Slam Blogetry – Fury Road

Slam Blogetry – Fury Road

“How can you be so calm?” “If I were you, I’d lose it.” This flavor of comment are my life-long companions. Maybe because Canadian. Maybe religious upbringing. Maybe a rational nature. Or maybe entirely a laughably inconsistent protective exoskeleton construction.

“Doctor Banner, now might be a good time for you to get angry.”
“That’s my secret, Captain: I’m always angry.”

Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner, Avengers

Or maybe you see me better than some, or the other side of me has been revealed to you. “Why are you so angry?” “What happened to you?”

Hint – it’s not cancer. Never that.

“I gotta hold on to my angst. I preserve it because I need it. It keeps me sharp, on the edge, where I gotta be.”

Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), Heat

Contentment is the key to happiness, or so they say. But that which I would keep from the life I’ve lived is directly attributable to relentless discontent. Discontent is hunger. Discontent is drive. Discontent is motivation.

I envy the content / ignorant / happy, while I simultaneously loathe them with saturating contempt. I would trade in a heartbeat. I would never ever trade.

I have the wisdom and courage. I have not the serenity or acceptance, dear simple prayer.

This song is one I turn to often. (Lyrics possibly not safe for work… depending almost entirely on where you work. Why are you not wearing headphones, you animal?)

Your mere existence probably causes me pain. Thank you for being here.

Who Wrote the Book of Love?

Who Wrote the Book of Love?

As I look ahead to some more controversial discussions of the New Testament, and having recently heard some rather inaccurate assertions and misconceptions about the nature of the text, I thought I’d like to first get everyone on the same page (so to speak) about its basic origins. Hopefully the following is not new to you. If it is, I trust you will do your own research and find that the information presented is relatively uncontroversial.

Of course, the New Testament is not a single work. The Protestant canon is an anthology of 27 (trinity to the trinity power) books and letters. Unlike the Old Testament, which was written in Hebrew, these documents were written in the common Greek spoken in the Roman empire. Most scholars agree that the earliest portions were written around 50 CE, with the later portions completed around 150 CE.

The Gospels

All of the first four books of the New Testament, those that tell the tale of Jesus of Nazareth, are anonymous works. The authors do not name themselves in the text, nor do any claim to be eyewitnesses to any of the events they describe. Attributing these books to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John began at some point in the second century. Third century scribes started using these official-sounding titles for the same reason modern versions use these titles… convention and tradition, not authorship belief.

While the early church tradition held that Matthew was written first, scholars in the 18th century undertook textual analysis of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and determined that Mark was not only the earliest written, but also a significant source of material for the other two. This is the prevailing view of modern Bible scholars.

Early church tradition says Mark was penned after the death of Peter, which happened in Rome around 64 CE according to those same traditions. This would line up with internal references in Mark 13 to the events of the First Jewish Revolt, which took place 66-70 CE. This puts the authorship of Mark at some point after 70 CE.

Factoring early church traditions, first external references and internal references to events of known dates, Matthew is estimated to have followed somewhere in 80 – 100 CE and Luke in 80 – 130 CE. While John is not of the Mark lineage, similar kinds of evidence places its writing at 90 – 120 CE.

The Pilate Stone discovered in 1961 is upheld by Christians as affirming the existence of the character of Pontius Pilate and would affix his career in the range of 26 – 36 CE, corroborating a traditional date of Jesus’ crucifixion around 30 CE.

With life expectancy in first century Rome at a mere 20 – 30 years (up to 47 for those who survived past age 10), the near-lifetime-long forty year gap between Jesus’ death and the earliest estimated authorship of Mark (several more decades for the other books) makes it clear that the authors were not first-hand witnesses to Jesus’ life, nor is it likely that they had access to any such contemporaries. Luke’s introduction affirms that the author was not an eyewitness, but relied on accounts handed down an untold number of times.

It should be noted that scholarship contends that Jesus’ native language would have been Aramaic. Our Greek-written gospels would contain, at best, translations of his words and not direct quotations.

Some notice that Mark, the closest to the events described, treats Jesus as least divine and features the fewest miracles. It is Matthew and Luke that layer in more and more supernatural claims as the tales had more time to grow, culminating in the most outlandish of all the gospels in late-to-the-party gospel of John.

Acts

Scholarship has not deviated much on this last New Testament narrative over the centuries. It is generally accepted that it was written by the same author who wrote Luke (i.e. neither are by Luke). The authorship date is between 80 – 130 CE, though apparent source usage of Antiquities of Josephus suggests one toward the end of that range.

Letters of Paul – The Real Ones

At the time the decision was made as to which books to include in the current New Testament canon, it was believed that 13 of the 27 were letters written by the apostle Paul. However, modern scholars agree that only 7 out of these 13 can be considered to be written by Paul.

