July 20th, 2001

Polar bears and moral haiku.

The old man with the misshapen skull, noticing my interest, met my gaze. His hoary head was visibly deformed, with an especially large, irregular concavity in the left side above the temple. My guess was that the old man was in his nineties, but there was an ageless gleam in his rheumy eyes I rarely saw in the younger indigenous. If it wasn't already abundantly clear that I was a qallunaaq, that I did not know the story unequivocally established me as a tourist. I began to address him in the most respectful broken Inuktitut I could manage, but he cut me off in the middle of my stammering honorific: "Nanuq."

Polar bear.

He told me that as a young man in the dying days of whaling, he was trapping north of Iqaluit, then called Frobisher Bay, when he was ambushed by a polar bear. He knew that a polar bear killed by beating its prey down to a crouch and then biting off the top of its head, so he backed himself into an ice structure that he could use to support himself. For hours he resisted the bear's crushing blows to his head and shoulders, straining to remain vertical, until finally the bear tired of the exertion and wandered away. He didn't remember traveling the several miles back to the settlement.

wisdom of old sage:
when dancing with polar bears,
do not bow your head.
  • Current Music
    CBC Radio One Iqaluit

Melchizedek and the Perils of LiveJournal.

This week, I just finished reading Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, a fine little feel-good yarn most remarkable for the appearance of a figure called Melchizedek.

In a sense, Melchizedek is the Boba Fett of the Old Testament: although he's mentioned only twice (Genesis xiv:18-20, Psalms cx:4), he has a cult following of incredible size, and his name has been co-opted by myriad New Age orders. What little is known of him is, although fact, almost unbelievable: he is both King of Salem (which apocryphal references identify as Jerusalem) and High Priest of Israel -- not a bad job for a guy who isn't even an Israelite. Even more startling are the claims Paul makes in Hebrews, where Paul proclaims him
... first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. (Hebrews vii:2-3)
You get the picture, then, that Melchizedek ain't no ordinary Joe. But who is he ? I have no idea, and I'd very much like to know, so I figured, "Hey. Let's find a Bible-oriented LJ community and see what they have to say."

Collapse )
  • Current Music
    CBC Radio One Iqaluit - Deutsche Welle

Notes from the Fall, Part I.

Driving between Issaquah and Seattle today, I heard a radio commercial make reference to "your minivan-driving ex". Now, I've been systematically desensitized to mass media like every good little American, but this particular barb got through the armor of my insouciance. Now not only is vengeance a commodity -- it's a target demographic.
  • Current Music
    Rush - Anagram (for Mungo)

Driving in Issaquah.

Before the dawn of the Empire, the Pacific Northwest was dotted with small towns that had small roads to their small destinies. But when code became a commodity, the right side of the bell curve poured in and brought their SUVs with them. The two lane road that wound around the shores of Lake Sammamish, down past the Weyerhaeuser lumberyard, past the Darigold factory and the Masonic Lodge and the barber shop became a parking lot.

Front Street, the aorta of downtown Issaquah, is a two-lane road with few side-streets. Even in the best of times, congestion around the traffic lights ripples back for blocks, but when somebody needs to make a left turn against traffic, a clot the length of the entire town forms almost immediately. The scenario that arises when both lanes are capped by two cars, when neither one can complete their left turns because of each other, is difficult to translate into modern experience. Those of you who remember the autopsy from Crichton's The Andromeda strain share a metaphor with me.

In a way, I'm delighted by this. Washingtonians have an entirely different herd-mentality response to traffic congestion than most cultures. Nevertheless, I will be doing a lot of walking.
  • Current Music
    Rush - Available light