Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 31 & 32: Biblical table manners

Chapter 31

Trying to get rich will wear you out and staying rich will keep you awake at night, mostly because you're full of rich food. Poors, on the other hand, go to bed hungry. Nonetheless, loving gold is unjustifiable and will ruin your life. Rich people who don't chase gold are blessed. Oh, I see. They're talking metaphorical riches. The kind that doesn't pay its rent.

If you happen to be rich, don't forget to host dinner parties, but also don't brag about how you can afford fancy meat. People will love you if you have them over for dinner, but resent you if you don't invite them. Also, eyes are the most wicked body part and you shouldn't reach for everything you can see.

Eat what is put in front of you, but don't be greedy about it. Be the first to finish, it's just good manners. If there are lots of people at the table, don't reach for the food first. You only actually need a little bit of food if you're well-fed. Furthermore, you'll sleep better and wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed if you eat in moderation, but gluttons will have all kinds of health problems.

If you've somehow been forced to eat, go out and vomit before you sleep and you'll rest better. Wine makes people stupid brave, though it is fine in moderation. Still, don't criticise your neighbour if he indulges a little too much.

Chapter 32

When you host, be a good host: don't sit at a head table and make sure your guests are having fun. Speeches have their place, but so does music. Always include music at your dinner parties. Don't try to be the equal of great men. Never be the last to go home from a party.

Always seek advice, and never repent your mistakes. Don't take risks. Be confident. Be wary of your own kids.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 28 - 30 : No dinner parties!

Chapter 28

Don't seek vengeance. Rather, forgive and let god take care of it. Also, being angry leads to a lot of fights, so learn to count to ten. Rich and strong people tend to be the angriest, so avoid investment bankers and muscle gyms. Fighting in haste leads to hasty killing. Rumours spark wars and get women kicked out of their houses. In fact, they're more harmful than swords.

Chapter 29

The bible recommends lending money to your neighbours. That's how you know it's a very stupid book you should not pay attention to unless you're like me, a literary nerd. It is aware that there are people out there who are your best friend until you lend them money, but then suddenly have appointments any time you try to collect. It also acknowledges that the most you'll see is half of your money and often all you'll get is ill-will. It even admits that a lot of people refuse to give out loans because of these exact problems. Nonetheless, it advises you to loan the money and be patient and let it not rust under a stone to be lost (v. 10).

It also thinks you should act as a guarantor for other people's loans, even though people have ended up homeless as a result. All you really need is water, bread, clothing and a house, and it's better to be a pauper in a cottage than to eat nice food at someone else's house. So, no accepting invitations to supper, then? Anyway, try to be happy with what you have

Chapter 30

Loving your child means beating him occasionally. Also, when you die he'll kill your enemies, because living in  Papua New Guinea sounds so awesome. Spoiling your son means his bowels will be troubled at every cry (v. 7) and your kid will be wilful. It also means you'll eventually fear him. If you play with your kids, you'll regret it. In fact, don't even laugh with your kids or you'll end up in tears. Give him no liberty and don't give him breaks when he screws up. Keep him busy in the fields so he doesn't have time for fornication.

Health: better to be healthy and poor than rich and sick. Even though chances are, if you're poor, you're also sick. Better dead than bitter or chronically ill. Giving good food to ingrates is the same as putting meat on a grave, because it doesn't do any good to anyone. Keep sweet.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapter 26 & 27: How to put a wicked wife to good use

Chapter 26

After 26 verses about all the harm a wicked wife will unleash on the world, we get three on how awesome a virtuous wife is. Apparently, you'll double your life span if you get one. How do you know if you have a good wife? A silent and loving woman is a gift of the lord (v. 14). Also she'll keep the house clean and stay hot even when she's old. Only godly men will get godly wives.

More lists: first, three things Solomon is afraid of: slandering of cities, mobs and false accusations. All these things are worse than death. Even worse than those things is a woman who is jealous of another woman.