The authorship of these epistles are so dubious that German scholars coined a word, Hauptbriefe, to refer to the mere four that are universally accepted as genuine — Romans, Galatians1 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians (that’s “Second Corinthians”, Mr. Trump). They are estimated to have been written between 50 and 60 CE.

Scholars generally lean toward Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon as likely authentic as well, though not unanimously.

These letters are important in the timeline because they are the first-written of the works in the New Testament… a decade or two before the writing of Mark. If one holds that the earliest writings would be the least likely to be distorted by time, these epistles should hold greater weight in their historical claims. (Spoiler – they don’t have many.)

Letters of Paul – The Fakes

Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus have been labeled pseudepigraphical works by most critical scholars. Put kindly, that means they are falsely attributed… but as they knowingly falsely claim authorship, the better word is forgery.

Because there are seven genuine letters to compare to, these deutero-Pauline texts can be analyzed on the basis of language and style, inter-dependence, external references and theological differences to rule out common authorship.

With all of the non-canonical gospels and letters that littered the landscape in the first three centuries, vying for acceptance and promotion of a particular pet view or another, forgeries like 2 Thessalonians were brazen enough to warn about other forgeries.

Marking these as anonymous texts will likely not bother believers, but the authors deliberately lied and deceived… a step beyond inerrancy, I’d say. Will that bother you the next time Timothy is used as a supporting text for the silencing of women in churches?

Hebrews

While the early church considered the book of Hebrews to be written by Paul, that’s no longer accepted. The author doesn’t identify himself, so it is merely anonymous. External references to this text puts the writing between 50 CE and 95 CE.

James and Jude – Fake Brothers, Where Art Thou?

The book of James, ostensibly by the brother of Jesus, is considered pseudepigraph due to evidence including a contrary-to-Jewish perspective, fluent Greek from a non-native (if ever) Greek speaker, lack of detail about Jesus, and more.

My research into Jude, also allegedly by a brother of Jesus, finds particularly dismissive tone among scholars. I’ll take them at their forgery conclusion, citing one example of Jude quoting an apocryphal book called Enoch. Check further, as interested.

1 and 2 Peter – Nope

The two canonical letters attributed to Peter are so stylistically different from each other that it is near consensus view that the two cannot both be by the same author. As the second letter borrows so liberally from Jude, it is generally the one discarded. However, both books contain references to the condition of Israel after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. As church tradition holds that Peter died during the reign of Nero in 64 CE, he could not be the author.

Beyond tradition, it seems unreasonable to say Peter wrote these letters as Acts 4:13 tells us that Peter was “agrammatoi, a Greek word that literally means ‘unlettered,’ that is, ‘illiterate'”, observed Dr. Bart Ehrman in his book “Forged”. Here he provides great historical detail into the literacy and Greek fluency of first-century Galilee fishermen, for anyone who would like to delve deeper.

John Who?

The books of 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and Revelation were all, at one time or another, attributed to Jesus’s disciple John, the son of Zebedee — along with the fourth gospel. Though similarities exist, the differences in historical context and writing styles (have you read Revelation? trippy) are great enough to have ruled this out as far back as scholar Dionysius’ work in the third-century. The attributions continue only due to tradition.

Mark of the Divine

In summary, of the 27 New Testament books…

  • 7 were written by Paul
  • 10 are pseudepigraphical forgeries
  • 10 are anonymous

If this concerns you as it did me, just recall the verse that says, “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” That is from 2 Timothy 3:16, one of the books that lied about being written by Paul.

Thank you for reading this far. This will serve as some baseline for future discussions. I tried to plow through the details quickly, so please investigate these claims on your own and let me know in the comments if I have made any errors.

Post-Op — Part Two (A One-Armed Man Did It)

Post-Op — Part Two (A One-Armed Man Did It)

Today marks five weeks since the surgery to remove cancer from my body, and about three weeks since I wrote a blog about it foolishly including “part one” in the title. In the eyes of some, this meant that a part two should follow. My capacity to obligate myself is quite impressive, if I do say so myself. We’re way past life-and-death, medical curiosities and gamma rays now, so feel free to skip this one.

Where were we? Leaving the hospital…

As you may recall, my right arm was thickly bandage-wrapped from fingertip to elbow, with a rigid custom forearm splint bound around the entire apparatus. There was a large spongy pad covering my right thigh, air-sealed to protect the site where skin had been taken to cover the hole in my arm which was made by removing flesh to cover my hand. Last, but not least, there was a two-foot-long tube jabbed into my side below my armpit where my cancerous lymph-nodes had been cut out. Connected to this tube, and safety-pinned to my shirt, was a clear plastic bulbous container that vacuum-sucked a viscous pink fluid from my body cavity 24/7.

Oh, and I had no more cancer. Is that important?

