We should expect nothing less from the language that was originally given by God, to His human family. Hebrew was the method that God chose for mankind to speak to Him, and Him to them. Adam spoke Hebrew-and your Bible confirms this. Everyone who got off the ark spoke one language-Hebrew. Even Abraham spoke Hebrew. Where did Abraham learn to speak Hebrew? Abraham was descended from Noah's son, Shem. (Ge 11:10-26) Shem's household was not affected by the later confusion of languages, at Babel. (Ge 11:5-9) To the contrary, Shem was blessed while the rest of Babel was cursed. (Ge 9:26) That is how Abraham retained Hebrew, despite residing in Babylon. So, Shem's language can be traced back to Adam. (Ge 11:1) And, Shem (Noah's son) was still alive when Jacob and Esau was 30 years of age. Obviously, Hebrew (the original language) was clearly spoken by Jacob's sons. (Ge 14:13)
Michael Ben Zehabe
The particular myth that's been organizing this talk, and in a way the whole series, is the story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible. The civilization we live in at present is a gigantic technological structure, a skyscraper almost high enough to reach the moon. It looks like a single world-wide effort, but it's really a deadlock of rivalries; it looks very impressive, except that it has no genuine human dignity. For all its wonderful machinery, we know it's really a crazy ramshackle building, and at any time may crash around our ears. What the myth tells us is that the Tower of Babel is a work of human imagination, that its main elements are words, and that what will make it collapse is a confusion of tongues. All had originally one language, the myth says. The language is not English or Russian or Chinese or any common ancestor, if there was one. It is the language that makes Shakespeare and Pushkin authentic poets, that gives a social vision to both Lincoln and Gandhi. It never speaks unless we take the time to listen in leisure, and it speaks only in a voice too quiet for panic to hear. And then all it has to tell us, when we look over the edge of our leaning tower, is that we are not getting any nearer heaven, and that it is time to return to earth. [p.98]
Everything wrong with America led to the point where the country built that tower of Babel, which consequently had to be destroyed. And then came the next shock. We had to realize that the people that did this were brilliant. It showed that the ego we could hold up until September 10 was inadequate.
It were as wise to cast a violet into a crucible that you might discover the formal principle of its color and odor, as seek to transfuse from one language into another the creations of a poet. The plant must spring again from its seed, or it will bear no flower -- and this is the burthen of the curse of Babel.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
I had gradually come, by this time [1839-01], to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc. and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.
The collapse of the Tower of Babel is perhaps the central urban myth. It is certainly the most disquieting. In Babylon, the great city that fascinated and horrified the Biblical writers, people of different races and languages, drawn together in pursuit of wealth, tried for the first time to live together - and failed.
I firmly believe this ... that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
A jargon form'd from the lost language, wit, Confounded in that Babel of the pit; Form'd by diseased conceptions, weak and wild, Sick lust of souls, and an abortive child; Born between whores and fops, by lewd compacts, Before the play, or else between the acts; Nor wonder, if from such polluted minds Should spring such short and transitory kinds.
ADAM, EVE, CAIN AND ABEL TROUBLE AT THE TOWER OF BABEL NOAH BUILT HIS ARK AND SAILED AWAY DINOSAURS WALKED THE EARTH LONG BEFORE THE WRITTEN WORD BUT TELL ME WHO WAS MARY MAGDALENE DARWIN AND THE MISSING LINK THOSE WHO DARE ARE FREE TO THINK EARTH IS TURNING LIKE A BIG BALLOON SOMEWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE FAR AWAY FROM OUR STORY MAYBE THERE'S ANOTHER WORLD WHERE EVERYTHING IS RIGHT
If Aliosha had come to the conclusion that neither God nor immortality existed, he would immediately have become an atheist and a socialist. For socialism is not only a question of the working classes; it is above all, in its contemporary incarnation, a question of atheism, a question of the tower of Babel, which is constructed without God's help, not to reach to the heavens, but to bring the heavens down to earth.
There are some films that arrive here from the international festival circuit almost incandescent with self-importance. They hover into the cinema in a kind of floating trance at how challenging and moving they are. They are films with a profound reluctance to get over themselves. They look up at the sceptical observer with the saucer-eyed saintliness of a baby seal in culling season, or a charity mugger smilingly wishing a nice day on the retreating back of a passer-by. One such is Babel.
