Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Proper Place for Irreverence

Aristotle's definition of justice is still hard to beat for its simplicity and succinctness: giving everyone his due. An English corollary: a place for everything and everything in its place. The House of God is no place for irreverence. But surely there must be a place for it - as irreverence is the foundation of all comedy. Why do we laugh at grown man chasing his hat in the wind if not because of irreverence? If he has any sense, he will also laugh at himself while he does it.

Which brings me to the Cossacks. I don't ever want to get into a grudge match with a Cossack. Perhaps only a Spaniard would be worse - they held a grudge against the Moors for almost 800 years before they finally kicked them out of Al-Andalus in 1492. But the Cossacks beat even them when it comes to holding on and never letting go. And while the Spaniards are hard to beat for style when it comes to grudge holding (My name Inigo Montoya...), nobody beats the Cossacks for the lively sense of irreverent humor with which it is carried out.

To wit - the following correspondence was carried out sometime between 1672 and 1680 (as you'll see below, the date is hard to nail down) between the Turkish Sultan and the Cossacks. It includes some Bad Words - so read at your own risk.

As if that isn't immortal enough, the Russian master Repin immortalized it in oil and canvas:



  1. It's either Repin's immortalization of a stinging rebuke to a Mussulman, or more likely ... based on the demeanors and the gut-grabbing ... the Trustees' rejoinder to a request for repairs to the parsonage's leaky toilet.

    Your (unworthy) servant,
    Herr Doktor

  2. It's actually a picture of the Voters Assembly (bow towards American flag) guffawing at the pastors comment "You can't fire me without cause....I have a 'Divine Call' from Christ Himself"

  3. "Ho, ho, ho! But Servant Servantovich, we have bullets ... er ... ballots, AND have clause ... Is "priesthood of all believers" ... Whoo-hoo!"

    Note the crestfallen tonsured guy on the right, turning the stunned other cheek.


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