Thursday, March 26, 2009

the merchant of venice i. iii. 98.

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,

A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
--william shakespeare
the merchant of venice i. iii.

i find it hilarious when things are quoted without the realization of its source or context. it can be standing for something in complete opposition to the quoter's cause. i ran into a somewhat entertaining instance of such this morning at work.

for the unaware, i work in the benson building on byu campus doing early morning custodial work. and for those unaware further, byu (brigham young university) is a private institution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which i am a member. anyway, with the atmosphere on campus having a somewhat religous tone at times as it is a religious school, you can see various religious and spiritual posters, fliers, banners, and quotes from time to time. one collection of such is posted outside of an office in the building.

filling in for another employee, i had a different assignment and route today to fulfill which brought me past this sign.

right. seems reasonable enough. i make my own situation. i decide what i think of my surroundings. there is a problem, however. although the free standing quote may have application, the scribbles you see beneath the printed text highlight my current topic.
the pencil scribble reads, "p.s.--that's satan's line in paradise lost."

do you see where the issue is? the point this sign is trying to make is the polar opposite to the source's. i'm here being encouraged to make the most of things because i decide what i feel about my surroundings--that finding the good in all of God's works is the secret to happiness.
john milton's devil uses this line to tell me i don't need God or commandments because i call my own shots.

regardless of your own personal beliefs, i'm sure you can see the differences in the two philosophies.

there are thousands of instances like this that you can see all over the place.

in case you're once again unaware, i served a mission for the lds church. the handbook for such missionaries is called Preach My Gospel, and is quite a little number. anyway, one of the big points it tries to emphasize in both studying and teaching from the scriptures is that context is essential. to understand a verse, one must have and understanding of its context as a prerequisite. (this is one reason why there are so many different ideas branching from the same Bible, but that's another story... that you can read about here if you're curious.) i think that's why i'm so uptight about things like this. when you talk to people for two years, often discussing the same nine or ten scriptures, trying to show them how understanding the context of a given passage can make all the difference in the world, by nature you begin to get, not defensive, but sensitive to such errors.

anyway, i just found the flier ironic and wanted an excuse to make a post. it provided the opportunity well enough. so be sure that when you quote, you not only cite your sources, you know your sources well enough to quote them (and not require a pencil wielding english literature major to point out any philosophical holes).

1 comment:

  1. I'm always impressed with the things you pull up, could you have found a better start up quote for a post? Not really.

    This is much more humorous than the argument that happened on a flier with an owl posted it in the Widstoe. "(some random obscure owl type" and then under it, "Hedwig", and then under it, "No, you idiot Hedwig is a (whatever type of owl)."

    Out of does seem quite nice. In context:

    However, in context
    Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,
    Receive thy new possessor—one who brings
    A mind not to be changed by place or time.
    The mind is its own place, and in itself
    Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
    What matter where, if I be still the same
    . . . Here at least/ We shall be free . . .
    we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
    To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
    Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. (I:251-263)

    and he justifies his freedom by saying ("Better to reign in hell, than serve in heav'n")