aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 32: The Human Form Divine

August 7, 1991
Gulf of Mexico

I.

Sohu stretched, splayed out further. “Knock knock,” she said.

“OH. THIS AGAIN.”

“Knock knock.”

“WHO’S….THERE?”

“So.”

“SO WHO?”

“Sohu’s at the door, better let her in.”

“HA! HA! HA!” Uriel’s laughter boomed, shook the clouds, shook the ocean, drowned out the everpresent thunder of the surrounding storm. It was a fiery golden laugh, like pyrotechnics, like solar flares.

“I AM ONLY LAUGHING TO BE POLITE,” he finally said. “I DON’T ACTUALLY GET IT.”

Sohu’s face fell.

“It’s a pun!” she said. “Because you said so who, and it sounds like my name, Sohu.”

“I SEE,” said Uriel, suspiciously.

“Yes,” said Sohu. “You are going to learn this. I have decided. You will learn knock knock jokes, and you will be good at them.”

“UM.”

“I’m serious about this! You’re like the best person I know at finding unexpected connections between words and meanings! That’s what jokes are! You’re missing your calling! Come on! Try it!”

“HOW?”

“Start with ‘knock knock'”.

“KNOCK KNOCK.”

“Who’s there?”

“I AM NOT SURE.”

“Say a word! Any word! The first thing you think of!”

“ALEPH.”

“Okay. Aleph who?”

“I AM STILL NOT SURE.”

“A pun. Some sentence that includes a pun on the word aleph. Something that sounds like it.”

“UM. ACCORDING TO THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH, THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD WILL BEGIN ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES.”

“How does that – ? Oh. Aleph. Olives. Um. Sort of. But it needs to be sudden and surprising. It needs to have pizazz. You’ll get it eventually.”

One got the impression that if Uriel had not been hundreds of feet tall, Sohu would have tried to pat his head.

“ALL OF MY JOKES ARE TERRIBLE.”

“Aaaaaaaaaah!” Sohu waved her arms. “That! That should have been your joke! Knock knock! Who’s there? Aleph. Aleph who? All of my jokes are terrible.”

“I AM SORRY.”

“I don’t get it! You are so good at all of this language stuff, and you can find like seven zillion connections between apparently unrelated words, and you can’t crack a basic knock-knock joke! Why? WHY?”

“THEY ARE HARD.”

“Learning every human language is hard! Knock knock jokes are easy!”

“IF I TRY TO LEARN HOW TO DO KNOCK KNOCK JOKES, WILL YOU TRY TO LEARN EVERY HUMAN LANGUAGE?”

“Uriel. You. Do. Not. Understand. Humans.”

The archangel harrumphed and went back to running the universe.

II.

“OF ALL KABBALISTIC CORRESPONDENCES, THE MOST IMPORTANT IS THE CLAIM THAT GOD MADE MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE. EXPLAIN HOW THE STRUCTURE OF DIVINITY CORRESPONDS TO THE HUMAN BODY.”

“The ten fingers are the ten sephirot, the ten emanations by which God manipulates the material world. The bilateral symmetry is the two branches of the Tree of Life, which correspond to the two human arms. The right branch is called Mercy and the left branch is called Severity.”

“SEVERAL MONTHS AGO, I GAVE YOU A HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT. YOU WERE TO FIGURE OUT WHY IN HUMAN POLITICS, THE RIGHT-WING TENDS TO BE CONCERNED WITH JUSTICE AND THE LEFT-WING WITH MERCY, EVEN THOUGHT THESE ARE THE OPPOSITES OF THE KABBALISTIC CORRESPONDENCES.”

“Uriel, all the homework you give me is impossible.”

“I WILL GIVE YOU A HINT. MATTHEW 25:32. BEFORE HIM ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE GATHERED, AND HE WILL SEPARATE THEM FROM ONE ANOTHER, AS A SHEPHERD SEPARATES THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS. HE WILL SET THE SHEEP ON HIS RIGHT HAND, BUT THE GOATS ON HIS LEFT.”

