April 15, 2022 – It’s Holy Week, which means Easter is coming. But Holy Week includes Good Friday, today, which “commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and his subsequent death.” And which can include”self-guided time of reflection.” Which led to some reflection on Thomas Merton. You can type “Merton” in the search engine above right, but today I’d like to focus on two past posts, 2014’s On Thomas Merton, and 2021’s “Zen in the Art of College Football.”
Merton was a Roman Catholic monk. But in later life he found similarities between hisorthodox Catholicism and the exotic Eastern religions that were all the rage back in the 1970s. One biographer said Merton was helped in his spiritual quest by both Christian mysticism and his “wide knowledge of Oriental religions.” Merton became fascinated with Zen Buddhism and writer D. T. Suzuki. He studied Taoism, “regular” Buddhism and Hinduism.
But dallying in these exotic Eastern disciplines didn’t weaken his Catholicism, his Christian faith. If anything, they strengthened that faith. As the biographer wrote:
[B]y approaching the spiritual quest at unexpected angles, they opened up new ways of thought and new ways of experiencing that invigorated and released him. . .
Which led to my theory, that studying the Bible was meant to liberate the human spirit, not shackle it. Which goes along with the idea expressed in Luke 24:45, where Jesus opened His disciples’ minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Which brings up “a moment of zen.”
As one Zen Master said, “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.” And if you think that sounds non-Biblical, see Philippians 2:7, where Paul said Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
But why? What example was Jesus trying to set? What point was He trying to make?
This is harder than you might realize. By the time we reach adulthood we are so full of information that we don’t even notice it’s there. We might consider ourselves to be open-minded, but in fact, everything we learn is filtered through many assumptions and then classified to fit into the knowledge we already possess.
That’s all from Empty Your Cup, an Old Zen Saying. Then there’s another old Zen saying, that a child looks at a mountain and sees a mountain, an adult looks at a mountain and sees many things, but that a Zen master looks at a mountain and sees – a mountain. Which seems to mirror what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
So maybe becoming like a child again means – among other things – looking at a mountain and seeing … a mountain. And that in turn seems to involve dropping layers of life-long preconceptions, loosening up spiritual “hardened arteries,” and opening up to the majesty of God’s creation and His gift of Jesus. In other words, be open minded, open up to God’s majesty.
Not to mention the majesty of God coming to earth in the form of Jesus, and His living among us for 33 years – just to help us out – then making the ultimate “ultimate sacrifice.”
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Getting back to Good Friday, in 2016 I posted An Annunciation-Good Friday anomaly. The “anomaly” was that in 2016 the Annunciation fell on the same day as Good Friday, “in which the liturgical color is black.” The wearing of black liturgical color begins at the end of the Maundy Thursday evening service. (In Western churches.) That’s when the altar is stripped and “clergy no longer wear the purple or red that is customary throughout Great Lent.” Instead they don black vestments until Easter Sunday, when – as we know – there is a happy ending.
Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people…
But first a note about the lead picture above. The caption – from Wikipedia – reads, “Snake handling at Pentecostal Church of God, Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky September 15, 1946.”
I’ve argued before that such snake handlers interpret Mark 16:17-18way too literally. (The passage talks about the signs that will accompany those who believe, including “they will pick up snakes with their hands,” and drink deadly poison without effect.) Which means that such a too-literal Christian could end up dead, or at least with a nickname like “Stumpy.”
To me the issue is whether literalist Christians are saying there are no clerical or scrivener’s errors, whatsoever, in any copy, version or translation of the Bible. Or whether – for example – the “Biblical” computation of time is completely accurate. (The earth is six thousand years old, as opposed to the estimate of over four billion years old.) Then there’s this, from Wikipedia:
Some literalist or conservative Christians teach that the Bible lacks error in every way in all matters: chronology, history, biology, sociology, psychology … and so on. Other Christians believe that the scriptures are always right (do not err) only in fulfilling their primary purpose: revealing God, God’s vision, God’s purposes, and God’s good news to humanity.
To cut to the chase, I’d say the Bible is inerrant “in all that it affirms.” Which is pretty much what Billy Graham said some time ago, as will be seen. But first some background…
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The post Old friend … “Bible literalism started off noting we don’t have any original manuscripts of the 27 books of the New Testament. “What we do have are “copies of copies of copies.” (According to Great Courses Plus; Professor Bart Ehrman‘s lectures on The New Testament.) I also noted that to me, the Bible “proves itself” to you as a person, with what you do with it as an individual believer, how you interact with and experience God in your own life.*
I also noted some problems reading the Bible, like that Old Testament Hebrew had no vowels or punctuation. Words and sentences were simply strung together. Then there was Jesus’ way of teaching, parables. Which were both hard to interpret literally, and which could mean different things to different people. (That “clunk” was a Southern Baptist having apoplexy.)
We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God,* without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. (Emphasis added.)
Which brings up another problem, that a claim of “absolute inerrancy” makes it easy for a would-be convert to avoid converting. All “they” need do – to avoid coming to God, through Jesus – is find one minor error or contradiction. By making such a claim, Literalists create one of those “stumbling blocks to the weak” that Paul noted in 1st Corinthians 8:9.
On the other hand, I’d say that if some Bibles contain some minor errors, it’s only because of the human element in its transmission. As in the phrase, “garbled in transmission.” And to all of which I can say to such Literalists, “I respect your right to have that opinion, but I disagree.”
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But wait, there’s more! Which is being interpreted: Since 2020 I’ve run across even more interesting data. Like a series of lectures on the Dead Sea Scrolls, by Professor Gary A. Rendsberg. And especially his Lecture 11, on the “Biblical Manuscripts at Qumran.”
For one thing, Rendsberg mentioned some differences between the original Hebrew Old Testament and a later Hebrew-to-Greek early translation, the Septuagint. (The “earliest extant Greek translation of books from the Hebrew Bible.”) For example, the original Hebrew of Exodus 1:5 reads that 70 Israelites (Jacob and his family) went down to Egypt during a time of famine. The Septuagint said there were 75. So which is it?
I’d say it doesn’t really matter. The point is not something the Bible really “affirms.” Which brings up the the better view set out by John R. W. Stott. ((1921-2011.) I’ve mentioned Stott before, in numerous posts,* but he was the Anglican cleric who Time magazine ranked among the 100 most influential people in the world. He wrote Understanding the Bible, and on pages 140-143, he made three key points.
