If Books Could Kill

I woke the other day, as I do so many days, hating my neighbors. There’s always a good reason. So wanting to ease my troubled mind, my nasty soul, I pulled out my Bible (yes, I have one; actually two), looking for the “I lift up mine eyes” psalm. I never found it (it’s farther along than I had patience for) but I did find this, Psalm 5, subtitled “A morning prayer.” “For there is no faithfulness in [mine enemies’] mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue. Destroy thou them, O God….” Oh, you old authors, you guys knew how to do it. Haters gonna hate. Even first thing in the morning.

I love reading the little notes on alternate translations — faithfulness could be rendered stedfastness; wickedness could be wickednesses, which I quite like. Destroy them could be understood as “make them guilty,” which seems quite a different thing entirely, and far less satisfying. I’m reading the venerable King James Version, of course. I had no idea that that version was largely eschewed by the Catholics, who went with something else. I can’t remember why. They too thought they had good reason to hate their neighbors the Prots, no doubt.

I love these initiatives in which an entire community is encouraged to read the same book. I haven’t participated in it, frankly, but I like the idea. What we read together, we can connect to together. (“Oh, I loved that part too. Didn’t you want to smite that character? What did you make of the ending? No, really? I never thought of that!”) But when we’re reading different versions, well, things can certainly come to fisticuffs, as old married couples snipe over long-told stories of the past. (“It was Christmas time.” “No it wasn’t, it was summer.” “I think he was Ed’s cousin.” “Ed never had a cousin; he was married to Ed’s aunt Marge.” “No, by that time Marge had been dead for years.” “Ah, you’re crazy.” And so on.)

But we can’t agree on the text of this foundation of Western thought; hell, we can’t even seem to agree on the message. He said; she said. Yes, that’s the way it was; Oh, no it wasn’t. Life is one screwed up game of Telephone. All’s I knows is there’s a whole lotta hatin’ goin’ round. When I woke up this morning, you were on my mind.

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