Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

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Shambling Joggoth

I just got back from a nice jog around Squirrel Hill. On the way back, I was thinking about Sunni-Shi'ite differences. In Sunni Islam, there are four schools of interpretation (Madhhab) of tradition/law, and a person is expected to accept and adhere to one of them exclusively (in most cases). A brief aside - this seems kind of similar on some level to Ashkenazic/Sephardic/etc traditions - how similar they are and in what ways is something to think about (and research). Back to Sunnis and Shi'ites, I wonder if the level of difference between the Madhhabs is such that if we were to imagine the Shi'ite positions as another Madhhab (or set of them, given that Shi'a is not a homogeneous group), they'd significantly change that "theological/traditional distance" between the set as a whole. I then thought about the initial events that caused Islam to split (leadership dispute between Mohammad's friend Abu Bakr and his cousin Ali), and modern Christian Protestant (and Orthodox) arguments against the authority of the Patriarch of Rome (Pope). Presumably, if one were to decide that these divisions are more harmful than whatever theological/meaning changes are preserved through temporary or permanent diversity, one could decide and declare in foundational texts that the leadership of the movement definitionally rests with exclusive and absolute (fee simple/unencumbered) control of a certain object or place. On the other hand, perhaps this would be more harmful yet - one might make a reasonable case, at least appealing to modern sensibilities, that even from a Roman Catholic perspective the Catholic Church was helped by the protestant reformation (although the Anglican split and the split with the Orthodox churches would be more difficult to argue along those lines). I would suggest that divisions of this sort would ideally (from the interests of preserving both strength and integrity of the movement) want to prevent splits that are purely over power struggles, but tenatively allow splits that would prevent heresy from infecting the whole of the movement, with the hope that such splits would only last as long as needed for adequate reform/discussion, after which the (possibly reader-dependent) right perspective will reunify the movement. This metric fails to appreciate traditions that can be built/respected from prolonged separation though - dividing intellectual-and-traditional communities can do this just as much as dividing any other. I wonder how Islam would look today if the Sunni or Shi'ites had decisively won immediately, Christianity if Martin Luther had died early, or Judaism if the Second Temple had not been destroyed and were still controlled by the Kohanim.

Yesterday, Kavita prodded me into going down to a bar on the southside to grab lunch. We picked up most of the pieces of the conversation I had with the person I may have mentioned on Friday, and took them in a few new directions - Indian culture, difficulties with "breaking into" another culture and issues of perspective difference, etc. I can't remember the name of the place (it was vaguely Italian-ish) - the food was decent but rather expensive. The experience was slightly marred by there being some kind of golf-related celebration (weird - when did golf get so many loud/drunken fans? I always thought of it as being, like Badminton, more of a refined thing), but saved by there being decent cheese to go with the meal. It reminded me, through not being Brie, how I haven't eaten Brie regularly enough in my life. Hmm. Brie...

Off to Milky Way for lunch...


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