I am awe struck by expressions of the Divine Voice, but I have never been deeply interested in science. That is my father’s province. I’m much more likely to see a dragon’s tooth in an oddly shaped rock than I am to see it as a specimen of quartzite banded with basalt. So, having prefaced this story with that observation, let me tell you about our rock.
Knobby Knees and Daughters Four and Five met me out at our pasturage early this morning. Daus hopped out of their dad’s car. Before mischief could start, they were suitably warned to stay clean for school. They wandered off having promised on the life of their little plastic pets (you get them at Wal-Mart) that they will not get dirty.
K. Knees and I take care of a few essentials. I’m tired from work and in desperate need of sleep. Mr. Knees and the girls should be on their way to school and work. Dau 5 struggled up with a largish – and quite dirty – rock clasped to her breast with both hands.
“You found a rock,” I observe unnecessarily.
She nods. “It’s a moon rock. Katarina says it’s not, but it is.”
“Let me see,” I say.
She passes it to me with a small grunt.
“Brush the dirt off,” I say. Since neither daughter four nor daughter five can resist dirt, I’m not surprised at any of this.
It is truly an odd rock. It’s much heavier than its size warrants. It has a pitted crust. It looks like black basalt, very finely grained black basalt. I took it inside the little house and tested it with a magnet. One can feel a slight pull, but what ever attraction there is is weak. The magnet won’t stick. I dropped the little bar magnet onto the rock. This was an accident. It acted as if it were made of rubber. It bounced and reversed direction. Odd behavior, no? So I try this again. It lands firmly on its side, then jumps to the other. I try it again. The little magnet acts as if the rock shook it off.
Now I do not think this is a meteorite. But, as I said, I do not approach creation through the eyes of a scientist. So what is this rock? It’s probably a left over from creation. Some angel or other was tasked with dumping the leftovers somewhere and he hid this one on our property, figuring it would confuse a pixie some day. Or … it’s a dragon stone, contaminated from centuries in the gullet of a dragon.
So … the royal wedding was last night (our time). Aside from not being invited, I had to work. Now I’m not at all miffed at the lack of an invitation. I’m not fond of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family (Windsors indeed!) except for the German bits that I may or may not be related to or descend from or something. Anyway! I wasn’t invited and I had to work. We’re now on the same page, right? Good.
So last night was fairly quiet. We had only one small event and a fairly low census. As you may have guessed, the event was related to the royal wedding. A bunch of anglophile women and their progeny had a royal wedding “event.” Fine with me. So … you get this, right? A bunch of mommies and their wannabe princess daughters, some as young as maybe seven in the small meeting room. Cake is served, Big Screen TV is watched, Champagne (or sparkling cider if you’re under age.) is drunk.
If a bunch of silly women and their charming little daughters want to play dress up, who am I to object? It’s our job to treat every guest as if they were royalty. Besides, lots of silliness manifests itself under our roof. Be here for the fall wine festival. Oh my Dear LORD and all his microscopic creation! This is tame silliness.
I find myself wandering down that way. The main lobby and front desk area and the entrance to the meeting areas are all connected. Two little girls (probably seven and eleven years old) watch me and the buzz back and forth in a whispered conversation. They really are cute kids, and I have a weakness for little girls, having made a few of my own. I hear one of them whisper, “You ask her!” It’s not much of a whisper. Really it’s much louder than a whisper though it is meant to be one.
So I smile and say, “Ask me what, dear?”
The littlest one is more or less bouncing. She’s in a pink gown with a play tiara on her head. (I neglected to wear mine last night. I’ll probably never live down the neglect. I could have borrowed Annie’s, right?) This little vision of pretend princess-hood turns shy and mumbles in the direction of her feet, “Are you really a princess.”
I hear a rippling titter of naughty voices coming from the front desk area and give them a withering glance. None of them looks guilty, but ONE of them is. “Who told you that?” I ask.
“She did!” the oldest says, causing one of the front desk agents to lower her head and twitter foolishly. (This is an aha moment.)
The child doesn’t wait for my answer. Instead she asks, “Why weren’t you at the wedding if you’re a princess?”
“Not every princess gets to go to every wedding,” I say.
“Were you ever at a wedding?” the little one asks.
“Yes, several,” I say truthfully. “Were there queens and kings there?” She asks.
“No,” I say. “No kings or queens were there.”
“Oh,” she says, and disappointment is rolling off of her.
“Princesses and princes were though,” I say. I should have kept my mouth shut, because they want to know all about it. We sit on lobby chairs and I tell them a story of a church in Germany and princess and dukes and ladies who attended a wedding there, and of a dark pink dress and funny hats and a lost purse and such. They sat open mouthed.
“So,” the oldest says, “are you really a princess?”
I have a ready made answer to that; it’s the same one I give to Anastasia. “All girls are princesses at least once in their life.”
Remember a bit earlier in this posting cycle I scolded Arabs and Moslems for visiting my blog looking for porn? I got a visit from Dubai today via Emirates Telecommunications Corporation. What were they looking for? Pixies, you say? Oh, no, not pixies. Were they looking for Plum Duff? Certainly not. They were looking for "naked sudanese pre teens".
I wish these basta... umm guys would stay off my blog. And that goes for the pervert from Sweden and the one using FDC Servers.net, LLC, both of whom are pedophiles. God curse your eyes ... and assorted other body parts.
My classes went exceptionally well today. I am one please Pixie. One of my creative writing students is so close to writing at a professional level that it is startling. She was sick today but emailed me her current work. I will be unhappy if she doesn’t finish this project and submit it somewhere. She has been a teacher’s once in a life time experience.
My critical reading class is made up of avid readers. I had a win a book contest today. The requirement was the best impromptu story. Some of these children have vivid and sometimes really odd imaginations. Picking the winner was difficult, and I basically gave it to the student who wanted the book the most. It came down to him and a young woman who really didn’t care. The girl told the better story by a thin margin, and if she’d really wanted the book it would have been hers. She graciously passed on the book in favor of the boy.
Other than being a bit sore (I still have bruises, dents, scrapes and hurts from my fall) this was a good day. Shirley is coming down tomorrow. We’ll go junk shoppin’. Knobby Knees is off to the wilds of Germany and various points east. My aunt and uncle may spend a couple of days. I’ll get out the good china and entertain them in style or something. Okay so we may get a huge thing of frozen lasagna, cook it in the microwave and eat it off plastic plates. It depends on our mood, I suppose.
Even though Shirley hasn’t been able to come down for … um what? A week and a half or more, I toddled off to the Goodwill Store all on my own after my last class. It’s not the same as having a shopping buddy along, but I found a couple of things: A really nice silver-plate pedestal bowl and a book.
I think mysticism is a crock, even if I’m probably not more than a step and a half removed from medieval Christian mysticism myself. Thinking it’s a crock (don’t read that word if it’s too vulgar for you) doesn’t keep me from reading about it. So here I was perusing the bookshelves for something more interesting than a Dan Brown book, and LO! There it is! A very nice copy of The Cloud of Unknowing in the Which a Soul is Oned with God. Never heard of it, huh? That’s okay. Not many have. The writer is a late medieval mystery, though several works are attributed to the same hand. I think he imbibed too much from the wine cellar of some monastery or he talked to the wrong spirits. (Take that last as you may.) But what he wrote is still interesting and very medieval in thought. As with Montaigne’s essays, what one finds is a mixture of common sense and craziness.
Mr. Richard the anonymous suggest that “contemplatives” (Read “philosophers”) should “take little heed or none what men did or said about them.” Now on first glace this sounds good, right? I mean “sticks and stone” or something like that works. But, honest to he who made Pixies, Little Rabbits, and the sons and daughter of men, I am not going to ignore it of someone hits me with a stick. To me, that’s poor advice. Probably he did not mean anything like being hit by a stick since this little bit of wisdom is in a short homily about Mary and Martha.
Now one finds odd words too. Know what a “doomsman” is? Neither did I. It’s English Medieval for a judge. Got that? Interesting, huh? I’ll probably never use the word, but one never knows.
