John "Coffee" Latta yesterday, quoting Guy "guy" Davenport quoting Sam "Samuel" Johnson on the etymology of "pagan" & "heathenish". A pagan was a "countryman". The old urban/rural, civilized/natural, Confucian/Taoist dichotomy raises its head in ancient grease.

Chimes with book I've been reading, Burton Mack's The Lost Gospel. Attempted take-down of Christian "mythology" by way of separating out the "Book of Q" (assorted Jesus warnings & wisdom sayings, some of which accumulated in Sermon on Mount, etc.) from the rest of the message.

Mack identifies, remarkably, the Jesus sayings with the Cynic philosophy & lifestyle of the Hellenistic multicultural mix of that time. A Cynic was something between a stand-up comic, Diogenes the truth-teller, a prophet, and a hobo. Sort of the official society ornery nay-sayer. Voluntary poverty, making fun of greed, vanity & corruption of world, wandering about issuing witty rebukes & pithy sayings, calling the world to account...

Seems faintly ridiculous & far-fetched to me, how much Mack has to leave out in order to conduct his analysis (such as to ask, why, exactly, were the counter-cultural Jesus groups forming & going on missions from town to town? The answer seems to me to lie more with the Jewish, John-the-Baptist type Qumran/Essene communities of purification and revolt, than with the Cynics & their philosophies).

But Mack's curious thesis & Latta's comments got me thinking about a stream of proto-Franciscan, beat, hobo, Thoreauvian-Whitmanic, voluntary-poverty commitments (or non-commitments), which runs through American poetry somewhat at a slant. (cf. "folkiness" discussion. poverty, "self-taught", & originality. or should I say freedom.)

& there's certainly a possibility the young Jesus, as talented part-time Galilean nazir ("singer") & carpenter, could have soaked up some of the Hellenistic influences there in that easy-going outside-the-mainstream rural Minnesota of the Middle East (Galilee).

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