Kintsukuroi (Original Image c/o Wikipedia Commons)

Kintsukuroi (Original Image c/o Wikipedia Commons)

2014-06-16 @ 06:10 CDT

What you see here is the result of some very private decisions with some very public results. Not only have I deleted all of the posts I’ve made here (whether directly or by reposting from somewhere else), along with most of the photographs in my media library, but I’ve also deleted three of my subordinate blogs. Besides this blog, The Music of the Bible Revealed is the only blog I have left. In particular, my creative writing blog Tales of the Undying Singer is gone, as my speculative fiction (such as it has been, at least) has finally outlived its usefulness. I still need a creative outlet to replace it, but what that will be remains to be seen.

This blog will continue to feature the same degree, and mostly the same kind, of eclectic content it always has – including what was formerly on the now-deleted blogs. With any grace, the above photograph and caption – which I found on Facebook – will be the perfect summary of my life as I portray it here. (Wikipedia’s article on the Japanese aesthetic philosophy itself is well worth reading.)

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Daily Life | Tags: | 1 Comment


Theater Masks Silhouette (c/o AARP Blog)

Theater Masks Silhouette (c/o AARP Blog)

2014-07-30 @ 1140 CDT

[N.B.: This essay was submitted as a possible Commentary for the Living Church of God Web site. Should it be published as such, this text will be revised and due credit given. Meanwhile, the text has been revised and expanded here.]

Lately I’ve had a serious “reality check”. It’s not just that different individuals and cultures find different things amusing. It’s that no matter what we human beings find amusing, our “sense of humor” can be used for good or evil as much as any other faculty of the human mind. The worst part is that all too quickly, we can be blindsided by the evil side of humor—and the better-developed our “sense of humor” is, the more easily we may be blindsided. We need to ask ourselves why this is so.

Why do we find different things amusing? When all the learned differences are accounted for, each of us has one of eight innate, broad yet very different “senses of humor” which then develop as we grow up. This is why some of us—for example—find “slapstick” humor funny and I generally do not. When I do find unexpected physical events funny, it’s because something goes awry with logical systems—with a certain way of thinking, or with “the way things work” in the world. This reprinted Sunday panel from the vintage comic strip Tumbleweeds illustrates one example: Lotsa Luck, the world’s richest (and for his size, the most pompous) Indian letting his relentlessly self-serving logic about the world’s social order lead him into a well-deserved trap:

Yokelesque (c/o TUMBLEWEEDS.COM)

Yokelesque (c/o TUMBLEWEEDS.COM)

A disproportionate number of cartoonists, and much of the classic Warner Bros. school of animation, share my way of perceiving and deciding about the world and therefore, my basic “sense of humor”. (For the technically curious, whatever “cognitive process” lies in the 7th position in our minds – see the previous link for an example – is the root of our “sense of humor”. It’s our “sense of play”, so to speak, which lies in the 3rd position.) “Cartoon Physics” such as this short clip featuring Bugs Bunny and The Crusher (how did Bugs get that safe door into the ring, anyway?) is founded in the “sense of humor” people like me and certain others have:

So is humor based on the exploration of stereotypes, whether for good or ill. Bill Cosby on the one hand and Jeff Foxworthy on the other are two famous comedians who use this kind of humor. [EDIT: My apologies for whatever shows up after the above video is over; the "luck of the draw" changes from day to day and even from hour to hour. YouTube is what it is: a major fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.]

We humans can take humor one step further, using whatever native “sense of humor” we have, to joke about the ultimate questions of existence. If there is a God who cares for and rules over men, though, then joking about Him is dangerous ground indeed to walk on. But surely it is amusing to those with eyes to see how foolish man can be in his devotion to false gods and false concepts. In the Bible, Elijah (1 Kings 18:27), Isaiah (Isaiah 44:10-20), Wisdom personified (Proverbs 1:24-27), Paul (2 Corinthians 11:1, 16-18, 21, 23), and even God Himself (Psalm 2:4), all employ different “senses of humor” to challenge false gods and false concepts on their own grounds.

God’s servants could do this because our “sense of humor” is rooted in a major “defense mechanism” of the human mind. We can use humor rightly to laugh at our own foibles; we can use it as a way of defending God’s truth. The problem comes when we use humor to mock or scorn other human beings, human authorities that God has ordained, or worst of all, God Himself, His law, His grace, and His promises. The Bible has a long list of warnings and examples against “mocking” and “scorning”. It also speaks about “the laughter of fools” in this wise:

(Ecclesiastes 7:5 RSV) It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.
(Ecclesiastes 7:6 RSV) For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.

How then do we get drawn into mockery, or even into accepting the mockery of others without protest? It’s simple. We let ourselves be conformed to the world, rather than choosing to be transformed by God’s Spirit through the renewing of our minds so that we may prove what God’s perfect will is (Romans 12:2). And we can become conformed to the world so quickly and so unawares through our sense of humor!

