Sunday, November 26, 2017

Some of the instructions of Šuruppag

Reader, good evening. Here is the view out your humble scribe's door.

The door is open and the night is cool; your humble scribe is fully garbed, even unto sneakers and sweater, feet up on a stool with the door wide and this scene laid before him. He lives in a free-standing room in the middle of the backyard of a nice house. This is the backyard of that house, which--like most houses--is more than a 'house'; it is a lovely and distinctive community in which your humble scribe currently takes residence. The people you see are enjoying 'Friendsgiving' together and, bending towards year's end, singing Christmas carols. They are singing in euphonic, occasional harmony and with humorous, frequent gaps in the lyrics -- mmrhsmshmrling bits they do not know and laughing.

They are drinking. Earlier, at dinner, your scribe was as well. He glasses? of more-than-acceptable red wine.

More than enuf. But: speaking of gaps in the text:

"The Instructions of Šuruppag" (often transliterated as "Šuruppak" or "Shuruppak" (that Š gets a 'sh')) is one of the most famous--and complete--examples of Sumerian wisdom literature. 'Wisdom literature' is a term that you may be familiar with from other contexts; if not, it doesn't matter -- it does what it says on the box. Someone is imparting wisdom to someone else, often in the form of a mono- or duologue, and it is implicit that the wisdom conveyed reflects a value system someone felt was worth recording.

Your humble scribe has spent much of his weekend with this and related texts. Here are some bits of it.
get it, Reader? 'bits of it'...?
This picture is Creative Commons; thank you, Daderot.
Reader, this tablet and words etched upon it are dated to ~2500 BCE. Meaning: these words predate the common era by more than the advent (as it were) of the common era predates you; the gap between Šuruppak advising his son and a man on a cross between two chatty thieves is longer than the subsequent gap between those three unfortunate, crucified men and yourself.

That is how long people have been like this -- drinking, singing in gardens, giving advice: the whole all of it.

Here's some of what Šuruppak has to s--

oh! Last note: all translations are from the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, an indispensable resource that does not--insofar as your humble scribe can discern--offer individual attributions in its translations. But at least that credit can be given, and gratefully so.

101-102. Property is something to be expanded (?); but nothing can equal my little ones.

103-105. The artistic mouth recites words; the harsh mouth brings litigation documents; the sweet mouth gathers sweet herbs.
Your humble scribe suspects that there is some sophisticated, erudite gloss of 'sweet herbs' that makes this insight make...sense? It's not even a robustly parallel construction!

126. You should not pass judgment when you drink beer.
The singers outside are passing no judgment. They are singing, and laughing. But: point taken.

242-244. Nothing at all is to be valued, but life should be sweet. You should not serve things; things should serve you. My son, …….
This comes out of nowhere! There's advice about where to dig your well and "female burglars", and a lot of recognizable parental 'work hard, don't lie or mess around in bad stuff' type advice. And then BOOM: Šuruppak's like, 'possession is dust.'

261. Without suburbs a city has no centre either.

265. [...] of Dilmun [...]
Even an exceptionally complete piece of text from forty-five hundred years ago has some holes in it. Anyway: great advice, clrly.

266-271. {To get lost is bad for a dog; but terrible for a man} or, as a different tablet says {An unknown place is terrible; to get lost is shameful (?) for a dog.}
The second version is actionable, at least.

Good night, Reader.
Happy start to the end of the year.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Meet: humble scribe

Reader --

It is morning, pre-sun,
on the day after the holiday on which,
in your U.S. (and Emmy's, too;
for your shard and hers share so much, are so close),
you feast with friends/family,
sometimes argue,
and hopefully also
give Thanks for your luck.

Your humble scribe did so, with pleasure, last night; he did so, and walked several miles through his city -- marveling (as, perhaps, you sometimes do too) at the range of light, color, trash, beauty we have made and are. The thoughts that he had won't be narrated further; imagine the clichè of the full-stomached flâneur, padding bright streets as the year turns its corner and the next looms as reality, coming on fast.
one sees things like this, in a city
I want to talk to you.

I, your humble scribe, want to talk to you. So much.

The irony--yes--is that I do talk to you. I 'talk to you', Reader...approximately forty hours a week. Give or take, depending; your scribe must pay bills, and 'talking to you'--sadly--does not yet do so. But I do: talk to you, every day, for at least a few hours.

What? Who? What is all this???