“There’s nothing so impossible it can’t be made more confusing by adding in some apocalyptic prophecy.”

“IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE. A SIMPLE SOLUTION RESOLVES BOTH PROBLEMS. THINK ABOUT IT. YOU ARE VERY SMART.”

Sohu thought for a moment.

“I WILL GIVE YOU ANOTHER HINT. DEUTERONOMY 5:4.”

“The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire. Uh. Wait, yes, that makes sense!”

“YES?”

“We are all face to face with God. So our right is His left, and vice versa!”

“YES. SO HOW DOES GOD PART THE RIGHTEOUS ON HIS RIGHT SIDE AND THE WICKED UPON HIS LEFT?”

“He…oh, He just says ‘Everyone who wants to go to Heaven, get to the right.’ And the wicked, who think only of themselves, go to their own right. And the virtuous, who are always thinking of God, go to God’s right.”

“YES.”

“So God’s right and humans’ left means mercy, and God’s left and humans’ right means justice.”

“YES. THIS IS WHY WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT JUSTICE, THEY SPECIFY THAT THEY MEAN HUMAN RIGHTS.”

“I think that might be something different.”

“NO.”

“You’re silly.”

“I AM N…” Uriel trailed off, as if deep in thought. Finally, he asked:

“TELL ME THE KABBALISTIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ROOT R-K-T.”

Sohu knew better than to argue at this point. “Um. Wrecked. Racked. Ragged, sort of. Rocked. Rickety. And it’s got the T-R combination which we already talked about signifying pure power. Something raw and destructive. Why do you ask?”

Uriel stood listening intently. “SOMETHING IS HAPPENING INVOLVING THOSE LETTERS.”

A background whine crescendoed into a scream. A rocket streaked across the sky, headed straight toward them. Lightning-fast, Uriel reached out a giant hand and caught it in his palm.

“OH.” he said.

Sohu was lying face-down on the cloud, wishing she had a desk to duck-and-cover under.

“IT IS FINE,” said Uriel. “THIS IS HOW PEOPLE SEND ME MESSAGES.”

“They couldn’t just pray?”

“SO MANY PEOPLE PRAY THAT I HAVE STOPPED PAYING ATTENTION,” said Uriel.

“What if somebody actually tries to bomb you?!”

“YOUR FATHER WOULD TELL ME,” said Uriel. “SINCE HE DID NOT SAY ANYTHING, I ASSUMED IT WAS SAFE.” He held the rocket up to get a closer look. It was a Minuteman missile, the sort used by the United States Air Force. Written on one side, in what was startlingly good calligraphy for a message on a cylindrical surface, was the message: “You are invited to attend the Multilateral Conference On The Middle Eastern Peace Process in Madrid, starting October 30.”

Sohu clapped her hands.

“You should go!” she said.

“NO.”

“Why no?”

“I NEVER GO TO THESE THINGS. THEY ARE TERRIBLE AND FULL OF ARGUMENTS AND NO ONE LIKES ME.”

“Everyone likes you! They want your opinion.”

“HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE?”

“Father goes all the time. He says that negotiation is the key to power.”

“I DO NOT WANT POWER.”

“Yes you do! You control the world! You have power over the weather and the stars and plants and animals and all those things. And they all work really well! Maybe if you tried to have some power over people too, we would work really well.”

“STARS AND ANIMALS AND WEATHER ARE EASY. PEOPLE ARE HARD.”

“Father says that diplomacy is about playing the game. Figure out what people want and explain to them why doing things your way will get it for them better than doing things the other way. It’s about being creative. You’re this genius who can come up with connections between the Parable of the Sheep and Goats and human rights. Diplomacy would be so much fun for you.”

“THAMIEL WILL BE THERE. I AM SURE HE WILL. EVERYONE LIKES THAMIEL. THEY LISTEN TO HIM.”

“They listen to him because he talks to them! I’ve seen you and Thamiel! You zapped him like a fly! Thamiel has power because he tries to have power. If you tried to have power, you would have even more than he does! You could bring peace to the Middle East. And you could get people to join together, like my father does. You could have everybody join together and fight Thamiel.”

