is named this way “because it is the most superlative of these songs – whose purpose was to arouse the passions of lover and beloved for one another.” There are two meanings for the Song:
one: a collection of human love lyrics, pure and simple
two: a cycle of songs celebrating covenant love between G-d and Israel
First of views, takes the Song in its straight forward sense, filled with erotic energy.
Much could be written about uses and abuses of women’s sensory nature and how she and others either stoke the fire against its natural rhythms or try to douse it in its entirety. But let us instead focus on an aspect that is fervent, definitely wild, and giving off a heat that keeps us warmed with good feeling. It’s called Eros that state which we call “being in love” that kind of love which lovers are in. As in the Song of Song, very often what comes first is simply a delightful preoccupation with the Beloved a general unspecified preoccupation with her in her totality. A man in this state really hasn’t the leisure to think of sex. He is too busy thinking of the person.
Sexual desire is a biological impulse. Without Eros, the man wants “it” the thing itself; Eros wants the beloved. Eros is that state which we call “being in love” that kind of love which lovers are in. The “thing” is sensory pleasure; this is an event occurring within one’s own body. He wants pleasure (not necessarily the woman) for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. Eros instead makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. The lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give.
Second, reveals the temper of sober reinterpretations and a spiritual recasting of its contents.
In Jewish communities it continues to be ritually charged among Ashkenazi Jews, on the Sabbath of Passover; among Yemenites, on the eve of every Sabbath. The Times for this reading were the evenings of the seventh and eighth days of Passover, one-half read on each night and it has probably been set to music more often than any other ancient text. The Song’s canonization itself testifies to its popularity. Even though G-d’s name is not mentioned even once in its lines the rabbis of the first century chose to include it in the biblical canon.
Language of Love: Some Inner Biblical Features
We must remember that sometimes our words can be fire. It has the capacity to penetrate and the capacity to connect. In the case of the Song of Songs, it does both. Here you will find a series of love poems rich in terminology, heighten by the penetration of drama and emotional connectedness. In The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) Bible Commentary Song of Song’s commentary by Michael Fishbane, he says, ‘Readers would want to pay close attention to nuance of words engaging the heart and mind at every stylistic turn crying out for one another speaking the language of eroticism and love.
It opens with a burst of emotion and desire. “Oh, let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” and sustains that intensity through its many speeches. Sometimes the maiden speaks to her beloved to herself or to her friends; sometimes there is direct speech or interior monologue and sometimes a scene is reported by on character to another. Or other occasions the beloved appears in response to the maiden, on his own working with visions other from afar. In such cases his statements about her seem like private musings. The reader tries to follow this (and fill in the blanks) with the inner eye of imagination.
The reader also tries to follow voice and eye and of person in love, as they express their feelings through similes and metaphors and as their visions roams the country side. The poetic of speech draw from a robust vocabulary of love, while employing older literary techniques in new ways. The early audience had a native competence to guide their comprehension; but later readers like ourselves must cultivate this competence through studied attention to the Song’s language to the Bible as a whole and to whatever can be gleaned from ancient Near Eastern literary sources.’
For example, we could turn to old Mesopotamian lyrics that have no cultic features but which have litanies of desire set in the world of Nature that convey erotic elements by innuendo. Fishbane, makes the comparison of the language of love in Mesopotamian lyrics as being “artfully allusive and erotically suggestive”. He provides as an example the following verses:
- You who bloom in beauty, to the garden you go down, to the garden of fragrance go down// “Arouse O north wind…Blow upon my garden that is fragrances may spread. Let my love come to his garden” (Song 4:16)
- I went down to the garden of your Love, she seeks the beautiful garden of your charms; the king goes down to the garden// “I have come to my garden, my sister my bride”; “My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the bed of spices” (Song 5:1,6:2).
- Your caresses are sweet; growing luxuriantly is your fruit; may my eyes behold the plucking of your fruit// “I have come to my garden…I have plucked my myrrh and spices”; “I went down to the nut garden…to see the budding of the vale” (Song 5:1, 6:11).
