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Old 10-08-2007, 10:04 AM   #1
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The Year Of Living Biblically

Has anyone read this book? It seems sort of gimmicky but it's sort of cool too I know I could never do it. I do love what he says about your behavior shaping your beliefs.

http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/n...blically_N.htm

A.J. Jacobs follows Bible, literally, for 'Year'


By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY

After 381 days without shaving, A.J. Jacobs felt as if he had a hedgehog attached to his face. Now, that beard is stashed in a Ziploc bag, a souvenir of his year-long endeavor to follow the Bible's more than 600 precepts and teachings.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (Simon & Schuster, $25) grew out of Jacobs' increasing interest in the role of religion in the world.

So Jacobs, 39, an agnostic, put himself into "the mind-set and sandals" of his forefathers, "first, to find out if I was missing something — like a man who had never fallen in love or had never heard Beethoven — or if half of the world is deluded."

An editor at large for Esquire, Jacobs is no stranger to immersion journalism. His 2004 The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World recounts the months he spent reading all 44 million words of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Following the Bible was more than time-consuming. With the help of a spiritual advisory board of rabbis, priests and ministers, Jacobs tried to live every facet of his life based on strict interpretations of Scripture.

This led him to:

•Wear white. "It was like always being dressed for the semifinals at Wimbledon or a P. Diddy party."

•Wear a robe and sandals. "Reactions varied from raised eyebrows, to people crossing to the other side of the street, to those who thought I was a tourist attraction and took pictures."

•Herd sheep. "It's very good for the ego. Sheep live up to stereotype — they're sheepish. It was a good entry-level job for patriarchs. First they were shepherds, and then they led people out of Israel."

•Eat crickets. "I chose to eat the chocolate-covered ones. They were crunchy."

The Manhattan-based Jacobs also went on field trips. He visited with Jehovah's Witnesses, Hasidic Jews, the Amish, Samaritans and evangelical Christians. Of these experiences, he says: "I learned to be more tolerant. Handling snakes doesn't seem as crazy when you're seeing it firsthand."

His biggest challenge? "That'd be no coveting, no lying, no gossiping. They're little sins, but they're killers. My year made me realize just how many of these sins I committed every day. And refraining from them for a year was really hard but completely transforming."

Biggest lesson? "Your behavior shapes your beliefs. If you act like a good person, you eventually become a better person. I wasn't allowed to gossip, so eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I had to help the less fortunate, so I started to become less self-absorbed. I am not Gandhi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some progress."

One rule he followed to the max: Be fruitful and multiply. During his year of living biblically, his wife, Julie, gave birth to twins, Zane and Lucas.

His next project? "I'm waiting for divine inspiration," Jacobs says.
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Old 10-08-2007, 10:42 AM   #2
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It's always interesting to do an immersion. Not quite the same reality, because you know when it will end and for the person living that life, it doesn't really end. And I'm not sure when it is your day to day life, it has the same potency because it is not as much of a choice. But a way to teach yourself and move into a different understanding, for sure.
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Old 10-08-2007, 10:46 AM   #3
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One rule he followed to the max: Be fruitful and multiply. During his year of living biblically, his wife, Julie, gave birth to twins, Zane and Lucas.
The rest I could skip.
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Old 10-08-2007, 01:12 PM   #4
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I read a review of this book in the paper this morning over my high-fiber, flaxseed raisin bran.

I especially liked the part when he had to not wear certain clothes because they were made of a wool-linen blend, and the Bible prohibits wearing blended fabrics. I wondered how many homo-haters wear blended fabrics.
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Old 10-08-2007, 01:13 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by martha
I read a review of this book in the paper this morning over my high-fiber, flaxseed raisin bran.

I especially liked the part when he had to not wear certain clothes because they were made of a wool-linen blend, and the Bible prohibits wearing blended fabrics. I wondered how many homo-haters wear blended fabrics.
Jay Bakker brought that point up once in one of his messages.

Pwnage...I call that fundie pwnage.
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Old 10-08-2007, 01:27 PM   #6
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Jay Bakker
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Old 10-08-2007, 01:28 PM   #7
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Originally posted by unico
Jay Bakker
Mia 's Jay Bakker.