That’s all I found worth buying. The book selection has been a bit disappointing. As the yard sale season starts, that should improve. If it weren’t for the thrifts, I’d have a pitiful library. I simply can’t afford to buy new books at the rate this family devours them. For instance, we all like Brian Jacques’ books. We don’t own them all, but there are ten of them on our shelves. At twenty-five to thirty dollars each, that would be impossible. The most expensive of these was a dollar and a half, and the least expensive was fifty cents. They’re nice copies too.
Buying from the secondary market means the authors miss out on royalties, but then they’ve already received royalties from the primary sale. I figure I’ll have ‘made it’ as a writer when one of my books shows up on the secondary market. The closest I’ve come is a used copy of our profile of Nelson Barbour and his religious delusions that appeared on Amazon (UK site) for more money than it costs new. The seller has it listed for thirty pounds. That, dear hearts, is wishful thinking.
Oh, I found a really nice tea cup and saucer. It’s lovely. Bought that too.
Some times I wonder if God sings. If you listen to it, the entire world sings. The planets and suns sing. All creation sings in its own way, often at a range far below or way above our hearing. Does God sing?
Perhaps all creation is about song. Perhaps all that lives sings; what is good sings in tune, and what is wicked is out of harmony. Perhaps all that exists is a vast chorus, and above the hum of creation is the song of angels. And perhaps the song the angels sing is mere harmony to God’s own voice.
I received a digital copy of a very rare booklet/magazine issue. We believed this was lost when we wrote Nelson Barbour: The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet. A helpful archivist at one of the Lutheran universities located this for us. It's taken weeks of negotiation and endless patience, but it's here.
We are slowly revising the book, and this will bring some important changes. It is obvious that this was published in November or October 1873 rather than in December. This is a major change. There are other smaller things I've noted too. This is fun!
So, my critical reading students elected to continue with the Fairy Tale Detective series. They liked the first one so much I threw out all my lesson plans and we've stuck with this series. We're now in book three, The Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child. If you haven't read any of Michael Buckley's books, you and your children have missed out. Even if all your children are adults, buy and read these books!
I had to scoot off to my local favorite independent bookstore and pick up a copy of book three. They just bought out a collection of juvenile fiction, and I spent an hour pawing through those books. I only bought one of them; good sense, a lack of space, and a lack of money restraining my desire to own them all. I bought one Roy Rockwood book: Dave Dashaway the Young Aviator (1913). One of my first thematic book collections was airplane fiction from 1910 to 1939. It's one of the few groups of books I regret having sold. I've been slowly rebuilding the collection.
Somewhere in the dim past I posted about a certain religious archive denying us access and was a bit cranky about it. My writing partner decided to try one more time. We've received no firm answer yet, but it appears that we've been kicked up the food chain to a certain committee composed of gentlemen prominent in that religion. At least if we're told "no" again, it will be a final and authoritative "NO." And we just might be told "yes."
I'm still plotting fairy deaths. As I do that I create unexpected characters. I'm pulling in a character from another story in this series. He fits here. That's not what I had planned, but I think it will make a fun story. And the baby sister in the story will have a bigger role than I anticipated. Baby sisters are sooo annoying. ...
Okay … here’s the scoop. Wicked fairy number two lives somewhere in Seattle. I had a specific location in mind, but I have tinkered with the outline, and there is no specific place that matches what I envision.
Wicked fairy number two must be hunted down, his brutal ways ended and an object retrieved. He is not full fairy, but being seven-eighths fairy is tough to kill. Pixie justice can be rough. Pixies have family everywhere. That sweet little old lady that maybe looks seventy – you know the one – and who lives just down the lane from you may be 722 years old and the granddaughter of a Pixie. We are related to all sorts of people. And we know others too. So the bringer of vengeance and the wreaker of havoc on fairy is not left without resources.
A visit to a cognizant human who runs a small gun shop catering to hunters and target shooters will bring a solution to the question of how to kill a thick-scaled near fairy. There are bullets that are meant to kill you dead. I mean really dead, brutally dead. Some are Teflon coated, some fragment into knife-like micro-pieces and liquefy the innards of miscreant fairies as easily as they do that to humans. They are illegal, but they exist. And remember the Lone Ranger? There really are silver tipped bullets. Oh, all that nonsense about it taking a silver bullet to kill a ghost is so much bunkum. There are no ghosts. What passes for ghosts is something infinitely worse. But cold iron and a silver blade are fatal to fairy kind.
Pixie justice walks into the shop. As I see it, this shop has, aside from the merchandise it contains, remained unchanged since it was built in 1949. The walls are cinderblock; the linoleum tiles are that dirty beige stuff with black and brown spots that was in fashion when the building was built. The place is dusty, but the guns and the display cases are clean. The windows could use a good wash. The proprietor is stout, bordering on portly. He is bald. He wears slightly tattered jeans and a white shirt.
There is conversation. When she first enters, he takes Pixie Avenger for a child, but that impression is short lived. They discuss fairy death. Pixie pays out her gold: Two double eagles, and a Roman Solidus. The proprietor nods, shoves back the two double eagles and pockets the Solidus. Pixie leaves with an M4 Alaskan Survival Derringer and a handful of “special” ammunition and an equal number of “regular” bullets.
There is a practice. Then there is the plot. Pixies do not steal, but they borrow with compensation. There is an exchange between Pixie Avenger and a child over clothes hanging on a clothes line. Shoes are acquired as is a bicycle.
The wicked part fairy is met, deluded and finally killed in a park. I’m leaving out all sorts of detail, of course. So, now, there is nothing like realism in one’s writing. Francis Parkman walked the Oregon Trail before writing his book. And for his massive series on the French in the New World, he walked acres of land in New England and Canada and in the Ohio-Mississippi valleys. His beautifully written histories benefited from his first hand experience.
So, a Pixie Writer should seek experience too. No? Try shooting one of these:
The Royal Wedding ... No not that one ... this one ...
The Royal Wedding: In Which a Pixie Insults and Offends Various Parties, tramples on religious sensibilities and national identities and just generally raises heck.
Why American TV news outlets think we’re at all interested in a British Royal Wedding mystifies me. I mean, we did have a revolution once upon a time to rid ourselves of foreign royalty. And despite Canadian brag about burning the Whitehouse in the War of 1812, we re-wupped British butt on the high seas and at New Orleans. Right?
You’d think that the newsies at CNN and CBS regretted the revolution or something. Personally, I think the Scots should throw out that upstart German Queen and give the throne back to my family. Then I could be Queen of Scotland – which would be fun as long as I don’t have to do anything but smile and wave and occasionally say “off with their heads,” and as long as I don’t have to be a Presbyterian. (All that business over Michael Servetus is so very Presbyterian and so very unforgivable.)
Now, dear hearts, in place of the over-blown coverage of What’s-his-name's marriage to that Kate Whoever, let me tell you about another Royal Wedding. It may have happened this way:
Scene 1: Somewhere in the Cascade Mountains beside a hiking trail. Short, scrawny princess and tall, lanky, knobby kneed Scot sit on a glacially polished granite slab. A contented sigh escaped the princess. Scot gives her a sideways glance.
Scot: So, Lass … [He unaccountably blushes] … When will you be marrying me?
Princess: Is that a proposal?
S: [Silly grin and nod]
P: Do I get a dowry?
S: Six goats, a life-time supply of haggis and a flock of in-laws.
P: I’ll take the goats. Change the haggis to cute shoes. I suppose if I take you, I must have the in-laws.
S: We can pretend my sister is related to someone else. …
P: [Nods] I accept.
Now I am not without sympathy for Kate Whosis and her Royal Pain. The maneuvering behind a royal wedding is intense. Even a nearly impoverished princess and her pet Scot had to endure something like that.
Scene 2: Seated around dining room table in the Royal Residence are the two mothers, a grandmother to the princess, and the engaged couple.
PMother: [Looking at lists of names which has blossomed from about 100 to something near the population of a small Mid-Western city] So, do we need to add anyone else?
Prin: [Holds out dainty hand for list] You haven’t included the president of Mexico and the governor of California.
SMother: [Making a note in her trusty planner] I didn’t know you knew them.