“I AM NOT SURE ANGELS HAVING POWER OVER HUMANS IS GOOD. I REMEMBER WHEN SOME OF THE ANGELS TRIED TO GET POWER OVER HUMANS. GADIRIEL. SAMYAZAZ. EVERYONE WAS VERY UPSET.”

“Gadiriel became President and saved the Untied States! It was great! I got to go to the White House with Father and have dinner with her avatar once!”

“THE BIBLE DOES NOT SEEM TO LIKE ANGELS RULING OVER HUMANS. THE NEPHILIM CAUSED NOAH’S FLOOD. GOD APPOINTED SAUL AS KING OF THE ISRAELITES, EVEN THOUGH HE HAD MANY ANGELS TO CHOOSE FROM. IF I WERE TO RULE OVER HUMANS THE SAME WAY I RULE OVER STARS AND WEATHER, THEN THEY WOULD BECOME MACHINE PARTS THE SAME WAY STARS AND WEATHER ARE.”

“No one’s saying you have to rule them! Diplomacy is like the opposite of ruling people! You just have to convince them with good arguments and by seeming imposing! You’re amazing at arguments! And you’re really good at seeming imposing!”

She may or may not have muttered something that sounded like “…to people who don’t know you very well.”

“ARGUMENTS ARE TERRIBLE.”

“Come on,” said Sohu. “Just try it once. Because I asked you to.”

The archangel took a moment to reply, cutting himself off a few times as if thinking better of what he was going to say. Finally:

“I WILL NOT ENJOY THIS.”

“But you’ll try?”

Uriel grumbled. “I HAVE JUST LOST A NEGOTIATION WITH AN EIGHT YEAR OLD GIRL. THIS DOES NOT BODE WELL FOR MY DIPLOMATIC SKILLS.”

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113 Responses to Chapter 32: The Human Form Divine

  1. Daniel Blank says:

    By this point, The Broadcast is already out, and people have several very good reasons to hate Thamiel. Is Uriel that bad a predictor of humans, or is there some reason why everyone likes Thamiel despite The Broadcast?

    • monkyyy says:

      I get the sense only political people like thamiel.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m not even sure Uriel honestly believes that. If he really did, why would he bother maintaining the Universe Machine?

    • murphy says:

      If you’re pretty sure you’re certainly going to he’ll anyway your best bet may be to male a deal with the devil to get into the nice part of hell.

    • jeorgun says:

      The Devil is pretty much the definition of— well, if not unfriendly AI as such, then at least unfriendly I. Convincing someone to like you seems a lot easier than convincing them to unbox you or whatever.

    • Thamiel’s kinda like Kim Jong-un: everyone knows about his atrocities, but he’s a world power so they make nice. Add in literal demonic power and intelligence, and you’ve got a decent diplomat there.

  2. LHC says:

    Man, I’d really like to actually see Uriel going to this conference.

  3. Aaron M says:

    It’s good to see Sohu getting used to life with Uriel.

    • LPSP says:

      I don’t think that one needed calling. It’s a basic principle of Kabbalah that God is facing us, so his right interacts with our left; moreso that it’s just true for anything else in general.

      • Anders Sandberg says:

        Sohu’s explanation for the dividing of people also nicely fits the experiment in the paper Adam D. Galinsky, Joe C. Magee, M. Ena Inesi, and Deborah H Gruenfeld, Power and Perspectives Not Taken, Psychological Science, 17:12, 1068-1074 2006.

        There they asked people to draw the letter E on their foreheads after either having primed them or not about personal power. The power-primed more often wrote it so it was turned the right way in their own coordinate system, the others the opposite way.

        • LPSP says:

          I immediately started to look for the kabbalistic relevance of the researcher’s names.

