TBIMG Question #14 - The Lotus

by Dr. Madhi Obeidi and Kurt Pitzer

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TBIMG Question #14 - The Lotus

Unread postby Liz » Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:59 am

Pg. 26. I am proud of my garden, and I showed Captain Butler my prized gardenias and fruit trees, which he was kind enough to admire. A few feet away, the branches of the lotus tree shaded the spot where Iraq’s nuclear know-how still lay buried. During my years pruning roses and gardening with the plastic drum just underfoot, I had been struck by another irony of the situation that I had not been aware of when I chose this place. In the Koran the lotus, or lote, represents the boundary between mortal knowledge and God, the border between what is known and what cannot be known. It symbolizes the furthest edge of human pursuit, beyond which there is only divine judgment. I had a fleeting urge to tell Captain Butler about this story. He seemed like a nimble-minded young man who would appreciate the subtle layers of meaning behind it. But the secret was too dangerous to reveal in this setting. Instead, I led Captain Butler away from the lotus tree to the edge of my lawn, where the gray, cone-shaped object had come to rest on the dichondra grass.

What are the subtle layers of meaning behind it?
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Unread postby ThirdArm » Sun Jul 22, 2007 1:49 pm

"The furthest edge of human pursuit, beyond which there is only divine judgment."

OK. I'm having a thought here, so to speak. When nuclear power was first brought under control, in the 1940s, there was the belief that something very terrible had been created and were human beings up to the task of managing it?

People now had in their hands the means of destruction that was of Biblical proportions. There has always been the striving of humanity--a kind of hubris, or big pride, that always brings them up against God ('the divine judgment'). You see instances of this in the Bible.

I appreciated the story of the lotus and the irony of what was buried beneath it. There are some things that just shouldn't be known, I guess. The world would certainly be better off if no one had nuclear weapons.

This comment isn't as clear as I'd like it to be; my thinking sort of ran off in all directions.
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Unread postby nebraska » Sun Jul 22, 2007 2:27 pm

Congratulations, Third Arm...........I cannot even begin to answer this question....

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Unread postby Liz » Sun Jul 22, 2007 2:56 pm

I have to congratulate all of you brave souls who start us off in these questions.

ThirdArm wrote:I appreciated the story of the lotus and the irony of what was buried beneath it. There are some things that just shouldn't be known, I guess. The world would certainly be better off if no one had nuclear weapons.


This is how I take it. I focus on this portion of his quote, "In the Koran the lotus, or lote, represents the boundary between mortal knowledge and God, the border between what is known and what cannot be known ." I see two meanings here, actually. One is that we never should have known how to make the bomb. Like you say, we would have been better off without it. But also, as a secondary meaning, it is the question Dr. Obeidi is asking himself: should he reveal that he has it or should the evidence remain under the lotus tree?
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Sun Jul 22, 2007 4:19 pm

Very cool quote from the book and very cool answers, I think! :cool:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Jul 22, 2007 4:29 pm

ThirdArm, my thoughts about this are sort of uncollected as well but I understand where you are going with it. Liz, I agree with your two levels of meaning as well. Interesting that there is also a similarity between the Koran and the Bible. This is a tough but very interesting question!
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Unread postby gemini » Sun Jul 22, 2007 8:16 pm

In the Koran the lotus, or lote, represents the boundary between mortal knowledge and God, the border between what is known and what cannot be known."

Ok I'll admit this is a little deep for me. Somehow I can't see the layers Obeidi was going for here. I agree with Liz that we or no one should have made the bomb but since it is something that man was capable of doing it doesn't fit with what cannot be known.

I do see in your second meaning a parallel with the Koran story.
Should he reveal it or leave it under the lotus tree? This part makes sense with the statement better. Instead of the border that cannot be known, the Lotus represents what should not be known.

There is something is the first meaning of comparing mortal knowledge and Gods "what cannot be known". It sort of makes him seem as though he is comparing his work along with Gods superior knowledge. It comes off a bit arrogant.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Jul 22, 2007 8:56 pm

gemini wrote: There is something is the first meaning of comparing mortal knowledge and Gods "what cannot be known". It sort of makes him seem as though he is comparing his work along with Gods superior knowledge. It comes off a bit arrogant.


Could be that he is making that comparision, in which case it is quite arrogant.
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Unread postby nebraska » Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:05 pm

Liz wrote:
gemini wrote: There is something is the first meaning of comparing mortal knowledge and Gods "what cannot be known". It sort of makes him seem as though he is comparing his work along with Gods superior knowledge. It comes off a bit arrogant.


Could be that he is making that comparision, in which case it is quite arrogant.


Unless his meaning is that man has trespassed on knowledge that belongs to God, but does not possess the entire collection of knowledge that would allow man to use that knowledge wisely.