Scot: [Rolls eyes at his mother. Eye rolling is one of his bad habits.]
Prin: I wasn’t serious … Here [Grabs pen and jots down a list.]
PMother: [Looking at list] Only thirty people? But people will want to come.
PMother: Thirty it is then.
Other Royal Wedding issues are negotiated and settled. A date is set and a location chosen. [Late March; The Royal house.] Princess compromises on the size of the reception, allowing the mothers to invite who they will. Then there is the issue of the dress.
Princess has a blue dress. It’s a gorgeous blue dress. She wants to get married in her gorgeous blue dress, a thought that horrifies the mothers. Princess agrees to go bridal gown shopping solely to avoid causing death by shock-induced apoplexy. As it turned out, there were a number of bridal specialty shops and any number of mall stores with bridal gowns, many of them breath-takingly gorgeous and obscenely expensive. Almost none of them fit someone who wears [US size] girl’s 14 or women’s 0, and none of which fit someone who is under five feet tall.
Do they “do alterations”? Oh, heavens yes! Of course it adds to the already obscene price.
Scene 3: In a car, somewhere on the east side of town. Princess is driving.
PMother: Why are we in this part of town?
Prin: [More or less points with her cute little nose toward a shop on the right.]
SMother: Oh! I would never have considered that. What a good idea.
The trio are in what was 100 years past the main business district. It has become Little Mexico with a gay bar and two aging cinemas on the south fringes. One of the theaters is closed; the other shows Spanish language and porn movies on alternating nights. But on this street are three dress shops specializing in quinceanera and confirmation gowns. Confirmation gowns resemble wedding dresses, and, being meant for children, come in small sizes.
The proprietor is a plump Hispanic woman with appraising eyes and a pleasant, welcoming manner. Obviously surprised by the three non-Hispanics who’ve wandered into her store, she recovers quickly and gracefully.
SMother: Oh, this one is lovely. [She feels the lace on a confirmation gown.]
Prin: [Looking at it.] I like this one.
The dress is tried on. It fits perfectly. A check is written. The store owner asks, “When is your confirmation?”
The princess, who is used to age confusion, asks in turn, “How old do you think I am?”
“Well, you look twelve,” the owner says, “but maybe you’re fourteen.”
“Twenty,” our princess says, adding explanations. Short and scrawny coupled with a youngish face always produce age-confusion – more so then than now.
The last bit of negotiation concerns who will administer the vows. The Scot’s mom suggests a Presbyterian clergyman. The Princess’s mother suggests an Elder from her church, saying, “He’s known you all your life.” That’s not really true, but close enough.
Princess says, “We want Judge Brown.” [Not at all her real name.]
While you might suppose that all this wedding strategizing would have resolved every issue long in advance, it did not. There was the last minute kilt issue. There is no need to elaborate on that one. Finding a suitable catering service was left in the mothers' hands with the one provision that, “We bloody well will not serve haggis or anything remotely like it.” [Believe me, there is nothing remotely like haggis.]
Nerves, some surprise issues and a late night phone call from a cousin resident in Germany (and who hasn’t a clue what time zones are) kept our princess up for hours. Come the wedding, she was animated by coffee and adrenalin. Her sisters fussed over the dress, fixed her hair, fastened on Grandma’s blue-black pearls and coaxed the blurry-eyed princess into place.
The judge’s words were a buzz. “Do you Robert James take this woman … ? … Do you Victoria Louisa Gabriella Henriette Rachael Michelle Elizabeth take this knobby kneed Scot …?”
The princess is sure the reception was very nice. There was cake cutting and food-eating and dancing. There were congratulations and well wishes. About an hour and a half into this affair the princess leaned on her Pet Scot’s arm and fell asleep. None of the snickers nor any of the outright laughter woke her. Pet Scot roused our princess and guided her to the Royal Coach more familiarly known at the oldish Town Car Pet Scot then owned. They went into the night and into wedded bliss.
In time, as often happens, little princesses started appearing, and our princess has vowed all sorts of vows about what she will and will not do in regard to the inveitable royal weddings to follow.
Occasional Takes on the Bible Code Twits umm errr People
National Tin Hat and Anti-Alien Space Ray Society
1611 and all that By Occasional Reader
OK - so it’s the 400th anniversary of the King James Version – which all code-breakers know was the original Bible written in the special language spoken by God. Oh, and also the language of William Shakespeare. In fact, by careful calculations, do you know what you can prove?
Well, Shakespeare was born in 1564.
That means that when the original Bible came out (and do concentrate now – we are talking about the KJV – delivered gift-wrapped from heaven) Shakespeare was 46 years old... at least for the first few months of the year.
So let’s go to the psalms in the KJV.
Try Psalm 46.
Now count 46 words from the beginning.
The 46th word? “Shake”.
Now count 46 words back from the end (ignoring the musical term Selah).
The 46th word? “Spear”.
Shake-Spear. You see, Shakespeare!
And there’s more! If you add the numbers 4 and 6 together, you get 10. So go to verse 10 of Psalm 46 in the KJV – and reverse the 4 and 6 to become 6 and 4. The sixth word is “I” followed by “am” and then four words later is “will”. So “I-Am-Will” or “Will-I-Am” – William! William Shakespeare...
And there’s even more!! Did you know that the name William Shakespeare is an anagram of “Here was I, like a Psalm”?
You see - that proves it!!
Er – proves what?
Oh, and if you combine calculations from the Mayan calendar with the pyramid inch measurements for the diagonals in the Queens Chamber of the Great Pyramid (courtesy of the Great Pyramidiot, Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer Royal for Scotland) – then you can work out the exact date when Obama will cure the budget deficit for America....
My aunt and uncle came down yesterday on the promise that I would go to their annual communion supper with them. We all went, including Knobby Knees which surprised me. I know some of that congregation; it was the group with which my mother associated. Many of them are exceptionally nice people. “Well spoken” is a hopelessly outdated phrase, but it fits many of them.
The meeting was held in one of the local hotels, unfortunately not one the company I work for manages. (We own or manage three in this area.) They held it there instead of in their own building because they share that structure with two other congregations. At the risk of sounding snobbish, if I had known they needed a facility I would have given them a meeting room on a complementary basis. There is a vast difference between a four star and a five star facility.
The hotel they chose has one huge meeting room with room dividers. This isn’t uncommon and we have something similar though we also have hard-wall separated meeting rooms. They put a loud wedding reception next door and the music was distracting. We would never have done that.
The meeting itself was very pleasant and well done. The audio system was a bit poor and with Let’s Do the Macharina (O Dear God!) playing next door, listening required some concentration. The church I most closely identify with sees communion and final destiny differently than this group does. No matter, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. I’m a rebel as far as both sides are concerned. My church is Socinian. That’s stupidity. I don’t believe Soncinian doctrine at all. I believe as this other group does.
Now the people who organized the communion service last night are in the Oriental heritage of the church. It is a practice soundly based in history. The speaker’s voice was a bit monotonous. That’s not unusual in this region. Dynamic speakers are rare here; even well modulated speakers are rare. It’s definitely a regionalism.
I could nod my head in agreement with almost everything said. I differ in only one key area, and while it is an important difference to them, it is not to me. They would not accept me into fellowship with that difference. I would accept them into fellowship with that difference between us. There’s no need to elaborate, since most of those who read this blog would not find it at all interesting. The issue is symbolism or literalness of a number mentioned in the Bible. The other area that brought me pause was the speaker’s use of a verse from Peter’s first letter as a proof text. While I agree with his point, I do not agree that the verse he chose proves the point.
This is nothing new, but it is at the heart of why I did not follow my mother into that church. Merely saying a verse proves something and reading it with the presumption it actually says what you think it does is not sound or rational practice. This group has a historical tendency to shove meanings into texts that cannot be found there.
They have a more narrow view of salvation than I do. This isn’t important to me either. What God does is not dependent on what those who worship him think he should do. A bit less positiveness would go a long way in curing what ails religiosity. God does not need us to tell him what to do.