Paul wrote to Christians: “[Let there be] neither filthiness [among you], nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4). The Greek word behind “coarse jesting” is interesting. Aristotle, in his Politics, used it to describe what we might call “college-freshman humor”: as clever and skeptical as it was coarse. It denigrated its targets—it didn’t build them up. Does this sound familiar? It should. Such humor fills the speech, the “sitcoms”, and the movies of our modern world—to say nothing of social media on the Internet!

We can think we’ve come so far in our Christian growth, only to be caught off guard by this world’s “coarse jesting”. When we are, it opens doors to “the world, the flesh and the Devil” that we should not allow to be opened in our minds. It doesn’t matter if we do this unknowingly. The effects on our minds and relationships are exactly the same!

So where is our “sense of humor” directed? Do we use it to help us see how deceitful our own minds are (Jeremiah 17:9), to defend the truth with wisdom, or to dishonor others made in God’s image?

The Living Church of God offers a free booklet, What Is a True Christian?, that deals with the real issue behind this subject: who do we serve, Jesus Christ living within us (Galatians 2:20), or “the world, the flesh and the Devil” working in us (Ephesians 2:1-3)?

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Bible, Church of God, Culture, Daily Life, Facebook, Google, Humor, Internet, Personality Type, Psychology, YouTube | 3 Comments


John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

The further adventures of Two Lyres and a Pipe…

Originally posted on The Music of the Bible Revealed:

2014-07-27 @ 08:42 CDT

The following video was recorded by Ray Rottman on his portable camera. Between that and the sound system of the hall, the sound on this video is rather strongly biased – I hope something of the real beauty of my instrument comes through. Here is the explanatory text I put on YouTube:

The lyre I’m playing – which I call Aletheia (“Truth”), as it’s a Greek-style lyre – was built by Carlos Paniagua, a famous luthier in Spain who specializes in early musical instruments. The melody is my “take” on “La Rosa Enflorece”, a Sephardic Jewish “romance” with lyrics in Ladino (it has also been adapted to the synagogue liturgy). I performed this for Special Music at the Houston, TX. Living Church of God on Sabbath, July 26, 2014.

Aletheia is tuned to a referent of A = 432 Hz and in just intonation against an…

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Categories: So Nice I Blogged It Twice | 1 Comment

Character Spotlight: Alain Harper

John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

The once and future Alain Harper…

Originally posted on The New Authors Fellowship:

Guest Blogger: John Wheeler

“Be on your guard,” Edward ordered those behind and beside him as he slowly rode forward, not to Sir Martin’s great pleasure. The man he approached wore a hooded cloak, pants, belt and boots all of charcoal gray and an ivory pullover shirt under it. A scabbard on his back, likewise charcoal gray with ivory trim, held a medium-length, double-edged sword. He was otherwise unadorned save for a ring on each hand and a circular clasp for his cloak at the neck bearing a strange sigil: a golden box with winged men on top, borne on golden poles and surrounded by twelve golden stars, all on a silver background.

At a gesture from the Duke, the rest of the column surrounded the man in a wide circle. Sir Martin and Eric remained where they were.

“Your men oppose me at their extreme mortal peril, young Duke,”…

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John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

To finish the set, here is how my new pennywhistle sounds…

Originally posted on The Music of the Bible Revealed:

2014-07-13 @ 10:50 CDT

This video features the newest instrument I’ve purchased this year and the one I play the least well: Carbo (as I call it), a carbon fiber low pennywhistle made on special order by Carbony Celtic Winds. It can play concert pitch (A = 440Hz) but can also be adjusted to classical pitch (“Verdi’s A”, 432Hz). On this video the latter referent is used.

It is unlikely, given the size of the whistle (almost too big for my hands), that I’ll ever play it the way a pennywhistle is meant to be played. No, I’ll be using my fingertips, and also with my left hand rather than my right hand on the bottom, to do slow melody and harmony lines.

This instrument is meant to evoke the “flutes” mentioned in the header of Psalm 5 and related instruments mentioned in the Bible and Talmudic literature. It…

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John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

At long last, the sound of my long-suffering “bass *nevel” which Carlos Paniagua of Spain made for me! :)

Originally posted on The Music of the Bible Revealed:

2014-07-13 @ 10:30 CDT

Here is the first of two videos I made this morning. At last I can feature Aletheia (as “she” has been rechristened), the long-suffering “bass nevel” created for me by Carlos Paniagua (for some more details on its repairs, see here). Even given the way I must hold the lyre (so far), the Canon camera I use to record the video has no trouble at all picking up the sound! Nor does it have any problem picking up what passes for a singing voice (mine, although given my work with the local church choir of late my voice certainly sounds better on this video than it often has on videos).

A playlist presently containing all three videos I’ve made featuring these three instruments is found here.

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

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John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

Zurdo, Zurdo… he plays the tonic of D! ;)

Originally posted on The Music of the Bible Revealed:

2014-07-11 @ 11:46 CDT

This is the first of three exceedingly primitive home videos I plan to make using my Canon PowerShot SD750 camera and a tripod. My first effort cut off much of the lyre; this effort cuts off most of my head! But as I must have the camera close to ensure the lyre’s sound is picked up properly, I opted to have my head cut off most of the time.

