Sunday, May 20, 2007

Two or three

John Hobbins in his files section has a very helpful article on Hebrew Poetry which I am working through in the early mornings when I am fresh and can read again. One consequence of the structure described by his general rule on page 5 of the paper is the confirmation that 'two or three witnesses are required'. So I look for more than one keyword or grammatical or alliterative or semantic move to confirm the shape of the poem and therefore to show at least one aspect of the milk or meat that is in the structure. (Not to throw out the skin - full of vitamins itself, and poetry may not have an external skeleton.)

There are a few other key numbers related to our human capacity: 7 for complexity, 3 for depth of nesting, and of course the golden mean for proportion and beauty. 7 itself is a witness of 2 and 3 since it is 2**3 - 1 (that's 2 x 2 x 2 -1). It seems to be a common structure in our perception. Chris Heard is mapping a Biblical structure using a conceptual mapping tool (competitive with the tool I use - maybe).

With whatever tool - language, image, or software, we need to be aware of the limits to perception that our readers require. Perhaps the idea of '2 or 3 witnesses' is a gift to us for our mutual building up. Lists may be longer than 7 and nests deeper than 3 but our limitations will make such lists and circles difficult to fathom. So Romans with its 55 questions in 10 sections + is a difficult argument to process.

No comments: