I can’t really say I understand what the Hindu festival of Holi is all about, but it looks awesome (Tony has an amazing video at the link above). The joy and playfulness of this prompts me to what Krister Stendahl called “holy envy.”
My outsider’s understanding (based on Google) suggests Holi is a celebration of spring and of “the victory of good over evil.” So if if had been, say, a pre-Christian Celtic festival, then the Christian church would have likely long ago absorbed and incorporated the festive awesomeness of Holi into our own celebration of Easter. Instead of dyed eggs, plastic grass and chocolate bunnies, we’d be lighting bonfires and tossing colored powder at each other. (“Christ is risen.” Thwap! “Indeed.” Thwap! Thwap!)
One of the problems with Christianity nowadays is that Mardi Gras still seems like a bigger and better party than Easter itself. With or without colored powder, we need to fix that.
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In The New York Times, James Gorman reports on the song stylings of the hyrax.
Hyraxes are “common in Africa and the Middle East,” Gorman notes, which accounts for their appearance in our Bibles.
Two of those mentions (in Leviticus 11:5 and Deuteronomy 14:7) are in the context of the dietary codes. Hyraxes (or “conies” in the King James and the New Revised Standard versions) are listed among the unclean animals, and eating them was forbidden — which I imagine worked out well for the hyraxes.
The other two mentions in the Bible include praise for the little guys. Psalm 104, an all-creatures-great-and-small type hymn of praise for the creation, says, “The high mountains belong to the wild goats / the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.”
And in Proverbs 30, we read, “hyraxes are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags.”
I like the KJV’s rendition of that verse better: “The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks.”
Anyway, Gorman tells us about new research into the remarkable songs of these feeble folk:
Male rock hyraxes have complex songs like those of birds, in the sense that males will go on for 5 or 10 minutes at a stretch, apparently advertising themselves.
One might have expected that the hyrax would have some unusual qualities — the animals’ feet, if you know how to look at them, resemble elephants’ toes, the experts say. And their visible front teeth are actually very small tusks. But Arik Kershenbaum and colleagues at the University of Haifa and Tel Aviv University have found something more surprising. Hyraxes’ songs have something rarely found in mammals: syntax that varies according to where the hyraxes live, geographical dialects in how they put their songs together.
I found that story via Blue Girl & Yellow Dog’s always brilliant Nightowl Newswrap. They titled it — completely accurately — the “Cool Evolutionary Biology News of the Week.” I’ll second that, and also add “O Lord, how manifold are your works.”