Thursday, June 23, 2011

"How to be a Proverbs 31 Woman"

Bibliomancy, if only for those able to read once upon a time, let alone parse the text, was used often to suss out the present and tease divinity into spilling the textual cue cards for the future. My employer is downsizing its library, getting rid of hundreds of books. The purge last year despite my own recession cuts and small space garnered me a few boxes of Library of America reissues of Twain, Thoreau, and Nabokov whom I felt sorry for, in their relegated expulsion, and some learned holdings that I myself had ordered in boom years a decade ago when we were told to pile high our shelves for accreditation. Now that accreditators are convinced by my "employer of choice" that any investigation can be done "continually" by online auditing 24/7, the books tend to go. We will follow as we will be herded into cubicles into the first floor of a place we will have moved out from and leased off half of soon enough.

[The day after I wrote this entry, I was told to haul off all but the fewer books required each term to teach. I've archived back-up course materials since '95 as hard copies, over the years from Microsoft 3.1 to now, as I've lost data (IT upgrades) and a 17,000 word chunk of my research when my work-issued laptop failed (that a month after it was issued). My colleagues felt demeaned that as "professors" we're treated like office temps, assigned to a desk, its overhead space, and a file cabinet. We will occupy a divided--"it's not a cubicle, more like a pod"--enormous open space as with any firm's rank and file. Dozens of faculty in a room with windows facing a parking lot next to an airport runway. I plan to invest in headphones even though my five-year-old laptop's jack's broken; my phone plays music. I can't concentrate in such a setting. I tend to be a hermit crab already, to scurry to whatever shell I can claw up.]

(My workplace justifies "rightsizing" to "better respond to student needs" and "maximize our real estate investments to serve our customers." Perhaps you call them students. Yet, we're incorporated as an institute of higher learning. So we're told we still merit an onsite library, even if relocated to a tiny room with six computer carrels, two offices, and fewer than three thousand from what exceeded ten thousand volumes once.)

Well, the reference section met its fate. Odds and ends. I saved an Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality by the prolific Burroughs couple whose scholarship signifies excellence in that welcome if indefinable, illimitable field; my boys inherited two film coffee-table tomes. A two-volume Encyclopedia of Ethics (weird as each of them looks exactly the same, and no A-M and N-Z distinguishes them even by call number let alone appearance); a single source on Social Movements (Soviet entries predominate, such as Alcoholism in the USSR, oddly); a Shakespeare A-Z compendium of little entries; a Macmillan Bible Atlas; a bilingual Qur'an Penguin translation (stingy on the notes, as if fearing to tread on any sensibilities, it seems).

Finally, the Oxford RSV Annotated Study Bible, with Apocrypha. I sat there and paged it for inspiration, triply, at my desk as I waited for final exams and e-mails importuning me and research papers to upload.

First off: "Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward." Job 5:7. Not very comforting, however true. I closed my eyes and stuck my fingers in the biblical pie again to pull out a gospel plum.

That is: "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" Matthew 23's full of such vituperation. Verse 33's one of many castigating, if decidedly back-dating, Christ's contempt for His people, chosen it seems for damnation after their Temple's conveniently predicted to fall.

Third, I got lucky, as far as my dear wife of twenty years ago today is concerned, for I was able to incorporate some of this "Acrostic Poem in Praise of a Wife of Noble Character" into my message for her. You who know her well may be able to guess or parse which of the verses are most applicable. Or less so!

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character
 10b A wife of noble character who can find?
   She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
   and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
   all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
   and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
   bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
   she provides food for her family
   and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
   out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
   her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
   and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
   and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
   and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
   for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
   she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
   where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
   and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
   she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
   and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
   and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
   but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
   and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Well, I must say most of these attributes apply, at least from my domestic, paternal, and marital perspectives. Even if she can't make us "scarlet" garments and "quilts" (Oxford version) against the wintry snow. I thank her for her patience with me, her affection and love, and I hope I return it, albeit crankily, in turn if not ever able to reciprocate in portion. Even if she wears neither rubies nor pearls.

Figures I cannot write a personal entry here without footnotes, and one about love and marriage without citations!

It seems the more eclectic and agnostic my own soul turns, the more fascinated I am by how we seek, invent, and perpetuate our longing (at least in many of us) for meaning as ascertained and codified through our dreams, rituals, games and strategies that become reified and dogmatized into religion. Indefatigable cultural scholar and reader reception theorist I pretend to be, I also liked "ads by Google" appended to this site.

Here they are, without hyperlinks, however; I already fear the cookies embedded in this site. It's below.

1) Busy to be Beautiful-dot-com: Discover how to become the Proverbs 31 woman God created you to be.
2) What Really Attracts Men via Catch Him and Keep Him-dot-com:  9 Dangerous Mistakes Women Make That Men Find Totally Unattractive.
3)  How to Rebuild Trust via MarriageMax-dot-com: 7 Secrets to Rebuilding Trust. New Alternative to Counseling.
4) Make Him Addicted to You via Have the Relationship You Want-dot-com: Say These “Secret” Words To Make Him Fall Madly In Love With You

Under the entry's "Tips and Warnings," Ehow-dot-com notes: "Meditate on Scripture," while under "Tools," it tells you that you will need a Bible. This was the first one that came up when I searched "Proverbs 31." All citations via NIV rendering; I prefer Jerusalem Bible but neither that nor Oxford's shows up in aggregators of various passages with alternate translations online.

How to be a Proverbs 31 Woman

(Photo: I cannot find the source, but I found it among other sites here)


Bo said...

Splendid stuff.

Ghastly news about your library though!!!

Fionnchú said...

Ghastly yes; I hope one day I'll get to the splendid Bodleian!