Thursday, March 19, 2009

The "Dr. Manhattan" Theory of Jewish Mysticism

If nothing else, movies are good for two things: 1) seeing things blow up 2) giving me tools to think with. The Watchmen movie wrapped one of each goodie together for me in a single scene.

On the one hand: Worst use of Dylan ever ("the times they are a' changin'" alongside shifting historical scenes is the new version of the wooden B&W movie standby where they show the pages blowing off a day calendar), worst use of Leonard Cohen ever, but that's because almost all uses of Leonard Cohen are subverted by lyrics that veer between slashing insight and intolerable schlock, and his fatal attraction to musical settings that resemble a beer commercial. There remains the undeniable ethical truth of the Cohen lines (which I thank Elliot Wolfson for quoting to me):

"Tho' your promise count for nothing
You must keep it nonetheless"

On the other: the Dr. Manhattan origin scene gives me something new: a perfect angle on the argument in early Jewish mysticism that Qumran texts like the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice do not present real mysticism because they do not depict "ontic transformation"--that is, they do not show us a dude actually turning into God.

This will be known henceforth as the "Dr. Manhattan" standard for mystical experience.

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