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Unread postby Liz » Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:26 pm

nebraska wrote:
Liz wrote:
gemini wrote: There is something is the first meaning of comparing mortal knowledge and Gods "what cannot be known". It sort of makes him seem as though he is comparing his work along with Gods superior knowledge. It comes off a bit arrogant.


Could be that he is making that comparision, in which case it is quite arrogant.


Unless his meaning is that man has trespassed on knowledge that belongs to God, but does not possess the entire collection of knowledge that would allow man to use that knowledge wisely.


I would prefer to think that. This man appears to have a conscience.
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Unread postby Theresa » Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:44 pm

It symbolizes the furthest edge of human pursuit, beyond which there is only divine judgment.

Taking another phrase from the paragraph, I think this is one of the layers Dr. Obedi was talking about. Beneath the lotus tree, he had the means and plans for something that pushed the boundaries of human ability; the machinery and equipment of such fine tolerances -- and yet he knew that unearthing it for the Americans could bring a judgement on his head, and would definitely bring a judgement on Iraq.

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Unread postby Liz » Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:52 pm

theresa wrote:
It symbolizes the furthest edge of human pursuit, beyond which there is only divine judgment.

Taking another phrase from the paragraph, I think this is one of the layers Dr. Obedi was talking about. Beneath the lotus tree, he had the means and plans for something that pushed the boundaries of human ability; the machinery and equipment of such fine tolerances -- and yet he knew that unearthing it for the Americans could bring a judgement on his head, and would definitely bring a judgement on Iraq.


Another good point and way to look at it. Seems like there are many layers.
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Unread postby suec » Mon Jul 23, 2007 4:53 am

I agree with nebraska:
Unless his meaning is that man has trespassed on knowledge that belongs to God, but does not possess the entire collection of knowledge that would allow man to use that knowledge wisely.

I also take it to be like Pandora's box, a punishment from the gods for the knowledge of fire that had been stolen from them. When the bomb was first created, it was like the box being opened, and the knowledge of the evil it could do released. Naturally, other nations wanted that knowledge too. In a way, he is now in a similar position. If he shares the knowledge, that too may have dangerous consequences. He has achieved a lot, in making so much headway towards being able to create a bomb so secretly, but perhaps it should not be shared because of how others may use it. What is the furthest edge of human pursuit in this case? The ability to kill and destroy on a massive scale. For a man of morality, and religious belief, that must cause him to think about the consequences of his actions. That is quite tough, because we cannot always know the consequences of our actions; they aren't always foreseeable. In this way, to look at another layer of meaning, the "border between what is known and what cannot be known" may apply to the present and the future.
It's odd, isn't it, that knowledge of such mass destruction should be hidden in a garden. On the one hand, where else would he put it? On the other , it has Biblical overtones too, with the Garden of Eden, and its interpretation of forbidden knowledge. But a garden is a place of creation and growth. Whatever knowledge and understanding we have should be put to postive use. In making such a weapon, that knowledge and understanding has been abused.
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Unread postby ThirdArm » Mon Jul 23, 2007 12:14 pm

suec wrote:I agree with nebraska:
Unless his meaning is that man has trespassed on knowledge that belongs to God, but does not possess the entire collection of knowledge that would allow man to use that knowledge wisely.

I also take it to be like Pandora's box, a punishment from the gods for the knowledge of fire that had been stolen from them. When the bomb was first created, it was like the box being opened, and the knowledge of the evil it could do released. Naturally, other nations wanted that knowledge too. In a way, he is now in a similar position. If he shares the knowledge, that too may have dangerous consequences. He has achieved a lot, in making so much headway towards being able to create a bomb so secretly, but perhaps it should not be shared because of how others may use it. What is the furthest edge of human pursuit in this case? The ability to kill and destroy on a massive scale. For a man of morality, and religious belief, that must cause him to think about the consequences of his actions. That is quite tough, because we cannot always know the consequences of our actions; they aren't always foreseeable. In this way, to look at another layer of meaning, the "border between what is known and what cannot be known" may apply to the present and the future.
It's odd, isn't it, that knowledge of such mass destruction should be hidden in a garden. On the one hand, where else would he put it? On the other , it has Biblical overtones too, with the Garden of Eden, and its interpretation of forbidden knowledge. But a garden is a place of creation and growth. Whatever knowledge and understanding we have should be put to postive use. In making such a weapon, that knowledge and understanding has been abused.


Good point, suec. I completely missed the idea of the Garden. Now, I'm seeing things in a new light. Talk about your layers...
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Jul 23, 2007 12:27 pm

Layers, indeed! And you all are doing a wonderful job of peeling them back. :cool:
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