Dr. Platypus

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Monthly Archives: January 2011


The Cairo Museum: What Has Been Destroyed?

I have not written anything about the uprising in Egypt mainly because I’m still mostly dumbstruck. Egypt seems to be caught in a three-way vise between Mubarak and his supporters, the pro-democracy demonstrators, and Muslim extremists, who hope to leverage the pro-democratic uprising because they believe the majority of Egyptians would favor a Sharia state. (According to Pew Global data , 85% of Egyptians believe it’s a good thing for Islam to play a role in government; only 2% say this is a bad thing.) I don’t envy the US State Department or other world governments attempting to respond appropriately to the tangle of thorny issues involved.

In the midst of all the human tragedy and uncertainty, there is also a threat to Egypt’s cultural heritage. The following map from Ancient Egypt Online shows the areas of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum:

Cairo Museum DamageAEO explains,

This map is based off of Al Jazeera footage. Please note that it is currently unknown which mummies have been damaged – but based off the footage, it appears that it could be the mummies of Yuya & Thuya [King Tutankhamun’s grandparents—DJP]. We will keep you updated as we learn more.

The good news is that most of the protesters had enough respect for their heritage to form a human chain around the museum. This kept many of the looters out. Unfortunately, Muslim extremists take a very dim view of their countries’ cultures before the coming of Islam. This era is considered the time of jahiliya or “darkness,” and it is generally disparaged if not erased. One can only hope, therefore, that the treasures of ancient Egypt do not suffer the same fate as the Bamiyan Buddhas.


I Read Dead People, Too

Just not as often as I would like.

If someone has been dead for a while and his book is still in print and widely read, then it’s probably worth reading. And, if we’re honest, there are precious few books written by Christian authors today that will still be read in 24 months, let alone 24 years. I want to use my reading time to immerse myself in powerfully formative material, and not just flash-in-the-pan trends. Does this mean I never read living authors? No, of course not. But if they’re not dead, I like them to be pretty close. I can usually trust that they’re not going to waste what time they have left on this earth writing sappy Hallmark card sentimental Evangelical fluff.

Leaving Fundamentalism

Scot McKnight relates a compelling story:

I’ll never forget when my Mom’s husband sat me down with Proverbs 1:7 and the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. “Don’t ever forget that boy,” he said in his southern accent. I love that man for sharing his faith. That verse shaped my reverence for God and my approach with my own children. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that fear, a driving force behind Christian fundamentalism, can carry me only to a point. Fear can inform wisdom, but it can also incapacitate, render one couch-bound, cross-legged, moaning, head-bobbing, wallowing in depression. Fear can wake you in the night, fraught, sweaty, vividly imagining burning lakes. That of course, is not God’s endgame, not the response God desires. He desires our love, and if the fear is too heavy, it can crush love.

It’s All About the O-Word

Unfortunately, that word isn’t always welcome. And some of us Christians have become very good at making other people completely despise it.

More Ancient Names from Western Europe

I’ve added the following links to my Online Resources for Ancient Names. These names from the Iberian peninsula belong to the Vasconic language family: Aquitanian, an early form of Euskara (Basque), and the closely related Iberian.

The Granny Woman

The Granny Woman trudges up the muddy road
that leads to the head of the holler
where her patient, impatient, awaits her ministration.

An anxious father greets her at the door.
She makes her way to the back room
where sisters and female cousins
are whispering courage to the woman
doubled over on the lumpy, white-metal bed.

She washes her hands in a basin
and opens up her bag,
rummaging for just the right instrument.
A knife slipped under the mattress
will draw away the pain,
the stabbing fiery declamation
that new life is on its way.
The sharpness of the blade
matches the sharpness of the labor—
and, God willing, intimidates it into silence.

Now the Granny Woman begins quietly
to sing,
to chant,
to cast her spell.

Who knows how long it will take?
It doesn’t matter:
Granny is here.
Granny is here.

She and everyone have entered the sacred moment.
They will stay there as long as it takes.

Red Riding Hood Is Over 2,600 Years Old

I missed this when it first came out in 2009. Anthropologists have constructed a “genetic” tree noting the developments and variations in the story of “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Contrary to the view that the tale originated in France shortly before Charles Perrault produced the first written version in the 17th century, Dr Tehrani found that the varients shared a common ancestor dating back more than 2,600 years.

He said: “Over time these folk tales have been subtly changed and have evolved just like an biological organism. Because many of them were not written down until much later, they have been misremembered or reinvented through hundreds of generations.

“By looking at how these folk tales have spread and changed it tells us something about human psychology and what sort of things we find memorable.

“The oldest tale we found was an Aesopic fable that dated from about the sixth century BC, so the last common ancestor of all these tales certainly predated this. We are looking at a very ancient tale that evolved over time.”