“El Zurdo (The Southpaw)”, as I call this evocation of “the Lyre of the Moon”, was made by JRV Luthier of Spain. I call it El Zurdo because the consistent trend in lyre iconography (at least in the Ancient Near East) is to have the bass strings on the left for right-handed players and on the right for left-handed players. I didn’t know this before I ordered the lyre, and I am a right-handed player. But El…

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John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

At last, the completion of what I hope is the first of up to ten “fully pointed” video collections which can be put on YouTube and DVD!

Originally posted on The Music of the Bible Revealed:

2014-07-10 @ 2030 CDT

Here at last is Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura’s first recording, La musique de la Bible révélée (technically, Volume 1, although not called that in the title), which was released originally in 1976 on LP and later on cassette and DVD. This is the first complete set of videos of SHV’s work I’ve made which includes the consonants, vowels, and musical accents of the Hebrew Masoretic Text (Letteris Edition). I have created individual videos before as “test cases” with the complete pointing, but not an entire album’s worth.

Producing the PowerPoint slides was an incredibly time-consuming job. The only font I have on my computer that could handle all the necessary details is proprietary and probably would cause PowerPoint to balk. The Symbols font in Times New Roman does a pretty good job, but one has to insert the characters laboriously one click at a time into PowerPoint…

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Memory, the Spirit in Man, and Hemispherectomies

John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

For those of us who suspect we go through life with half a brain… here is some encouragement from an unexpected source! :)

Originally posted on Thoughts En Route:

What would happen to your memories or personality if half of your brain were surgically removed? Don't be so sure...

What would happen to your memories or personality if half of your brain were surgically removed? Don’t be so sure… (Image credit: Wikipedia)

The most recent article I submitted for the Tomorrow’s World magazine is about the brain, and researching the topic was a real pleasure. What an amazing creation! There is a reason that “mind/brain” posts show up on my personal blog from time to time–I find the topic utterly fascinating, and I always wish I had more time to dive into it and swim around for much longer than I normally can before other areas of life require me to get out of the pool.

In particular, while writing this most recent article I came across tales of Rasmussen’s syndrome, a terrible condition in which the victim–generally a child–experienced swelling in and destruction of one hemisphere of their brain, causing debilitating seizures. Remarkably, one means of treating the…

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The "Converted" ENFP Psyche (after Haas)

The “Converted” ENFP Psyche (after Haas)

2014-07-03 @ 10:24 CDT

The article “You Are Not Stupid!” in the most recent issue of TOMORROW’S WORLD magazine says something which needs to be much more widely understood. (The fact that it was written by my former pastor and mentor is icing on the cake. :D ) Reading it made me consider my own past once again.

It was a bit shocking to realize that while “body smart” describes me the least aptly and “word smart” the most, more than most people I know, I have both high aptitudes and relatively good balance in all of the forms of intelligence listed by Howard Gardner and discussed in the above article. It explains a lot about how people view me, for good or ill. It also explains a lot about how God is able to use me despite myself, if necessary.

I’m also reminded of another statement by other authors. Leona Haas and Mark Hunziker, authors on personality type, wrote the following: “It may well be that genius is primarily a matter of an unusually high level of type development, of unconscious potential turned into conscious strengths” (BUILDING BLOCKS OF PERSONALITY TYPE , p. 118).

That would be me – from my childhood up. I would add from personal experience and observation that “genius” is the ability to coordinate one’s cognitive processes, and also one’s forms of intelligence per se, so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That too is something which appeared early in my life and which people encouraged me to cultivate.

A statement from Frank Herbert’s DUNE about its chief protagonist, Paul Muad’dib, also rang true with my experience: the first thing he learned is that he could learn. Not enough children learn this or learn it soon enough and too many adults I know don’t seem to understand what this really implies.

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Church of God, Personality Type, Psychology | 1 Comment


Original Photo c/o The Official Grumpy Cat (Facebook)

Original Photo c/o The Official Grumpy Cat (Facebook)

2014-06-30 @ 22:42 CDT

Oh, the things that are done in Grumpy Cat’s name. While I wouldn’t recommend it (not at all), one may find out on Google Images, using just the simplest of searches, just how the worst of human nature is put on the thin lips and the frail shoulders of this poor little house cat.

Once in a while, though, I see a great photo put out by her staff (er, owners) and take the time to create a meme of my own. This one, created moments ago, certainly expresses a truism about human nature in general, without being vulgar or obscene about it. Who knows, maybe this photo will show up on Google Images and become world-famous. (I have no idea who wrote the original joke, which I read many years ago in Reader’s Digest.)

Grumpy Cat recently appeared on a Cheerios commercial (here – the company posted it in its own playlist also) but my favorite commercial starring her is the first of three she did for Friskies on its mock game show, “Will Kitty Play With It?

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Culture, Facebook, Google, Humor, Internet, Photography | 1 Comment

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