Again, there’s more boring detail in those prior posts, but Stott’s key point is that the words of the Bible are true “only in context.” (Using the Book of Job as an example of some passages that can be taken out of context, like Mark 16:17-18. And that in turn, Scripture is without error “in all that it affirms.” (A factor not always apparent “in the so-called ‘inerrancy debate.”) And keeping in mind that the Bible often describes God in human terms, not to be taken as literally true.
For more on the “inerrancy debate,” see Fundamentalism – Wikipedia. That article noted the “Five Fundamentals” set out at the Niagara Bible Conference 1910, including the doctrine that the Bible “is without error or fault in all its teaching.” Which sounds similar to the idea that the Bible is without error “in all that it affirms.”
And finally, I’d say this business of “requiring every word of the Bible to be inerrant” – without any error of any kind – brings to mind what Jesus said in Matthew 23:4. He chastised the Scribes and Pharisees, saying in pertinent part that such they “make strict rules that are hard for people to obey. They try to force others to obey all their rules. But they themselves will not try to follow any of those rules.” (In the “Easy-to-Read” translation.)
To me, requiring every copy and every version of the Bible to be correct in every “jot and tittle” – to say that no Bible has even the most minor clerical or scrivener’s error – is one of those “stumbling blocks” that keep potential converts away from Christianity.
More than that, it makes some people who call themselves Christian miss the whole point of Jesus’ teaching. They focus more on the letter of the law than its spirit, and as Paul noted in 2d Corinthians 3:6, “the letter kills but the spirit gives life.” So if you are such a Literalist, feel free to believe what you believe. “But as for me and my house,” I’ll follow John 4:24, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
This passage can be understood two ways. One way is to assume that Jesus followers are expected to handle deadly snakes… Another way to understand this passage is to be reassured that when Christians accidentally come in contact with poisonous snakes, God will miraculously protect them… Such an experience happened to the apostle Paul. After being shipwrecked and escaping to the island of Malta, Paul was bitten by a deadly snake. [Acts:28:1-6]. Additionally, the Bible tells us that we should not tempt God by deliberately placing ourselves in potential danger [Matthew 4:5-7]. (E.A.)
Re: “Lent 2022.” See Lent 2022 – Calendar Date, which said this Lenten period starts on Wednesday, March 2nd and ends on Thursday, April 14 with evening mass on Holy Thursday. (Most people think it ends with Easter Sunday.) Other notes: It is “44 days from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday and another two days with Good Friday and Holy Saturday added to give a total of 46 days for Lent. But Sundays are excluded from fasting during Lent and with 6 Sundays removed from the count we get lent being a 40 day liturgical period.”
Also, vis-a-vis missing NT manuscripts: The night before posting I learned – through another Great Courses Bible lecture – that many “puns” in original OT Hebrew were lost in translation. See for example Bible Secrets Revealed, Episode 1: “Lost in Translation,” and Five Mistakes in Your Bible Translation | HuffPost. From the former, “different copies of the same Biblical books from the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t often match, [so] at the time of Jesus, the Hebrew Biblical texts existed in different versions and traditions that were still being sorted out. What this means is that it is very difficult to argue that the Bible is the verbatim ‘Word of God,’ especially when all of the ancient manuscripts contain different words.” From the latter, “In the original Hebrew, the 10th Commandment prohibits taking, not coveting. The biblical Jubilee year is named for an animal’s horn and has nothing to do with jubilation. The pregnant woman in Isaiah 7:14 is never called a virgin.” Also, “Metaphors are particularly difficult to translate, because words have different metaphoric meanings in different cultures. Shepherds in the Bible were symbols of might, ferocity and royalty, whereas now they generally represent peaceful guidance and oversight.”I may use these points in a future post.
Re: More on Deuteronomy 32:8. In the original Hebrew, Deuteronomy 32:8 said God set the boundaries “of the peoples” – the boundaries of the world – “according to the number of the children of Israel.” The same passage in the Septuagint reads, “according to the number of angels of God.” In turn, most translations in the “Bible Hub” website had 70 Israelites going down Egypt, including the King James Version that “all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls.” But “Hub” also cited Genesis 46:26, which put the number at 66, and Acts 7:14, which said “Joseph sent for his father Jacob and all his relatives, seventy-five in all.”
Re: “My old friend Fred.” It wasn’t just me he “flabbergasted.” A mutual friend said he also cut off all communications with his family, and other old friends, who didn’t share his “conservative” views.
Re: “How you interact with and experience God in your own life.” That “simplistic” statement could be misinterpreted, but keep in mind that I have to “dumb things down,” just like Moses, Paul and Jesus all had to do.Also re: Interacting with God in my own life. See for example On my “mission from God,” and “As a spiritual exercise…”
Re: “Only written word of God.” But see John 10:16, “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”It seems to me that God – being God – is perfectly able to reach out to other people, using other languages in other countries and cultural settings. “He” – anthropomorphism – could have other servants writing in other languages, keeping in mind that “all roads lead to Jesus.” If nothing else, this claim seems to limit God’s power…
More re: Deuteronomy 32:8. Just for some deep background: Chapter 32 comes near the end of the book, just before Chapter 33, “Moses blesses the tribes of Israel,” and also Chapter 34 on the death of Moses. “The Lord’s Last Instructions to Moses begin at 31:14, and the “Song of Moses” begins at 31. Anyway, back to Deuteronomy 32:8. Many Bible Hub translations of Deuteronomy 32:8 read that God “assigned land to the nations” or “gave the nations their inheritance.” But some translations of the passage at issue vary, from “according to the number of the sons of Israel,” to the sons of God, to “the number in his heavenly court,” and – in the Brenton Septuagint Translation – according to “the number of the angels of God.”
Re: “Stott … in numerous posts.” Type “John Stott” in the search engine in the blog’s upper right.
Re: “Jot and tittle.” The link is to “Gotquestions.org,” which noted that a jot – related to our word “iota” – is the “tenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the smallest.” A tittle “is even smaller than a jot … a letter extension, a pen stroke that can differentiate one Hebrew letter from another.”
Re: “Me and my house.” The reference is to Joshua 24:15. In the ESV, “choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
I last posted on Palm Sunday, March 28. In that post I looked ahead to Easter Sunday, April 4. (See On “Zen in the Art of College Football,” featuring the thought at left.) This post will revisit the Sunday after Easter, to wit: The “Sunday of Many Names.”