Now we're back on the evils of wicked women because the bible is nothing if not consistent in its misogyny. Bad wives are like scorpions. Drunk women, those who insist on going out on their own, and those who refuse to cover her own shame (v. 8) all piss people off. You can tell if a woman is a whore or not by the way she looks at you and her eyelids. If your daughter is a teenager, keep her inside. Don't be surprised if she resents this. Especially don't let her near fountains, where travelers often stop, because she'll open her quiver against every arrow (v. 11). Also, an harlot shall be accounted as spittle (v. 22) and a shameless woman shall be counted as a dog (v. 25). There is one good use for loud women who scold their husbands: they drive enemies away.

Once you do finally find a good wife, have lots of children so you can outbreed the heathens. 

Two things that upset Solomon: poor veterans and smart people who get ignored. One thing that pisses him off: apostates. He wants to kill them all with a sword. It is nearly impossible for a merchant to avoid sin, and completely impossible for a huckster.

Chapter 27

Solomon elaborates on his disdain for commerce: there is a lot of sin in buying and selling, mostly because of all the bullshitting that goes on during haggling.

Anyone can be holy if they believe, just not the long list of people outlined in this book. And of course as long as you don't succumb to temptation.

Spend all the time you like with wise men, but leave early when in the company of fools. People who swear a lot make Solomon's hair stand on end. The ensuing fighting makes him cover his ears.

Be good to your friends and don't tell their secrets. Should you spill one by accident, just end the friendship. Winking is evil, because it's a sign of smarminess, and if there's anything Solomon hates, it's smarm. Of course those who cast stones hit themselves and malice and wrath are sins.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 23- 25: Sex Crimes and Misdemeanours

Chapter 23

Solomon turns away from extolling the virtues of wisdom for a bit to pray to god to keep him holy. Holiness includes not eating and refraining from sex. Remember this guy has 1000 wives. And not gossiping or swearing. Or dishonouring your parents. Or fornicating or whoremongering. Cheating on your wife is bad, but  thinking god will forget about your sins is worse. The very worst, of course, is a woman who leaves her husband and has a child with another man, because she has betrayed both god and her family. The punishment for her is public humiliation and infertility for herself and her children. Even after she dies, we should curse her name.

Chapter 24

Wisdom is now bragging about how awesome she is and how favoured by god. She's worshiped everywhere. She smells like cinnamon, rooibos, myrrh, galbanum, onyx, balsa wood and frankincense. I'm surprised no vintners market their wines this way. She makes a bunch of promises to those who seek her, but also warns us that complete understanding isn't possible.

Chapter 25

Now we're back to relationships. And lists. But at least the lists aren't genealogy. The three most beautiful things are: family unity, loving your neighbours, and a couple that gets along. Likewise, there are three things Solomon hates: people who are proud but poor, rich liars and old adulterers who doateth (v. 2). 

The next thing he wants to talk about is old age. To prepare for old age, you need to learn stuff in your youth, so you'll be a good judge later on. You know, the Morgan Freeman old people, not the Grandpa Simpson types.

Now, completely on-topic: the nine things that make Solomon happy: children, living to see your enemy die (fuck yeah!) smart wives, not gossiping, being a slave to someone who's better than you , prudence, talking to people that listen, wisdom, fearing god. The worst thing you could do to Sol is be a wicked woman. He'd rather live with a lion AND a dragon. Also it makes you ugly. Other people will lose their courage, frown a lot and have wounded hearts. So if you have a wicked wife, for god's sake lock her in the house. If she won't stay inside, divorce her. He also can't stand affliction if his enemies do the afflicting or revenge if his enemies are getting it. He pities quiet men who live with chatty women. He warns us against pretty women, which his thousand wives must LOVE him for. He also says that women who outearn their husbands are full of anger, imputdence and much reproach (v. 22). Women who won't coddle their husbands' man colds cause weak knees and hands.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 21-22: How to challenge a friend to a swordfight

Chapter 21

If you've sinned, ask forgiveness. Stay away from sin as it's like a snake with lion's teeth. Rich people's prayers don't reach god's ears. Eloquent men become famous, but smart men know when the eloquent ones are bullshitting. Buying a house with borrowed money is like gathering the stones for your tomb. Congregations of evil people will be set on fire. You will understand the law if you keep it. Stupid people cannot learn and wisdom can make you bitter, but always listen to wise men. There are a lot of  'stupid is as stupid does' versus. Methinks Solly isn't very self-reflective. Skilled men can learn from the wisdom they hear. Fools laugh but wise men only smile. Fools look in your windows but wise men don't. Neither of those things would make you look smarter in my books.