Climbing in to the passenger side of my father’s SUV gave me my first realization of what outside life would be like with only one functional arm. I couldn’t quite contort to cross-body reach the open door with my left hand. Similarly, extending and buckling my seat belt took a long succession of small awkward movements. But we were on our way on the freshly snow-covered streets.

Suffering primarily from debilitating pain and fatigue, finding a way to sleep without hospital-grade medication was a priority. With my body positions limited to standing, sitting and slumping, and the requirement to keep my hand elevated above my heart, my penchant for dozing on the couch served me well. The sleeping and semi-conscious states alternated every few hours regardless of the state of the sun… punctuated by anti-inflammatory drugs and emptying of the crazy drain.

Mom and Dad took great care of me during those first days, ever patient with their delirious, limited-mobility son on forced caffeine withdrawal. Many soups were made, easy-to-reheat foods stocked, pots of decaf brewed and a quest for a one-handed method for opening cans was undertaken. Movies were watched, sports were tolerated, wounds were dressed and redressed, fluids were measured and recorded. I couldn’t bath or shower… that part can’t have been fun.

Someone told me that it takes 24 hours of recovery for every hour being under general anesthetic. That seemed true in my case, because it was six days after my six-hour surgery that I could finally feel my brain forming coherent thoughts. (My apologies to anyone who interacted with me in my fog before that point.)

By day seven, I felt like a dog with one of those huge cones around their head. I was beyond ready to tear off all the dressings, restrictions and tubes… and nearly did at night. I was feeling mentally confidently ready to return to life-as-usual by the weekend. This was shattered by my first confrontation with the reality of my wounds.

My reconstruction surgeon sat close beside me with her laptop open showing me images and data while a resident aggressively cut off my inch-deep fluid-encrusted bandages… some literally sewn to my flesh. She admitted it was a distraction tactic as many of her patients react poorly to the sights of staples being pulled with no more delicacy than a reupholstery project.

First to my eye was the missing chunk of flesh near my elbow joint. The thin layer of leg-skin stapled over it was nearly transparent with the muscle, flesh and veins underneath clearly visible creating a gruesome purple oval window into my body. An unexpected slit from there to the base of my thumb gave a visual trail to follow to my hand. They call it a muffin-top as flesh that was once on my arm (with goosebumps to match) bulged enormously, bursting off my hand and held in place by a hundred near-popping stitches to my remaining red irradiated flesh. No depiction of the Frankenstein monster could look less naturally conceived.

As a small parade of doctors who had been in on the surgery took turns nodding at my limb with pride and approval, I realized that my goal of ditching a splint that day was laughably off the mark. I felt like The Princess Bride‘s paralyzed Wesley being praised by Fezzik for the slight wiggle of a finger when a castle is waiting to be stormed… but with startling deformation as an added bonus.

The next day, I met my physiotherapist for the first time. Fortunately, as I’ll be seeing her more than any other human for a while, she turned out to be quite pleasant with a soothing hum. She laughed at my thought that we might be starting with exercise. Wound care and debridement (scab picking at a professional level) would be all I could handle yet. Putting velcro straps on my splint was the only concession to my sanity.

Later that day, I was attempting to return to work email when my shirt became instantly soaked wet. After a second of panic that somehow I’d lost bladder control on top of everything else, I discovered that the fluids from my torso once content to leave via a tube had now found more direct exits… and so Dad and I returned to the hospital we had just left. In a procedure I feel confident I could have performed myself on a deserted island, my tubes were indelicately yanked out by the hospital’s lead oncologist and patched unceremoniously with a gauze and tape craft project.

The next day would mark the last day my father was with me and the first day my kids would be here. I nervously took my first drive using only one hand, just to make sure I could do it. (Really makes it difficult to text and stay on the road… kidding. Just kidding. Sheesh.) The night included pizza and card games, with my youngest figuring out a rig for me to be able to hold and play the cards. They proved to be great help to me as I asserted normal life — opening jars, flipping inside-out socks, draining pasta, carrying laundry baskets, checking motor oil, shredding cheese and many other things you just don’t think about as a matter of course.

Week by week, the pain has subsided gradually, though I am still on Advil multiple times a day. The leg bandage came off, revealing an unnaturally perfect rectangle of red scabs, like a highly specific third-degree sunburn. I’ve returned to regular work duties, though with the immense frustration of half-speed typing. I can drink caffeine and alcohol again. I’m going to physiotherapy twice a week, where I’ve worked my way up to excruciating finger flexing and wrist twisting. My hair is returning, though ridiculously unevenly. I can shower. I’m allowed and encouraged to walk for exercise, though paranoia about the damage I could do in a fall is high. I was the topic of a medical lecture and the research paper about me is on-going.

The team has been mentally preparing me for at least six months of active work before my fingers are functional again, and probably over a year before my wounds have a near-human appearance. The road ahead is long, but painful and boring. I trust the same will not be said about my life.