          • Anders Sandberg says:

            It is too bad they used the letter “E” which has no kabbalistic meaning. Otherwise writing on foreheads seems so appropriate.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            No kabbalistic meaning? Let’s not forget that “E” is the English letter corresponding by descent to ה. Sure, “H” is the one whose modern pronunciation matches, but “E” is the one that’s ultimately descended from the same Phoenician letter.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Hm, now I’m wondering about the kabbalistic meaning of those eye charts that have the “E”s pointing in the different directions…

          • Moshe Zadka says:

            The uppercase E looks like a Shin (second to last letter) on its side. Shin is both the first letter in Sheker (lie) and in Shadai (almighty, a reference to God). Something that, when turned 90 degrees (exactly half between 0 and 180 — i.e., between the wicked and God) can stand for either God or a lie. Seems like plenty of kabbalistic meaning to me.

          • Moshe Zadka says:

            (Why is “lie” significant? Other than it is something that the wicked do, it is the opposite of “truth”, emet. That’s the word you put in Golems to animate them…)

          • LPSP says:

            Consider also that E is by far the most common letter in english use, and I’d wager the most flexible vowel ever. The fact that it, like all vowels, is missing from kabbalah must indicate summat.

            If you put Truth into inanimate matter that it may come to life, do you put Lie in animate matter to sink it unto death? And/or put Lie into inanimate matter to push it even further down than inanimate, into the non-existant/void/intangiable realm? Seems to fit with both the concept of lies as vacuous and contentless, and with Thamiel’s deceptive evil as that which renders life weak and self-nullifying.

          • Daniel says:

            No, no, you put Lye into inanimate matter to clean it!

            I am learning from Wikipedia right now that putting Lie into recently-animated matter produces traditional horrifying Scandinavian fish products

          • LPSP says:

            Ah, lutefisk. The Norwegian side of my family’s diet never ceases to amuse and horrify me. In any case, using lye on dead shark-flesh certainly produces something condemnable to the void.

  4. Daniel Armak says:

    I can’t get used to the idea of talking about English words as if they had consonantal roots. Does it make sense to the rest of you? Especially if you know Hebrew?

    • LPSP says:

      It’s the idea that language is an evocation, and that certain combinations of vowel and consonants keep cropping up for certain kinds concepts time again, that’s at play here. No matter the etymology, R-K-T keeps emerging as a theme for things that are blasted and broken.

      • Daniel Armak says:

        Except I can’t think of any Hebrew words with such a root, for any combination of כ/ק and ט/ת. I’m sure the roots do exist, but are there any words with a ‘broken’ meaning? If the only matching words are English (and even then only when using a t/ed suffix), it strikes me as an unusually weak point.

        • א says:

          What do you count as a Hebrew word? If you count load words, “רקטה” is a perfectly valid Hebrew word, if less appropriate in this context than the native Hebrew “טיל”. But that seems like cheating.

        • LPSP says:

          Is that necessary? A pattern doesn’t have to have a data point in every location to fit.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        R-K-T is K-T-R (Kether, the Crown sephira) broken.

        K-R-T in English is “crete”, as in “concrete”, “accrete” — to build up.

        T-R-K is “truck”, a vehicle; “trek”, a migration; or “track”, a path for motion. Whereas -cretes accrete concrete in a discrete place, trucks trek on tracks.

        T-K-R is “taker”, one who receives rather than gives — but also “talker”, one who transmits communication rather than receiving (or receives attention rather than giving it).

        (K-R-T is also “curt”, which describes someone who is not much of a talker; and “cart”, which is sort of a truck; and “court”, which is a place where people talk a lot.)

        Alas, R-T-K is “retake”, to repeat an examination; so clearly I have failed this one.

        • LPSP says:

          Cough, Keter is one of the explicitly intact Sfira. It still fits the pattern when you consider the jagged-edge pattern of a crown, and if you consider “broken” in the sense of a deal, those who wear or bear crowns make potent brokers.

          (I wonder if joker and broker [and choker?] have some shared significance through K-R)

        • Daniel Armak says:

          I’m pretty sure it’s not kabbalistically appropriate to just ignore the order of the letters in the root. But what the heck, have at thee, in Hebrew:

          K-R-T (כרת) is to sever: the world cut off from the light of God.