The entire congregation does not participate in the communion. Most simply observe. This is based on a two-destinies but one-faith doctrine. There are historical precedents for this belief, but not, I think, for their practice. They leave it up to the individual to decide what to do. Most simply decide not to participate. Out of respect, I did not participate. There is no kindness in causing controversy.
My uncle did of course. This was his 59th annual communion in that faith. This created the one less-than-serious moment of the night. They use the original Jewish flat bread, and it’s usually baked by a member of the congregation. They break it into smaller pieces and pass it among the congregants, each forwarding the plate to the next. When properly baked it’s thin, crisp, easy to break. What came to Uncle was about a quarter inch thick and broken into impossibly large pieces. He tried to snap off a corner. It was hard as concrete and he couldn’t. Not wishing to create an unnecessary distraction, he took the smallest piece and tired to bite off a manageable piece. He almost couldn’t do that. I thought he was going to break a tooth!
He finally managed to gnaw off a corner and chew. I swear his eyes almost crossed. God is a jokester. The Bible is full of jokes and puns often lost in translation but there never the less. I’m sure this wasn’t one of God’s jokes. He’s not cruel. But it was a bit amusing.
Uncle influenced this churches communion service way back when. When he was young and vigorous he was often called upon to conduct this service. He started naming the year since the original communion service back in 33 AD. That practice was eventually picked up and used by that church’s hierarchy.
Another really interesting event was the presence of a lesbian couple. This group will not admit into baptized fellowship lesbians or gays. But … they will welcome them into attendance. I watched this unfold with endless curiosity. If that couple did not feel fully welcome there was something wrong with them. And I’m sure they would be welcome to attend meetings as they are forever. This is not at all like some of the more conservative churches in this area that would not have made them feel welcome.
Uncle and I talked about this afterwards. His personal view is that any changes we need to make in our life should not come from outside pressure, but from God’s kindly spirit leading us to good decisions. Still, I know there is considerable social pressure within this group to conform to norms if one is to be accepted into fellowship. The difference between this group and the really nasty Assemblies congregation here is the same as existed between the Pharisees and Jesus. Jesus came to call sinners whom he compared to the sick needing tender medical care. The Pharisees wanted to bar them from God’s favor, not seeing that they were more sick than most of those they defined as “sinners”.
In practice even the best Christian is an odd mixture of Pharisee and Christ.
So ... one of the people who shows up in our new history book - only in a minor way, mind you - is a man named Peyton Bowman. He's interesting, but he's not an important character. A day or so ago someone left a comment on our old history blog saying they were a Bowman descendant. My writing partner finally made contact with this person who seems to be quite nice. He helped with the middle name. We may get some other documents out of him too.
This is one of a string of relatives of some of the principals who have contacted us. We've heard from relatives of men named Jonas Wendell, George Stetson, J. A. Brown and others. Sometimes they know less than we do, but sometimes they send us really helpful things.
Well, I still hurt, but not nearly so badly. My chin isn’t so swollen now either. I still feel stupidly for the fall. I guess one can trip over size two and a half feet as easily as over size nine feet. Someone suggested that I should remember I don’t have wings in real life. Nonsense! Of course I do! I see them; why can’t you?
My uncle emailed me this morning. Fish and Wildlife officers shot a cougar that was hiding in the basement of an under-construction house. When I was a child we had to stop playing on the Yakima Delta because of cougar tracks. They finally trapped that one and hauled it off to the Cascade Mountains where it belonged. Cougars are elegant beasts. You might know them better as mountain lions. The one they shot was only six feet long, so it was probably young and lost.
We seldom see them where I live, though we get many deer and an occasional moose. Aunt Shirley is a fan of moose. To me they’re just overgrown deer with funny antlers. Beaver are plentiful here, though they’re smaller than up river. When we went on the jet boat tour of the Columbia River reach we saw huge beaver, bigger than I’d ever seen before. The Reach is the last free flowing stretch of the Columbia. I consider it My River. I grew up along its banks, played in it, skipped rocks on its surface and peered at the monsters within its depths. Go to youtube and search Columbia River sturgeon and see what I mean. Or look for salmon fishing videos.
When we lived where my aunt and uncle do, one of my constant friends was a policeman who lived a block over and way down at the end of that street. I used to ride my bike down and visit with his wife who was one of mom’s best friends. He fished. I’m four feet ten inches tall. He caught fish that were nearly two thirds my height. When Lewis and Clarke came through here in 1804 (I think), they recorded fish so thick you could almost walk on the water. That is all gone. The river is murky in places, though on the reach and sometimes near our house one can see clear to the bottom.
We found some research material that I’ve been looking for. I’ve spent a lot of time on that search, and though the actual result is small, I think it was worth the effort. We’re following the career of a Methodist, turned Adventist, turned Age to Come believer named George Storrs. He was an abolitionist too, as many of these men were. I would have liked Storrs. I can’t say this of everyone we include in our history. For instance, there is a G. Meyrs, also spelled Meyers and Mayers, that wrote some marvelous things. But I think he and I would not have gotten along at all. There is another man named Tavender who was, I think, one of the good guys in our story. I would have liked him too.
My uncle, who is also my writing partner, has always been a part of my life. He changed my diapers, so he claims, when I was a baby. He used to take his oldest daughter, who is five years younger than I am, and me to a play field near where we all lived. Sometimes he’d carry one or the other of us on his shoulders. Our favorite play was a tire swing. Uncle was already arthritic, but he tirelessly spun us and pushed us in that swing. We played for hours in his basement room. It was full of books, and there was a small TV and a computer. His daughters had a blackboard and a play tent down there too. We spent fun times there or out in his back yard running through the sprinklers or slipping down a Slip n Slide.
He is fun to watch. He has a wry and sometimes very dry sense of humor. Aunt Shirley doesn’t always appreciate it, and sometimes she doesn’t understand it at all. You can see the puzzled looks she gives him – even after nearly forty years of marriage.
One of my grandfathers was eternally losing his glasses in plain sight. I remember sitting under the dining room table in their house in Westwood watching him pace back and forth searching for something. Grandma walked into the dinning room just as Grandpa, growing agitation showing on his face, walked by.
“Viktoria!” Grandpa said, “Have you seen my glasses? I can’t find my glasses!”
Grandmother was not much taller than I am now, but she drew herself up and said with a frown-hiding smile, “Dear, they’re on your forehead.” Grandpa felt the top of his head, pulled his glasses down on his nose and mumbled his thanks.
Now my uncle has similar habits though they show in slightly different ways. When they were here a couple of weeks ago, he borrowed one of my books and plopped himself down in a comfy chair to read. He often takes his glasses off to read, and he did so then, laying them on the end table. So, you see this picture, right? He’s deep into one of Ann McCaffrey’s books, and it’s easy to see the rest of us are not registering highly on his consciousness. He turned a page, reaching up to adjust glasses he wasn’t wearing. I did not laugh, giggle or comment. It’s an interesting mannerism.When I return to fiction writing, it will probably find a place in a story.
Henry James wrote at length about his use of observations drawn off the streets of London and elsewhere. He was good at that. I think most creditable writers are good readers and great observers. I wish I had the talents of some of those who are my favorites.
I've been thinking about about this post for several days. Both the pink and white Dogwoods are in full bloom. Sunday my truck was covered with yellow tree pollen, but Monday and Tuesday's rain washed it all away temporarily.
Please take care my dear pixie. You know I worry about you, and I feel bad when I go days without talking to you. But then I take a quick break from teaching every morning to see if you have posted anything new. I am taking your two most recent photos to be a reply to my comment about the boy cooties. Anyhow, here's a new post for the blog. xoxo Harry
It has been a miserable winter. Not really that bad with snow, sleet, and freezing rain, at least now here, but it's been one of those long dreary winters that seems to never end.
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on February 2 with the promise of an early spring.The vernal equinox came and went and we saw hard frosts and a dusting of light snow here and there.
Monday and Tuesday were wet and cold. Wednesday morning it was still cool, but dry. As I walked out to my truck, the birds were chirping. When I turned out of my neighborhood there it was. Spring.
The trees, that had been barren yesterday, now were full of budding leaves. The grass was green and ready to be mowed. The overnight change was startling. It was like Persephone had risen from the underworld. The wait is over. There is no further question about it. Spring has arrived.