RAPPER: YEAH, LET A THOUSAND THOUGHTS CONTEND I CAN HEAR MYSELF THINKING BUT IT ALL DEPENDS GREEN: IT'S LIKE A TOWER OF BABEL RAPPER: UNABLE TO GET YOUR FIX ON IT GREEN: GET YOUR KICKS ON IT RAPPER: I BET YOU'RE SICK WITH IT, TELL YOU HOW IT IS WHITE GREY FOR YOUR LIVELONG DAY GREEN: REFRIGERATOR HUMMING RAPPER: YOU'RE GOING OR BOTH: YOU'RE COMING RAPPER: YOU'RE NUMB ENOUGH TO TOLERATE THE PAIN THE PENALTY FOR GAINING AN INSIGHT, DAMN RIGHT
I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that "except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel
From The Ghost Wars- on the concept of the Torah as ancient science fiction. 'Take the story of the fall of the tower of Babel. Let's say this represents not an act of God, nor a metaphor for this planet's diverse linguistic heritage; but a catastrophic act of terrorism by the Divisionists to sever mankind from the neural net. The internet in this situation becomes mankind's attempt to build a physical replacement for a natural ability long lost. Think of it as a wooden leg or a pacemaker.
Cole J. Davis
The news today about 'Atomic bombs' is so horrifying one is stunned. The utter folly of these lunatic physicists to consent to do such work for war-purposes: calmly plotting the destruction of the world! Such explosives in men's hands, while their moral and intellectual status is declining, is about as useful as giving out firearms to all inmates of a gaol and then saying that you hope 'this will ensure peace'. But one good thing may arise out of it, I suppose, if the write-ups are not overheated: Japan ought to cave in. Well we're in God's hands. But He does not look kindly on Babel-builders.
J. R. R. Tolkien
As soon as he reflected seriously he was convinced of the existence of God and immortality, and at once he instinctively said to himself: "I want to live for immortality, and I will accept no compromise." In the same way, if he had decided that God and immortality did not exist, he would have at once become an atheist and a socialist. For socialism is not merely the labor question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism to-day, the question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to heaven from earth but to set up heaven on earth.
Ik lees een net ontvangen sms: Ik heb over je nagedacht, jij bent zo postmodern als de pest. Daarom kan je Dostojevski niet lezen en van een vrouw houden. Alles uitsluitend door een filter. Via via. Dingen mogen je alleen via reflexieve curves aanspreken. Babel, Celine. Vooral niets rechtstreeks ervaren. Niettemin zou ik vannacht wel bij je willen blijven slapen, kan dat?
Borges's extreme architecture attempts to visualize the universe by assigning to every object real and unreal, now and yet to come, a code or sign, a corresponding figure within the Library. It seeks to render totality visible, to effect a total visibility and visuality. The Library of Babel is a view of the universe inside and out, an X-ray of the universe and universal X-ray, seen from within and without. It is a representation of everywhere: a perfect duplication of the universe. And of you: universal. An endless and eternal cinema, an imaginary archive that extends into the universe until it is indistinguishable from it, until you are indistinguishable from the universe.
Akira Mizuta Lippit
Wide open and unguarded stand our gates And through them presses a wild motley throng Men from the Volga and the Tartar steppes Featureless figures of the Hoang-Ho Malayan, Scythian, Teuton, Kelt, and Slav Flying the Old World's poverty and scorn These bringing with them unknown gods and rites Those, tiger passions, here to stretch their claws In street and alley what strange tongues are loud Accents of menace alien to our air Voices that once the Tower of Babel knew! O Liberty, white Goddess! Is it well To leave the gates unguarded?
Thomas Bailey Aldrich
One of the most brilliant Russian writers of the twentieth century, Yevgeny Zamyatin belongs to the tradition in Russian literature represented by Gogol, Leskov, Bely, Remizov, and, in certain aspects of their work, also by Babel and Bulgakov. It is a tradition, paradoxically, of experimenters and innovators. Perhaps the principal quality that unites them is their approach to reality and its uses in art - the refusal to be bound by literal fact, the interweaving of reality and fantasy, the transmutation of fact into poetry, often grotesque, oblique, playful, but always expressive of the writer's unique vision of life in his own, unique terms.