Chapter 22

Finally! We move from stupid people to lazy ones. Lazy people are also dirty. And their sons bring them shame and their daughters are unprofitable. Smart daughters will have dowries.Bold women are a source of shame for their fathers and their husbands and will end up despised and alone.

Pick your moment to tell stories, but know that wisdom is always appreciated. Then we go back to fools. Apparently there is some hope: virtuous children can make up for their shitty parents. In this verse, at least. See, oh, the entire Old Testament for the contradictory claim that sinning great-great-great grandparents can fuck up your life a hundred years later.

You get one week to mourn people, but fools and atheists will always be in mourning. Solomon, the smartest man on the planet, mind, asks what is heavier than lead. Now, just one chapter after we were told that it's better to let your anger out, we're told that telling a friend off will ruin the friendship. As will drawing a sword if you intend to fight him. You may make up with your friend in future, unless you've upbraided him, acted pridefully, told his secrets, or injured him physically. Then the friendship is gone.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 18-20: Hookers make you impudent

Chapter 18

God created everything and rules over it and everything obeys him. At the same time, he needs to separate the holy and profane things. All his works are perfect.

Next, Solomon ruminates on the subject of humans. What is a man? Who does he serve? What are his good and bad qualities? Well, men live to be 100 at most, which is nothing compared to eternity. As a result, god is patient and merciful. He knows we're inherently evil and so he's extra-compassionate with us. Men are nice to their neighbours, but god is nice to everyone that believes in him.

So what is the takeaway from this? Well, be nice when you give stuff to people, but remember that words are as good as gifts, especially if the giver is churlish or jealous. Only speak on subjects you're knowledgeable about and take medicine if you're sick. Before passing judgement, examine yourself first. Repent. Keep your promises. Prepare before you pray. Always keep hell in mind. When times are good for you, remember the bad and give back. Don't indulge your appetites or people will laugh at you. Don't spent all your money on pleasure. Don't invite yourself to dinner parties.

Chapter 19

Drunkards are seldom rich and people who scorn small things will fall bit by bit. Wine and women are your enemies and people who visit prostitutes will become impudent. Yes, I wrote that correctly. Don't extend credit freely. Abstemiousness is a virtue. Don't gossip. Tell your friends when they fuck up. Warn your neighbour about things he does that piss you off, then threaten him. Fear god. The commandments are the doctrine of life (v. 19) and will get you into heaven. Slaves shouldn't lie to their masters. Knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom. It's better to be a stupid believer than a smart sinner. People are devious bastards, but show their true colours through their clothing, laughter and gait.

Chapter 20

It's better to express your anger than to hold it inside, and confession will stop you getting hurt. Repentance feels good. I rarely find any of these things to be true. As it is the lust of an eunuch to deflower a virgin; so is he that executeth judgement with violence (v. 4). Stoics are wise, gossips are hateful, as are dictators.

Gifts given by fools do not benefit you, nor do those of envious people, because they expect a lot in return. People who don't give but rebuke a lot are annoying. Falling on pavement is better than accidentally gossiping. Even when fools say smart things, it's at the wrong time and so people don't respect it.

Some people can't sin because they're too poor, and so they sleep easy. Other people destroy their souls through shyness because they can't say no. Lies are the worst thing you can do, but are often in the mouths of ignorant people. It's better to be a thief than a liar. Remember to till your fields. Don't hide your wisdom or your treasure, because they're no good that way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 16 & 17: How profitable are your children?

