A Tempest in Missouri


The Tempest begins with a storm summoned by Prospero.  The victims of the storm exchange some famous and witty banter while attempting to navigate the storm.  There was no witty banter in Joplin, Missouri last night.  As pastoral literature often reminds us; they are limits to the ability of man to control nature.  And ultimately nature is going to win most of our battles with it.  116 people were killed in what is being branded as the deadliest tornado in american history.  The death toll is the highest known total since the national weather service began keeping track of that data over 61 years ago.

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The valley of shadow of death

Since the infancy of our existence as a species, we as humans have tried to make sense of the world around us. Not only the grass and animals we co-habitate this planet with but also the cosmos we will never reach. Christopher Hitchens, points out in his book, God is Not Great, that religion was our first attempt to explain everything from the earthquakes that terrified us to the thoughts of what happens to us when we die. Pastoral literature is an extension of this thought pattern were it takes the complex and breaks it down into more simple and easy to understand terms. Psalm 23 uses very few lines to sum up some very important themes and questions we face as living organisms. It conveys the idea that we should want not because God will provide for us and that even though horrible tragedies occur and bloody wars are fought in his name he is there to guide us. I draw a different conclusion from this. I feel that pastoral literature, much like organized religion, is a way to distract people from reality. Lenin referred to religion as “the opiate of the people” and in this anesthisized state we as a collective are easier to manipulate and control. The word pastor even has its latin roots with the meaning of shephard. Pastor’s refer to there congregation as a flock. Interesting use of diction because flocks are hierarchal in nature. In the animal kingdom flocks must have one leader either patriarchal or matriarchal and that leader is unquestioned. Convenient when you can use that same system on human beings which are in nature pack animals. The distraction from reality is important when the ideas being preached are not based in said reality.

Terry Gifford makes the point that most pastoral literature is quick to point out the beauty of agrarian life, but often neglects to mention the hard work it takes to create and maintain said wonders. Shakespeare, in The Tempest, does not neglect said labors. While Prospero on the surface appears to be a man whom been betrayed by those closest to him and questions the motives of those people and their lust for power; he himself has not one but two slaves. Caliban, the native of the island Prospero and Miranda inhabit, and Ariel, a mystical spirit whom Prospero freed only to place under his own form of bondage. While Prospero raises his young daughter and learns the magic that he will use to set right old wrongs, Caliban labors away in chopping wood and raising their crops. And Ariel performs the dirty little task of scattering a fleet of ships and separating the occupants of one special ship. They both do this out of fear of Prospero. When Ariel asks for her promised freedom Prospero responds with,
“If thou more murmur’st, I will rend an oak
And peg thee in his knotty entrails till
Thou hast howled away twelve winters”
It’s good to see that Prospero’s outlook on servitude has not changed since his days as the Duke of Milan.

This is just a start I will have more hopefully after I finish reading the tempest.