January 07, 2003

Down from the Mountain Top
Here's a series of articles the New York Times published recently, following ten individuals whose lives are modern day reflections on the Ten Commandments. They include stories like the child of an adulterous affair who grew up in abusive foster homes and is now struggling to be a responsible father on his own with no role models, a girl who obsessively idolized the rock band Phish so much that she basically lived as a nomadic hermit as she followed their tours around the country, and a Vietnam vet who led ambuses where he and his team personally killed hundreds of people who is now trying to find absolution as a priest & chaplain for the Army. Beyond the fact that this is some of the best journalistic writing I've seen in recent memory, it's also an interesting treatise on how how these Biblical edicts illustrate issues that remain at the center of human existance, despite the passage of time.

As I side note, I'd heard somewhere that the actual 10 commandments where really single words or characters in Hebrew or Yiddish or whatever it is they wrote in those days, so something like "I am the Lord your God" is represented as a single character etched in stone. Assuming this is true, this is a stark contrast to the 2nd set of commandments that the Hebrews received, now contained in Deuteronomy & Leviticus, which are much more legalistic and, clearly, culturally specific. Makes me wonder if they were all really written by the same hand. I mean, really, why would God issue an appendix? It's not like that whole Red Tent thing just slipped his mind the first time around.
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