          K-T-R is keter (כתר), the Crown of God, but it is also katar (קתר), the locomotive, which stands for the technology that mankind builds on Uriel’s physics while separated from God. (Swappin ק for כ and ט for ת makes no sense whatsoever but we’re not following any rules, are we?)

          T-K-R is teker (תקר), the hole that causes a flat tire, because the technology we build is insufficiently advanced to take us to the lost Heaven.

          T-R-K is trika (תריקה), the slamming shut of the door to Heaven as we obsess ever more over our technology.

          R-T-K is rituk (ריתוק), grounding (as of a child), because we are grounded to the Earth; but also meratek, מרתק, because we are fascinated with this world that we are stuck in instead of trying to reach God.

          And R-K-T, where we started, doesn’t seem to be a root. Unless you count רקטה (rocket), which is definitely cheating.

          • maybe it deliberately presented in the permutation that didn’t make sense, so as to force us to consider the other permutations: after all, the meaning only becomes obvious when considering them all equally.

    • I asked someone about this once. Apparently consonantal roots appear in semitic languages but not in indo-european ones (which in particular means that it predates their written forms, since the written form of semitic languages is based on greek).

      • (not quite sure if that answers your question, but it’s one of the cooler things I’ve learned in a math conference).

      • Sniffnoy says:

        The Hebrew alphabet, at least, is separately derived from Phoenician; it’s a cousin of the Greek alphabet, not a descendant. Pretty sure that’s true of Arabic as well. The Greeks added vowels, remember. (The Hebrew alphabet is even 1:1 derived from the Phoenician alphabet! It almost is the Phoenician alphabet. There’s a good table of this here.)

        • Daniel says:

          Yes, Arabic writing is derived from Phoenician; and in any case Phoenician is a Semitic language itself. Incidentally, the Hebrew alphabet used before the Babylonian exile really was just the Phoenician alphabet; to avoid tripping the spam filter I’ll just tell y’all to google “Paleo-Hebrew” sometime.

          On the other end of the Indo-European family, the writing systems of India might be distant descendants of Phoenician too, though it’s far from certain. If so, almost every extant writing system is descended from either Egyptian or Chinese, which must correspond to the two Hands of God. But which is which? Here in the Unsong comments section we ask the really important questions.

        • LPSP says:

          I was interested if the people of the americas had any writing system to perhaps fit the middle pillar (I mean, america IS the centre of the story here) and did a little research. Apparently Sumerian is the oldest script, and Egpytian is either second oldest OR a derivation of Sumerian.

          In any case, Mesoamerican script DID occur independently, so here’s to Quetzatcoatl and Huitzilipoctli on the middle of the tree!

          • LPSP says:

            I’d also love to be able to say that Norse runes are an independent script, but they are almost certainly (by unknown exact means) italic-derived.

      • Musky says:

        Indo-European languages had consonantal roots as well. They are mostly (though not exclusively) bi-consonantal, not tri-consonantal like Semitic. (Roots with more consonants are sometimes analyzed as derived from simpler roots.)

        Traditionally the Indo-European roots are given in CeC- form (e.g. bher- ‘carry’) but the vowel does change depending on the grammatical construction/derivation, while the consonants remain stable.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Yeah, that feels really off to me. Perhaps not so much that as the fact that so much of the analysis is done on English rather than Hebrew words in the first place. If there was more Hebrew, then applying this analysis to English might feel less out of place, even if it would still be inaccurate.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Nitpick thread.

    “HOW?”

    “KNOCK KNOCK.”

    I think there’s a piece of narration missing between those two lines. Putting them right next to each other looks quite jarring.

  6. Decius says:

    What’s the kabbalsitic significance of using a missile to send a message?

    • LPSP says:

      Someone could analyse that, but as it’s explicitly called a rocket I’ll go for that instead. Rockets are a harbinger of blasted and broken things, so the message is intended to disrupt and render things unto dissarray. It’s seperating the careful relationship and arrangement between Sohu and Uriel, and perhaps in a greater sense between Uri and Jalaketu.