Reader, when I say 'talk to you', I speak of your presence as I sit in my work. Really: it is almost as if you are sitting there with me and I'm talking to you. That's what it's like. You are there in my heart and my mind as I sit, wrestling words into clay -- transposing Emmy, Stang, Rich's whole world into words; fashioning and refashioning and re-re-re-refashioning those words; reframing events and thoughts, places, and things -- though not, ever, fundamentally altering them. For they are given to me, Reader; I am, humbly, a scribe.

I am 'talking to you' every moment I am. don't know that! You don't experience that, at all. It is like when you receive some electronic message, and you fashion a heartfelt response in your mind (good, bad, whatever), and you live the full life of your response's rich arc: sending it, the receiver's receipt and response,'s all in your head. You did not send the email. None of it happened it's all shuttered inside.

Basically: my existence is like that. There are useful, exonerating, and important differences. But that basic framework is not a bad start.

Reader--or perhaps I should say 'friend' or 'reader-friend', as slimbuttons tends to--this leads to a chance to introduce myself. I have never formally done so; please give me a moment.

I am your humble scribe. I am a voice and an artifact of the 'book', Erra's Throne; I exist--passionately, solely--to bring that work to life.

Now, we are both also familiar with this other person: slimbuttons, whose blog (site? 'journal'? srsly wut's his deal) this is. I know him well because of course, I am him; just as you, 'Reader', are almost undoubtedly the same person as the 'friend' or 'reader-friend' to whom slimbuttons addresses his chatter about...I mean, wow. Whatever that guy likes to write about here. G*ds bless his weird little rambling .

There is a third, other person, whom we also both are. He is totally fine. He is blessed with good health and exorbitant fortune in family, friends, circumstance; we will, as a rule, not speak much of him here.

But, Reader -- yes, fine, you are 'reader-friend'. I am 'slimbuttons'. This whole thing is an affectation of words, labels, names. Agreed! Also: much of life is an affectation of words, labels, names. We are both, you and I as we are in this space, specific instantiations of whatever truth in ourselves gives rise to identity. And there are many such truths. This is the least novel of concepts; your humble scribe has many faults, but he is not in 10th grade -- he does not think he's onto something new with this point. Who is the same person to their mother as to their co-workers? to their partner as to the traffic cop, writing a ticket? We move through many selves in the space of the day. Of an hour.

So what's happening here? What has happened in this post?

I am inviting you, Reader, to be as the you-self who reads Erra's Throne. An important proviso in this is that you don't have to have, um, 'read' Erra's Throne to be so. (But also, ffs -- go: read it. u shld). The invitation is not one of action, but mindset: to be a sort of reader: less 'Internetty', perhaps; more open to discursion and, most of all, reflections on writing and the process of making with words.

If that sounds awful to you -- holy cr4p! that is fine! If that's the case, then these posts that are all 'Reader' this and weird-third-person-reference-to-self that: steer clear! Pro-tip: they'll be labeled as such: 'humble scribe'. Slimbuttons is extant; he's kicking around here somewhere. He'll write about Hong Kong or punching himself till he pukes or whatever these things that amuse him are shortly. Or, when he feels like it. Honestly nobody knows with that guy.

And I am announcing and introducing myself, here in this space. Your humble scribe. I am, as a first, attaching an 'I' to that self. I have brought myself into creation, through the process of putting Emmy's story to words. Is that good is that bad? Am I good? Am I bad? Who dafuq nohz. You decide. Or: don't bother. I don't care; I exist.

I am a manner of placement of colons and line-breaks; I am tone and I'm diction; I'm to some extent limited in subject matter -- and stronger, I feel, for these limitations.

I am the dubiously liberal use of italics.

I exist; I am here and, for the most part, you don't even know it. Someday soon you all will: when the clay is final, complete, words baked in the sun and no longer subject to change and improvement; they (and therefore I) will break over the world just like Enlil's strong winds. Or more gently, like a glimmer of moon on the water at night, glimpsed by a careful and attentive few.

Honestly, either's fine.

So long as they--the words--are crisp, lean, beautiful, sharp. So long as I, a cracked vessel, have carried enough of the gods to your lips that you, Reader, find pleasure drinking there.

But that takes time. A lot of time. During which, Reader, as far as you know: silence.

I am not silence.

So I am going to change to that. I'm going to talk to you, here.

Because you make me happy and you give me hope.

g4me on.