She's always going after married men.
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Old 10-08-2007, 01:29 PM   #8
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I know I could never do what this guy did. I commend him. To me, a book like this shows how absolutely impossible it is to live by the law. I'm so glad I don't have to.
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Old 10-08-2007, 05:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
It seems sort of gimmicky
While AJ Jacobs is a good writer, and I'm sure his experiment made for some hilarious moments (it takes chutzpah to do that, that's for sure), this was pretty much my first thought--it's very much the sort of thing that only someone who's never actually lived in an observant community, or studied the Bible in Hebrew and Greek so he could understand the context, would actually do. By his own admission, he came up with the list of "rules" he was going to follow by going through an NRSV Bible and jotting down whatever appeared to him to be a "rule," then taking it literally in English as best as he could understand it (he did allow rabbis to set him straight in a few cases, such as pointing out that shatnetz applies only to individual pieces of clothing which combine wool and linen, not to any old mixed-fabric garment or ensemble). Clearly Jacobs was also trying for (his idea of) "living like the forefathers did" in ways that went beyond "rules"--nothing in Jewish law has ever required wearing only white, eating crickets, herding sheep, or dressing in a robe and sandals, for example.

It reminds me of an extraordinarily all-or-nothing friend I had in college who, upon graduating, decided that his calling was to be Nature Guy and live as far from modern conveniences as possible. He was city-born-and-bred and had absolutely no 'rustic living' skills, so for the first couple years, this meant him living in a dilapidated shack with attached outhouse on some land he'd bought deep in the Smokies, drinking from and bathing in a creek that ran through the property, and living hand-to-mouth, since his clueless attempts at organic sustenance gardening flopped miserably and he wound up having to spend all the money from his carpentry apprenticeship job on food. He became deathly ill from waterborne parasites multiple times, got lice and scabies and an unbelievably bad case of poison ivy (which he had the misfortune to be unusually sensitive to) after unwittingly using it for toilet paper. Fortunately for him, he did happen to be good-looking and highly personable as well as bullheaded and vain, so after a couple years he scored himself a country-bred wife who actually knew a few useful things (how to feed a household off an organic garden, how to make natural-fabric clothing from scratch, etc.)--though that marriage fell apart after a few years due to countless blowout fights over his extremist insistence on greener-than-nature-itself living. By then he'd become a fairly competent survivalist himself, though (and to give him credit, his manual skills are now truly impressive), so that was OK, albeit lonely. The turning point, I think, came when he drove to Ohio to check out an Amish horse auction (tinkering with the idea of buying himself a draft horse), idealistically expecting to find a thrilling experience of communion with like minds and hearts. Instead, they all laughed incredulously at him, both because the no-road-map ecofundie lifestyle he'd concocted for himself sounded bizarrely erratic and irrational to them, and even more so because he was (tellingly) determined to do it all alone, something which made no sense to them at all. It was a humbling experience, but frankly he deserved it, and from then on out he slowly began to strive for more balance, reason and consistency in both his lifestyle and his worldview. He still lives way out in the mountains and follows a low-impact lifestyle, but he now has electricity (mixed-source), plumbing and even an Internet connection, buys most of his food at a grocery store, and runs an eco-friendly-home construction business.

Anyway, to get back to Jacobs, it does sound like despite the 'gimmickry,' he got the main point:
Quote:
His biggest challenge? "That'd be no coveting, no lying, no gossiping. They're little sins, but they're killers. My year made me realize just how many of these sins I committed every day. And refraining from them for a year was really hard but completely transforming."

Biggest lesson? "Your behavior shapes your beliefs. If you act like a good person, you eventually become a better person. I wasn't allowed to gossip, so eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I had to help the less fortunate, so I started to become less self-absorbed. I am not Gandhi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some progress."
The way I usually explain it to curious non-Jews is that observing Jewish law is like yoga: a set of spiritual practices--some 'universalistically' ethical, some wholly arbitrary and aimed 'merely' at cultivating discipline and self-restraint--that, when followed in a spirit of humility, gratitude and devotion to God and others, help 'limber you up' spiritually, and provide a touchstone and grounding that centers you and helps prepare you to embody those same ideals in the more individualized kinds of labors you choose to devote the bulk of your life to. It isn't about chalking up X number of points on a scorecard so you can 'get right with God'--that's a misguided idea that comes mostly from projecting Christian notions of Original Sin and the need to be 'purified' so that you'll be 'worthy' of God's presence onto Judaism, which neither subscribes to those doctrines nor presumes that 'the Jewish way' is meant to be the whole world's way. (That's not to say that Jews can't be all fundie and hyperpietistic and legalism-obsessed too, obviously we can, but that comes more from a vain desire to be The Best Student In The Class, not a belief that God is incapable of extending grace to whomever God chooses.)