You can see one original at On “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017, which notes that today is known as: 1) The Second Sunday of Easter, 2) Low Sunday, 3) Doubting Thomas Sunday, 4) the “Octave of Easter,” and finally 5) “Quasimodo Sunday.” That last is from the Latin translation of First Peter 2:2, “Quasi modo geniti infantes,” as explained below.
For starters, today is officially the Second Sunday ofEaster. Note the “of,” rather than “after.” That’s because Easter is “not just one day, but an entire season.” It’s a full season of 50 days – called Eastertide, “spanning from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.”
But today is also known – and in many churches is better known – as Low Sunday. That’s mostly because church attendance falls off so drastically that first Sunday “after.” (Compared with the high attendance of Easter Day itself…)
But you can also – as noted – call this day the “Sunday of Many Names.” For example, it’s known as “Doubting Thomas Sunday” … because the Gospel lesson always tells the story of the disciple Thomas. (See e.g. John 20:19-31, “which recounts the story of Christ appearing to the Apostle Thomas in order to dispel the latter’s doubt about the Resurrection.” Which made him in essence the original – the prototype – “Doubting Thomas.”)
And today is known as the Octave of Easter. (In this case the Octave in question is the eight-day period “in Eastertide that starts on Easter Sunday and runs until the Sunday following Easter.”) And finally, it’s known as “Quasimodo Sunday.” But that’s not because of Quasimodo, the guy – shown at right – who is better known as the “Hunchback of Notre Dame:”
That name comes from the Latin translation of the beginning of First Peter 2:2. (A traditional “introit” used in churches this day.) First Peter 2:2 begins – in English and depending on the translation – “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile…” (Or translated as, “pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”) But in Latin the verse reads: “Quasi modo geniti infantes…” Literally, “quasi modo means ‘as if in [this] manner.’”
So, since “geniti” translates as “newborn” and the translation of “infantes” seems self-evident, the “quasi modo” in question roughly translates, “As if in the manner” (of newborn babes)…
The Coffman Commentaries on the Bible provides some background on this verse. in the King James version the verse reads, “as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation:”
Paul used this same figure in 1 Corinthians 3:2; but Peter here, using the same figure, stresses, not the contrasting diet of infants and adults, but the appetite which all Christians should have in order to grow. All Christians should have a constant and intense longing for the word of God.
Which is pretty much the main theme of this blog: That all true Christians should have a strong “appetite in order to grow.” And a point which Paul seemed to be making in 1st Corinthians 3:2, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.”
But some people, it seems, are content to remain “babes in Christ.” Or boot-camp Christians, like those “Biblical literalists who never go ‘beyond the fundamentals.’” But how else – you may ask – are we to do “greater miracles than Jesus,” as mandated by John 14:12?
Like that Apostle, “Doubting Thomas,” who ended up making his own “passage to India.” See for example, Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.” That April 2015 post noted the tradition that Thomas sailed to India in 52 AD, to spread the Christian faith, with details of his martyrdom:
According to tradition, St. Thomas was killed in 72 AD [near] Mylapore near Chennai in India… This is the earliest known record of his martyrdom. Some Patristic literature state[s] that St. Thomas died a martyr, in east of Persia or in North India by the wounds of the four spears pierced into his body by the local soldiers.
One result? India, and especially the Malabar coast, still boasts a large native population calling themselves ‘Christians of St. Thomas,’” as memorialized by the stamp below. (Not bad for a “newborn in Christ” who had to overcome his substantial doubts…)
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Attributions for the upper and lower images – as well as those in the main text – can be found in the “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017 post, and the Wikipedia articles included therein. For example, the lower image is from Wikipedia on the Apostle Thomas.
Right now you’re probably asking yourself, “What the heck does Romans Chapter 11 have to do with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning Super Bowl LV?” (As shown above.) Or for that matter, what does Romans 11 have to do with “Whatever happened to FSU football?” We’ll get back to that in a minute, but first…
Put it this way. For 30 years now I’ve been doing “novel” research. Research for a series of novels; three published already and one in the oven. The hero of the newest novel – call him “Nick*” – is a crazy-ass football fan. (Redundant?) This fan honestly thinks he can “help” his favorite sport teams win championships. And if this wacko’s theories are correct, he just helped his NFL-fave Tampa Bay Buccaneers win this past year’s Super Bowl LV. (BTW: “Nick” has been a Buc-fan ever since the early days, of “Buccaneer Bruce” and flaming orange team colors, shown above right.)
To cut to the chase, Nick started out trying to help FSU football win championships. (Because he started law school there back in 1981.) And there were some, but lately things have gone downhill. And what seems to have happened is that FSU football’s recent string of extremely bad news has turned out to be Good Newsfor Nick’s other favorite teams. And now for some explanation…
The first post describe the method – the hard “spiritual exercise” – that Nick used to help his favorite teams win championships. (Initially just FSU football, but later his list of favorite teams expanded.) And that first post described how – along the way – he learned lots of valuable spiritual lessons. (Since 1989 or so, as have I, in doing the research.) And like I said, the “Nick” novels* are about a “crazy-ass football fan” who keeps plugging away alone, trying to help his favorite teams:
But in time it also came to involve that Daily Bible Reading noted above. (Which he started in 1992. And FSU won its first national championship in 1993. You do the math.) And so – to make a long story short – you could say that my research for the novels also led to me creating this blog.
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As it turned out, Nick’s hard-exercise “ritual sacrifice” was a big part of his spiritual awakening. (And mine.) But daily Bible reading also became a big part of it. Along with “Living a Good Christian Life.” (Well, mostly… “He’s Still Working on Me.”) In the process, it led him – and me – to lots of spiritual insights. For example, insights into “how the original Children of Israel must have felt when they did all the right things – and yet ended up conquered and sent into exile.”
As noted, Nick started his Mystic Quest trying to help FSU football win National Championships. And there were a number of good years that followed, including three national championships and the FSU football dynasty. (14 consecutive finishes in the Top 4.*) But over the last several years, FSU football has hit rock bottom. The team has fallen on extremely hard times. Which you might say is the functional equivalent of ancient Israel’s being conquered and sent into Babylonian exile. (Illustrated below left; “By the Waters of Babylon We Wept.”)
In FSU’s case, their “football dynasty” ended in 2001. (They went 8-and-4 and ended up ranked #15.) There followed a roller-coaster-ride series of seasons, with a third national title in 2013. Then things really fell apart…
But what was bad news for FSU football became very good news for the rest of Nick’s favorite teams. At least lately; over the last six months or so…
What may have happened is like what the Apostle Paul explained in Romans 11. We’ll get back to that in a minute as well, but again, what seems to have happened is that FSU’s “blessings” got transferred. Transferred away from them and on to some of his other favorite teams. (See a fuller list of of those expanded other-team blessings in the June 2018 post, “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth.)