    • un_pseudonim says:

      The mission called for a missive instead of a missile, but the secretary misspelled it. Good thing the Minuteman missed.

    • Peter says:

      Well, both are from the Latin mittere, to send, along with missive, mission (and missionary), mass (in the sense of “Eucharist”, but not in the sense of “amount”, nor as an abbreviation for Massachussets). Also “dismiss” and related words.

      Of course, this is all mere mundane etymology, it seems the real action is to be found in places that etymologists would dismiss as mere coincidences.

      (Incidentally, not “miss” as in “fail to hit” – that’s not even from Latin, it’s from a Germanic root. “mis-” as a prefix, meaning “bad” or “wrong”, as in “misspell”, well, the etymologists say in some cases it comes from the same root as “miss”, in others from Latin “minus”, but never from “mittere”.)

  7. Beavis says:

    So, Uriel is the burning bush who screws up the middle east I guess? Wonder what that makes Clinton then.

    • LPSP says:

      He’s the original burning bush used to spur that particular joke. I mean, it COULD happen but it’d be funny.

  8. dsotm says:

    The actual Madrid conference started on Oct. 30 1991, rather than Jan 30 1992. not sure if typo or kabalistically signifcant.
    Also Madrid is something evil in Enochian isn’t it ?

  9. hnau says:

    Not especially related to anything in this chapter… but I just finished reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and I now have a new favorite book to compare UNSONG to. Semi-dystopian alternate-history California? Check. Language having magic properties equivalent to computer programming? Check. Tying into ancient Near Eastern mythology? Check. Nerdy absurdist humor? Check. Nominative determinism? Check. Kayaks? Check.

    I wonder if this is a conscious influence, or merely Not A Coincidence.

    • I sort of have a Snow Crash reference in here. In chapter 20:

      “Again with the uncomfortable looks from Ut-Naparash and the slaves. [Samyazaz] hoped they would get around to inventing writing soon, so he could read a book about Sumerian religion and figure out what it was he was missing. Until then he would have to do things the hard way. “Do it for the mighty one,” he said, speaking the words of power that his sort had bred deep into these people’s unconscious.”

      So “do it for the mighty one” is a Snow-Crash style command phrase bred into the Sumerians by the Watcher Angels.

      But since “mighty one” is “gibbor”, a partially translated version would be “do it for the Gipper”, which is how Reagan/Gadiriel was able to control humans so easily.

      I’m not sure all of that came through in the text, but I think it makes sense.

  10. Sniffnoy says:

    Hm. No “End of Book 2” marker on this chapter. Of course, it could still end on an interlude, like Book 1. But otherwise we’ll be in to 17 chapters on Book 2…

    • Roman Davis says:

      My going hypothesis was that there would 3 chaptera published over the course of a year. One chapter a week, that’s 52 chapters. Divided by three, that’s a little over 17. So, yeah, it should end soon, but not necessarily this week or even next week.

  11. Greg says:

    “I don’t get it! You are so good at all of this language stuff, and you can find like seven zillion connections between apparently unrelated words, and you can’t crack a basic knock-knock joke! Why? WHY?”

    “THEY ARE HARD.”

    Too hard… to crack?! Uriel the Archangel, ladies and gentlemen!

  12. Anders Sandberg says:

    Given that there are correspondences to Exodus, I am wondering if that conference on the future of the Middle East will be mirroring the dealings on Mt. Sinai. We have had a child saved at birth, the Passover story, wandering (OK, motoring) across the desert, various miracles, even the Ark. So my guess is that the conference will be what leads to UNSONG, and UNSONG is the new Law.

  13. Yossarian says:

    >>You are invited to attend the Multilateral Conference On The Middle Eastern Peace Process in Madrid, starting January.

    Madrid means Evil in Enochian (at least, this book’s version of it). Certainly can’t be a coincidence.

  14. Yossarian says:

    >> IF I WERE TO RULE OVER HUMANS THE SAME WAY I RULE OVER STARS AND WEATHER, THEN THEY WOULD BECOME MACHINE PARTS THE SAME WAY STARS AND WEATHER ARE.”

