Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Personal Note

I am not sure this will interest anyone.  I have stopped making 'posts' for an audience of people who read blogs over a month ago.  It seems strange to write for 'live people' again.

I am an impulsive person and rarely pay attention to the consequences of my actions.  I am not sure if that is a product of a high or low intelligence quotient.  It is what it is, I guess.

I think I have the bare outlines for a book.  There are about 50,000 words thus far.  As many of you know this book developed over several different 'takes.'  At one time it was a book about the Mar Saba discovery being the 'greatest discovery.'  Then I wanted to reshape the material into the Mar Saba discovery being significant for the 'Jesus Myth' debate which I have since realized is a waste of time because I don't think Bart Ehrman's book generated enough sales numbers to justify a response.

In its current incarnation it is a book arguing on behalf of early Christianity's interest in same-sex unions.  The working title in my head was something like 'When Christianity was Gay' or something like that.  Again, as I already told you, I don't think through what I say or do.

In any event, I am at the point where I am thinking of wrapping up the argument.  For me that means integrating the Samaritan/Alexandrian interest in the brother-making of Moses and Aaron, the survival of adelphopoiia in Orthodox Christianity etc.

I can see I have about ten chapters or another 50,000 words of material until the end.  All of which leads me back to the question - where do I incorporate all the research I did about the person of Morton Smith?  The more the book has progressed the less central the discovery becomes.  To be honest, I never imagined there was enough material to write a whole book on the subject of same-sex union in early Christianity.  That's one of the reasons I don't like to think about what I am doing.  It gets in the way of interacting with the world.

As it stands then I am in a strange place in my development of this book.  For on the one hand, the 'authorities' who develop arguments for the authenticity of the Mar Saba discovery inevitably deny that Secret Mark has anything to do with homosexuality.  Yes the Carpocratians (or Theodore) made reference to 'naked with naked.'  But according to these experts that's all there is to the story about the Alexandrian Church appearing 'queer' to outsiders.

I think by now I have demonstrated that this view is silly.  Both sides in the debate are ill informed.  There was something gay about the Alexandrian tradition and Clement denies that there was something gay about Secret Mark and the Alexandrian liturgy which developed from it.

To this end, I am strongly inclined to rewrite the beginning of the book to add the material about Morton Smith's discovery there.  I know this was my original model.  Nevertheless, I think popular works of non-fiction generally begin with some contemporary reference.  Of course the last popular work of non-fiction I read was Sarah Blakewell's 2011 book How to Live, a re-examination of the life of one of my favorite authors, Michel de Montaigne.

In that very well written book, Blakewell began with a story about a guy who developed a website which assembled the living philosophy of all sorts of random strangers.  I think this was a deliberate attempt to make the book less about a sixteenth century French writer and something that spoke to a wider audience.

In my case, making the book about Morton Smith and his discovery has problems as well as benefits.  The obvious benefit is that happens to be a modern scholarly controversy which most most people have heard of.  There is the question of forgery, homosexuality and discovery.  My resistance to the idea is quite frankly that no one before me managed to write a winning narrative.  It also poisons the well before you begin on the rest of the adventure.  Anyone who has ever been a part of the Mar Saba debate will hate the book.  But then again I am used to being hated, which I attribute to my consistent failure to think before I act which I have already referenced several times in this short piece.

The bottom line is that I think I will add the question of Morton Smith and the discovery to the front of the book and use these questions to frame the rest of the narrative.   As noted, there are problems with this approach.  But then again, it would be out of character for me to care much about the consequences.

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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