- Let us eat of your strength// Let my beloved come to his garden and eat of its luscious fruits”; “I have come to my garden, my sister…eaten my honey and honeycomb” (Song 4:16. 5:1).
The love poetry in the ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna’s courtship with En-kimdu the farmer and the shephard Dumuzi. Dumzi competes with what each produce saying his milk and cheese is as good as the farmer’s grains and beans, while Inanna’s exploration of love is as fresh and alive as it must have been thousands of years ago. Not only does Inanna explores self-love through her body where she finds her own vulva “marvellous” but that of her husband Dumuzi through their courtship and marriage. We get a sense of connectedness of the human body with nature and all the bountiful gifts that the Earth has to offer as the lovers explore sexuality, sensuality, and love-making through the language of agriculture. For example; gardens and orchards are the figures for the settings of love; eating or plucking its fruit conveys the garden’s joys; ploughing the vulva and ploughing suba jewels, which is likely an image of sexual penetration and semen; Inanna’s sexual interest and eroticism growing by using as a metaphor the cycle of flax from planting to harvest to spinning and so on. Surely you can hear in the Song of Songs, echoes of the delightful passages of Inanna’s love poetry.
Terms of Love
“Biblical love language is not monolithic. It can be used in different ways for different purposes – for either base or beautiful desire, and directed to either secular or theological ends. The ancient sages were also mindful of this point. In their close study of Scripture, they collected striking instances where divine love uses earthy terms – even when the human actions resulted in base behavior.”
Fishbane first turns to some of the “terms of love” used marveling at their variety and boldness of expression. The maiden’s words give a sense of this range and tone from the outset. She yearns for the “kisses” of her beloved’s mouth and refers to him as a sachet of myrrh that “lies between my breasts” Brimming passions, she soon tells her beloved that she desires to dwell in his shade and eat of his fruit and then turns to her friends and asks them to give strength and sustenance in the meanwhile – for she is “love-sick” for him (vs which connotes being both wounded and wasted by one’s feelings) Yet the maiden wishes to restrain her emotions and tells her companions neither to “stimulate” nor “arouse” love before the time of “desire” has ripened. Perhaps she actually stimulated him under that tree at the beginning of their wooing: for towards the end of the Song she reminds him of how she had “aroused” him under an apple tree in past times. Passion thus fills her from beginning to end; and in one of her last speeches, she proclaims that love is “strong as death” as mighty as a “raging fire”.
The penetrating words of the youth are equally poignant and in some cases sound a strange erotic note. In one exclamation he tells her repeatedly that you have inflamed my heart” and he goes on to speak to her as a “locked garden” and “sealed fountain” term evocative of her purity and chastity and then of her body as “branches” ripe with sweet fruit and all kinds of spices. Her physical charms so ravish him that he even speakers of her love as “beautiful…with all its raptures” and once dares admit his deepest fantasies “Your steady for is like the palm, let me take hold of it branches let your breasts be as clusters of grapes and your breath like the fragrance of apples” With these words he yearns for connectedness, his whole heart is exposed.
Beautiful things can happen when you can just “be” and let love happen naturally. The above reminds me of the story in King Arthur where Sir Gaiwain and lady of Ragnall are paired for marriage. Jungian psychoanalyst and author Caitlyn Matthews, recounts the story in her book, In Search of Woman’s Passionate Soul, “As a test Lady Rganall gives him a riddle: “Choose to have her fair by day and foul by night to his public honor, or foul by day and fair by night for his delight?”
He says “do as you wish, for I cannot choose, the choice I put into your hands. Do with me as you wish, for I am bound to you….Both my body and my goods, my heart and all parts of me are all yours to buy and sell. “Now you honor me, you shall have me beautiful both day and night and I will be fair and attractive as long as I live. You have given me sovereignty.”
He put his social kudos before his pleasure. Despite the changing mores of society, the situation of any woman today is much the same as Ragnell points out. A woman is still judged in society by her relationship with men at large – in what manner she is the daughter, mother or partner of a man. Her true nature can be obscured by all manner of pre-judgements about her femininity her appearance, background and education. Her authentic self is rarely given rein or recognized by society.