And those blessings have come in a rush over the past six months or so. (That is, with Nick’s “favorite” Tampa Bay Lightning, L.A. Dodgers and Bucs all winning their respective championships, described below.)
Which could be another way of saying the suffering (or sacrifice) of some can lead to manifest blessings for others. (As one prime example, Google “Jesus suffering servant.”) Or it could be another way of saying that being “God’s Favorite Team” may not be all it’s cut out to be…
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In other words, the original Children of Israel found out – the hard way – that being “God’s Favorite” wasn’t all they thought it would be. One thing they learned was that it was “to vigor, not comfort” that they were called.* Which is another way of saying that being God’s Favorite involves a lot of hard discipline. Or as Luke put it (in 12:48), if you get a lot of blessings from God, He will expect a lot from you in return. (Paraphrased.) Then too, as it says in Hebrews 12:6, God disciplines those He loves. Which is fine when you can keep on the straight and narrow, but what happens when you mess up? That could be one big lesson from “Whatever happened to FSU football?”
Briefly, if you – or your favorite team – mess up, you mayhave to go through a period of chastening. For another, if you mess up spiritually, some of your blessings may get transferred to others; other people or other teams. Which leads to the thought, “More recently, there has been a slew of good news for Nick’s ‘otherfavorite teams.'”
As to “what the heck happened to FSU football,” Nick has a theory. And it comes from Isaiah 66:4, “I will choose their punishments and bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen.” (In the NIV.)
Which is being interpreted: “Nick” first told his story* in 1994, right after FSU football won its first national championship. He described how the team was God’s Favorite, and that the 1993 national championship had been “preordained.” He put out ads in the Tallahassee papers and magazines covering FSU sports. He went on book tours , and in one such tour personally handed a copy of “Zen Football*” to Bobby Bowden.
The result? Nothing. Little or no response.
There was even one time when Nick’s wife put out a bunch of fliers on windshields at Governor’s Square Mall in Tallahassee. (At least until a not-unfriendly cop stopped her.) And pretty much the same thing happened when Nick published his second and third books, again claiming that FSU football was “God’s Favorite Team.” It was all of a lot of “I called, but no one answered.” (Like in Isaiah 66:4, noted above.)
But in all this there is some good news. (And not just for Nick’s other favorite sport teams.) For one thing, if Nick’s original theory is correct, FSU football hasn’t fallen completely from God’s grace. That’s where Romans 11 comes in. And specifically, Romans 11:11-12 (NIV):
Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!
Which could be another way of saying that eventually – in the fullness of time – FSU football will again rise to prominence; back to championship level. In the meantime, there could be other positive benefits for FSU football fans during the “time of their exile.” For one thing, it was only during that Babylonian exile that the Old Testament as we know it came to be. (As I explained – VIS-À-VIS the how and why of that “collateral benefit” – in my April 2019 post, “If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem.*”)
In other words, if it hadn’t been for the Babylonian Exile, there might have been no “finalized” Old Testament.* And without that Old Testament as we know it, it would have been difficult for Jesus to spread His message of salvation.
Hmmm. I wonder if should write another “Nick” novel, this one proclaiming that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are “one of the newest ‘God’s Favorite Teams?'”
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The upper image is courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl – Image Results. With an article, “Super Bowl: Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate victory as Tom Brady wins seventh title.”The reference in the caption is to Exodus 33:13, variously translated but in the English Standard Version, “Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. “
The “Bruce” image is courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Buccaneer Bruce – Image Results.And a word of explanation. Nick was a Tampa Bay fan first, but later went to law school at Florida State, in the early 1980s. (That was when the Bucs were really bad.) So his starting the ritual sacrifice to help FSU was just a matter of timing. FSU football seemed to offer a better chance of success.
Re: The “Nick” novels. Only the newest “in the oven” novel will feature Nick, as described featuring a Third Person Narrative. The earlier novels used the First-person narrative, but I figured this “crazy-ass football fan’s” story could benefit from the style that offers “the most objective view of a story because neither the narrator nor the reader are participants.” (And actually that newest novel will use a combination of the two styles.)
Re: Nick’s hard ritual-exercise “sacrifice.” His routine has evolved over the years. When “he” lived in Florida in the 1990s the routine included (in the main) a series of three long jog-walks per week, usually afternoons after work. That meant juggling between waiting for the heat index to drop below 100 degrees, and trying to avoid the “clockwork regular” thunderstorms that came in summer afternoons. And those jog-walks sometimes included sprint sets, or using five-pound ankle weights.As Nick’s routine stands at the time of publication, it involves five hours per week of medium-intensity aerobics, two hours a week of high intensity aerobics, 49 minutes of yoga, and ten strength exercises. The “medium aerobics” can include kayaking, jog-walking or plain old walking, or timed calisthenics. The high-intensity aerobics include 30-minute sessions of stair-stepping, wearing a 30-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights. (And if you think that’s crazy, consider the Lightning, Dodgers and Buccaneers all winning their championships over the past six months or so.)
Re: “14 consecutive finishes in the Top 4.” In 1994 and 1995, FSU ended up ranked Number 5 in the Coaches Poll, but still ranked Number 4 in the Associated Press Poll. See Florida State football – Wikipedia. Note that starting in 2014 college football moved to the College Football Playoff rankings system. Unlike other polls, it’s “the only one that really matters,” since it determines the current four-team playoff.
Re: “To vigor, not comfort.” An allusion to a quote from About the Blog:
Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement. . . Do not suppose from this that your new career [as a Christian] is to be perpetually supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself in the mild contemplation of the great world through which you move. True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom; but the sheep are expected to walk, and to put up with the bunts and blunders of the flock. It is to vigour rather than comfort that you are called.
Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism, Ariel Press, 1914, at page 177.)
Re: Nick’s first telling his story. In 1994 “he” published a book which he titled “Zen in the Art of College Football,” about the events leading up to FSU football’s 1993 national championship. He felt that at the time the method of choosing which two teams would play for a national championship “sounded a lot like Zen. A lot of double talk that really doesn’t make a lot of rational sense.” (Or words to that effect.)