So … I fell at work last night. I’m not sure what happened; I probably tripped over my own cute little feet. I feel as if someone beat me with a baseball bat. (My UK readers can substitute Cricket Bat, if that helps.)
About one a.m. I went for what was meant to be a short walk around the front parking lot. I found myself falling. I tried to grab a lamp post but couldn’t get a good grasp on it. I hit my chin on the concrete pillar that serves as its base, wrenched by back, hurt my knees, twisted my left wrist, and passed out. I have a huge scrape and gouge on my chin. I walk like an arthritic ninety year old now.
I woke up screaming maybe less than a minute later. No one heard me, or if they did they didn’t investigate. We have security patrols through the parking lots, but they’re purposely irregular. I finally managed to get to my feet and get inside. I lasted another hour, though most of that time was spent cleaning blood off. Finally, I put someone in charge and went home. I can’t move without considerable pain, even medicated. Worse, I feel stupid for the fall.
Well, we can’t all be graceful, I guess. Last night wasn’t my night for elegance.
A man from France emailed my writing partner asking for access to our history blog. We debated this on the phone – twice. We were bit once by someone who generated a web reputation. This man has his own. I don’t know how many people are so clueless that they don’t realize that what you post to the web is nearly permanent. What you think you delete isn’t really deleted. This fellow is a well-known opponent of one of the religions we’re profiling. We finally decided to send the invitation with the expectation of good behavior. That’s really the issue.
We’re not here to monitor someone else’s beliefs or lack of belief. You can believe that the Goat of Egypt is God if you want, as long as you leave my goats alone. But you cannot misbehave on the blog, steal our material for your own use (Ask. We usually give permission.), or drive me crazy with rude emails. So …he’s in, but barely.
Neither my writing partner nor I read German much past an elementary level. We are struggling with research into several 17th-19th Century German writers. For the two or three paragraphs we intend to include, this is proving to be more difficult than I had hoped. Yet, it’s important enough to follow the trail. There is little appreciation of (Okay, really no appreciation of) the role of German expositors in the development of Millennialist thinking in America. It’s plainly there. You can see it in the work of a non-Millerite Millenarian. He quotes them, references them, and includes them in his bibliography. They show up elsewhere too.
Quality research is hard work. I have a feeling that what we intended as an introductory section to a chapter will turn into a short chapter all of its own. I hope not. But we will do what ever is necessary to present well documented and well explained research.
I’m still looking at that Greek language booklet that I posted about earlier. It’s still for sale. If I buy it, we’ll have to find a translator. I don’t know anyone capable who would do that on a volunteer basis. I’m still thinkin’ ‘bout it.
Something else on our “list” is a broadside entitled “The Broadcaster.” We had one issue in our collection but traded it away to get something more important. If we continue this series of books, we will eventually need good copies of all of them. I haven’t a clue where we’ll find them.
I would like to skip ahead to the period between 1942 and 1972 or so. My writing partner is reluctant to do that on two grounds. He doesn’t want to break stride, and we have strongly differing views about the nature of events in that period. I understand the first objection. We have differing views (to some degree) about the years we’re considering now. That doesn’t keep us from presenting the facts as we know them and letting our readers reach their own conclusions.
Because the principal religion became increasingly secretive in the 1950’s, finding documentation would be difficult. There was a resurgence of polemic in the 1950’s, much of it really distorted and nasty. We own some of that. William Martin, a man of infamy, wrote a book that is full of stupid assertions. Two expelled adherents wrote books as well, both of them on the silly side. One of them is a valid historical document though. There are many silly booklets. There was a small book written in 1957 by a Southern evangelist who claimed to be a former adherent. He reissued it in the 1970’s with updates. Disgustingly, he fabricates quotations. Well fabrication is too strong a word. He cuts things short in the middle of sentences to alter the point made in the original.
So you can see that the original religion would become a bit reserved. They’ve taken it too far, so that now their reserve does them harm. Some of the most obnoxious things came from people who saw themselves as “smart” when they were not. An issue with this entire group is a reluctance to pursue a decent education. So many of them are self-taught. There are some who really are brilliant. I’ve met a few, emailed a few, and respect many of these. Self-education can be as effective as a university education, and sometimes it’s more effective. But among the anti-people there is this strongly expressed disdain for others.
Many of them see themselves as hot-shot investigators. There is a Terry who posts on line, and his – excuse the vulgarism – crap is believed by his sycophants. He is always wrong. I have yet to see a post by this man that presents anything close to the facts. He thinks he’s brilliant.
My dog wood tree is blooming. It’s lovely. But my gardens are still a horrid mess. I just haven’t been well enough to work on them. I think I will devote Sunday to my front gardens. We have two weeping birch trees that need to go. They’ve been on the sick side since I inherited this house. No amount of loving care has brought them out of it fully. This will be their last summer if I can’t doctor them back to health.
Occasional’s post made me smile. I buy and endless number of used books, and I love thrift store shopping. It’s relaxation and treasure hunting all smooshed together. But … as some of you know, I used to own an antiquarian bookstore. A faltering economy brought it to a lingering demise.
The parade of browsers, buyers and gossipers kept me entertained. Oh, there were some I did not like. We had an old guy who’d show up about ever two months. I finally told him not to come back. I had in my front cabinets a first edition of Lord of the Rings. This, dear hearts, is a very, very pricey book. He wanted me to sell it to him for five dollars. He threw fits when I would tell him no. The first time he came in, I let him hold the book. That was the one and only time I let him touch something in one of the rare book cases.
He would explode and stamp out. He abused my assistant until she had tears in her eyes. I met him at the door on his fifth visit and told him he was banned from the store. He threatened me with the police, and I told him to go ahead and call. I don’t know if he did; they certainly never showed up.
In one of Stephen King’s books, Hearts in Atlantis I think, he observes that Viet Nam veterans often affected Zippo lighters. One of my regular visitors was a veteran who collected military history and collected Zippo lighters. He liked any metal lighter, haunting the antique malls looking for them and other military collectables. He and an older man, a veteran of World War 2, would stand at my front counter and trade stories, but I noticed that none of their stories were about themselves. I have seen that in other veterans too.
One of our daily visitors was a woman who collected Nancy Drew first editions with dust jackets. She was fun. I like Nancy Drew stories too, though I’ve never collected them as first editions. She was very reserved and seemed almost confused when I first met her. She wore flower-print dresses that would have looked correct in a late 1950’s or early 1960’s movie, and in the summer she wore large floppy hats. Maybe she was a Breakfast at Tiffany’s fan. She was a font of knowledge on 20th Century girls’ fiction, especially Nancy Drew and Dana Girls books.
I kept a comfy though small reading area. I found two overstuffed chairs that probably were new in 1940. These came out of a local estate, looked nearly new and were very comfortable. I also found a nice Morris style chair in a thrift store. An old oriental looking rug and three small tables completed the area. I kept Danish butter cookies behind the counter for my favorite reader-browser-gossips and coffee or tea was always on. It was worth the expense.
We became the target of larger booksellers. A book dealer from Seattle and another from Portland came through regularly. We even got visits from a largish, fairly well-known store in the Chicago area. It was fun to talk shop and do deals.
I sold online through ABE and Alibris and sometimes on e-bay. I developed a number of regulars via the internet. One of the most interesting was a professor in Budapest. I had a mended copy of Koldaway’s Excavations at Babylon, the English language edition. I found this in a shop in Walla Walla, paying five dollars for it. I didn’t dance around or anything like that. The most emotion I showed was refusing to let the clerk handle it at checkout. Some bookstore clerks in the junkier shops do not know how to handle a book. He gave me a funny look, but since he could see the price and was probably as used to very odd book buyers as I was, he just rang it up.
So I get it home, right? I drop this thing and split the book on the front hinge! I carefully mended it, listing it as damaged and put it up for less than half the going rate. I asked two hundred fifty dollars.