But a woman’s true nature is her beauty which is not just “inner” self-respect, her compassion for others, her truth and integrity. Gaiwan relinquishes sovereignty, Gaiwan allows the Eros of his anima to answer, not his innate logic.
But a woman’s true nature is her beauty – a beauty which is not just inner for her whole being is illuminated and ensnared by her self-respect, her compassion for others, her truth and integrity. Just as Gaiwan refuses to dictate an answer to Rganell…”
Sex and Tribalism Today
Writer Lynn Townsend White Jr., an American historian, made a career out of examining religious influences in culture which spans a variety of topics including the connection between religion and science and religious beliefs were a motivating force behind technical creativity. Today you can certainly see why Lynn White was very concerned since we are moving towards areas in science that strikes very close to the heart of ethical, political and philosophical matters that will challenge our [religious] beliefs about death, creation and G-d.
The 21st Century certainly belongs to biology where biotechnology is making major advancements in science. With the development of the Pill meant that sex could be differentiated from Familial responsibility. Francis Fukuyamahas suggested that the Pill not only granted women the freedom to live out their desires without consequences but that, primarily it released men from any sense of responsibility for the children that were born anyway. Maternal care for infants is highly biologically programmed, whereas paternal care is more of a cultural product and therefore more sensitive to disruption. Added to this the fact that reproduction is gradually becoming separated from sexuality generally, with both fertilization and pregnancy being increasingly taken over by bio-technical laboratories. This is hardly going to strengthen family bonds.
The freedom of censorship offered by the internet also means that sexuality is becoming less dramatic and is just one pastime among others: the link between sex and cohabitation is being weakened, which means partly that a wealth of cohabitation forms is appearing in which sex plays no part, you no longer need to live with your sexual partner, just as little as you need to live with your tennis partner. You do not need to have sex with the person with whom you are living, as little as you need to have sex with your boss or your therapist. Or what about marriage? You now don’t have to be married to have a child, in fact some prefer to have a child first and then get married – marriage is just a contract and divorce can get messy. Some partners are married but don’t live with each other, or are physically apart more times than they are together, and so on. Conventional forms of personal relations, in the 21st century, are dissolving and disappearing: circumstances will determine the form of a relationship, and not vice versa.
Now there are a variety of reasons for these trends taking place. The sexuality, eroticism and romance described in Song of Songs and elsewhere in ancient scriptures, myth and poetry are perhaps aspirations that are too high in our present day of instant gratification. Mending from a [series] broken heart(s) is a painful experience that sometimes never fully heal. Or perhaps again in this world of instant gratification we’ve become numb, indifferent and too lazy to do the work; it seems people are more scared of a broken heart than getting a sexually transmitted disease.
Without Eros sexual desire, like every other desire is a fact about ourselves. Within Eros it is rather about the Beloved. It becomes almost a mode of perception entirely a mode of expression. It feels objective; something outside us in the real world. Eros does not obliterate the distinction between giving and receiving. Eros arises almost entirely from the carnal element within it; that Eros is “noblest” or “purest” when Venus is reduced to the minimum.
When we are facing the realities of today and the course we are plotting for our shared future how do ancient myths, scriptures and observance such as Passover adapt and continue its relevancy? Or do we render its message old and obsolete. The Song of Songs and it’s tryptic themes that marks our human biorhythms and the natural patterns of the body coinciding with the cycles of mother nature, harmonizes with the spiritual reverence that G-d has for his people, their devotion to each other; the body, nature and G-d. Viewed in this manner it is not difficult to comprehend that when one is ill-treated healing needs to take place on all three levels; body, nature and G-d.