I may try to skim the book, as it sounds very funny, but I suspect the misunderstandings of 'Old Testament' law and customs (and quite possibly 'New Testament' ones too; Jacobs practiced both during the course of his experiment) contained in it would have my teeth on edge as often as his escapades would have me laughing out loud.
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Old 10-09-2007, 12:39 AM   #10
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Originally posted by yolland
such as pointing out that shatnetz applies only to individual pieces of clothing which combine wool and linen, not to any old mixed-fabric garment or ensemble).
I've been thinking about this today and tonight. What's the story with this? Why a prohibition like this? What was the reason? Was it some arcane spiritual thing? Or was there conflict between sheperds and growers?
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Old 10-09-2007, 02:20 AM   #11
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he was interviewed on NPR's fresh air program
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Old 10-09-2007, 03:28 AM   #12
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Originally posted by martha
I've been thinking about this today and tonight. What's the story with this? Why a prohibition like this? What was the reason? Was it some arcane spiritual thing? Or was there conflict between sheperds and growers?
No one knows; it's one of those laws we call chukkim, 'fiat,' laws with no apparent or stated specific purpose. According to the Torah, temple priests' vestments and the fringes (tzitzit) worn by Jewish men in their clothing could be shatnetz, so it's unlikely any kind of presumed 'dark magic' potential, or "conflict" between fabric suppliers, would've been a factor. In both places where this command appears (Lev 19 and Deut 22), it's part of a three-rule sequence admonishing against directly physically combining things which are kil'ayim, mutually 'confined' or 'restrained'--namely different livestock species, different seedstock (within the same field), and wool and linen fibers (within the same garment). So there does seem to be some kind of 'theme' of not mixing what nature made distinct...but why those particular three things, no one knows.

Anyway, most Orthodox and some Conservative Jews still follow the shatnetz prohibition--it's not a particularly hard rule to keep, especially nowadays when blended wool/linen garments are much less common than they used to be. (Wearing a wool garment over a linen one or vice versa is fine.)
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Old 10-09-2007, 08:04 AM   #13
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Thanks.

(Unrelated side note: lately when people quote me I notice spelling errors and typos. I hate that. )
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Old 10-09-2007, 08:54 AM   #14
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The Bible does not permit typos

I wonder how many people believe in the premise that if you act/behave like a better person you become a better person. That fascinates me.

http://allday.msnbc.msn.com/archive/...08/401474.aspx

Q: Is there any particular thing from the Bible that resonates with you from your day now?

A.J.: Absolutely, there are lots of things. It was definitely a life-changing year. One thing is, as I mentioned on the show, I was saying thanks so often that it became part of my routine. And it's a great thing, because you forget to thank for all the little things that go right in a day instead of focusing on the three or four that go wrong.

And one other thing, I had kind of a perspective change. As one of my spiritual advisors said, you can either look at the world as a series of rights and entitlements or as a series of responsibilities. And the Bible says to look at it as a series of responsibilities, and I love that. It's like the JFK quote. Ask not what your country -- or the world -- can do for you, ask what you can do for the world. It's a great perspective to strive for. I don't always achieve it, but I try.
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Old 10-09-2007, 08:50 PM   #15
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Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
I wonder how many people believe in the premise that if you act/behave like a better person you become a better person. That fascinates me.

...As one of my spiritual advisors said, you can either look at the world as a series of rights and entitlements or as a series of responsibilities. And the Bible says to look at it as a series of responsibilities, and I love that. It's like the JFK quote. Ask not what your country -- or the world -- can do for you, ask what you can do for the world. It's a great perspective to strive for. I don't always achieve it, but I try.
It's maybe not so much a question of "acting like" a better person as internalizing habits of mind that better prepare you to do good in the world, but yes, I think there's a kind of commensensical wisdom there. It's like developing 'good manners'--you don't get there out of the sheer goodness of your heart; you get there because your family (or possibly, later intensive environmental influences) instilled those habits in you, beginning from a time when you were so young that you didn't really understand that "Please/Thank You" or "Pardon Me/No Problem" were anything more than nifty little games. Of course the ideal is that the graciousness and gratitude signaled by those rituals will always come 'straight from the heart,' every time--but the reality is that if you don't ingrain it, most people tend to slide over time into a negligent frame of mind where it doesn't occur to them to say it at all, or they rationalize they don't 'need to' because they have legitimate resentments towards the person from some earlier incident and thus s/he doesn't 'deserve' the gesture, or they'll do it only when they feel a need to curry favor with him/her, or only to soothe their own consciences towards some wrong against the person they'd rather not admit to. But when it's ingrained in you that this is simply the proper thing to do, it's harder to b.s. yourself like that.

And many of the comments following that article illustrate perfectly what I was saying earlier about people tending to miss the point that the idea isn't at all to 'impress' God lest He strike you down; it's about opening yourself up to God so that you can be a force for that redemptive love and compassion within the world, in your own limited way. But then again, when you get 'gimmicky' about it, I suppose to a point you do kind of 'ask for' that.
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