Chapter 16

Don't hope for a bunch of unprofitable children, and if your sons turn out to be non-believers, don't take any delight in them or your grandchildren. In fact, if you're worried your kids might turn out to be atheists, just don't have them. Solomon has seen all these things and heard worse, like a time when god set fire to a country that didn't believe in him, or another time when he killed 600 000 soldiers. Nonbelievers might sometimes escape unharmed, but it's a miracle if it happens. God rewards as well as punishes, though.

At some point, god is going to visit, and when he does, there will be earthquakes, because we can't understand how god thinks, because most of his works are hidden.

Chapter 17

God made man out of clay and gave him power over the earth, but also made all the animals afraid of us. God also divided something into seven operations (v. 5). He gave five to all animals, then gave men the sixth and seventh, which would be understanding and speech. I'm so glad I don't have to use this book to understand science, because it is literally that specific about what god gave to living creatures.

In a nice bit of revisionism, now god always intended us to understand good and evil and he showed it to us on purpose. He opened our hearts so we might see his works and praise him for it, because god is nothing if not a gloryhound. Then he told us all to spy on our neighbours, because we're all evil inside.

God also appointed all the rulers of nations, but Israel is his special baby, which means they get watched closer than anyone.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 14 & 15: Stalking is wise

Chapter 14

Solomon starts off with a list of people who are blessed in his eyes. It's two verses long, because talking about people with clear consciences is boring. Then he starts in on thieves and psychopaths and jealous lovers and people who only pretend to do good and how they secretly hate people and don't sacrifice properly. Lesson: remember to make your sacrifices, because death will come faster than you think.

Always seek out wisdom, even if you have to pry open her windows or tack things to her walls or camp out in her garden with your kids like some terrifying stalker, because she'll eventually open the door.

Chapter 15

This chapter starts with a tortured metaphor about how the law is like a woman who greets you at the door like a mother but is a virgin in the bedroom. That does not sound like a fun marriage. Even more fun: her cooking consists of bread and water, which supposedly represent understanding and wisdom. Further wifely duties involve exalting the husband to everyone she meets so he gets famous. The husband, for his part, will rely on the wife to not confuse him.

The foolish and the sinful will not understand the law which goes against every law movie or TV show ever. Also, liars can't remember the law, which seems counter intuitive.

Sinners should not utter praise, because it comes from god. I'm going to take it the book is using the definition of praise that means 'expressing thanks or love for god,' in which case it sounds like god is using us to masturbate. Despite this, you shouldn't blame god if you leave the church because you no longer feel like getting god off, because that decision was yours alone.

The last part of the chapter invites us to keep the commandments and explore the fire and water we received from god, but not too far, because the lord is watching lest you sin.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 12 & 13: Avoid pine trees

Chapter 12

Only do good for people you know, so you can get the credit afterwards. Even better is if you can help the godly, because they'll either pay you or god will reward you in heaven. No good can come to evil people if they're evil all the time. No word on what happens if they're only evil on a part-time basis. Don't even give bread to non-believers because they'll then seek to conquer you.

If you're rich, know that you can't make real friends but you can screw your enemies over. On the other hand, if you're poor, you won't have friends, but neither will you have enemies. Don't trust enemies. That's deep, Sol. Also, don't sit next to them, because they want your seat.

Don't pity charming people that get bitten by snakes or attacked by wild beasts.

Chapter 13

Don't touch pitch or you'll be dirty. As in the sticky stuff you sometimes find on pine trees. Actually, that's good advice for life, because that stuff is a motherfucker to get off your clothes, but I don't see the connection with getting into heaven. Other life advice: don't try to be more powerful than you are, or make friends with rich people because you'll break each other. You can totally tell this was commissioned by a king who was trying to hold onto absolute power can't you?

Rich people are inherently evil and use people if they can or ignore them if they can't. Other accusations against rich people: they're thieves, liars and give false hope. They cook you excellent dinners and so you're forced to compete with equally nice food until you're broke. Then they'll laugh at you for spending all your money on dinner parties.