... I see the green earth covered with the works of man or with the ruins of men's work. The pyramids weigh down the earth, the tower of Babel has pierced the sky, the lovely temples and the gray castles have fallen into ruins. But of all those things which hands have built, what hasn't fallen nor ever will fall? Dear friends, throw away the trowel and mortarboard! Throw your masons' aprons over your heads and lie down to build dreams! What are temples of stone and clay to the soul? Learn to build eternal mansions of dreams and visions!
Do you know how long God took to destroy the Tower of Babel, folks? Seven minutes. Do you know how long the Lord God took to destroy Babylon and Nineveh? Seven minutes. There's more wickedness in one block in New York City than there was in a square mile in Nineveh, and how long do you think the Lord God of Sabboath will take to destroy New York City and Brooklyn and the Bronx? Seven seconds. Seven Seconds.
John Dos Passos
Modern nationalism swept Europe alongside the flourishing of industrialisation. Across the continent, poets and intellectuals cultivated and often heavily modified vernacular languages to be bearers of 19th century modernity. These guardians of language faced significant challenges in adapting the spoken tongues of the peasantry to the demands of high literature and natural science. The story for the arts is widely known: modern Hungarian, Czech, Italian, Hebrew, Polish and other literatures blossomed in the second half of the century. However, the high valuation for efficiency in the sciences somewhat tamed this incipient Babel ["Absolute English, " Aeon, February 4, 2015].
Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this: "I refuse to prove that I exist, '" says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing." "But, " says Man, "The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED." "Oh dear, " says God, "I hadn't thought of that, " and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic. "Oh, that was easy, " says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.
Do you know why teachers use me? Because I speak in tongues. I write metaphors. Every one of my stories is a metaphor you can remember. The great religions are all metaphor. We appreciate things like Daniel and the lion's den, and the Tower of Babel. People remember these metaphors because they are so vivid you can't get free of them and that's what kids like in school. They read about rocket ships and encounters in space, tales of dinosaurs. All my life I've been running through the fields and picking up bright objects. I turn one over and say, Yeah, there's a story. And that's what kids like. Today, my stories are in a thousand anthologies. And I'm in good company. The other writers are quite often dead people who wrote in metaphors: Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne. All these people wrote for children. They may have pretended not to, but they did.
I've been strongly influenced, in technique as well as subject matter, by some of the early 20th-century book illustrators - Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac in particular, Burne-Jones and other Pre-Raphaelites, and the Arts-&-Crafts movement they engendered. I'm continually inspired by Rembrandt, Breughel (I've wondered whether his brilliant "Tower of Babel" had inspired Tolkien's description of Minas Tyrith), Hieronymous Bosch, Albrecht Durer, and Turner; it's not necessarily that they influence my work in any particular direction, more that their example raises my spirits, re-affirms my belief in the power of images to move and delight us, and shows me how much further I have to go, how much is possible. Having visited Venice and Florence for the first time, I am besotted with the Italian Renaissance artists - Botticelli, Bellini, da Vinci and others. Their work is calm, controlled, and yet each face and landscape contains such passion. In Botticelli's paintings, every pebble and every leaf is rendered with a religious devotion; there is reverence inherent in paying such close attention to every stone, turning painting itself into a form of worship, an act of prayer.
Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers... for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality... But I had gradually come by this time, i.e., 1836 to 1839, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow at sign, &c., &c., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian... By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, (and that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become), that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost uncomprehensible by us, that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events, that they differ in many important details, far too important, as it seemed to me, to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eyewitnesses; by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight with me. Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can be hardly denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories. But I was very unwilling to give up my belief... Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.
