Snippets: “sumu tsoho” and Joyce

Some fragments that don’t fit anywhere:

Sumu tsoho

The latest Ramadan saying is sumu tsoho صوموا تصحوا or “it’s good for your health” (possibly part of a longer Koranic passage?). The idea is your children might not want to fast just because Allah wants them to. So you give them another reason.  Good reasons and real reasons, as it were.  Only which is which?  I can imagine cave people saying, “Oh, they’ll never believe in germs, tell them the gods want them to do it.”  I’ve been getting this one on the back channels, and it’s working so far–I’ve now completed a third day of fasting where I only intended to do two.  It’s cutting into my exercise, so we’ll see how it goes. I don’t believe the “so-and-so lowered their blood sugar by fasting” business.  That would be only temporary, plus the potential elevated insulin levels would be immediately life-threatening, and not just damaging in the long term, as uncontrolled blood sugar levels would be.  It would be interesting to know more about the physiology of fasting.  I do like the idea of breaking habits, in this case by substituting with other habits from Ramadan in other years. And don’t forget “placebo effect”. The mind-body connection is well documented, but poorly understood.  If you believe you will become closer to God, and you carry out the very physical steps to accomplish it, can anyone say you will not become purified and enter some type of jenna?


I want to continue to document my progress with Joyce’s Ulysses, partly to make sure I keep some focus on it, publicly, and increase my chances of completing it. I am still reading Stephen Hero, which by everyone’s account is an unhelpful digression, yet I continue to be engaged with this in a way I could not get engaged with Ulysses when I first picked it up. Stephen Hero was meant to be the writer’s personal notebook so to me it represents a backstory about what he is trying to accomplish by his writing and how he comes to the conclusions he comes to.  You can also get some idea of his writing process, since the editor notes the marks that Joyce made on the manuscript, crossing out words and delineating chapters.

The writing style is more accessible, but already some of the things that were barrier to my reading of Ulysses are being used here. The punctuation for the conversation is  bit off-putting. Joyce uses an indent, then a long dash and a space to indicate change of speakers.  At least I think that’s what it indicates.  Other writers have used similar marks for things that were not conversation. (I’m trying to remember where I saw it–was something similar used for the pronouncements of Zeus or the thoughts of a spirit in a play?) The effect is more like the characters are thinking instead of speaking. Also in long strings of dialogue, you lose track of who is speaking.  Slowly I am getting used to it, and it doesn’t cause such an abrupt break in the momentum of the reading as it did at first.

Joyce also makes frequent use of the word O, but used in the sense of “oh” and not as the evocative “O” that is still found in traditional English (O little town of Bethlehem, O Holy Night). Could it be an archaic usage?

But consider something like this, where Joyce’s protagonist is considering a major essay he will present for his coursework:

He could not persuade himself that, if he wrote round about his subject with facility or treated it from any standpoint of impression, good would come of it.  On the other hand he was persuaded that no-one served the generation into which he had been born so well as he who offered it, whether in his art or in his life, the gift of certitude.

“Certitude”, yes, now I have had to dig out my computer netbook and prop it next to my hooka for a few lookups  (naïf? soutane?) which seem to be necessary to even get through this early book of Joyce’s. According to

The noun has one meaning:

Meaning #1: total certainty or greater certainty that circumstances warrant
Synonyms: cocksureness, overconfidence

It’s the old writing advice. Delete all the “I think” type modifiers and qualifiers that dilute your viewpoint and make you sound insecure.  Forget the “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him” philosophy.  Even if your subject is vague and unknowable, state everything with confidence.  Become the Buddha.  Did anyone ever receive a paycheck for not knowing something?

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