If a rich person invites you to dinner and don't go, he'll just keep inviting you. Don't get too close, but also don't get so far away that you're forgotten. Don't try to hold a conversation with a rich person, because he's only out to manipulate your secrets out of you so he can put you in prison.

In other words, only mix with your own social class. As it is today, when you're rich, it's because of your own talents, and if you're poor, it's your own fault. Finally, be cheerful and don't think too hard about the meaning of parables.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 10 & 11: Keep hold of your bowels

Chapter 10

Should you become a judge against Solomon's advice, that's cool, but not as cool as being a believer. Still, if you must, make sure your government is well-ordered. Even if your king isn't great, though, just be patient because god will eventually give you good rulers. God's favourite people are scribes.

Now some general life advice: don't be jealous or prideful or another people will steal your kingdom. Also, there is not a more wicked thing than a covetous man: for such a one setteth his own soul to sale; because while he liveth he casteth away his bowels (v. 9) The beginning of pride, and thus auto-disembowelment, is turning away from god. Then you'll immediately start sinning, which will cause god to make your life calamitous. He's been known to do this to arrogant kings and princes and put meek commoners on the throne. Just, you know, no one you've ever heard of, because he erased their names from the history books.  Further life advice includes an admonition to no be angry and to obey the laws.

Don't hate people who are smart but poor or elevate sinners. If the smart person is a slave, treat him like he's free, because then when he's actually free, he won't resent you. Don't brag, especially if you're actually broke. It's much better to be poor, because then people will honour you for your skills, whereas rich people are honoured for their wealth. But only by other people. God will reverse the situation.

Everyone dies, even kings, and when they die, they inherit creepy things like beasts and worms.

Chapter 11

Wisdom will elevate you. So will social connections and family money. Don't compliment handsome men or shun ugly ones, because... bees are cute and flies are ugly? There is a comparison there, but it's weird. Don't tell people who made your clothes because god hides his works rather than putting it on his head like a damned shoe hat. Also, many kings have been deposed and honourable men enslaved. Especially on Game of Thrones.

Don't blame people until you know the whole truth. Don't interrupt. Don't get involved in other people's disputes. Haste makes waste. All discrepancies in income or success are because of god. Believing in him will make you rich. Don't bitch about your situation. Remember that one unpleasant hour can make you forget what pleasure is, but god is ever-vigilant.

Don't invite everyone you meet into your house, because soon it won't be your house anymore. Children are the future.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 7-9: Avoid the psychopaths and hot chicks

Chapter 7

This chapter starts Do no evil, so shall no harm come unto thee (v. 1) which is great if it's life advice, but victim-blaming if it's a promise from god, who has done or allowed plenty of terrible things to happen to good people. Then it tells us to stay away from unjust people or to seek glory from god or the king, and not to boast or offer sacrifices that are clearly better than others'. Furthermore, don't offend all the people in a city, lest you end up like poor Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath. Don't offer to be a judge, be brave when you pray, and remember to donate to charity. Don't be bitter or tell lies about your brother or friend. In fact, not lying is the best practice. Listen to your elders and don't babble when you pray. Enjoy manual labour and don't betray your friends for gold. If you find a wise and good woman, keep her. The definition of wise and good apparently doesn't encompass witty. Also tell your slaves and tradesmen about how awesome good is. If your slave is a good one, feel free to let him go. The criteria for what makes a slave worth of liberation are not enumerated. If you have cows, don't sell them unless it's for a profit. If you have kids, bow donw their neck from their youth (v. 23), not sure if that means you should beat them or encourage them to study. Marrying your daughter off is one of your most important tasks, but try to make a good match. Be nice to your parents, since they brought you into this world. Also be nice to priests, namely by giving them meat that you've barbecued. Poor people, too, and people who are sad or mourning or sick. Finish what you start.