Re: Romans 11. There’s a good analysis of this metaphor in Grafted in: An example from nature : The Simple Pastor. (Which by the way, features a great painting by Vincent van Gogh.) See also Acts of the Apostles – Wikipedia: “Luke–Acts is an attempt to answer a theological problem, namely how the Messiah of the Jews came to have an overwhelmingly non-Jewish church; the answer it provides is that the message of Christ was sent to the Gentiles because the Jews rejected it.” The “Jews rejected it” link has further information about Nick’s theory of “what happened to FSU football.” However, fitting “Acts of the Apostles” into the title of this post would have been exceedingly difficult.
Re: How and why the Babylonian exile shaped the Old Testament, from If I Forget Thee: “Professor Cynthia R. Chapman began by focusing on Psalm 137 as the story of how the final version of the Old Testament got made up by that Hebrew Remnant – those people in exile. In other words, something very good – the final version of the Old Testament – was the result of something very bad happening to ‘God’s Chosen People.’”
I.e., the Old Testament as we know it didn’t exist before 586 B.C., when the Exile started. Starting with executions during a post-siege “mop up” followed by a “death march” of 800 miles to Babylon. After those horrors – and the shame of this national disgrace – the Remnant of Israel compiled, edited and shaped their collected national stories into a “virtual library.” A library that connected them to their homeland.
I recently got the idea I might live to the ripe old age of 141. First from watching a Ric Burns documentary, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony, and from there some research on my ancestor William Bradford. He came over on the Mayflower, and served as governor of Plymouth Colony. And he – my ancestor – ended up living “twice as long…”
The spine of the story is the use of excerpts from the 30-year historical account of the early colony written by William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Plantation; his presence is effectively evoked by the late actor Roger Rees.
On that note: According to family legend, William Bradford is my long-ago “great–great-great-times-many” grandfather. (Then too, Bradford is my middle name.) The good news – for me – is that if I inherited “Grandaddy-Plus” Bill Bradford’s genes, I could end up living to 141.
* * * *
There’s more on that later, and on why I reviewed and re-titled my 2019 post. (Reviewing Burns’ documentary.) But there was one big benefit: It started off with lots of information on “what’s coming up in the Church Calendar.” On that note I must confess – I “do not deny, but confess” – that I’ve been a slacker when it comes to the main purpose of this blog. Instead of “spreading the Goood News,” I’ve been paying too much attention to politics.
That’s also Valentine’s Day 2021. (The link is to Nine great ideas for virtual dates; which is pretty appropriate for this 48th full week of the COVID. That’s roughly 12 full months.*) It’s also the anniversary of the marriage to my first wife, who died in 2006. But we digress…
But now it’s time to get back to why I may live to 141 years old…
* * * *
It just hit me – in the last few weeks or so – that I’ll be turning 70 next July, 2021. When I turned 69 last July, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But this new situation seems way different. Compared to turning 69, this summer’s “turning the Big Seven-Oh” is a whole new ball game.
Which brings up why I went back to review this particular long-ago post:
Mainly I remembered something in that 2019 post about that “other Bradford” living twice as long as most people back then. So I went back, reviewed, and found the information I was looking for. That led me to re-title the 2019 post. It’s now, “Am I going to live to be 141?” Which explains the title for this new post, “From two years ago – ‘Will I live to 141?*’”
All of which led me to re-think this idea of turning 70.
Instead of being bad news – necessarily – there’s a lot of good news as well. (In the idea of turning 70.) That is, once I got used to the idea – in the last week or so, and after re-reading that 2019 post – I found the new situation quite liberating. So to repeat, the really good news is that – if I inherited my long-ago “great-times-many” grandfather – I could very well “Live long and prosper.*”
From there I did some interpolation. Dividing Bradford’s then-ripe-old-age of 67 by the “average life” 36 years, I came up with a “1.86 factor.” And if that 1.86 factor applies to me today – with a male U.S. life expectancy of 76 years – I should live to be 141. (76 years times 1.86.) Which would give me another 71 years of life. (Which is kind of nice, but also a bit scary.)
But don’t take my word for it. I did some more research and found More People Expected To Live Beyond 100 – Redorbit. It said the number of people aged 100 years or older “is expected to increase to record levels by 2050.” Two reasons: better diet and more aggressive medical procedures. Which means the “centenarian population in the US is projected to rise from 75,000 to over 600,000 by 2050.” (I found varying estimates, but this is about average.)
I read another study that said the number would be over 840,000, but whatever the figure, it represents a significant increase. Even using the lower 589,000 figure, that would be a seven-fold increase. (Seven times the number of Americans over 100 by 2050.)
That’s a far cry from the “Biblical three score and ten.” (See BIBLE VERSES ABOUT THREE SCORE AND TEN.) The usual citation is Psalm 90:10, “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty.” But see also Deuteronomy 34:7, “Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” That last of which is pretty much what I’m hoping for.
* * * *
So if I play my cards right, I could live to the age of Moses, 120 years. Or I could live only to the 105 years that can be gleaned by Googling “woman 105 covid.” And there’s quite a few of them. So if I lived only to that ripe old 105 years of age, I would still have 35 years (hopefully) of good living left. And my life now would only be two-thirds over. I’ll still be a “lot closer to the end than the beginning,” but that end won’t be quite as close. And who knows, I might end my years with an old-age benefit like King David:
King David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. So his servants said to him, ‘Let a young virgin be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king, and be his attendant; let her lie in your bosom, so that my lord the king may be warm.’ So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The girl was very beautiful. She became the king’s attendant and served him, but the king did not know her…
SNOHOMISH — Robert “Stu” Williamson isn’t much for publicity and the limelight… When he jumped from 14,000 feet up in an airplane Sunday to celebrate turning 100 years old, the limelight found him anyway. Everywhere he went at Skydive Snohomish, there followed a dozen or so family, friends and staff with cameras… The Seattle centenarian made his second skydiving jump to mark his 100th birthday in airy fashion… “I recommend it to everybody who’s 99 years old,” Williamson said after landing… “And if you’re younger, get in practice.”