This professor person emailed me and asked if I would lower the price because of the damage. I told him I’d already done that. I did not hear back, not surprisingly since most who ask that question are not serious buyers. Maybe four months later he emailed again, asking the same question. I gave him the same answer, but this time he emailed back. Can you send me a photo of the damage, he asked. I sent the photo. He wrote back saying, I don’t see any damage. In turn, I said, the fine whitish line on the hinge is where the repair is. He wrote back saying, “That’s it?” I said yes. He bought the book and was pleased. He continued to write to me for three years and then dropped out of sight.
When I drove up to see my aunt and uncle – a trip I make frequently – aunty and I went junk-store shopping I found some nice things, though nothing spectacular. As an after thought I bought a book, sans-dust jacket published in the late 1940’s. It was a novel about the South Pacific, and at this point I’ve forgotten the title. I figured I was paying thirty-five cents for a book I’d sell for four or five dollars. When I got around to pricing and listing it, I couldn’t find a copy for sale anywhere. This doesn’t mean rarity at all, but one never knows. So I picked a price: $80.00. There was no basis for this, but I supposed that if I had the only copy out there, then I would ask what I wished and then “deal.” It was on my online catalogue for two days and sold. The registrar of a well-known college bought it. You know what? I still do not know what I sold.
Not at all to the point but related to books is something I did as a child. My dad had a huge bunch of 1950’s science fiction books, mostly all book clubs without dust jackets. In other words, they were junk, except for the entertainment value. In a fit of boredom I wrote the author’s names on the front end sheets on maybe ten of the books. Years later dad had me put them in a yard sale. Piles of books that went into that yard sale, mostly things I got in large lots but which were useless junk. Usually I donated things like that to a charity thrift. But I put these in the sale along with dad’s SF books at fifty-cents each.
Man A enters the sale with wife B. He heads for the books while his wife looks at clothes and junk. If you’ve ever had a yard sale, you would know this pattern of behavior. I hear him make a kind of choking sound. He motions his wife over. “These are all signed,” he whispers to her. Yes, they’re signed – by me! So I walk over and tell him that the signatures were not genuine, and in answer to his query explain how I know. He was unconvinced by my story. He bought them all. I never figured out if he thought I was lying to get them for myself or what. Didn’t matter though, did it?
One thing I did not like to do was disappoint people who thought they had a rare book. Someone was always bringing me a book or box of books that they thought were rare. Old does not mean rare, and condition matters. I hated the look of disappointment that I got. I learned early on to invite people back to my computer to see for themselves what the ask price was on their books. If I didn’t do that, some assumed I was trying to cheat them.
I enjoyed the hunt. I found a first of Salinger’s Nine Stories in a thrift store. It was marked forty-nine cents. My mom was with me, and I dropped it into her cart. It was the only thing I bought and she had bunches of junk. (She had a spot in an antique mall.) So we get up to the counter and they give her a senior discount! I got the book for just over thirty cents. My thirty cents turned into almost two hundred dollars.
I miss the store, but bookstores – especially bricks and mortar bookstores – are suffering. I sold it.
Occasional Reader v. The Bookselling Hulk - Guest Post
The joy of second hand book collecting
It was Virginia Wolfe who said "Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack."
Partly down to budget, but also with a nod to Wolfe’s philosophy, second hand book collecting has been a major part of my life. Since the advent of the internet I’ve obtained so many items that I never thought would have been possible. And yet there is something lost from the experience of scrabbling amongst dusty shelves and precarious stacks, and secret back rooms where real treasures might be found. More and more shops in Britain have gone to the wall. Even a place like the “town of books” Hay on Wye (everything you could never possibly want) seemed sparser last time I visited. The comforting jumble of the periodicals department in one huge building (where once I picked up originals of Overland Monthly) now replaced by a modern cafe.
So here are a two highlights and one lowlight of one person’s book collecting over the years.
First there was Newcome’s Improved New Testament, the first edition of 1808. Newcome was the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland who produced his own NT translation in the late 18th century. Copyright wasn’t too hot at the time, and in 1808 the Unitarians got hold of it and “improved” it. Their version used the Anglicised Jehovah for the name of God in a number of OT quotations, and also had an untraditional rendering for John 1:1 where the last clause became “the Word was a god”. (It started a trend. The Universalist Abner Kneeland ran with this for his own translation in 1822, and the baton was picked up by the interlinear rendering in Benjamin Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott in the mid-1860s – which strays into the historical area of this blog). Leaving aside linguistic and theological arguments – one can’t imagine the Archbish being too pleased with what happened to his baby.
At the time – and this was a good number of years ago - a pristine first edition could go for about 200 GBP. But there I was – in the one shop that always looked down on the rabble who bought “second hand” as opposed to pricey “antiquarian”. And there was gold – languishing on the shelf. They should have known better. I feigned as much bored indifference to match that of the person behind the counter, paid just a couple of GBP and left. Back in the car - “Yes!” That volume is still mine, although currently out on loan for an exhibition.
Then there was the bound volume of a Victorian periodical called “The Idler”. Edited by Jerome K Jerome, it was in beautiful condition in publisher’s cloth - the one volume I was missing. A perfect match, and going for a song. My daughter still remembers the occasion when I picked out the volume – made a fist and, according to her, danced around the second hand bookshop in Penzance. At the age of 12 she was used to her father doing strange things, but I am sure I didn’t actually dance. To this day, she insists I did! I blame the bad memory on her advancing years.
Of course there have been less successful experiences along the way. I used to advertise regularly in trade journals for publications of a certain religious group – a key one was called The Watchtower that started in 1879. A dealer contacted me to offer an original volume for 1901-1903. It was very expensive, and I was doing religious work away from home with a companion of similar age at the time. And we were broke. Really, really broke. But I had to have it. Money from necessities was diverted to obtain the prize. Then each day I waited impatiently for the parcel to come.
Finally it did. I ripped open the paper, and there it was – the Watchtower on the spine. Not quite the size I expected, but hey – how much did I know at that time about the shape and size of its past years? I opened the book wide, and there on a full page spread were the immortal words:
BILE BEANS FOR BILIOUSNESS
Those who may know the journal in question will understand how incongruous that was. I flipped through the pages and – aaagh - this wasn’t MY Watchtower, this was ANOTHER Watchtower – a literary journal published by the Broughton Baptist Church - full of life enhancing anecdotes, and advertisements for patent remedies for the ailing Baptist community of Greater Manchester.
My working partner behaved with true Christian charity.
How much did you pay for it?
Well over forty years have gone by since then, but I can still remember as he curled up and pounded the floor in hysterics, as I looked aghast at my prize and thought what I could have spent the money on.
That volume is still on my shelves today. (As is another volume called Awake - a bound volume from the Church Missionary Society from 1902 – and that date really should have been a give-away).
So … ummm … I seem to be boring everyone spitless. Okay, okay, so that’s a mixed metaphor or something, but you know what I mean? Right? So … one of you needs to come up with a fun post that will amaze, delight, produce peals of laughter, shocked gasps, raised eyebrows and furrowed brows … and lots of comments.
Whatcha got, boys and girls? Give me your best!
** On to other stuff. Remember that guy who boasted he was in the top 99.9999999 percent in the nation for brain power (and shoe size, I’m sure)? Remember I observed that that included everyone but the bottom .0000001 percent? He’s back, trying to worm his way into our project again. He wrote to my writing partner offering to send documentation. His email was ignored. So off he toddles to AOL mail and gets himself a new email. He sends something we’ve had for about a year and which you can now get off the internet anyway. He is a persistent little devil. Bruce sent him a nice thank you but we have this reply. He did not say, “Hey, dude! I know who you are.” He’s too nice for that … or feisty … or something.
I bought a 18th Century Korean coin off ebay. I paid too much. When held in my hand the coin is not nearly as nice as it appears in the photo. I’ll keep it though. It was all for cheap. The guy didn’t cheat me at all. I should have put the photo in my photo editor and taken a better look.
There’s another coin I’m watching. I can’t verify that it is genuine. The seller doesn’t know what it is. I can identify the king: Offa of Mercia. The portrait appears to be his wife. But it looks like a fantasy piece to me. It’s in the UK, and I’m always reluctant to buy from across the sea. I’ll skip on that. I would bid if I knew this was genuine. I don’t have a good reference work for British coins of that era.