Chapter 8

 Only pick fights with weaker men, whether that's in brute strength, wealth, temper, rudeness, or willingness to commit sins. Also, don't lend those people money, because you'll never see it again, or act as their guarantor, because you'll end up paying. Be nice to old people. Don't enjoy schadenfreude. Don't yawn with smart people are talking, rather, try to learn from them. Don't encourage sin. Don't argue the law with judges. Don't travel with brave people, that's a good way to get killed. Also, don't fight with angry people or go into solitary places with them as that's a good way to make sure you never come back. Don't take advice from fools. Don't tell your secrets to strangers.

Chapter 9

Advice about women: don't be jealous of your wife, don't visit prostitutes as they'll take all your money and don't spend much time in the company of singers. Avoid virgins. When in the city, don't make eye contact and don't go into solitary places. I was seriously sitting on a train going to Toronto, one of the safest places in North America, and a woman was talking about how she was taking these exact precautions on her shopping trip that day. Anyway, don't stare at beautiful women, not because it's rude, but because hot chicks are devious. Never ever sit with another man's wife, especially not with her in your lap or in a bar. Old friends are better than new ones. Don't be envious of others' ill-gotten gains. Keep away from men who have killed before, and if you do have to interact with them, be on your best behaviour. Only talk fancy, but socialise.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 4-6 : How to act on Facebook

Chapter 4

Be nice to people in direr straits than you, because if they curse you, god will punish you. Why god can't see your shitty behaviour for himself is not explained. When you get to judge other people, don't be afraid to bang the gavel hard. Do not, however, bang single mothers. Rather, be a father to their kids without benefits. The reward will be wisdom, but not orgasms. Don't worship false gods, even human ones. Admit your sins. Don't enslave yourself to fools. Repay your debts.

Chapter 5

Don't fall in love with materials goods, especially if they're fenced. Just because you got away with sinning once, it's now okay to sin, because god will catch you every time. Make sure you tell god you love him every day, or he wont' let you into heaven. Keep your promises. Listen, and only speak if you really know the answer. Don't spread gossip. Don't be ignorant of anything. Good luck with that.

Chapter 6

Don't be anyone's enemy. Don't brag about yourself or your soul will get torn to pieces. Only take advice from one friend in a thousand. Test your friends first and don't be afraid to unfriend them, which will make it much harder to get to that 1000, but never mind. Be wary of people who only like you in good times. Faithful friends are the best. Only people who believe in god make faithful friends. Always be learning. Wisdom is unkind to people who haven't studied. If you meet a wise man, stalk him until he agrees to teach you.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 2 & 3: The kids aren't all right

Chapter 2

First there are a bunch of verses for would-be priests: you'll lose all your material wealth, but be cheerful because it's coming back to you in the afterlife. Then there is some advice for believers, namely be patient because all that stuff that sucks in the now will go away after you die. Then it instructs us to look back through the bible and find someone who trusted in god and were fooled by him. Um, Job? Also, Moses isn't allowed into the holy land for hitting a rock wrong. God's definition of 'trust me' is pretty strict.

Chapter 3

Solomon has some advice for us on how to run our families, and he should know, since he has a thousand wives. Dads are in charge of the kids' 'honour,' i.e. making sure the daughters stay virgins. Mothers have authority over their sons. Kids who honour their father by staying virgins until marriage absolve their dads of sin, like the time he slept with their mother while they were just engaged. Sons who honour their mothers are good at saving money. Good kids will have good kids and live long lives. Faith will make your parents and owners happy, if you're a slave.

Never talk shit about your parents and you'll have a happy life. Fail to follow this precept and your dad won't give you  a house and your mother will make your marriage hell. Your own glory depends on your parents', which makes me so happy I live in a time of state-provided services like education and housing. Be nice to your parents when they get old, especially if they get dementia. God will remember that.

What happens to people who aren't good children? Glad you asked! Solomon has a lot to say about them: they're blasphemers, and cursed. They do evil and take unnecessary risks, and they lie. Of course all this makes them sad.

Further advice: be meek and humble and you'll find out the answers to the mysteries of life, supposedly including parables. Don't do things that are too hard or that you aren't strong enough to do. Don't try to figure stuff out if someone tells you they're secret. Remember that curiosity killed the cat.