Re: “Been there, done that.” I did my second tandem jump back on October 1, 2020. The first tandem jump – at Skydive Spaceland Atlanta – happened the previous summer, in July 2019. But those were actually the sixth and seventh times I’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. My first jump happened on May 30, 1971, at Zephyrhills (FL) municipal airport. The fifth jump happened on April 29, 1990, at Keystone Heights Airport, nine miles south of Starke, Florida. (My wife at the time – who died in 2006 – watched the jump, then said “You’re never doing that again!” Which led to a 19-year hiatus.) Anyway, with that second tandem jump I’m now qualified to jump “solo” at Skydive Spaceland. But I’m not sure that’ll happen any time soon. After all, I am turning 70 in a few months…
Re: 12 months of COVID. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020, where I explained that, to me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’” started Sunday, March 15 and ended Saturday the 21st.”Also note a discrepancy: 48 weeks makes “roughly 12 full months,” but a calendar year has 52 weeks.
Re: Giving the old 2019 post a new title. It was a long post, with a lot of information about how many Pilgrims died in the first year after landing at Plymouth Rock. The information on Bradford’s longevity came at the end, and was pretty brief. So I chose to focus on that last-part “Good News.”
Re: Psalm 90:10. The full reading: “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away.” Which leads to a question. Should “Fundamentalists” do away with themselves once they reach 70, or at most 80 years of age? I’d prefer the answer that some things are just way different now than in Bible times. And that we should accept that potential seven-fold increase in life span as a Gift from God.
To seethe lead image from the original post – January 28, 2021 – click on “The Nightmare (Henry Fuseli, 1781).” (It’s really ugly.) I added my own caption: “Asked before the 2016 election: ‘Are we in for a new ‘national nightmare?‘ Well yes, but…“ (Meaning we were, but now it’s over…)
* * * *
Four years ago I asked the musical question: “Are we in for a new ‘national nightmare?” Today’s answer is, “Well yes we were, but…” That is, these past four years have been a long national nightmare, but we’ve come through.
That is, four years ago – September 26, 2016, five weeks before the presidential election – I posted “With God’s help, we can get through ANYTHING.” In that pre-election post I asked, as noted, “Are we in for a new national nightmare?” My answer at the time? “Yes, because whoever wins, half the voters in the 2016 election will think so.”
But now after further review – and American democracy having survived various Trumpian constitutional crises – there’s a “new and improved” answer. It came after the inauguration on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (Finally!) That new and improved answer? We HAVE Overcome.
That brings up the old Gospel song illustrated – and addressed – at the end of the main text.
Which brings up one big benefit from the last four years. I myself have “come out of the closet,” so to speak, in the sense of becoming much more vocal about my “real Christian” faith. In Facebook and elsewhere I have quoted the Bible much more, and tried to convey the real meaning of the Christian faith. (In keeping with Ezekiel 3:16-21. “Ezekiel’s Task as a Watchman.”)
Not that it always did a whole lot of good. (With some people anyway.) Which means that even with Donald Trump “bidding adieu,” there’s still a lot of work to do…
And by the way, that last tidbit in parentheses is an example of Using Humor to Get Through Difficult Times. But getting back to 2016, I wrote that Gerald Ford’s comments about the 1974 national nightmare “could foreshadow” what would happen on January 20, 2021.
It could well foreshadow how those 40% [or more] of voters – disappointed by the outcome of the 2016election – will feel when – it is entirely possible – a new president takes office. (And when it is entirely possible that new president will be neither Donald Trump nor Hillary…)
That “stupid darkness” cartoon was a nod to a book by Chris Matthews, titled Life’s a Campaign. (I did the “book on CD.”) One chapter was “Great politicians sell hope.” That became the subject of my post on June 12, 2015. (And which led to my first thought, “What rock have you been living under?“) But one good point I got from the book was that the 2020 presidential candidate “who offers hope rather than fear will win.” (Together with this: “Maybe today’s politicians are simply a reflection of the nastiness that seems to have taken hold of a large part of our population.”)
I wrote in 2016 that the point was this: Each of the three questions – in the question-answer format – has the same answer: “I will, with God’s help.” So in the face of that upcoming 2016 presidential election, we should [I wrote] keep this in mind: “With God’s help, we can get through anything. Even if – God forbid! – [fill in the blank] gets elected!”
Which I did keep in mind, though not without some sleepless nights. And quite often – in those long four years – my mind went back to the old Gospel tune, We Shall Overcome. But there’s a difference today. Today we can sing, if only for a moment, and with so much work left to do:
Since its creation, it has remained Fuseli’s best-known work… Due to its fame, Fuseli painted at least three other versions… The canvas seems to portray simultaneously a dreaming woman and the content of her nightmare. The incubus and the horse’s head refer to contemporary belief and folklore about nightmares, but … critics were [also] taken aback by the overt sexuality of the painting…
After noting again that contemporary critics “found the work scandalous due to its sexual themes,” the link pointed out that the main subject of the painting – the woman – seems to have been prompted by “unrequited love.” It seems that Fuseli had “fallen passionately in love with a woman named Anna Landholdt in Zürich … the niece of his friend, the Swiss physiognomistJohann Kaspar Lavater.” However, Landholdt “married a family friend” soon after the artist proposed to her…
* * * *
Re: “Come out of the closet.” BTW: That was either a metaphor or hyperbole, “exaggeration for dramatic impact.” And research led to this meme, “come out of the closet lindsey graham.” Which brings up the Internet and truth; See “Bonjour!”
Good Christians should be able to “argue” with each other – in the good sense. (The sense of “civil” lawyers presenting concise and reasoned bases to support their position, and not resorting to name-calling or “ad hominem” attacks.)
Re: Gerald Ford’s 1974 comments “foreshadowing.” In the 2016 post I wrote that the comments could foreshadow what happened on “January 20, 2020.” (Needless to say, I’m embarrassed but will leave the 2016-post wording as it is.)
Re: “Fight the good fight.” The reference is to 2 Timothy 4:7, where Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
It all started with the Election That Seemed Like It Would Never End, followed by the Election Legal Challenges That Seem Like They Will Never End. In the meantime we’ve also celebrated Thanksgiving Day on November 26, followed by the Feast Day for St Andrew, Apostle. (Shown at left.)
That was last Monday, November 30. And aside from all that, Christmas is coming up three weeks from Friday, December 4. Which is preceded by the Season of Advent, which itself started last Sunday, November 29, in the First Sunday of Advent. About that “First Sunday,” see Boston College‘s Matthew Monnig:
Advent … calls us to look back to the past, forward to the future, upwards to heaven, and downwards to earth. It is a time of anticipation… The first Sunday of Advent is the start of a new liturgical year, and yet there is a continuity with the end of the liturgical year just finished… One does not have to be a prophet of doom to recognize that this year  has been filled with terrible events… We need God to come and fix a broken world. The season of Advent is about [the] “devout and expectant delight” that God will do that.