    Didn’t Uriel already do this once? (well, except for not ruling stuff personally, but through a kabbalistic computer)

  15. Tamar says:

    The explanation of G-d’s right being our left and vice versa is clearly flawed inasmuch as it doesn’t match the order in which one is Halachically supposed to put on shoes. In UNSONG verse is the Halacha to put on the left shoe, then the right, then tie the right, then tie the left, then?

  16. When I saw the title, I thought it would be about Sarah.

  17. Dindane says:

    “Say a word! Any word! The first thing you think of!”
    “ALEPH.”

    • It is no coincidence that the first cardinality is Aleph-zero (or Aleph-null): Uriel is a programmer, so he starts counting from zero.
      (unless he were using matlab. But matlab was clearly created by Thamiel.)

      • Anders Sandberg says:

        As a Matlab addict I concur. There are so many subtle touches to magnify the pain. But you cannot stop using it. So by your own actions you damn yourself to learning ever more inconsistent syntax, workarounds and… oh, so *that* is how you make a plot with two y-axes!

      • Anonymous says:

        The first cardinality is Aleph… NOT! The first cardinality is an ordinary zero. Aleph-null is the first infinite cardinality.

  18. Azure says:

    I have a sneaking suspicion that Uriel’s ability to intuitiely see at once how everything relates to everything else prevents him from ever having a sense of humor based on wordplay since there would be no ‘sudden and surprising’ correlations for him.

    • Kinetic_Hugh_Reeve says:

      Also, for Uriel wordplay would be like recreationally hurling around random particles and atoms. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an isle.

      • LHC says:

        KNOCK KNOCK.
        Who’s there?
        JOB 41.
        …Job 41 who?
        IN JOB 41 GOD CHIDES HUMANITY FOR FORGETTING HIS VAST POWER, CITING HIS DOMINION OVER THE GREAT SEA BEAST LEVIATHAN, WHICH NO MAN HAS, AS AN EXAMPLE. THOMAS HOBBES USED LEVIATHAN AS A SYNONYM FOR GOVERNMENT. THIS REVEALS THE RELATION OF MAN TO GOVERNMENT AND THE RELATION OF GOVERNMENT TO GOD.
        I think you’re still missing something.
        GREAT. I SEEM TO HAVE ACCIDENTALLY PLACED LEVIATHAN ON NEWFOUNDLAND WHILE I WAS SPEAKING.

  19. teucer says:

    And that is why the Archangel Uriel showed up at a major international conference and told the delegates knock knock jokes.

  20. Quixote says:

    This was a fun chapter. i don’t see it pushing the big picture forward (though it probably does in ways that will become clear to me only in retrospect). But uriel and sohu are fun and goofy and its always nice to check in on them every now and then.

    • I think this chapter marks the transition from Uriel/Sohu as background characters to them becoming an active part of the story (maybe the rest of the Comet King’s story, except for how he met his wife, will be told through their viewpoint, now that we have his original rise?)
      This is something that’s been bugging me for a while – Uriel and Sohu are fun characters, and they provide background, but why are they so important as to get twice as much screentime as TCK and BOOJUM combined? Something’s got to happen with them that’ll make them an essential part of the story.
      Unlikely guess (~30% chance): They go to the conference, become integral to the founding of UNSONG, and when Aaron’s story pivots back to UNSONG, they’ll become key players in the 2017 storyline. Actually, could be that’s how the story’ll pivot back to UNSONG – with Aaron arriving in Colorado and meeting Sohu.

      • LHC says:

        I’m mostly anxious about BOOJUM. We got one very interesting chapter about them early on, one section for them in the Passover chapter, a handful of throwaway references, and nothing else. I figure that they must be very important later, or else they would not exist at all.

    • I have two more kind of slow chapters and then things start happening, I promise.