Yuval Noah Harari – Homo Deus and Sapiens
Let’s turn our attention to the works of world renowned author Yuval Noah Hariari – a very interesting individual indeed. I was introduced to his work and became interested in his writings while researching the topic of homo noeticus [See blog: Anatomy of the Spirit] the next development stage for homo sapiens. Harari doesn’t use the term homo noeticus out right but his philosophy seems to harmonize in the areas for which I was seeking to develop. We will briefly turn our attention to what Harari has to say given this article is inspired by his culture and religious beliefs.
Taken from his Wikipedia profile, Yuval Noah Harari was born in Kiryat Ata, Israel, in 1976. With Lebanese and Easter European roots in Haifa, Israel he grew up in a secular Jewish family. Harari is openly gay and married in 2002 in a civil ceremony in Toronto, Canada. Today you can find Harari with his husband living in a moshav (a type of cooperative agricultural community of individual farms) Mesilat Zion near Jerusalem. As of September 2017, he does not have a smartphone. Harari is an Israeli historian and tenured professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of two international bestsellers; Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind (2014) and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2015). His work fits the theme of this paper and future writings because he helps us to articulate and summarize the sudden bursts in today’s bio-technology sector, and sounds a cautionary alarm about a ‘futuristic biotechnical world where sentient biological organisms are surpassed by their own creations.’
These ideas challenge the very concept of G-d, faith and belief where to my knowledge, and as Harari points out, our bibles of ancient scriptures do not provide the answers. However, in studying ancient passages such as the Song of Songs (and Job) I believe we can find the answers indirectly. It is at this point I turn to Orthodox learning to view from another angle what the ancients were trying to leave as messages for us. The Bible, interestingly enough hasn’t expired in relevancy out-dating itself – as yet. It’s a book of archetypal truths that’s left for the reader to decode according to the outlook in life and philosophy they choose to follow.
We were made for the earth and the earth was made for us, not Mars, Venus, Jupiter or Saturn. In the biblical account of the Tower of Babel look what happened when Man tried to be G-ds. Yes this is what Harari is warning us about. He predicts there will be no great up-rise of robots taking over humans but we in our quest for immortality, to be G-ds ourselves, is what will change Homo Sapiens to Superhuman beings through nanotechnology, cyborg engineering and eugenics to become G-ds ourselves. “The real potential of future technologies” he says “is to change Homo Sapiens itself, including our emotions and desires, and not merely our vehicles and weapons. Tinkering with our genes won’t necessarily kill us. But we might fiddle with Homo Sapiens to such an extent that we would no longer be Homo Sapiens…. Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so.”
Given an inevitable future that is facing us today; what can, or I should say how does Scripture and religious observances, such as the Passover, guide us in our decision making today. How do we interpret G-d’s grand design and meaning for humankind? Well for one, it is no strange coincidence that we find Harari living in a moshav (a type of cooperative “agricultural “community of individual farms) Mesilat Zion near Jerusalem. It’s no mere coincidence that we are seeing a resurgence of Indigenous tribes, and cultures emerging as warriors demanding a return to the Mother Land. They are the Earthkeepers they know how to heal, live and grow with the Earth that provides sustenance’s for man animal and plant. It is during the agricultural era where man lived closest to the earth, thought to have experienced direct communication with their G-ds and instinctively knew the cycle of the body through sexuality, passion, eroticism and fertility from spring to harvest and rest through the dead of winter. These ancient love poems not only give you the answers about human Love and relationships but give us the timeless archetypal answers in living with the earth and love for our G-d.
“True, we still don’t have the acumen to achieve this, but there seems to be no insurmountable technical barriers preventing us from producing super humans. The main obstacles are the ethical and political objection that have slowed down research on humans.” says Harari “And no matter how convincing the ethical arguments may be, it is hard to see how they can hold back the next step for long especially if what is at stake is the possibility of prolonging human life indefinitely, conquering incurable diseases, and upgrading our cognitive and emotional abilities.”
“Yet the world of 2014 is already a world in which culture is releasing itself from the shackles of biology.” Writes Harari, “Our ability to engineer not merely the world around us, but above all the world inside our bodies and minds, is developing at breakneck speed. More and more spheres of activity are being shaken out of their complacent ways. Lawyers need to rethink matters of health care and equality; sports associations and educational institutions need to redefine fair play and achievement; pension funds and labor markets should readjust to a world in which sixty might be the new thirty. They must all deal with the conundrums of bio-engineering cyborgs and inorganic life.”