So the Season of Advent is about looking ahead and New Beginnings, which brings up my “hope-fully” spending November preparing a new book for publication – in both an e-book and paperback – as detailed in the November 18 post, On “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age.” (Which actually was a lot of fun, remembering and writing about all those great travel adventures and pilgrimages I enjoyed – back before the COVID hit…)
Then it went on to discuss an “Old Testament reading from Isaiah 19:19-25 … of a future highway, running from Egypt to Assyria and vice versa, and which will eventually lead to something new under the sun: ‘when the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians:’”
On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.’
One problem? At the time the Assyrians and Egyptians were arch-enemies, with each other and with Israel. (Which they took turns conquering.) “Which means this passage looks forward to an ultimate day of peace and harmony, between those nations which were at the time bitter enemies.” So here’s hoping that that reading may be a bit of positiveforeshadowing.
Heck, if Israel could have gotten along with either the Egyptians or Assyrians, today’s Democrats and Republicans should be able to get along too. (They are after all, fellow citizens of the same country.) Which brings us back to the theme Advent [as] The Season of Hope:
This year, more than ever, we really need to focus on hope! We have been bruised and battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, a polarizing election, racial strife, and so much more.
The point being that “Advent is always a season of hope, a season that reminds us never to lose sight of the hope we Christians are called to live with year-round.”
So here’s looking forward to a happy and much-better 2021!
I just reviewed some “posts to be done” from a few months ago – and ran across this. As noted in the first ‘graf, it’s from the first week of last May. (I was about to fly to Israel for three weeks.) But I didn’t publish it then, so I’ll do that now. Accordingly, here’s that first pre-look at my planned Israel trip, and Psalm 137, “the middle of the Bible.”
There is an almost natural magnetic draw to Jerusalem that stirs within us a special emotion. For millions of people around the world the heart of ancient Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, symbolizes spirituality and mysticism, a place of prayer and miracles, the centre of the world and a holy portal to God.
Note the “spirituality and mysticism” part, which mirrors one frequent theme of this blog. The point is: That title in the Jerusalem Post article refers to Psalm 137:5-6, which reads “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” (That’s from the King James Version. You know, the one God uses?)
Which just happened to tie in with the Biblical Israel course, as described below.
That is, the Old Testament – as we know it today – did not exist before the year 586 B.C. Again, that was the year most Judeans were taken from their homeland – after the horrors of the Babylonian conquest – and suffered a “death march,” 800 miles to Babylon. “After this defeat, they compiled, edited and shaped” their collected national stories into a virtual library.
And again, according to Professor Chapman, Psalm 137 (at right) constitutes both the mid-point – the very middle – of years of Ancient Jewish history and the very middle of the Bible itself.
In turn Psalm 137 was written at just the time when the books of the original Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – were collected, edited and redacted. And it all came to be because of the Exile, that “national disgrace.”
In other words, before the calamity of the Exile, many books (in the form of scrolls) existed, but “here is where they were first collected into what we know as the Old Testament today.” That idea was mirrored in the Babylon captivity link at Psalm 137:
This period saw … the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life. According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews. This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.
* * * *
Which is about as far as I got: The story of how the Old Testament as we known it finally came into being. And it might never have occurred but for this humiliating “national disgrace” for the Children of Israel. (On that note see The Blessings of Trials – Crosswalk.com.)
Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.” The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.”
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near…”
In doing so Jesus quoted Isaiah – twice – as well as the Book of Daniel. See also Jesus and messianic prophecy. The main point Jesus was trying to make? “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” And also, “What I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Which is pretty much what the Season of Advent is all about…
And that “High Holy Season” always starts with the Feast of St. Andrew – “the First Apostle.” That posts and others cited in it noted that while Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus,” he seems to be the least known about. Which is ironic because Andrew was one of Jesus’ the first followers. In fact he “followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others,” and so he is “called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.”
Legend has it that he [Andrew] asked to be tied to an X-shaped cross because he did not feel worthy of dying on the same shape of cross as Jesus. The shape has been represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag, the Saltire, since at least 1385.
Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year… The First Sunday of Advent is defined to be the Sunday on or nearest his feast (although it could equivalently be defined as the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day).
It is indeed time for Ash Wednesday and Lent, again.
As noted in The beginning of Lent – 2018, the whole idea of Lent – as a kind of mini-Wandering in the Wilderness – started back in the time of Moses. That’s when he led the Children of Israel through the original Exodus, as detailed later in Nehemiah, at 9:12-21. For example, “By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.”
Now we don’t have an actual “pillar of cloud” by day, or a “pillar of fire in the night” to light our way. But we do have the example set by Moses. Then too, “Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.” Which brings up the whole topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:
So Moses and the Children of Israel wandered in the Wilderness for 40 years, and Jesus did His own wandering, during which He was tempted by Satan. Thus: “There is a strong biblical base for fasting, particularly during the 40 days of Lent leading to the celebration of Easter. Jesus, as part of his spiritual preparation, went into the wilderness and fasted 40 days and 40 nights.”
Now, about that “Fight Between Carnival and Lent.” As Wikipedia noted, the battle between the figures “Carnival” – given a modern-day illustration at left – and Lent “was an important event in community life in early modern Europe.” Lent was characterized by “enforced abstinence and the concomitant spiritual purification,” but to good cause. That is, “in preparation for Easter.” Which itself is a metaphor, in that Bruegel the Elder‘s painting is “rich in allegories and symbolisms that have been long studied.” In the end, Lent – and Easter – ultimately triumph.
That is, they triumph over the spectacle of people “guided by a fool, and not by reason” – as symbolized in the painting – along with a burning torch, “symbolic of dispute and destruction.” (Hmmmm…) In short, Bruegel‘s painting “is often read as the triumph of Lent, since the figure of Carnival seems to bid farewell with his left hand and his eyes lifted to the sky.”
All of which could well be metaphors for some of what’s going on these days…
Another note from The beginning of Lent – 2018: The “Christian life itself is a pilgrimage, and the 40 days of Lent can be a kind of dress rehearsal, or ‘full-scalepractice.’ (Where it’s important to remember the happy ending.)” And then there’s this additional side note:
There are actually 46 days of Lent. That is, 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation. Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.” But somehow that fact got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights, the “2002 romantic comedy film.” That film portrayed the main character “during a period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.” But as noted, the main character “could have taken Sundays off.” Which again just goes to show that – sometimes at least:
But that season of self-denial is preceded by “Fat Tuesday.” That’s the day before Ash Wednesday… The French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras is now a generic term for “Let’s Party!!”