  21. bean says:

    Wait. A minuteman? That makes little sense for a lot of reasons. First, a Minuteman is an ICBM, so it’s going to be coming in from above, and all that will be left is the warhead, which is quite small. It might be going very fast, and it will definitely not look like a rocket. Second, it’s nuclear-armed, and I can only assume that nuclear weapons don’t work any more. Even if they did, I have doubts about ICBMs working given that the Earth appears to be somewhat broken (like the Wall Drug thing).

    There are quite a few missiles which could be put in place. I’m not sure if Minuteman has kabalistic significance. Based on the description, whatever they used appears to be subsonic, which means either a Tomahawk or an ALCM, if you want something with a warhead from ~1991 (although neither is technically a rocket). If we’re allowed to use supersonic weapons, then there’s lots of options. The closest kabalistically is probably the Patriot, which seems otherwise reasonably suitable with a little bit of work. It’s a surface-to-air missile, but firing SAMs at surface targets has been done with other missiles.

    • Aegeus says:

      Uriel is located in a hurricane above the gulf of Mexico. He would be an aerial target, not a surface target.

      Although I would bet that the missile was modified in either case, because I doubt you can get a radar lock on an archangel sitting on a cloud.

      • Walter says:

        You probably lock on something ‘behind’ him, and shoot “through” the cloud, counting on him to stop it.

        • bean says:

          What? I’m not sure how far off the coast he is, but my guess is that they’d shoot the Patriot off ballistically, similarly to how they do surface-to-surface shoots with naval SAMs. You basically aim at a point so the missile will fall on the target, then turn the guidance radar off. I’m not certain the Patriot can do that, but I have no evidence it can’t, either.

  22. Nick says:

    I know this has no place in the Unsongverse, but someone showed this to me and I had to share it.

  23. Sniffnoy says:

    “A pun. Some sentence that includes a pun on the word aleph. Something that sounds like it.”

    “UM. ACCORDING TO THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH, THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD WILL BEGIN ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES.”

    For aleph is the beginning of all things — even the end.

    (…well, except the Torah, I guess.)

  24. LPSP says:

    Unconnected to any particular discussion, Aleph as a word for oxen got me thinking. H is an important letter as we have been made accustomed to. H is also one of the two ingredients of H2O, of which life is mostly composed and in which life originated (even in the individual sense, we all begin life in a womb full of amnios). OX-ygen is the other part – a little bit of aleph-null to keep H’s destructive potential in check.

    We also breath O2, which is used in any chemical reaction involving burning, which can be considered elemental destruction in a sense. In order to release energy from the neutral and unleash chaotic fire, we must split Aleph, the first and ambivalent originator of all things and thus Metatron and God’s stand-in in the Hebrew alphabet. Considered that there are no vowels in the Heeb ‘bet, and that Aleph is voiceless or a glottal stop in a word, you could sort of say it stands in for all vowels to make O fit better.

    Either way I’m seeing room for a pun here.

  25. Rathramnus says:

    So, on the question of who is the sheep and who is the goats, or who goes to heaven — on the surface the political Left seems to be the “sheep” who are “thinking of mercy” and the political right the “goats” who are “thinking of justice”?
    But of course, the terms Left and Right are *already* given as seen from the president, i.e in parliament the Left are sitting on their right (the president’s left) and vice versa. So perhaps the Left are the goats after all, the radical Left being all autoritharian and uppity, and going on about “social justice”, while the political right being the “sheep” believe in decency and forming a well-behaved “herd” meekly governed by law and order? But which side gets to claim “mercy” in this?

  26. The coment king says:

    This comic is amazingly unsongish. It’s what Aaron would write if he were a webcomicist.

  27. Good Burning Plastic says:

    You realize that conservatives/progressivists in parliaments traditionally sit to the right/left of the chairperson, not of each other?

    • Good Burning Plastic says:

      (OTOH, I lean politically progressivist but in theaters and the like I tend to sit slightly left of the audience i.e. right of the stage.)

  28. Chuka says:

    Given the horrors presented in the broadcast, I found it very uncomfortable to learn that the separation of the sheep and the goats would be based on political ideology.

  29. Mathewbrula says:

    windows phone 10 – mens glasses, printer parts.

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