Such dilemmas are dwarfed by the ethical, social and political implications of the Gilgamesh Project and of our potential new abilities to create super-humans. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, government medical programs and national constitutions worldwide recognize that a humane society ought to give all its members fair medical treatment and keep them in relatively good health. That was all well and good as long as medicine was chiefly concerned with preventing illness and healing the sick. What might happen once medicine becomes preoccupied with enhancing human abilities? Would all humans be entitled to such enhanced abilities, or would there be a new superhuman elite?
Humanity stand on the precipice of a new growth period of what some might say is the last growth for Homo sapiens, after which we will have Artificial Intelligence (AI) what will do things for us so no more major advancements while in the meantime we’re fabric of our selves merging with technology into superhuman being. And this is what we have to be mindful of having the foresight today, decades to a century before such developments occur. Those who don’t keep up with the times will soon find themselves on the wrong side of the greatest inequality divide that mankind has faced in its existence. It’s the inequality gap, the ability to change your status, as such slavery will take on a whole new meaning, class structures will be even more rigid, will superhuman status belong only to the elite, sharing of wealth and technology, and so on.
Why Celebrate Passover?
What relevancy does it have for us today and certainly into a future of cyborgs, robots and in organic life? Since we are not living in the hunter-gather/agricultural time period why do we still rely on such ancient stories and rituals? What were the ancients trying to tell us?
Tzvi Freeman, Chabad, sums it up pretty nicely for us saying that Passover is first about identity. “Passover is when the Jew comes out. Not just out of Egypt. Out of hiding as well. Hiding from the Jew within.” They live inside a story instead of a geography. “But a Jew lives inside a story. What geography is to everyone else, the story is for a Jew.” Yet theirs is a never-ending story that unlike geography knows no boarders it encompasses everything.
“On the night of Passover, when we sit together, tasting the bitterness of oppression as we bite into the bitter herbs, sinking our teeth into the bread of poverty called matzah, drinking the four cups of wine of freedom, and retelling our story of liberation through wonders to our children and friends. It is not just any another night. It is who we are.”
What makes the story so relevant and still alive today and into the future?
“We all know the themes: Nothing changes until someone feels chosen to make that change. Oppression versus freedom. Tyranny versus covenant. Destruction versus tikun. Ego versus love. The sword versus the written word, and the powerful wisdom of the word. Those struggles are certainly still alive. They dominate global concerns. They take front and center of our personal everyday lives. We all have our Pharaoh who enslaves us, our chains of slavery to unlock and break free.
That’s why it’s such a crucial story—for everyone on this planet. Because it’s vital that every one of us get that message—that sense that the Creator-of-This-Amazing-Place-Who-Really-Cares-About-It-All is pointing at you, in your face, and saying, “Hey little guy, I’m leaving it up to you. If you don’t do it, no one will.”
Because that’s the only way anything can get fixed—if every individual feels, “It’s up to me. I’m the crucial character in this story.”
Turns out that the essential power of freedom, of tikun, of healing, and of changing anything at all, can all be summed up in one word: Chosenness.
And that is Passover.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind, Yuval Noah Harari, McClellend & Stewart, 2014
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari, McClellend & Stewart, 2017
The Good Book of Human Nature: An Evolutionary Reading of the Bible, Carel van Schaik and Kai Miche, Basic Books, 2016
Song of Song’s, Michael Fishbane, The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) Bible, 2015
Netocracy, Alexander Bard & Jan Soderquist, Pearson FT Press, 2002
The Song of Songs: Love Lyrics from the Bible, Marcia Falk, Brandeis University Press, 2004
Inanna: A New English Version, Kim Echlin, Penguin Books, 2015
In Search of Women’s Passionate Soul: Revealing the Daimon Lover Within, Caitlyn Matthews, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997