Wikipedia added, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.”
[Editor’s note: I originally posted this under the title, “A review of Ric Burns’ ‘Pilgrims’ DVD.” I’ll be writing a review and re-write of this post some time near January 2021, with the tentative title, “Two years ago today.”]
I must say that – overall – I found the tone pretty depressing. I wrote before – in Thanksgiving 2015 for example – that of the 102 Pilgrims who landed in November 1620 at Plymouth Rock, less than half survived the first year. (To November 1621.) And of the 18 adult women, onlyfour survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World.” (Illustrated at left.)
I just hadn’t appreciated the extent of that loss on an emotional level. Another way of saying that – just as at Jamestown, started in 1607 – there was a whole lot of human suffering:
The major similarity between the first Jamestown settlers and the first Plymouth settlers was great human suffering… November was too late to plant crops. Many settlers died of scurvy and malnutrition during that horrible first winter. Of the 102 original Mayflower passengers, only 44 survived. Again like in Jamestown, the kindness of the local Native Americans saved them from a frosty death.
In Thanksgiving – 2016, I wrote that the “men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.” But the Ric Burns film brought that suffering home in a way I hadn’t fully appreciated before.
And by the way, the full caption for the picture at the top of the page reads, “The actor Roger Rees renders Bradford beautifully; it was among his last performances before his death in July,” 2015. Which could be both prescient and ironic. That is, while Rees died at 71 – when life expectancy today is about 78 – William Bradford lived to the ripe old age of 67, when life expectancy was about half that.
There’s more about that at the end of this post…
But what I found most fascinating was how Bradford’s journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, proved the truth of the old adage, “Everything perishes, save the written word.*” For starters, here’s what Wikipedia said about Plymouth Colony in general:
Despite the colony’s relatively short existence, Plymouth holds a special role in American history… The events surrounding the founding and history of Plymouth Colony have had a lasting effect on the art, traditions, mythology, and politics of the United States of America, despite its short history of fewer than 72 years.
And what gave “Plymouth” such a special place in American history? Bradford’s journal, Of Plymouth Plantation. (Which proves again, “Everything perishes, save the written word.”)Andwhich brings up another thing that I hadn’t realized: That the book was almost lost to history.
Mr. Burns’s most inspired touch is to end not in the 1600s, but two centuries later, by following what happened to Bradford’s journal. It disappeared during the Revolutionary War, then was rediscovered in the mid-1800s… The Mayflower passengers suffered terrible hardships, and from the Indians’ point of view their arrival was ultimately a dark day. But not on Thanksgiving. “There’s been a tremendous amount of memory produced around the Pilgrims, but there’s also been a lot of forgetting,” the literary critic Kathleen Donegan notes, adding later: “We don’t think about the loss. We think about the abundance.”
But the Pilgrims were “inventive enough” to conceal their losses from the Indians: “inventive enough, as Donegan notes, to prop up sick men against trees outside the settlement, with muskets beside them, as decoys to look like sentinels to the Indians.”
The point is this: Our “Forefathers” – and Foremothers as well – suffered greatly to come to America, and usually much more than we appreciate. More than that, from the beginning they were “aliens in a strange land.” Which brings up Deuteronomy 10:19, where God said to the Children of Israel: “You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.” And that’s a point worth remembering these days…
But let’s close with a note of hope and cheer, at least for me. That is, rumor has it that William Bradford was one of my long-ago ancestors. If that’s true, I hope I inherited his longevity gene.
That earlier “Bradford” lived to a ripe old age of 67. That was at a time when life expectancy for that time and place was about halfthat long. See for example, life expectancy in America in the years 1750-1800. That is, the life expectancy a century after Bradford’s time – he died in 1657 – was 36 years. So if that “1.86 factor” applied to me today – with a male U.S. life expectancy of 76 years – I should live to be 141. (Giving me another 74 years.)
And who knows, I might end my years with the old-age benefits of King David:
King David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. So his servants said to him, ‘Let a young virgin be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king, and be his attendant; let her lie in your bosom, so that my lord the king may be warm.’ So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The girl was very beautiful. She became the king’s attendant and served him, but the king did not know her…
Re: “Everything perishes save the written word.” The quote is from Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness, by Leon Surmelian. Surmelian cited Plato as saying the poet – including but not limited to the writer of fiction, and maybe of such essays as these – creates “not by science or technique, not by any conscious artistry, but by inspiration or influence of some non-rational, supernatural influence.” Which could apply to the writers of the Bible, which Surmelian implied by saying a true writer “is the medium of some higher spirit that gets into him. He is literally inspired.”
But –Surmelian continued – the writer needs more than mere inspiration, by and through “what mysterious power dwells within him.” (The “madness” in the book title.) He needs “measure:”
Through measure a story is given the structure and style that snatch it from the chaos of reality and fix it in the memory of man. We remember through measure. We move from the unrealized to the realized through measure. Through measure writing resists the ravages of time. Everything perishes save the written word, says an old eastern proverb.
From the 1969 Anchor Books paperback edition, at pages 242-44, emphasis added.
The image to the right of the paragraph ending, “Bradford lived to the ripe old age of 67, when life expectancy was about half that,” shows the “Coat of Arms of William Bradford.”
The Pilgrims and their fellow travelers weren’t terrorists, of course (despite an instance of putting the severed head of a perceived enemy on a pole), but they and those who followed certainly did effect a cultural conquest. Some versions of their story play that down, partly because a plague resulting from earlier contact with Westerners brought widespread death to coastal Indians in the Northeast just before the Mayflower arrived. God, it seemed to some, killed off the Indians to make way for the whites, a view this program corrects.
It draws on the unique, nearly lost history, Of Plymouth Plantation, written by William Bradford, the new colony’s governor for more than 30 years, whom the late actor Roger Rees portrays from a script derived from Bradford’s book.
Right from the start, the death rate was awful. Mortality had been enormous at the Jamestown colony, where by 1620 nearly 8,000 people had arrived, although the settlement was struggling to keep its population above a thousand. Bradford’s history recalled the Pilgrims’ anticipation of “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.” Ferrying in supplies from the ship meant wading through ice-cold water, at one point with sleet glazing their bodies with ice. The first winter, people died from dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scurvy, and exposure, at rates as high as two or three per day. “It pleased God to visit us then with death daily,” Bradford wrote…