My inner pixie tells me this is genuine. Someone will get a bargain, just not me.
I am not teaching my classes tomorrow. I’m still too sick to do much of anything, and I’m trying to work at my “main job.” I wish I had a bazillion bucks; I’d go cute shoe shopping, coffee sipping, gossip talking, and junk store shoppin’. As it is, I have to run down to the Digital Imaging place and have some photocopies made. Some nice person at a university in Canada donated thirty-five dollars to a research fund for a copy of a booklet published in the 1890’s. I have to get that done today. Facing that minor task is like facing a firing squad. I feel that badly today.
Men have always painted Jesus in their own image. Perhaps because Matthew’s gospel is one of the four primary biographical sources, there seems to be little of that in his story. His version of Jesus’ life has more in common with Samuel Pepys’ Diary than with a modern novel, only his distinctive outline giving it story format.
In the era of Social Reformation, and later in the era of Socio-political Revolution, Jesus was painted as a revolutionary. Matthew’s Jesus is not a revolutionary. He is the ultimate religious conservative who points backwards to the letter and spirit of Divine Law. I suppose this is revolutionary enough, but it’s not the kind of revolutionary social reformers and radical priests envision.
Jesus’ appeal is always to what Jews believed to be divine revelation. In Matthew’s introductory matter, Jesus’ birth and work are sown as the fulfillment of prophecy. David Eddings and countless writers of fantasy fiction – including myself – use this device. A prophecy defines a hero and frequently the villain. If it doesn’t clearly state outcomes, it suggests them. Matthew doesn’t use this devise in that way. Matthew writes what he believed happened, thereby coloring the story.
In the early part of his story Jesus is presented as the fulfillment of prophetic expectation, particularly of Isaiah’s prophecy. The angel tells Joseph that Jesus is a divine child. Matthew points to Isaiah’s prophecies as an explanation. John the Baptist is presented as a fulfillment of the same prophetic cycle. When, at John’s execution, Jesus withdraws into the District of Zebulon and Naphtali, Matthew tells us this fulfilled a fragment of Isaiah’s predictions. More than this, Jesus is given to us by Matthew as a prophet like unto but greater than Isaiah. He speaks with the same direct word-of-God authority, made greater by his divine sonship. He is the summary of divine prophecy.
When Matthew develops the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, the conflict between Isaiah and rebel kings and priests lurks in the background. As was Isaiah, Jesus is a prophet of restoration. He has come to fulfill the Law. He has come to teach meaning and give understanding – to bring reconciliation to those who would have it. So when early in this conflict he says to the Pharisees, “If you had known what the text means, ‘I require mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent,” he speaks a prophetic rebuke very like that found in Isaiah fifty-eight.
Matthew, ever the master plot-builder, understates the tension. There is no overblown, stilted dialogue here. He says simply that they went their way and plotted Jesus’ death. A prophet of conservative reformation is a threat to the status quo. Jesus was especially threatening because the people, even some Romans, believed he had divine authority, even nature obeying him. After defining the hero and the conflict, Matthew foreshadows outcomes using Jesus’ charge to the twelve.
I never asked David Eddings (and now sadly cannot) if he drew Prince Sparhawk’s companions from the gospels, but he certainly could have. Difficult times lay ahead. Sparhawk tells his companions and Jesus tells the twelve as much. Some of you will die, he says. If they seek my life, they will seek yours.
The scene: Me, sitting at desk checking financials. Ennui shows on my face as I scan the report. I’m only interested in the columns that show that everything balances. It does. I initial it, setting it in my done file. I look out my window, thinking that the fellow on you tube who pronounces octagonal as OCTOGON-al should consult a dictionary. There is a knock on my office door.
Security Supervisor: Rach, I found Kip. His blackberry isn’t working ….
Me: Why? Is the battery going?
S. Sup: Ummm no. Not exactly.
Me: [Raises eyebrows] No?
S. Sup: He dropped it. Apparently he stepped on it when he tried to pick it up … and then he accidentally kicked it … and it slid out into traffic … and … well a car ran over it. It’s trash.
Me: I didn’t hire Kip, did I?
S. Sup: Nope. Big Boss hired him.
Me: Good. Send him an email. Tell him what happened. Move Kip to umm where should we send him?
S. Sup: Philadelphia?
Me: [giggles] Have him do the vacant room checks in tower two for … well … for forever.
The scene: At the South End Starbucks, sipping coffee and gossiping with Shirley. Daughter 5 [think very young] and Daughter 2 [Think teenager] are playing their own brand of checkers at the next table. A man, tall, almost cadaverously thin, enters and sits at a nearby table. He’s obviously waiting for someone. Maybe five minutes pass, during which both daughters make endless illegal moves, but since they’re within the rules they’ve made for themselves no one complains. Door opens. Man says, “Princess!” and a toddler runs into his arms.
Dau 5: [Looking up suddenly] Oh! I thought he meant mom!
Dau 2: Dork-head!
Dau 5: [Frowning] Am not! Mom’s a princess. She told me we’re related to Snow White …
Dau 2: [Reaches over and feels top of Dau 5’s head]
Dau 5: Stop that! Why’d you do that?!
Dau 2: I was looking for the point.
Dau 5: [Feeling top of her own head] My head isn’t pointed.
Dau 2: Snow White isn’t real. You know this. We’ve all told you that.
Dau 5: … But I want her to be …
My sympathies are entirely with Dau 5. I want her to be real too.
“Mom, why do Liz’s socks have holes?” “… … She probably needs to clip her toe nails … I really don’t know. Tell her to throw them away.” “The holes are on her heel.” “Boney ankles?”
Dau: Mom, this cup stinks! Me: ! What does it smell like? Dau: Really bad perfume, like that spray air freshener Mary uses. Me: [Sniffing] That’s hand cream. Dau: Arpita! Your hand cream stinks!
Knobby Knees: [Looking at a woman’s fashion magazine] Why do all these models have huge feet? Me: Pervert! K. Knees: Yes, but I only have eyes for you, Lass.
Dau 3: [Loud Scream] Dau 2. It’s only a bug. Dau 3: But it’s an ugly bug. Dau 2: All bugs are ugly.
Remember that post? It was about my daughter watching the rain and kissing the air. Guess how many perverts from Arab and Muslim lands have found it while searching for porn. Just guess.
Dear Lord! These men are perverts! Hey, you Muslim guys, listen up! You will not find what your looking for on this blog. Go away. Stay away. I check the search terms that bring people here. Invariably, if it's perverted it comes from Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria or some other Muslim country. One of you perverts care to explain why that is so?
Remember back a post or six I said I was reading the New Testament as if it were a novel. This continues to be interesting. If I were teaching Matthew as a novel instead of using the Sisters Grimm series, I’d focus on the Centurion with the paralyzed servant. Matthew’s characterization is always excellent though certainly not done in a style readers of modern fiction find familiar.
The New English New Testament does not do the passage justice. It is fairly literal, faithful to the individual words in the Greek text, but it tends to mislead the reader as a result. You may know the story. A Roman Centurion approaches Jesus and says his “boy” is paralyzed. Matthew uses a word (pais) that customarily means slave or servant though it can be translated boy. In the parallel story in Luke the word is doulos which means bond-servant. Why the NEB translators chose to use “boy” instead of servant is a mystery to me. It was a stupid decision.
The purpose of this story is to further Matthew’s characterization of Jesus as possessing Divine Authority. It is one of a series of short accounts written to the same purpose. There are sub-texts to some of these vignettes, but this is the main point.
Aside from Matthew’s purpose, he presents the Centurion in the briefest way as a man of surprising faith and consideration. He is a man of compassion. More than that, he is a man with deep feelings for his paralyzed servant. That he is called “boy” is not a reflection of age but of status. The servant could have been either old or very young. It’s a deep compassion perhaps even love that would take a proud Centurion out of his house to find Jesus the healer. He could have sent another servant. He went himself.