Let's press ahead a little further by sketching out a few variations among short shorts: ONE THRUST OF INCIDENT. (Examples: Paz, Mishima, Shalamov, Babel, W. C. Williams.) In these short shorts the time span is extremely brief, a few hours, maybe even a few minutes: Life is grasped in symbolic compression. One might say that these short shorts constitute epiphanies (climactic moments of high grace or realization) that have been tom out of their contexts. You have to supply the contexts yourself, since if the contexts were there, they'd no longer be short shorts. LIFE ROLLED UP. (Examples: Tolstoy's 'Alyosha the Pot, ' Verga's 'The Wolf, ' D. H. Lawrence's 'A Sick Collier.') In these you get the illusion of sustained narrative, since they deal with lives over an extended period of time; but actually these lives are so compressed into typicality and paradigm, the result seems very much like a single incident. Verga's 'Wolf' cannot but repeat her passions, Tolstoy's Alyosha his passivity. Themes of obsession work especially well in this kind of short short. SNAP-SHOT OR SINGLE FRAME. (Examples: Garda Marquez, Boll, Katherine Anne Porter.) In these we have no depicted event or incident, only an interior monologue or flow of memory. A voice speaks, as it were, into the air. A mind is revealed in cross-section - and the cut is rapid. One would guess that this is the hardest kind of short short to write: There are many pitfalls such as tiresome repetition, being locked into a single voice, etc. LIKE A FABLE. (Examples: Kafka, Keller, von Kleist, Tolstoy's 'Three Hermits.') Through its very concision, this kind of short short moves past realism. We are prodded into the fabulous, the strange, the spooky. To write this kind of fable-like short short, the writer needs a supreme self-confidence: The net of illusion can be cast only once. When we read such fable-like miniatures, we are prompted to speculate about significance, teased into shadowy parallels or semi allegories. There are also, however, some fables so beautifully complete (for instance Kafka's 'First Sorrow') that we find ourselves entirely content with the portrayed surface and may even take a certain pleasure in refusing interpretation. ("Introduction")
The usual short story cannot have a complex plot, but it often has a simple one resembling a chain with two or three links. The short short, however, doesn't as a rule have even that much - you don't speak of a chain when there's only one link... Sometimes... the short short appears to rest on nothing more than a fragile anecdote which the writer has managed to drape with a quantity of suggestion. A single incident, a mere anecdote - these form the spine of the short short. Everything depends on intensity, one sweeping blow of perception. In the short short the writer gets no second chance. Either he strikes through at once or he's lost. And because it depends so heavily on this one sweeping blow, the short short often approaches the condition of a fable. When you read the two pieces by Tolstoy in this book, or I.L. Peretz's 'If Not Higher, ' or Franz Kafka's 'The Hunter Gracchus, ' you feel these writers are intent upon 'making a point' - but obliquely, not through mere statement. What they project is not the sort of impression of life we expect in most fiction, but something else: an impression of an idea of life. Or: a flicker in darkness, a slight cut of being. The shorter the piece of writing, the more abstract it may seem to us. In reading Paz's brilliant short short we feel we have brushed dangerously against the sheer arbitrariness of existence; in reading Peretz's, that we have been brought up against a moral reflection on the nature of goodness, though a reflection hard merely to state. Could we say that the short short is to other kinds of fiction somewhat as the lyric is to other kinds of poetry? The lyric does not seek meaning through extension, it accepts the enigmas of confinement. It strives for a rapid unity of impression, an experience rendered in its wink of immediacy. And so too with the short short... Writers who do short shorts need to be especially bold. They stake everything on a stroke of inventiveness. Sometimes they have to be prepared to speak out directly, not so much in order to state a theme as to provide a jarring or complicating commentary. The voice of the writer brushes, so to say, against his flash of invention. And then, almost before it begins, the fiction is brought to a stark conclusion - abrupt, bleeding, exhausting. This conclusion need not complete the action; it has only to break it off decisively. Here are a few examples of the writer speaking out directly. Paz: 'The universe is a vast system of signs.' Kafka in 'First Sorrow': The trapeze artist's 'social life was somewhat limited.' Paula Fox: 'We are starving here in our village. At last, we are at the center.' Babel's cossack cries out, 'You guys in specs have about as much pity for chaps like us as a cat for a mouse.' Such sentences serve as devices of economy, oblique cues. Cryptic and enigmatic, they sometimes replace action, dialogue and commentary, for none of which, as it happens, the short short has much room. There's often a brilliant overfocussing. ("Introduction")