He showed extraordinary respect for a Jew by doing so. Some commentators suppose things not in evidence. We do not know that the Centurion favored Jews, was a convert or simply a believer. None of that is stated. Imagination can take one anywhere, but most of those places are not where Matthew-the-Novelist takes us. (Yes, yes, I know. It’s not a novel. But that’s how I’m analyzing it. Don’t get all huffy.) Not easily seen in any English text is the Centurion’s mental state; yet it is revealed, I think, in Matthew’s word choice. He asks, beseeches, Jesus for a healing. If he saw Jesus as his equal, he would have used a different word than the one found in the Greek text. Matthew’s word choice indicated a strong desire for action, not a negotiation between equals. This marks the Centurion as an exceptional man among the Romans.
Jesus’ response drives the story forward. Jesus says, “When I come, I will heal him.” None of the Pharisees would have responded this way. They would not have entered this man’s house. The Centurion knows this. Perhaps with a Pharisee he would have disdained the contact and attitude. But, even if he were not a convert (remember there is nothing in the story that suggests he is.) he had faith in Jesus personally. There is belief, firm, unquestioning. In Matthew’s story it is based on evidence. People have seen Jesus heal.
The Centurion says “I am also a man under authority.” The NEB hides this thought. This is regrettable. It is key to Matthew’s outline. Merely say the word and my servant will be healed, the Centurion says. The parallelism between the Centurion’s servants and underlings who carry out his orders and the “servant” of Jesus who would carry out the healing is imperfect. I’d really love to know who or what the Centurion felt would carry out Jesus’ order to heal. Jesus doesn’t address that concept. Instead he marvels at the man’s faith, saying it is greater than he has seen in Israel. He speaks a brief lesson which in a novel would provide prophetic foreshadowing, a hint of future events. Then he sends the Centurion off saying his “boy” would be healed.
I wish Matthew had access to writer’s tools we have. What marvelous things would he have added if instead of telling his story with pen and ink – a tedious process that was repeated with every copy produced – he had a computer with a nice word processor and a laser printer?
We do not see this centurion again. Connecting him with other men of that rank who appear later in the gospels or in Acts of the Apostles is poor literary analysis. Matthew does not make that connection, nor should we.
I know many of you do not find this interesting, but I do, and it’s my blog so I get to post this. Thupp!
I’m very sick today and profoundly unhappy. I haven’t written anything that matters in the last week. With both of us sick, our project is languishing. It’ll have to sit as is until we feel better.
One of the effects of the neurological disorder is that I see things that aren’t there. They’re not exactly hallucinations. I know they’re not there. They’re transparent for one thing. They’re also improbable. I saw a huge tree two days ago. It was out of perspective, appearing improbably tall and large. Why this happens is a mystery to me. A neurologist at the University of Washington Hospital tried to explain it to me, but I came away feeling he really didn’t know either.
Another effect is a very vivid dream state where scenery passes. This is very realistic. There is no story plot such as “regular” dreams might produce. It’s just scenery. It can come on almost as soon as I start to doze, and I have been fooled by this dream state. It’s not at all like normal dreaming, though I am hard put to explain the differences. My regular dreams are stories, many of them entertaining. I enjoy them. These “other” dreams are what one would see out a car window or sitting somewhere and watching the world pass by. They often change a reality I know, adding detail or changing major portions of the scenery. Sometimes they’re of places I’ve never been. Those are interesting. The detail is always startling. None of my regular dreams have that level of detail. Usually they are devoid of people, but my “regular” dreams are full of people.
I hate being alone when I’m this sick, and everyone is gone. So, alone I am. When I’m done writing this I’ll go back to bed and try to sleep some of this off. It’s near time for more medication. Isn’t life pathetic sometimes?
It’s turned bitterly cold. The wind has been constant all week. I’d rather be out getting my gardens in order. They’re a mess from winter. And we have repairs to the house that, while minor, seem overly important to me.
The little apartment we rent out needs some work too. I do not like our tenants. They cause stupid problems. I just paid our $140.00 to have the kitchen and bathroom pipes cleaned out. Water backed up the shower drain over there. They have been running the disposal without flushing it down with water, and that created a concrete-like block in the drains. They do other things too. One of them fiddled with the bathroom exhaust fan. I noticed the cover off and the fan disconnected. Neither of them claimed to know anything about it. Knobby Knees will check out the fan sometime this week, replacing it if need be.
There are other wars than those fought with guns and swords. There are wars fought with intellect, the weapons of which are words and thought. Wars fought with the weapons of mind and heart are as brutal as any sword cut, though the wounds are less obvious.
We are responsible for what we believe and teach. We cannot blame others if we are misled or believe folly. We have only our self to blame. Blame does not rest on the deceiver but on the deceived. God gave us a mind. Use it.
Thinking ability must be cultivated. Most people don’t bother. The line between reality and self-created myth is very fine. It reminds me of Alice’s mirror. We can cultivate thinking ability. We do not have to become flotsam on the river of life. (Forgive the horrid metaphor.)
Victory in the Thought Wars rests either in drawing someone to the light of truth or sending them into mental darkness. It depends on which side you’re on.
So much for that.
Now … having said all that stuff, most of which is as close to meaningless as I can come and not quite cross the line … I’ve been re-reading the New Testament. I’ve read it numbers of times, sometimes with great result and sometimes with utter confusion.
This time I’m reading the New English New Testament, the original edition from umm 1962 I think. Now this has never been my favorite translation. But I’m reading this one. I decided to read it as if it were a novel. I’m not saying it is one, but this approach takes me to characterization and plot outline.
Matthew has a clear outline. Matthew is about Authority, with a capital A. He starts with Prophetic Identity. Jesus is clearly seen as Messiah because of the prophetic circumstances surrounding his conception and birth. This identity is confirmed (in Matthew’s view) by Jesus words and actions. Matthew ends each minor climax with a statement of Authority. Examples are the close of the Sermon on the Mount (He teaches as one having authority) and the healing of the Centurion’s servant. (I too have authority.)
Matthew is a master at characterization. He depicts John the Baptist in a few words as dressed in rough clothes and eating simple, wild foods. John is the prophet of the wilds. As with any period work, one needs some background. The rough clothes, the leathern girdle, the food point to a specific Old Testament prophet. Matthew’s readers would have seen this with ease.
I puzzle over some things Jesus says. Sometimes I come off poorly when compared with the ideal he presents. In the sermon on the mount he says to pray for your enemies. When I read that I get a clear vision of myself as an angry child hopping down a dusty road, throwing dust into the air and shouting curses at the evil ruler who hurt my family. Praying for my enemies is not something I customarily do. … Then I really don’t have many enemies of that sort, so it’s not a fair test, I suppose.
I’ve also puzzled over Jesus' suggestion that we extend ourselves for civil authority. This is in the verse that says, as Worrell translated it: “Who ever impresses you to go one mile, go with him two.” In that era certain ranks of governmental authorities could impress a citizen into a mile’s worth of cartage or guidance. Now, I often look askance at civil authority. There is a “clerk” mentality that is disturbing. But as I see it Jesus wasn’t talking about our dealings with the state as such, but with individuals. This is really about being a blessing to someone in service. It’s about consideration as a replacement for obligation. Seen that way, I find it much easier to understand.
Another part of Jesus’ sermon that has always sounded a bit off to me is his statement on divorce: “They were told, ‘A man who divorces his wife must give her a note of dismissal.’ But what I tell you is this: If a man divorces his wife for any cause other than unchastity he involves her in adultery; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
This always seemed so unfair to the woman. But he isn’t focusing on the woman. He’s telling husbands to solve their marital problems without resorting to an easy divorce. He says they’re no better than pimps if they fail to assume their responsibility. In that era women were dependent on their husbands and fathers. This is a clear condemnation of male abuse of privilege. Seen in that light, this is a much clearer concern for women than the bald words might indicate. Jesus was a feminist of sorts. How very interesting.
So, I’m continuing to read this anew, focusing on it as if it were a novel’s plot unfolding before my eyes. It’s been interesting, and I’ve found myself reading and re-reading the same sections just to get a good feel for what Matthew really intends. There are so many theological layers stuck on the New Testament by more distant generations, some of them silly and some disgustingly obnoxious. I’m trying to read this without that burden.